to the “Wolf in Sheep's clothing” By Irene Lancaster
I read with interest your colourful account of our meeting at Liverpool Cathedral and am disappointed that you did not think to check with me first before publishing your notes and embarrassing yourself in your blog. Please allow me to answer the criticisms you make of my presentation. I have placed your comments in italics and indented them in blue for clarity.
“I have seen much of Sizer's writings and I think he realised pretty quick that with the audience not being total groupies of his, he would have to tone things down. But it was still an unsightly mix of demonisation, innuendo, half-truths, outright lies and propaganda, making use of many of the techniques used by Jew-haters throughout the ages (even though he of course stated that some of his best friends were Israeli Jews).”
I am saddened that you have caricatured my presentations in this way and accused me of being anti-Semitic. I repudiate anti-Semitism and your misrepresentation of me. I could say that ‘guilt by association’ is also a common technique used by Zionists to silence legitimate criticism of Israel.
The presentations I made were based on careful research, historical sources and factual information. I deeply regret the shameful and disrespectful heckling, jeering and intimidating behaviour displayed by your colleagues throughout my presentations. This is another tactic used by those who seek to suppress legitimate debate. I cannot imagine for a moment that you would tolerate such behaviour from your university students during your own lectures.
“The first half blamed Napoleon (this was a new one on me) for starting the ball rolling, offering the Jews a home in Israel. Wrong! The Jews were already living there under the Turkish Ottoman Empire, and rejected Napoleon. Better the devil you know! Sizer stated that France was trying to cut Britain out by doing this. Absolute rubbish! He then said this goal was taken up by the British as a foil to France, and mentioned various 19th century luminaries. To him (you had to pinch yourself to remember that he is a vicar) everything had negative political motivations of empire and imperialism: nothing at all to do with 3,500 years of Jewish history in Israel, of course.”
As an historian, I am surprised that you appear so unfamiliar with Napoleon’s campaigns in the Middle East or his relationship with the Jews. It is well known that Napoleon was the first world leader to promise the Jews a homeland in 1799. Jews were indeed scattered through the Ottoman Empire but during the Syrian campaign of Napoleon’s Oriental expedition, in which he had sought to defeat the Ottoman rulers, cut off Britain from its Empire, and recreate the empire of Alexander from France to India, he become the first political leader to propose a sovereign Jewish State in Palestine. This was part of his historic declaration:
‘Bonaparte, Commander-in-Chief of the Armies of the French Republic in Africa and Asia, to the Rightful Heirs of Palestine. Israelites, unique nation, whom, in thousands of years, lust of conquest and tyranny were able to deprive of the ancestral lands only, but not of name and national existence ... She [France] offers to you at this very time, and contrary to all expectations, Israel’s patrimony ... Rightful heirs of Palestine ... hasten! Now is the moment which may not return for thousands of years, to claim the restoration of your rights among the population of the universe which had shamefully withheld from you for thousands of years, your political existence as a nation among the nations, and the unlimited natural right to worship Yehovah in accordance with your faith, publicly and in likelihood for ever (Joel 4:20).’
Historians such as Hyamson and Baron show how Napoleon believed that with sympathetic Jews controlling Palestine, French imperial and commercial interests as far as India, Arabia and Africa could be secured.
“He even said, without naming names, that Germany in 1917 had offered the Jews a home in Palestine (not a State, he added meaningfully), so the Brits got in quick. Well, if this is true, I certainly haven't come across it in my many years of teaching Jewish history, inter alia. But not mentioning his sources was particularly suspect to me.”
I am very surprised that, as an historian of Jewish history, you also seem so unaware of the origin and context for the Balfour declaration, itself initially drafted by the WZO at Balfour’s request. You will find the information concerning the competition between Germany and Britain to be first to make a declaration, ironically, on the website of the World Zionist Organisation.
“He accused Balfour of duplicity towards the 'indigenous' population, which were, according to Sizer, of course the so-called Palestinians and not the Jews. Mentioning 1948 and 1967, he never once mentioned the Arab States' wars against tiny Israel. He just said that they didn't accept Israel. You can say that again!”
