IHRC condemns the decision of the Church of England to ban a former vicar from ministry for his uncompromising support of the Palestinian cause.
It demonstrates a lack of moral courage on the part of the Church of England which has effectively abandoned the Palestinians in their quest for justice.
The move against Dr Stephen Sizer comes despite the fact that he was acquitted last year by an ecclesiastical tribunal of all but one anti-semitism charge made by the pro-Israel Board of Deputies of British Jews.
The single charge related to a link he posted on Facebook in January 2015 that blamed Israel for the September 2001 attacks on the US. Dr. Sizer had already apologised to the Jewish community for this indiscretion and the matter was amicably resolved.
However, Dr. Sizer once again found himself in the crosshairs of Israeli apologists after continuing his fierce championing of the Palestinians and criticism of the Zionist state. They revived the historic allegation and added others.
The tribunal acquitted Dr. Sizer of all the new charges but found that he had engaged in activities “unbecoming to the office and work of a clerk in Holy Orders, in that he provoked and offended the Jewish community”.
We find this problematic. The standard for judging offence and provocation should not be set by people on the basis of their political views. It is self-evident that Zionists and pro-Israelis would be offended by the discussion and support of Palestinian rights. For the CofE to accept this amounts to taking a pro-Zionist stand on the Palestine/Israel dispute. It is not difficult to see how such a stand can curtail or even silence debate by the clergy on the issue out of fear of being disciplined.
It is a matter of grave concern that the alleged offence taken by two avowed Zionists and supporters of Israel is allowed to weigh more heavily on the scales of justice than the offence caused to millions of supporters of Palestine, be they Christian, Muslim, Jewish or atheists, by the denial of their right to voice their support for Palestinian rights.
While the ban against Dr. Sizer is purely academic in a personal capacity as he retired in 2017, it still sets a dangerous precedent for other clergy which could have chilling repercussions on the cherished principle of freedom of expression in the Church.