Stephen Sizer—The Price of Honest Discussion about Israel and Palestine

The Rev. Dr Stephen Sizer, founder of the Peacemaker Trust, has been targeted by the Board of Deputies of British Jews; he has been supported by bishops, rabbis and experts. The Church of England sided with the Board of Deputies and banned him from the clergy for (almost) life: he can minister again when he reaches the age of 79. We examine why and how this happened.

Stephen Sizer describes the campaign against him as one based on three successive tactics: intimidation, isolation and incrimination. This strategy is employed to shut down debate regarding what is happening within the State of Israel and the territories it controls. His criticism of Israel has been relentless, but principled. It is based not on antisemitism, but rather on a human-rights-based analysis.

Sizer is also an author and has written extensively on the subject of Christian Zionism, a philosophy of which he is highly critical. Interviewer and interviewee briefly examine aspects of this movement, and David Scott shares his impressions of the annual Sukkot (Feast of Tabernacles) march in Jerusalem which is organised by the International Christian Embassy. Stephen Sizer's conclusion is that the Christian Zionist movement is guilty of substituting the state of Israel for Jesus Christ as the object of worship.

Sizer also explores the question of what antisemitism is and how is it defined. The problems of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance's working definition are highlighted, and especially its failure to serve as a clear reference point and its unsuitability for legal settings. Sizer concludes that this is a weaponised definition, crafted to prevent criticism of the State of Israel.

Similarities between apartheid South Africa and modern Israel are discussed, and although Scott and Sizer do not agree on this matter, they find common ground on the contradiction at the heart of the State of Israel—that it must be both Jewish and Democratic. Stephen Sizer's view is that Israel can achieve two of three objectives (but no more than two), the objectives being:

  • To form a democratic state
  • To form a Jewish state
  • To control all of the land at issue, including the West Bank, the Gaza Strip and the Golan Heights

The options of a two-state solution and a single-state solution are discussed. Sizer is emphatic that a two-state solution is not viable and probably never was.

Finally, Scott and Sizer discuss current events in Jewish Israel: specifically, the conflict between a nationalist viewpoint, which seeks to make the state more democratic and more Jewish, and the competing claim that the rule of law and universal principles must overrule, limit and control such ideas.

Stephen Sizer sees this irresolvable tension as a conflict of Zionists against Zionists. David Scott highlights the lack of engagement of either party with the Palestinian Arab (voting) minority within Israel in these controversies as evidence of the increasing separation between the communities within the state of Israel.