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Jeremiah’s Underpants and a Link Too Far: CCJ, Stephen Sizer and The Ugly Truth March 16, 2012

Posted by Phil Groom in Christianity, Current Affairs.
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Jeremiah' s Underwear ... possibly

Jeremiah’ s Underwear … possibly.

JEREMIAH’S UNDERPANTS: it’s one of those wonderful Bible stories that for one reason or another doesn’t tend to make the Sunday School lessons, or even the sermon slots; but it did pop up earlier this week, at Evensong. I sat there chuckling at the absurdity of it whilst the rest of the congregation either didn’t get it or were too busy being solemn, as per Anglican tradition.

“Go buy yourself some new underpants,” said the Lord to Jeremiah. “Put them on but don’t wash them.” So off he went and bought some new undies and put them on. A while later — Jeremiah doesn’t tell us how long — the Lord spoke to him again: “Take off your new underpants and go, hide them under a rock down by the River Euphrates.” So off Jeremiah duly toddled and did as he was told: he was a good lad like that; and a while later — again, Jeremiah doesn’t tell us how long — the Lord spoke to him again: “Go back, get your underpants from under the rock.” So off he went and after a bit of scrabbling around, he found the spot, dug them up and — shock, horror! — they were ruined! Yes, ruined.

The story doesn’t tell us how bad the smell got, what Jeremiah wore whilst his underwear were rotting down by the riverside, or whether he put them back on again, and I suspect that without all those details he’d have been hard pressed to find a publisher today; but Jeremiah was no fool: it was self-publishing all the way for him, and no copyright restrictions — he just wanted his story out there.

And the story was wroth: God’s wrath against Israel, who, God declared, were just like Jeremiah’s filthy underpants, rotten, smelly and useless. Oh, for a Euphrates youtube: I leave it to your imagination and any budding film producers out there…

IN TODAY’S WORLD, methinks, Jeremiah would have been declared anti-semitic and reported to the police: how dare he, how dare anyone, liken Israel to a pair of filthy underpants? And in truth, that’s the way ancient Israel all too often treated its prophets, ostracising them, abusing them, and, in Jeremiah’s case, throwing him into a well and leaving him to die.

So who dares speak up about Israel’s misdemeanours today? One such person is Stephen Sizer, an Anglican cleric and writer who blogs at stephensizer.blogspot.com and speaks out freely against Israel’s contemporary apartheid against the Palestinians. I’m happy to say that I know nothing about Stephen’s underpants, but I do know that he tends to use facebook rather like Jeremiah used the Euphrates: somewhere to deposit things that come to his attention, especially links pertaining to Israeli-Palestinian relations.

Stephen is not alone in using facebook like that, of course: I do it all the time with links and snippets about the Christian book trade; but the fact that I post a link does not imply that I endorse everything that you might find at the other end of that link; indeed, if linking carried that implication, none of us would link to anything and the internet would implode, no longer a net at all, just gazillions of navel-gazing orphaned pages. Some people play it safe anyway with disclaimers: those are not my underwear out there, or words to that effect.

CCJ Statement About Antisemitic Website, 13/03/2012

CCJ Statement About Antisemitic Website, 13/03/2012

Other people, unfortunately, just don’t get it: like the congregation at Evensong listening to what has to be one of the Bible’s most hilarious stories and failing to laugh, all they seem able to do is make like the end of the world is nigh. This week Stephen has fallen foul of one such group, the otherwise excellent CCJ, the Council of Christians and Jews, specialists in Christian-Jewish relations — of which I happen to be a member — and it’s no joke: they’ve lodged a complaint with his bishop and with the police, accusing him of promoting racial hatred: CCJ Statement About Antisemitic Website.

Their problem: Stephen posted a link to an article about Israeli threats to Iran on a website called ‘The Ugly Truth’, a site which some members of CCJ have described “obscenely anti-semitic”, and Stephen, apparently, did not remove his link to the article fast enough for them:

We have paid particular attention to a link posted by Mr Sizer on his Facebook page to ‘The Ugly Truth’, an antisemitic website. We consider this to be wholly unacceptable. We cannot accept it was an accident, because Mr Sizer was alerted to the antisemitic nature of the website in November and again in December, but only removed the link in January when contacted by the Jewish Chronicle.

Stephen’s response to that, via facebook, of course:

The reality is I add many Facebook links daily and get criticised weekly. I did not look at the website till January and only then appreciated its anti-semitic content. I removed the link as soon as I found it. Its [sic] not easy to find a link from months ago on FB. The article itself that I linked to was about Israeli threats to Iran. No one has actually criticised the article itself.