Balfour’s letter to Lord Curzon, written a year or so after his famous declaration, simply stated,
‘For in Palestine we do not propose even to go through the form of consulting the wishes of the present inhabitants of the country …the Four Great Powers are committed to Zionism. And Zionism, be it right or wrong, good or bad, is rooted in age-long traditions, in present needs, in future hopes, of far profounder import than the desires or prejudices of the 700,000 Arabs who now inhabit that ancient land ... I do not think that Zionism will hurt the Arabs … in short, so far as Palestine is concerned, the Powers have made no statement of fact which is not admittedly wrong, and no declaration of policy which, at least in the letter, they have not always intended to violate.’
That sounds pretty duplicitous to me. Israel may indeed be, as you say, “tiny” but it is also the fourth largest nuclear power in the world and the third largest exporter of military weapons - often to rogue states such as Mobutu’s Zaire, Liberia under Charles Taylor, the Burmese Generals, Argentina, Chile, “and in Rwanda, selling small arms to the Hutu’s before and during the genocide, then, without interruption, to the Tutsis immediately afterwards.”
“Then it got really offensive. The first bit had been factually inaccurate. This was pure demonisation. There are five roadblocks to peace in the Middle East, he said (which he called his ABC): apartheid, Bantustans, concealment, distortion and ethnic cleansing. No, Sizer, that is what you are trying to do to the Jews, and not the other way around. He kept citing United Nations Resolutions of 1973 and 1975, but did not mention Kofi Annan's much more recent pronouncement that the Jewish community has every reason not to trust the United Nations.
My presentation and five point outline did not address the wider issue of peace in the Middle East but rather specifically with the plight of the Palestinian people and in particular with the survival of the indigenous Church in Israel/Palestine. Only rogue states seek to operate outside the rule of international law.
He then quoted emotive feelings as facts, culminating with the interesting observation that 'Orthodox Jews in Israel do not have to pay taxes'. Well, I'm sorry, bloggers, at this point I got up and said, 'That is an out-and-out lie: all my Orthodox friends in Israel pay tax. Unlike at Clitheroe, I was not accused of harassing the speaker, but instead was asked to wait to speak in the interval. But others in the audience were not having it and called him an out- and -out liar who needed to be corrected as he went along, since he was making the whole thing up (bless the Liverpudlians: at their best, you can't beat them: I really miss living there at times like this).
I am sorry to have to correct you once again Irene but you clearly have a rather narrow band of Orthodox Jewish friends who, it seems, are needlessly paying taxes. Orthodox Jews living in Kollel or sometimes spelt ‘Kolel’, such as Ateret Hacohanin, because of their communal living, do not pay taxes. Nor do those living in Yeshivas or Yeshivot such as in Hebron, Kiryat Arba, Nablus and Jerusalem because, they claim, their lives are devoted to studying the Torah. Shame that so many of them seem to justify the ethnic cleansing of Palestinians such as Baruch Goldstein. It is well known that while Arab Israeli’s constitute around 30% of the population, they pay around 50% of taxes and enjoy no more than 8% of the municipal budget. Just compare the state of the streets in East and West Jerusalem, the absence or presence of rubbish, street lights, pavements or public amenities and the discrimination against Arabs could not be more stark.
He also said that Israeli citizenship was based on racial origins, that Arabs were restricted in their jobs, their infant mortality rate was much higher than those of Jews, their schools were segregated etc etc.
I am glad you did not question this assertion based on Israeli government statistics. If you are in any doubt about the criteria for Israeli citizenship, please see Uri Davis’, Apartheid Israel (London, Zed, 2003).
He said that Israel had erased Arab villages in Galilee, and demolished a home every one and a half days, to remove the rightful owners and to build their own settlements. The Israelis had denuded and destroyed olive tress. He supported Yassir Arafat's rejection of Barak's offer of Bantustans to the Palestinians. He said that in 1967 Jerusalem had been annexed and Gilo taken. He said that Israel will probably give Gilo up in any settlement. He mentioned restricted movement, checkpoints, constrictions, exclusive roads of Jews, Jericho surrounded by a ditch, the wall going into the occupied territories, in order to isolate the Palestinians, who cannot travel through directly. The separation barrier (a wall in urban areas) is twice as big as the Berlin Wall [shades of the Anglican Peace and Justice Network deliberation on Jerusalem here, which led to the ACC voting for divestment, and Synod following suit: very emotive language].
