Antisemitism is one of the most controversial topics of our time. The public, academics, journalists, activists and Jewish people themselves are divided over its meaning. Antony Lerman shows that this is a result of a 30-year process of redefinition of the phenomenon, casting Israel, problematically defined as the ‘persecuted collective Jew’ among the nations, as one of its main targets.
This political project has taken the notion of the ‘new antisemitism’ and codified it in the flawed International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s ‘working definition’ of antisemitism. This text is the glue holding together an international network comprising the Israeli government, pro-Israel advocacy groups, Zionist organisations, Jewish communal defence bodies and sympathetic governments fighting a war against those who would criticise Israeli Apartheid.
As an Israeli Jew and the head of an Israeli human rights organization – ICAHD, the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions – I am appalled by the very thought of bringing anyone, let alone such a principled person as Stephen Sizer, before a religious Tribunal. What, are we back to the Medieval days of the Inquisition? I can’t speak for the Church of England, but Jews, the British Board of Deputies, participating in a religious Tribunal?! The very thought is appalling. What has happened to us, Jews and Christians together? Are we willing to return to the dark processes of Tribunals with no legal underpinnings, no genuine evidence or testimony, conducted solely against people whose views we don’t like – besmirch and destroy people’s lives – just to prevent criticism of Israel? Is it really so easy, in the 21st Century, to persecute people for their religious and political views? Savonarola meets Trump?
The charges against Dr. Sizer are untrue and trumped-up – and you all know it. Antisemitism?! How do you possibly defend yourself against such a charge? In the intellectual and democratic world in which most of us live, Dr. Sizer has made a rational, well-researched case for his views and analysis presented in articles, books and lectures based firmly on academic research and religious history. But that is exactly the type of person for which Tribunals are necessary, since analyses like Dr. Sizer presents, unpopular in some partisan circles as they may be, cannot be dismissed in academic circles or barred in courts of law. They must be denounced in Tribunals with no moral, legal or intellectual authority, and as in all religious Tribunals, the person maligned and destroyed in order to somehow delegitimize his or her views. I am embarrassed for all of you – and downright angry at the Jews who participate in the dark proceeding of religious Tribunals.
“On 14th August 2021 Premier Christian News (PCN) published an article entitled:
Conspiracy theory’ vicar’s new charity receives thousands from his former church
After discussion with Reverend Dr Sizer PCN recognises that elements of the content and tone of the article did not meet the standards to which we hold ourselves to and we accept that parts of the article were inappropriate and sensational.
PCN acknowledges that Dr Sizer has publicly repudiated antisemitism and holocaust denial and conspiracy theories concerning Israel on numerous occasions. We also recognise that there were elements of the article which are contested by Dr Sizer and we should have provided him an opportunity to respond.
PCN apologises unreservedly to Dr Sizer and the trustees of Peacemaker Trust and regrets any distress caused.
PCN extends the same apology to the Rev Dr Simon Vibert, vicar of Christ Church, Virginia Water, and their Parochial Church Council, who were also referenced in the article.”
“It is true that at various times in the past, churches and church leaders have tolerated or incited anti-Semitism and even attacks on Jewish people. Racism is a sin and without excuse. Anti-Semitism must be repudiated unequivocally. However, we must not confuse apples and oranges. Anti-Zionism is not the same thing as anti-Semitism despite attempts to broaden the definition. Criticising a political system as racist is not necessarily racist. Judaism is a religious system. Israel is a sovereign nation. Zionism is a political system. These three are not synonymous. I respect Judaism, repudiate anti-Semitism, encourage interfaith dialogue and defend Israel’s right to exist within borders recognised by the international community and agreed with her neighbours. But like many Jews, I disagree with a political system which gives preference to expatriate Jews born elsewhere in the world, while denying the same rights to the Arab Palestinians born in the country itself.”
I take seriously the Apostle Paul’s injunction that Christians should not take fellow believers before the secular courts in 1 Corinthians 6. For that reason I am content with the retraction and apology from Premier.
However, my forbearance does not extend to secular or other religious media who persist in making these allegations, nor those who wilfully and knowingly continue to defame with the intent to cause reputational damage and further their racist political agendas.
“Away then with anti-Semitism! It has been an appalling scandal in the history of Europe, and even the Christian church has been implicated. Christians should be ‘pro-Semitic’, in the sense that we recognize how the people of Israel have been highly favoured by God. We Gentiles are their debtors, Paul wrote (Romans 15:27). We owe them a huge spiritual debt, especially in their bequest to the world of both the Scriptures and the Christ.”
The Jewish Network for Palestine recently invited me to give a short presentation on ‘Convivencia’ or coexistence at their 2021 annual meeting.
Convivencia simply means ‘coexistence’. It is an academic hypothesis, first proposed by the Spanish philologist Américo Castro, regarding the coexistence of Christian, Muslim, and Jewish communities during the period of Spanish history from the Muslim Umayyad conquest of Hispania in the early eighth century until the expulsion of the Jews in 1492.
By extension the term can describe the contemporary religious and cultural interaction and exchange fostered by such proximity as a way to challenge the various forms of ethno-supremacism and exclusive religious nationalisms emerging in different parts of the world.