… which to me, as another heavy facebook user, makes perfect sense; and I wonder if that is part of CCJ’s problem: they simply don’t get social media? Be that as it may, however, as a member of CCJ, I find the way they have elected to handle this situation extremely disappointing on two particular fronts:

First of all, the announcement itself seems disingenuous at best: entitled “CCJ Statement About Antisemitic Website” it is, in fact, nothing of the sort: it is rather a direct, personal attack on Stephen Sizer. Far better, I suggest, to thank Stephen for drawing attention to the site and then go, with even greater determination, after the people who run The Ugly Truth website.

Next, one thing that I’ve always admired about CCJ, one of the things that makes me proud to be a member, is its commitment to dialogue: making dialogue make a difference is one of CCJ’s straplines, used on almost every poster we produce at CCJ Hillingdon, where I’m the webmaster. What, I wonder, has happened to the dialogue process in this instance? Stephen removed the link as requested; and at CCJ CEO David Gifford’s invitation he met with some Jewish leaders where, in Stephen’s words, “we had a heart to heart about what had happened, but nothing materialised except this press release.” Why, I ask, some two months on, have CCJ now chosen to pursue the matter in this way rather than engage in further dialogue with Stephen, or indeed with CCJ’s wider membership?

I have written to David Gifford to this effect, cc’d to the Bishop of Guildford and Surrey police, and now await their response. In the meantime, beloved readers, let’s talk it through…

UPDATE 15/3/2012

A brief response from CCJ on twitter, over a series of 4 tweets:

All CCJ has done, in its founding role to combat antiSemitism, is, on receipt of complaints about Mr Sizer’s actions… … to have expressed grave concern to his bishop and drawn the attention of the police to the matter. ….It is not within our remit or competence to decide whether or not the accusation of incitement to race hatred is sustainable or not… … – which is why we have referred it.

UPDATE 23/3/2012

A brief response from David Gifford, received today:

Dear Phil

Many tx for this. I appreciate you taking the time and trouble to write and have noted your comments, which I fully understand

Kind regards

David

ELSEWHERE… (most recent first)

DISCLAIMER

Those are not my underpants out there, OK? The fact that I’m expressing solidarity with Stephen Sizer over this matter does not imply that I agree with everything he says, my links to facebook do not imply that I approve of everything on facebook, and my use of WordPress does not imply that I universally applaud everything that’s posted on WordPress hosted blogs. So don’t get your knickers in a twist, and if you do, try a hot iron — but take them off first. Thank you.

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Comments»

1. Redman - March 17, 2012

As quoted above, Stephen Sizer says, “I did not look at the website till January and only then appreciated its anti-semitic content.”

And you give him a free pass.

The Diocese of Guildford has confirmed that the Bishop passed on to Stephen the complaints about his link to ‘The Ugly Truth’ in November. Then Stephen had another chance to look at the site when his link to it was the lead item in a long ‘Harry’s Place’ attack on him in December (an attack he responded to on the day it was published).

And he only bothers to take a proper look at the site in January. Even if that were true it would be enough to condemn him. Who else doesn’t bother to check out a website he’s been recommending when twice alerted to its racist contents? The CCJ’s action is entirely justified and commendable. Phil, I suggest you read the blog piece ‘When will the Diocese of Guildford stop defending Rev. Sizer?’ (in the Elsewhere slot above) and click on the screenshot showing what Stephen would have seen when he originally read the article on The Ugly Truth. Think it looks like a website worth linking to?

What we have here is a community leader who is happy to publicise a racist website for three months, despite warnings from his bishop and attacks online, and only removes it under pressure from the Jewish Chronicle. That looks to me like deliberate incitement of racial hatred through disseminating racist material. It’s quite right to get the police involved. Phil, are you sure this man is worth your support? You say ‘Stephen, apparently, did not remove his link to the article fast enough for them’. Are you saying that he removed it quickly enough in your eyes?

Phil Groom - March 17, 2012

Hi Redman – reply to this coming up shortly…

Phil Groom - March 17, 2012

OK. Free pass? Please read the small print: “The fact that I’m expressing solidarity with Stephen Sizer over this matter does not imply that I agree with everything he says…” etc

As for the delay in removing the link: please see my response to your comment below. Does this delay constitute grounds to condemn Stephen? No, absolutely not; in my view he need not have removed it at all: posting a link does not imply wholesale endorsement – please re-read my post, especially from the paragraph beginning, “Stephen is not alone in using facebook like that…”

The only reason as far as I can see that Stephen’s posting of that link has become an issue is that some people decided to make an issue of it. If they’d ignored it, it would have simply vanished beneath all the other detritus that builds up on facebook. The allegation that Stephen was publicising The Ugly Truth website for three months is manifest nonsense: it’s the people making a fuss about it that have been publicising it. I myself would never have become aware of it if CCJ had not chosen to make a big deal of it. As I have said above, the ones to pursue are the people who run The Ugly Truth and other objectionable sites — but perhaps Stephen is an easier target?

In short, then, it seems to me that the allegation that Stephen has been deliberately inciting racial hatred by disseminating racist material is ill-founded at best; and I trust that the police will have sufficient wisdom to recognise that.