You may have misheard me at this point. I personally don’t believe Israel will give up the settlement at Gilo any more than Maale Adumin but will give up the smaller non-viable settlements deep in the Occupied Territories that were always taken as bargaining chips in any future peace deal. I also said that the Separation Barrier, where it is a wall running through the urban areas, such as East Jerusalem and around Bethlehem, at 8 meters high, is twice the height of the Berlin Wall.
Then it came, the replacement theology: 'the Jericho road, which Jesus used, is now blocked'. Well excuse, me, Jesus was a Jew and Jericho was till recently under Israeli jurisdiction and its Christians flourished. I know this because I met them and they wanted nothing to do at that time with the Palestinian authority. How dare he mix up theology and politics like that. He constantly used anatomical imagery of blood supply loss etc etc, in order to demonise the Israeli government. He named one overhead the 'Matrix of control', another demonic image used by Jew-haters through the ages: the Jew as a clever, scheming, crafty controller. No thought of what Israel has to do to defend herself.
I think you got a little carried away at this point. I showed photos taken in Bethany last year of the historic 4000 year old road from Jericho to Jerusalem and simply said that the road was now blocked. The Separation Wall, at this point, cuts what was the main road from Jericho to Jerusalem. Using illustrations and analogies is a useful way of conveying truth. The maps of Israel’s occupation of Palestine were taken from the BBC website and from Jeff Halper’s Israeli Committee against House Demolitions. The term ‘Matrix of Control’ was his and best describes the strategy Israel is using to annexe the bulk of the West Bank as it did with East Jerusalem unilaterally in 1967.
60% of UN resolution have been about Israel and the USA has vetoed them: this is concealment. No it isn't: this is common sense. Who makes up the UN, exactly? Then Jenin,April 2002: we were in Israel at the time, and experienced the bias of the media first hand, as they were staying in our hotel, the nearest to east Jerusalem in west Jerusalem. But, oh no, he stated that houses were demolished, Israel committed war crimes 5 times. Amnesty and B'tzelem had said so. Human shields had been used and torture carried out in Israeli prisons.
I would prefer to listen to the careful research of human rights organizations such as Amnesty and B’Tselem on the ground in Nablus and Jenin rather than rely on sound bites from Israeli TV in my hotel in West Jerusalem. Your dismissal of these organizations as well as the criticisms of the United Nations, Red Cross and other humanitarian organizations is deeply disturbing.
Then he said something so startingly untrue, I couldn't believe it: when Christians go on pilgrimages, he said, they visit Yad Vashem, the Knesset, use Israeli bus campanies and local Christians are not met by 95% of Christian tourists. What an absolute lie: the opposite of the truth, but I bided my time, determined to speak later.
I gained my Masters degree from Oxford University. My thesis examined tourism to Israel and Palestine. I interviews 20 UK tour operators and examined over 50 different itineraries to Israel/Palestine. I interviewed and surveyed over 300 pilgrims as well as Israeli and Palestinian guides and tour operators. I simply confirmed what was already widely known that 95% of tour groups visiting Israel/Palestine follow a predetermined itinerary including visits to Yad Vashem, Masada, the Western Wall and a Kibbutz, excluding contact with the indigenous Christian community. Less that 5% of tour groups worship with the local Christians on Sunday or visit the Christian schools or hospitals. I would be happy to provide my MTh thesis and the documentary evidence if you are interested in the facts. For what it is worth, Oxford University awarded a distinction for my thesis.
Bishop Riah, he said, stated that churches were designated as European, none are Greek Orthodox etc. What was Sizer talking about? Riah apparently complains that these tourists come back to Britain having seen the holy sites (including Yad Vashem?) which are a distortion of reality. Gee, thanks!