My feeling is that CCJ has been manipulated into lending its voice to support a personal vendetta against Stephen in much the same way as Zechariah was manipulated into condemning Jeremiah, and that this entire business is a distraction from the much more important issue of Israel’s ongoing maltreatment of the Palestinians. Let’s talk about that: let’s see Israel restore justice for its neighbours and fellow inhabitants of the land — that’s the way to turn the tables on those like Stephen who speak up for the Palestinians. Stephen works and writes close to the edge, no doubt about that: if you want to pull him back from the edge, let’s redraw the boundaries — in this case quite literally as well as metaphorically.

When Israel behaves as it does, is it any wonder that antisemitism is rife? That does not make it right; but let’s tackle this situation at source and heal the disease rather than shout at the symptoms.

Redman - March 17, 2012

‘The only reason as far as I can see that Stephen’s posting of that link has become an issue is that some people decided to make an issue of it.’

The Ugly Truth is a disgusting racist website. If someone links to it, it’s *possible* that he too is a racist. If he fails to remove it despite repeated opportunities to do so, that possibility becomes much stronger. You are giving Stephen a free pass by refusing to accept that he might be just as racist as the website he recommended. I’m not willing to give him that free pass, that’s why I’m making an issue of it.

‘When Israel behaves as it does, is it any wonder that antisemitism is rife?’

Exactly what people said in the 1930s, i.e. ‘When Jews behave as they do, is it any wonder that antisemitism is rife?’

Members of my family died in the Holocaust. I’m not willing to brush aside the ‘symptoms’ that you blame on the ‘disease’ of the Jewish state.

Phil Groom - March 17, 2012

Possible, indeed, but the rest does not necessarily follow. The sensible thing, then, is to engage the person in dialogue, something CCJ normally excels at. I have done so, and I continue to do so; and I remain unconvinced by any of the arguments set forth thus far that Stephen is either racist or antisemitic — unless, perhaps, you are prepared to level that same charge at Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and all the other prophets who spoke out against Israel in days gone by?

And there is no equivalence between “Israel” and “the Jews”: Israel is a secular state, populated by Arabs, Jews and many others. Please do not attempt to conflate the two: you should know better than that.

I am truly sorry for your loss in the Holocaust, and I am only too well aware of the inadequacy of that statement. At CCJ Hillingdon we have regular reminders of that horrific legacy, and this year we held two special meetings commemorating Holocaust Memorial Day: see our News page for details.

… and neither am I prepared to settle for attempts to ‘brush away’ symptoms of a much deeper malady within the state of Israel, namely it’s abuse of the Palestinians, which is why I will not accept the shallow analysis that seeks to brand someone who speaks out against that abuse as antisemitic.

If you wish to silence Stephen Sizer, please address that issue; and in the meantime, I’d encourage you to engage him in dialogue: he doesn’t bite.

Bernard - March 17, 2012

My point was that so-called ‘symptoms’ should be dealt with on their own terms. The ‘symptom’ of anti-semitism which many in the 1930s blamed on the ‘disease’ of the Jews led to their slaughter. So I reject your attempt to excuse anti-Semitism (or stop people shouting about it, which amounts to the same thing) on the grounds of Israel’s alleged abuse of the Palestinians being more serious.

But thank you for your kind and sincere words about my loss, which are appreciated.

It’s a red herring to say that Stephen Sizer is being criticised because of his opposition to Israeli policy. Take a look at Nick Howard’s long piece on Sizer on Harry’s Place: http://hurryupharry.org/2011/12/27/rev-nick-howard-the-church-of-england-must-take-action-against-rev-stephen-sizer/ He doesn’t object to Sizer because of his opposition to Israel, but because of the clear anti-semitic spin Sizer puts on his opposition to Israel. Eg this para towards the end of the piece:

It would have been perfectly possible for Stephen Sizer to criticise Israel without posting links on Facebook to racist websites; or joining forces with recognised anti-Semites across the world; or, when accused of anti-Semitism, turning to a known anti-Semite for support; or alluding to the archetype of the Christ-killing Jew; or downplaying the Holocaust by using the same word to describe Israel’s actions towards the Palestinians; or promoting the global Zionist conspiracy myth; or endorsing a disgraced journalist’s call for Jews to ‘get the hell out of Palestine’; or spreading the outrageous myth of Israeli involvement in 9/11; or making distasteful references to Monica Lewinsky’s Jewishness; or backing the anti-Semitic hate preacher Sheikh Salah.

Phil Groom - March 18, 2012

Bernard (aka Redman for anyone else reading), first my unreserved apologies if anything I have said gives the impression that I am excusing or seeking to excuse antisemitism: I absolutely repudiate antisemitism, racism, homophobia, sexism and all the other forms of bigotry and prejudice out there.

I reiterate my response to Fran from the Anglican Friends of Israel further down the page, from one of my other Jewish friends (and I hope that in the course of this conversation we are building a friendship), also a CCJ member:

I hear what you say about Nick Howard’s allegations against Stephen — but rather than accuse Stephen of antisemitism, I ask why? What has driven Stephen to write and work so close to the edge? When I read Stephen’s work, I hear the cry of a man outraged by the plight of the Palestinians and Israel’s apparently intransigent attitude towards them; and I too have been there, seen it with my own eyes. And no, in stating that, I do not seek to justify Palestine’s rocket and other attacks on Israel: they too are wrong, absolutely, utterly, and must be repudiated just as vehemently.

This is the situation that needs to be addressed, and seeking to silence Stephen by levelling accusations of antisemitism simply won’t achieve that.

James - March 19, 2012

“I hear what you say about Nick Howard’s allegations against Stephen”

So does this mean you think the accusations of anti-Semitism have merit? Or are Nick Howard’s allegations baseless – in which case, could you please outline (perhaps in a new post?) where you think his evidence or logic is lacking? It seems noteworthy that Rev Sizer himself has yet to reply to Nick Howard’s piece in a point-by-point fashion.

James - March 19, 2012

“but rather than accuse Stephen of antisemitism, I ask why? What has driven Stephen to write and work so close to the edge? When I read Stephen’s work, I hear the cry of a man outraged by the plight of the Palestinians and Israel’s apparently intransigent attitude towards them”

Please forgive me if I’ve misunderstood you, but this seems to be dangerously close to saying, “even if he does flirt with anti-Semitic language, that is understandable because of what Israel is doing.” If that’s not what you mean, please forgive me and I will apologise and withdraw.

If it is what you mean, would you say any of the following:

“but rather than accuse X of anti-black racism, I ask why? What has driven X to write and work so close to the edge? When I read X’s work, I hear the cry of a man outraged by the plight of the white Zimbabweans and Mugabe’s apparently intransigent attitude towards them”

“”but rather than accuse X of anti-Chinese racism, I ask why? What has driven X to write and work so close to the edge? When I read X’s work, I hear the cry of a man outraged by the plight of the Tibetans and China’s apparently intransigent attitude towards them”

Or

“but rather than accuse X of anti-Arab-racism, I ask why? What has driven X to write and work so close to the edge? When I read X’s work, I hear the cry of a man outraged by the plight of the inhabitants of Western Sahara and Morocco’s apparently intransigent attitude towards them”

?

Phil Groom - March 20, 2012

James, no I wouldn’t describe Stephen as flirting with antisemitic language: that’s something I would regard as deplorable. Rather, it seems that sometimes his posts can appear to lend themselves towards such an interpretation, which is another matter entirely.

James - March 20, 2012

So Phil, to take just one example: when Stephen Sizer describes Israeli soldiers as “Herod’s soldiers operating in Bethlehem today”, in your view does that have no anti-Semitic overtones whatsoever?

2. Redman - March 17, 2012

One more thing Phil. This is what the Diocese’s statement said earlier this week:

“The Bishop was informed by Mr Sizer that he had taken earlier steps to withdraw the reference, but that these had not effectively removed it, until January of this year.”

Compare that with what Stephen told you:

“I did not look at the website till January and only then appreciated its anti-semitic content.”

So who is he telling the truth to: you or the Bishop? Or neither of you?

Phil Groom - March 17, 2012

Removing facebook posts is not always as simple as Nick Howard makes out over at Harry’s Place: I know that from my own experience, and it’s one of the reasons a lot of people refer to fb as fussbook, farcebook or any of the many other variations on that theme. It’s great when it works as it should and a pain in the butt when it seems to have a mind (or rather, mindlessness) of its own. I therefore can see no reason to doubt Stephen’s integrity in both of these remarks. How long did it take Jeremiah to find the rock where he’d hidden his underpants, let alone dig them up? We simply don’t know, but I see no reason to doubt the story…

Redman - March 17, 2012

Phil, you disappoint me. I enjoyed your telling of the Jeremiah story above and I thought you were trying to give Stephen a fair hearing, which everyone deserves. But now I think you’re committed to defending him whatever the evidence. I’ve checked out what Nick Howard says about removing links from facebook and it’s an accurate description of the procedure (I’ve just experimented on my own facebook page, suggest you try with yours). Plus I see you don’t address the conflict between his excuse to you and his excuse to the Bishop. You’re also overlooking the point made by the CCJ (and quoted by you above) that Stephen was alerted to the antisemitic nature of the site in November and December. Why are you so committed to defending him despite the evidence?

Phil Groom - March 17, 2012
Phil Groom - March 17, 2012

Oh, and try finding and removing something you posted more than a month ago…

Redman - March 17, 2012

It’s easy Phil.