In an interview with Bishop Riah he stated that the Israeli Ministry of Tourism designate Christians by their European denominational titles to suggest that Christianity is of European origin rather than indigenous to Palestine. It is well known that Teddy Kollek once rebuked the church leaders for allowing the church to ‘fall into the hands of the Arabs’. Yad Vashem is a holocaust museum (and an important place to visit) but not a Christian ‘holy site’.
Then it hotted up: Melanie Phillips, he said [for those who don't know, she is a prize-winning journalist, who writes a column in the Daily Mail and has just written Londonistan] had written an article citing Bishop John Gladwyn ([he of the spot of bother in Kenya at the moment, and chairmanship of Christian Aid] and Sizer himself, but had libelled them. And this was at the time that the new Archbishop of Canterbury was to be elected and her article had ruined Gladwyn's chances!! Oh dear!! Sizer had been told at the time that they had a case to sue for libel, but they felt it would be too expensive. A very serious allegation about an excellent journalist, this, and I brought it up later.
The editor of the Spectator agreed to a ‘right of reply’ because of the serious allegations Melanie Phillips had made and then reneged on the promise. Melanie misquoted me and attributed to me quotations made by others – such as John Stott, one of the Queen’s Chaplains – whom I cite in my writings. That rates as poor journalism.
He also said people distort the plight of the Palestinian Christians. Also, they are allowed to say things about Arabs, that wouldn't be allowed to be said about Jews. What planet is he actually living on?
I merely cited several examples of Christian Zionists like Ramon Bennett and Franklin Graham who malign Arabs in a way that would be unacceptable if they maligned Jews. The quoted examples I gave reflect a much wider Islamophobia growing in the West.
Palestinians live in a ghetto.
You missed off an ‘s’ – the Palestinians are living in ‘ghettos’ separated from one another by Israel’s exclusive settler-only roads, illegal settlements, closed military areas and Separation Barrier. I’m glad you conceded that one.
5: ETHNIC CLEANSING
The indigenous people (i.e. not the Jews) are being deprived of land: he showed a picture of barbed wire and someone looking like Mordechai Vanunu behind it. 9,000 Christians had emigrated to Canada, Australia and Britain in the last few years. More Ramallans live in Sydney than in Palestine (someone shouted out: who could blame them?). The Palestinians are the largest refugee community in the world today: one in four refugees is a Palestinian. 13,000 Palestinian couples have been separated. He ended by quoting Lord Carey as saying that the plight of the Christians is truly awful in the area.
To be more precise, Lord Carey actually predicted the extinction of the indigenous Palestinian Christian community within one generation – a view shared by many other religious leaders. This is primarily a result of the policies of the Israeli government designed to deprive Palestinians of their citizenship and remove them from the territory Israel wishes to annexe.
I was then allowed to speak. I said that I lectured at Manchester University and that it had been Lord Carey himself who had appointed me as a Trustee to his Foundation for Reconciliation in the Middle East, CEO, Canon Andrew White, vicar in Iraq and Chair, Christopher Segar, formerly HM Ambassador in Iraq. I said that FRME were the official religious wing of the Middle East peace process. I therefore knew, I said, exactly where George Carey stood on Israel and that he had been cited completely out of context by the speaker. I said that FRME had started at the very same hotel, the Har Zion in Jerusalem, which had been used by journalists and others during the Jenin episode and that Canon Andrew White's recollection of it was greatly different from Sizer's. The manager of the hotel had been Jewish, the deputy manager Muslim and the barman, Charlie, a Christian. So what was this about apartheid and segregation?
I am sorry to correct you in your eulogising of Andrew White. I have spoken personally to the heads of the churches in Jerusalem last week and regrettably each one of them has repudiated his mediating role. They said he did not represent them. The Latin Patriarch went as far as to say Andrew was ‘persona non-grata’ - banned from his archdiocese. In an interview Andrew gave to the newspaper, Israel and Christians Today, he admitted FMRE’s centres are run by Israelis.