Phil Groom - March 19, 2012

Oh no it isn’t…

3. James - March 17, 2012

A potential parallel situation suggests itself. Imagine if Rev Sizer had decided to champion the cause of white Zimbabweans against the worst excesses of the Mugabe years, and had linked to an article critical of Mugabe on a Klu Klux Klan website. Even if the individual article was not in itself racist, how would people react, particularly if Rev Sizer had a history of making anti-black innuendos? Rev Sizer would doubtless say that he had no idea it was a KKK website, and some people might give him the benefit of the doubt. Imagine, then, that Rev Sizer failed on two separate occasions to remove the link, and only did so eventually when the matter was investigated by The Voice. Would his bishop, and others, stand by him then?

Phil Groom - March 17, 2012

Interesting thought experiment, James, but not the situation we’re dealing with here, and I wouldn’t describe Stephen as having a history of making anti-Jewish innuendoes. He’s openly pro-Palestinian, certainly, and asks important questions about the Zionist lobby, but those do not equate to antisemitism.

To you I say, as I have said to Redman: let’s look at the real issue here: Israel’s maltreatment of the Palestinians. Let’s tackle this problem at source instead of shouting at the symptoms.

James - March 17, 2012

He does have a history of making anti- Jewish innuendos, Phil – see Bernard’s comment above and Nick Howard’s piece at http://hurryupharry.org/2011/12/27/rev-nick-howard-the-church-of-england-must-take-action-against-rev-stephen-sizer/

4. Joseph - March 18, 2012
Phil Groom - March 19, 2012

Replying to both James and Joseph – I’ve now had the opportunity to take a more thorough look at the ‘Hurry Up Harry’ website and can only say that I find it entirely deplorable, full of the very hate and bile that it claims to repudiate. On what basis do you consider it acceptable to link to such bilge, yet criticise Stephen for his links? And on what basis do you consider such personal attacks on individuals to be acceptable whilst decrying racism? Sorry gentlemen: straining at gnats whilst swallowing camels comes to mind.

James - March 19, 2012

Hi Phil,

Harry’s Place is a pretty well-known broadly Labour-party-supporting political blog. Granted, the comments below the line are often intemperate, and you might not agree with all of the positions above the line, but it is a far cry from the extremist racist sites to which Stephen Sizer links.

The issue is this. Nick Howard, an Anglican minister and a well-known evangelical, wrote a long piece exposing Stephen Sizer’s long and inglorious record of making statements and comments which go beyond legitimate criticism of Israel into something darker. Every single one of his allegations is backed up by a link to a piece of evidence, usually on Rev Sizer’s own blog or website; and nothing in Nick’s piece claims that legitimate criticism of Israeli policies is anti-Semitic. Nick posted on HP because no Christian publication took his concerns seriously, which in itself is a sad indictment of how the church responds to Jewish concerns. To date, neither Stephen Sizer nor anyone else has refuted Nick’s piece point by point. Here it is again:

http://hurryupharry.org/2011/12/27/rev-nick-howard-the-church-of-england-must-take-action-against-rev-stephen-sizer/

All I would ask of you is this: is Nick’s piece accurate, or not? If you think it isn’t, perhaps you could explain where you think Nick’s evidence or logic is lacking?

Phil Groom - March 20, 2012

My impression is that Nick Howard has some sort of personal axe to grind against Stephen, and I am not in the least bit surprised that no self-respecting Christian publication would accept the piece. It reads rather like someone criticising a water company because their pipes leak, then concluding that because the pipes leak, the water company is trying to poison the people. It’s the type of drip drip drip analysis that will no doubt convince those who have already made their minds up, and I’d say it’s a sad indictment of Nick Howard that he is willing to facilitate the sort of invective that follows in the comment threads.

To quote the words of the Bishop of Manchester, being party to such commentary is “disgraceful and unbecoming for a clergyman of the Church of England”.

James - March 20, 2012

Again, Phil, please answer my question: where do you think his evidence or logic is lacking?

Nick Howard - March 20, 2012

Hi Phil,
One man’s ‘personal axe to grind’ is another man’s persistent campaign for justice.
I look forward to your reply to James’ question. It would be great if you could be as specific as possible because so far all of Stephen’s defenders have responded in general terms, without dealing with any of the specific points I made.

Phil Groom - March 22, 2012

Nick, a cautious welcome. Nick and James: if you’d care to re-read the post to which this comment thread is appended, you’ll find my answer to your question there, summed up in the paragraph beginning, “Stephen is not alone…” — and I’ve given my assessment of your article in my comment above beginning, “My impression is…”

So no, I have no more intention of offering a point by point analysis of your article than I would a leak by leak analysis of a similarly misguided critique of a water company.

Nick, please reflect on what you’ve said: “One man’s ‘personal axe to grind’ is another man’s persistent campaign for justice.” I’ll turn that around for you: one man’s perception of antisemitism is another man’s persistent campaign for justice.