“Canon White has invested a great deal where Israel is concerned... Now, as the founder director of the Foundation for Reconciliation in the Middle East, his Israeli-run centres in Judea , Samaria and Gaza, enable engagement between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.”
I am therefore not surprised at the one sided stance Andrew has increasingly taken on the Arab-Israeli conflict.
The next part was about Morally Responsible Investment and rehearsed all the arguments about how ghastly Caterpillar is and how the divestment motion came to be made to Synod. According to Sizer, he had given a talk in the Guildford Diocese, based on notes written on the back of a cigarette packet: Keith M. (can't remember his surname) who had put the motion eventually to Synod, had sent it to the Deanery and it was they apparently, who had taken it to General Synod. So, all the talk of it having been around for ages was untrue. It was accepted straight away by those who run Synod: shame on them. Whereas, Anglicans for Israel's reasoned rebuttal was disallowed.
‘Those who run Synod’ are the elected representatives of the Church of England. Any member of General Synod can speak for or against a motion. Presumably Anglicans for Israel do not have any representatives on Synod (!). The movement toward disinvestment from Western companies profiting from Israel’s illegal occupation has been growing for several years. The decision by the Church of England General Synod to disinvest from Caterpillar is just the latest in a growing number of institutions who are choosing to apply moral criteria to their investments.
Sizer mentioned War on Want a great deal: a charity chaired at one time by George Galloway and he also quoted journalist Robert Fisk as the oracle.
Irene, here you seem to be using yet another manipulative technique – guilt by association. “Chaired at one time” is a little tenuous isn’t it?
Of most import and concern, however, was the statement that six weeks ago he, Sizer, had debated with Neville White, secretary of the Church's Ethical Investment Advisory Group, who for some reason, refuses to answer my e-mails to him. I spoke to White in May of last year and told him of the great concern in the Jewish community in Britain about the divestment campaign. He told me then that I was the first person ever who had told him that there was a link between Jews in Britain and Israel. I repeated this statement to the Anglican Cathedral and was accused by some of lying, but it was the truth. Any way, it appears from Sizer that White told Sizer six weeks ago that EIAG does not want to visit the area because they know what they will see and, according to Sizer, White therefore publicly agreed that abuses were being carried out by Caterpillar in the area.
Neville and I shared in a constructive public debate in Somerset. The evening was remarkably dissimilar to the event in Liverpool Cathedral. The audience in Somerset were respectful and appreciative of our contributions. Neville and I presented our perspectives on the issue of Caterpillar and shared much in common. The references I made in Liverpool were a matter of public record. We have continued a fruitful dialogue since then. At their 2004 AGM, Caterpillar admitted that their equipment had been used illegally against civilians. This also is a matter of public record.
Sizer referred to colonisation of Palestine and mentioned his call to the churches to boycott Caterpillar and also to boycott the Church Board of Finance, until it complied with the vote of General Synod, the legal branch of the Church.
It is for individual parishes to decide how they invest their own assets. I did not say that we are calling on churches to ‘boycott’ the CBF. We are calling on churches to withdraw their investments from the CBF until they comply with the wishes of the governing body of the Church of England.
Then came the comparison with South Africa and Bishop Harris of Oxford's role in trying to boycott SA. However, as I pointed out later, Bishop Harris, who has recently retired, has stated categorically that he is against divestment from Israel. For Sizer omitted to state that Harris is also a former President of the Council of Christians and Jews.
Bishop Harris’ pro-Israeli stance is well known. The comparison between Israel and Apartheid South Africa is indisputable, except that things are worse in Palestine. At least the white South African government subsidized the Bantustans. In Palestine, Israel expects the United Nations to pay. The Israeli government are also partly responsible for the comparison in calling the fence/wall the ‘Separation Barrier’, which is clearly intended to separate Israelis from Palestinians. The word ‘apartheid’ means separate-hood.
The amazing thing is that Sizer was terribly nice to me in the break and says he wants to meet me again, and even patted my hand more than once, which is something I am totally unused to in the ministers and clergy I meet every day in Manchester, and told me that he had read my articles in the Church Press. I ended by asking him: Why do you think I am emigrating to Haifa? Do you not realise that people like you are making it impossible for us to live here?'
At last some humanity. I am glad you were ‘amazed’. Speak to those who know me and I hope they would say that I treat them the same way I treated you - with respect.
But I am proud of what we did tonight, even prouder of the Christians who supported the few Jews who attended and glad to have met up with people I haven't seen for so many years.
Please pass on this response to your friends who may also be planning to attend my presentation in Chester Cathedral. I would not wish them to be embarrass themselves once again.
And yes, I may even take Sizer up on his offer to meet down south, to have a chat, but I shall make sure to take a body-guard with me.
You are indeed most welcome, and I would be pleased to meet and discuss these issues with you further alone or with your friends.
Because, as Andrew White says, talking to the nice people is not what dialogue is about any more. You have to talk to the nasty people in order to get through to them, even if they are wolves dressed in sheep's clothing and would rather that you would go away, leave them alone and let them get on with destroying Israel.
I don’t know anyone who wishes to destroy Israel. I do know that the policies of the Israeli government are destroying Palestine. I affirm the right of Israel to exist within secure and internationally recognized borders, and the rule of international law. When I told you this in Liverpool you looked surprised. You must not believe everything you hear second hand.
And I realised to my horror, and discussed it with Lucille on the way back, that this had been worse than the famous mediaeval Spanish disputations forced on the Jewish community by the Catholic church, because at least in those days you were given plenty of notice and allowed to speak as long as the other side, whereas in 2006 in Liverpool's Anglican Cathedral, it was taken for granted that the speaker was speaking, not with forked tongue, but the truth and that the others were just out to get him. And this is the real tragedy of Britain at the moment.
I do not see any comparison between my presentation in Liverpool with the Spanish disputations. The Dean was most generous in allowing you and your colleagues to speak at length. As I have shown, the information I presented was entirely factual and accurate. In re-reading your diatribe Irene, my main concern is that your inaccurate and inflammatory statements are more likely to lead to anti-Semitism than mine. You see, as in the story of Chicken Little, who cried ‘the sky is falling in’ when an accord dropped on his head, if you continue to associate legitimate criticism of the Israeli government’s policies in Palestine with anti-Semitism, if and when genuine anti-Semitism occurs, the wider community will be immune and ignore you. Let us repudiate both anti-Semitism and the demonisation of Muslims and Palestinians. Let us work together for peace with justice for both Jews and Palestinians.
The saddest moment for me in the whole evening came at the end when I attempted to pray the following prayer and some of your colleagues continued to heckle and jeer as I prayed. I have never encountered such ungodly and anti-Christian behaviour in my life. But then, just when I gave up half way through, my hope returned, as I heard the other people present finish the prayer for me. Let us make it our prayer until it is fulfilled.
May the justice of God fall down like fire and bring a home for the Palestinian. May the mercy of God pour down like rain and protect the Jewish people. And may the beautiful eyes of a Holy God who weeps for His children bring His healing hope for His wounded ones. For the Jew and the Palestinian.
May the Lord bless you, Irene, and those you love,
 Paul Merkley, Christian Attitudes to the State of Israel (London, McGill Queens University Press) p38.
 Cited in Franz Kobler, Napoleon and the Jews, (New York, Schocken Books, 1976), pp55-57. See also: http://www.napoleonicsociety.com/english/scholarship98/c_jews98.html
 See Albert M. Hyamson, Palestine: The Rebirth of an Ancient People, (London, Sidgwick & Jackson, 1917), pp162-163; Salo W. Baron, A Social and Religious History of the Jews, (New York, Columbia University Press, 1937),
 Doreen Ingrams, Palestine Papers 1917-1922 Seeds of Conflict (London, John Murrey, 1972), p73.
 Mordechai Ben Tov, Al Hamishmar, April 1972
 Menachim Begin, The Jerusalem Post, 20 August, 1982.
 Jeff Halper, Israel as an extension of American Empire, unpublished article, Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions
 ‘Anglican Church UK Buys out of Blessing.’ Amanda Thomas http://www.c4israel.org/articles/autumn2005/html/blessing.html