Stephen’s campaign for justice for the Palestinians I can understand. Yours? I understand that you’re a convert to Christianity from Judaism, so can appreciate that you have a heightened sensitivity towards anything that might seem to whiff of antisemitism; but even so: how is persistently banging away at another man’s reputation a fight for justice? Where does this fit in with the Christian ethos of forgiveness and reconciliation?

You appear to have appointed yourself judge, jury and executioner and if you held title in the Church of England I’d be inclined to write to your bishop to ask when he was going to take action against you for your targeted campaign against and ongoing online harassment of one of its clergy.

I can’t do that, of course, as you were turned down for ordination by the Church of England, reportedly because of your inability to listen to other viewpoints and rather trenchant views over homosexuality in what appears to be a tendency towards homophobia, if the comments attributed to you by the Daily Mail are accurate. It seems to me that you tread a dangerous path in your allegations against Stephen with that equally serious stain in your own background. I suggest that the time has come to move on: let Stephen pursue his ministry in peace and you find your own calling; and I daresay that calling isn’t dogging Stephen’s heels at every step along the way.

Nick Howard - March 23, 2012

This discussion could probably go on indefinitely which would not be productive, so this will be my last post. I reject your accusation of homophobia, which seems to be pure provocation (no one has ever accused me of that before). I reject your argument that recommending websites to Facebook friends is morally neutral (if I posted a link on Facebook to a KKK website my friends would have something to say about that). And as a daily Facebook user I reject your claim that it is difficult to remove a link from Facebook.

James - March 23, 2012

This will be my last post too. I will sign off by simply saying that, like all of Stephen Sizer’s defenders, Phil has declined// failed to refute the mass of evidence available at

http://hurryupharry.org/2011/12/27/rev-nick-howard-the-church-of-england-must-take-action-against-rev-stephen-sizer/

That in itself speaks volumes.

Phil Groom - March 23, 2012

James, can’t help beginning to think you’re a spammer given the number of times you’ve posted that link, but I’ll give you the benefit of the doubt and let it stand just this one more time; and I’ve already given you my assessment thereof.

Nick, why am I not surprised by that response? “Inability to listen to other viewpoints” indeed.

But glad you’ve both seen sense and decided to move on, if only from here. I urge you both, however, to seriously rethink your attitude towards Stephen Sizer and the issues he raises. Your attempts to slap him down by labelling him antisemitic are a wholly inadequate response to the realities of life in Palestine today, and that, gentlemen, is the issue at stake here.

5. elias - March 18, 2012

it seems to be a vendetta.maybe there should be serious questioning of the blind support by certain western evangelists for isreali apartheid etc..
btw are all Palestinian clergy also anti semitic for standing up for human rights?

6. Fran - March 18, 2012

Phil

Does this comment from you above ‘When Israel behaves as it does, is it any wonder that antisemitism is rife?’ mean that you agree with Ben White who says he’s not antisemitic himself, but can understand why people are?

http://www.counterpunch.org/2002/06/18/is-it-possible-to-understand-the-rise-in-anti-semitism/

Phil Groom - March 18, 2012

As one of my Jewish friends — also a member of CCJ — has said on this very topic, and tweeted by me a few days ago:

People don’t always understand that knowledge of something, even understanding of it, doesn’t amount to approval.

Phil Groom - March 18, 2012

Fran, thank you for joining the conversation. I see that you (as in Anglican Friends of Israel, to which you link your name) have posted CCJ’s statement without editorial comment: does that mean that you endorse it? That you understand the concerns raised? Or are you simply reporting it as a third party?

And why are comments off? Do the Anglican Friends of Israel not wish to engage in dialogue?

7. News Roundup: The Good News Bad News all-mixed-up Edition « The Christian Bookshops Blog - March 31, 2012

[...] information, links to reports elsewhere and some discussion are available on my personal blog: Jeremiah’s Underpants and a Link Too Far: CCJ, Stephen Sizer and The Ugly Truth (16 Mar [...]

8. Ben White (@benabyad) - March 31, 2012

Thanks for your post and comments Phil. As you’ve discovered, some people prefer to deal in innuendo & personal attacks, as a way of avoiding the core issues at hand (i..e Israeli policies, human rights abuses etc.)

Phil Groom - April 1, 2012

Thanks for dropping by, Ben: as you say; very sad :(

9. Crown Prosecution Service decision on @CCJUK v/s Stephen Sizer finds no offence committed « Phil's Boring Blog - April 20, 2012

[...] REMEMBER JEREMIAH’S UNDERPANTS? [...]

10. Nick Howard - November 4, 2012

Phil, your name is currently on Stephen’s most recent blog post, listed as a supporter. It’s a reposting of his May 1 attack on the CCJ. But since May 1 his own diocese has exposed that attack as totally unjustified. See the email here [http://archbishop-cranmer.blogspot.com/2012/07/stephen-sizer-timeline_28.html] from Rev. Mark Heather proving that Stephen WAS warned about the real nature of ‘The Ugly Truth’ in November 2011, despite his claim that he only received a warning on January 3rd. He seems to be ignoring that evidence from his own diocese. Are you sure you want to continue standing by Stephen?

Phil Groom - November 4, 2012

I guess it’s this post you’re referring to, Nick: To whom it may concern. I have no objections to being named by Stephen in this context.

Two points:
1. Stephen doesn’t identify me as a supporter: you may care to reread the post, and you may wish to reread the disclaimer in my original post, above.
2. That post is not by any stretch of the imagination an “attack on the CCJ” but is simply a response to CCJ’s misconceived attack on Stephen.

Be that as it may, however, seems to me you’re flogging a dead horse with this one: Stephen isn’t an antisemite, but he is a campaigner for justice for the Palestinians. Open your eyes, Nick — look at the abuse being perpetrated against the Palestinians by Israel. Do yourself and the world a favour: stop trying to silence the voices that speak up against that abuse; join them instead.

11. Nick Howard - November 4, 2012

CCJ’s central claim is that Stephen was warned about his link to The Ugly Truth in November but failed to do anything about it for six weeks. Whether or not Stephen is an anti-Semite, that delay should not have happened and should be admitted with a sincere apology. Instead we have a situation where Stephen firmly rejects the CCJ’s accusation, insisting that he wasn’t warned about the link until January. Yet his own diocese has revealed that he himself acknowledged receipt of their warning on the day he received it in November.

So Phil, why did he fail to take down the link and why is now hiding behind a stubborn falsehood?

Phil Groom - November 5, 2012

The way I see it, Nick, if Stephen’s inbox is anything like mine, I suspect your message forwarded by his bishop was buried under the avalanche of incoming and — even given his acknowledgement thereof — he probably forgot all about it; easily done: the link on facebook would have long since vanished below the fold into the abyss of his facebook timeline and, more importantly, would no longer be showing in his facebook friends’ & subscribers’ timelines. I certainly didn’t notice it in mine: as with all facebook postings, it rapidly became an irrelevance, there for a moment, gone the next, not a matter worth taking the time of day of day over when you’ve got a busy schedule. CCJ’s allegation that Stephen was “publicizing websites with antisemitic content” is complete and utter balderdash.

But that’s all history, all pretty well covered in my original post and our earlier conversation: CCJ were and you, apparently, still are making a mountain out of a molehill; what’s more, it’s a flattened molehill, as the police response has made clear: there was no criminal activity on Stephen’s part.

Whilst you may have got Cranmer eating out of your underpants, Nick, I’ve no intention of following suit, nor of flogging any more flesh off this particular dead horse. Your closing question on your Cranmer post is telling; you ask:

How many more racist links will it take before the Committee of the South East Gospel Partnership see ‘justifiable grounds for breaking gospel partnership’ with Dr Sizer and his church? Two or twenty-two?

Highly reminiscent of Peter’s conversation with Jesus, Mt 18.21-22:

Peter came and said to him, ‘Lord, if another member of the church sins against me, how often should I forgive? As many as seven times?’ Jesus said to him, ‘Not seven times, but, I tell you, seventy-seven times.’

If you won’t take it from me, Nick, take it from Jesus: let it go. It’s beyond time to move on, to drop your stubborn ad hominem attacks and address the real issues of Israel’s apartheid towards the Palestinians. If you really want to silence Stephen’s critiques of Israel, that’s what you need to focus on.

12. Nick Howard - November 5, 2012

With respect Phil, you’re missing the point. Stephen himself isn’t making any of the arguments you’re making in his defence. He’s saying he wasn’t warned about the link until January, while his diocese has confirmed that he was warned about it in November. The email from his diocese revealing that information was made public on Cranmer’s blog in July. You’re aware of it (judging by your charming comment about Cranmer above) so how much more must Stephen be aware of it? Yet he’s ignoring it completely and sticking to his false line about not being warned until January.

We will probably never agree about Stephen being anti-Semitic, but surely you would agree with me that Christian leaders shouldn’t testify falsely?

Phil Groom - November 5, 2012

I’ll say it one last time, Nick: you’re flogging a dead horse. If anyone’s missing the point, it’s you with your endless personal attacks on Stephen instead of addressing the issues he raises. Whatever your vendetta against Stephen may be, I want no part of it. Do you consider yourself to be a “Christian leader”, Nick?Then you should be aware that this isn’t the way to behave; please, go find something constructive to do with your time.

13. Joseph - November 5, 2012

“Jeremiah’s underpants [...]”

“Cranmer eating out of your underpants”

What is your obsession with underpants?

Phil Groom - November 5, 2012

Go read the story, Joseph: Jeremiah’s Underpants; it’s hilarious.

14. Phil Groom - October 24, 2013

Good to see this situation has at last been resolved: Anti-Semitism Complaint Resolved by Conciliation

Nick - October 24, 2013

I disagree Phil. What has happened is a Christian leader has been accused of antisemitic statements and actions. His bishop agreed that he had a case to answer. The case went to conciliation, and the Board of Deputies agreed not to pursue it further on the basis that all Stephen’s output online would be monitored by three observers. They have not withdrawn their initial allegations as can been seen from Jonathan Arkush’s comments in The Times yesterday. They have simply agreed on a practical way to handle things moving forward. So Christ Church Virginia Water is being led by a man whom the Board of Deputies of British Jews, representing 138 synagogues, still considers guilty of antisemitic statements and actions. Guildford diocese, because of the nature of the CofE disciplinary system, has issued no verdict. You may think that’s an acceptable resolution – I beg to differ.

Phil Groom - October 24, 2013

To be more precise, what’s happened is that a Christian leader has been falsely accused of antisemitism: if you’ve been following his blog you’ll be familiar with all the testimonies to that effect. You may not like the resolution that’s been reached, Nick — or whatever your name is — but there’s simply no way that those allegations were going to stick and in the end the BoD had little choice but to let it go: it would have been a complete and utter farce — and a waste of everyone’s time — pursuing things further.

Phil Groom - October 26, 2013

In particular, Nick, I suggest you spend some time reading the testimonies on this page of Stephen’s blog: Antisemitic? We don’t think so.

As for your assertion that the BoD “still considers [Stephen Sizer] guilty of antisemitic statements and actions”, I simply refer you to the penultimate sentence of the Conciliation report itself, “The Board of Deputies agrees that its complaint is resolved on the terms in this report.”

Apart from Stephen’s outstanding legal bill — which I personally think the BoD should cover if they have any sense of integrity or common decency — it’s game over and time for right-thinking people to acknowledge that fact.

Nick - October 26, 2013

Phil we will probably never agree about the substance of the claims. For example I see antisemitism in Stephen’s baseless and vile accusation that Israel has conducted a four decade ‘Holocaust’ against the Palestinians, and you see no antisemitism in that. So be it. But you are being disingenuous when you imply that the BoD no longer considers Stephen guilty. The nature of conciliation is that it provides both sides with a practical way forward without forcing the dispute to a final verdict from the adjudicator, in this case the Church of England. That is what ‘resolved on the terms in this report’ means. It does not mean that the BoD has changed its mind about Stephen, or that the C of E has found Stephen to be innocent. That is why rather than retracting the complaint when commenting on the case in The Times on Wednesday, Jonathan Arkush of the BoD repeated that Stephen had made statements that ‘most of the community found utterly offensive, to the point of crossing the line into anti-Semitism’, and had also established a ‘pattern of posting links to racist and antisemitic websites where scurrilous statements against Jews and others are published.’

Phil Groom - October 26, 2013

I don’t have access to The Times to check the full context, but those quotes are taken verbatim from Arkush’s BoD article, Board of Deputies complaint against Rev Sizer resolved, in which he makes it abundantly clear that the Board regards the matter as resolved:

I am pleased to announce that the Conciliation process has produced terms agreed with Rev Sizer that have resolved the complaint.

Perhaps, then, it is rather you who are being disingenuous in persisting with allegations of antisemitism against Stephen? Presumably, on this sort of basis, you would also regard Jeremiah and most of the other Hebrew prophets, who constantly highlighted Israel’s misdemeanours, as antisemitic?

Nick - October 26, 2013

From the BoD article you mention: “The Board welcomes Rev Sizer’s acknowledgments and undertakings, which clearly demonstrate that conduct on his part which led to the complaint was unbecoming or inappropriate to a Minister of the Church of England.

The Board’s strong hope is that the type of behaviour which led to its complaint will never be repeated, whether by Rev Sizer or anyone else.”

That is why I said above that the Board still considers Stephen guilty of the statements and actions it complained about. The resolution concerns what will happen from this point forward i.e. their ‘strong hope’ that Stephen will never do the same again.

If they no longer consider Stephen guilty, why do they strongly hope that he will never do the same again?

Phil Groom - October 26, 2013

No one, to the best of my knowledge, is disputing the facts of the matter, namely that Stephen posted certain links and has made certain statements: of that he is, if you wish to so use the term, “guilty” — the matter of contention is the BoD’s and your own interpretation of those “statements and actions”. It appears that anyone who dares to speak out against Israel’s ongoing abuse and maltreatment of its Palestinian neighbours — that anyone who highlights their plight and calls Israel to order over the matter — is automatically branded antisemitic; and that approach is, quite frankly, ludicrous.

Let the BoD interpret Stephen’s expression of regret for the offence caused as they wish; but they would do far better to examine their own hearts and minds and repent of the folly that brought them to this action against Stephen — and better yet to acknowledge “the damage being caused to Christian Jewish relations and to the good name of [their] community” by their actions and by the appalling behaviour of the State of Israel towards its neighbours.


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