Thursday, 3 January 2013

Bethlehem Bible College on anti-Semitism allegations

Dear Bishop Christopher,

Grace and peace through our Lord Jesus Christ!

From Bethlehem, the birthplace of the Prince of Peace, we wish you a blessed New Year.

We write to you on behalf of the Board of Directors, Faculty and Staff of Bethlehem Bible College regarding our friend and colleague, the Rev. Dr. Stephen Sizer. We have known Rev. Sizer for many years, and on many occasions he visited us and spoke in conferences organized by the College. More recently, he was part of the organizing committee of our 2012 international Christ at the Checkpoint (CATC) Conference.

In knowing Stephen for all these years, we are witnesses of his passion to promote a just peace between Palestinians and Israelis. In our experience with him in preparing for our CATC, we have also seen his dedication to reconciliation between Palestinian Christians and Israeli Messianic Jews. Together, we met with Messianic Jews, and wrote statements that called for reconciliation, a just peace for Palestinians and Israelis, and a rejection of all forms of violence between Palestinians and Israelis.

Rev. Sizer has been an advocate of human rights and a just peace in the Holy Land for both Israelis and Palestinians. We appreciate his courageous commitment to the truth. Rev. Sizer is fully aware that proclaiming the truth in regards to the Arab-Israeli conflict and the political conditions in Palestine is neither popular nor rewarding. However he decided to take the “narrow path”. In his books he uses ample evidence from the Holy Scriptures to challenge the teachings of Christian Zionism. In so doing, he staunchly defends the faith that was handed to us by our Lord and His Apostles while not neglecting to stand with the oppressed or to address the needs of the oppressor.

We are, therefore, shocked to hear about the allegations of anti-Semitism against Rev. Sizer. We feel that this is an attempt to silence Rev. Sizer for his criticism of certain policies of the State of Israel - policies that the international community consistently condemns. Fair criticism of certain policies of Israel should not be confused with anti-Semitism. If this campaign against Rev. Sizer succeeds, then the church will lose a very courageous and prophetic voice.

Dear Bishop, as you lead the Church in this important matter, we from Bethlehem Bible College pray that the Lord will endow you with the spirit of discernment, wisdom and courage. We will be glad to discuss these issues in further details if needed.

Yours in the Service of the Prince of Peace,

Dr. Attorney Jonathan Kuttab
Chairman of the Board, Bethlehem Bible College

Dr. Bishara Awad
Founder and President Emeritus, Bethlehem Bible College

Rev. Jack Sara
President, Bethlehem Bible College

On behalf of the Board of Directors, Faculty and Staff of Bethlehem Bible College.

See also letters from:

Right Revd Riah Abo El Assal, 13th Anglican Bishop of Jerusalem
Dr Bishara Awad, Founder and President Emeritus, Bethlehem Bible College
Dr Mark Braverman, Author of the Fatal Embrace
David Carter, Director, Middle East Evangelical Concern
Anne Clayton, Coordinator, Friends of Sabeel UK
Rabbi Professor Dan Cohn-Sherbok, Lampeter University
Jeremy Corbyn MP, Islington North
Katherine Cunningham, Moderator, IPMN, Presbyterian Church USA
Professor Scott Elias, Royal Holloway, University of London
Tony Greenstein, Founding Member of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign
Professor Mary Grey, Patron, Friends of Sabeel UK
Dr Jeff Halper, Co-founder of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions
Revd Phil Hill, Nazareth Evangelical Theological Seminary
Canon Garth Hewitt, Founder of the Amos Trust
Dr Ghada Karmi, Exeter University
Manfred W. Kohl, Ambassador Overseas Council
Dr Attorney Jonathan Kuttab, Chairman of the Board, Bethlehem Bible College
Venerable Michael Lawson, Chairman, Church of England Evangelical Council
Jeremy Moodey, Chief Executive, Embrace the Middle East
Diana Neslen, Jews for Justice for Palestinians
Professor Ilan Pappe, Exeter University
Revd Jack Sara, President, Bethlehem Bible College
Rabbi Dr Stanley Howard Schwartz, Hospice Chaplain and retired Army Chaplain
David Toorawa, Chair, Friends of Sabeel UK
Revd Dr Donald Wagner, National Director, Friends of Sabeel North America
Revd John Woodger, Retired vicar of St Mary's Watford

Anthony Julius is chairman of the London Consortium and a Visiting Professor at Birbeck College, University of London. His book Trials of the Diaspora, is a magisterial 800 page examination of the history of Anti-Semitism in England. In the final chapter which deals with the distinction between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, Julius writes,
"He has recently explained, however, that he 'categorically reject[s] any position that threatens the territorial integrity of Israel as a sovereign nation.... Stephen Sizer's work has the merit of clearly setting out the issues that divide the two sides, and furthermore doing so without the rancour or sheer nastiness of tone typical of the polemics in the conflict." (p.571)
It is ironic that much of the "rancour or sheer nastiness", it seems, comes from those unable to distinguish between two.

And see also these articles from other news sources:

Phil Groom (member of CCJ): Jeremiah's Underpants
Phil Groom (member of CCJ): Dr Sizer is cleared
Church of England Newspaper: Sizer complaint
Church Times:  Vicar is not Anti-Semitic
Church Times:  Rabbi Clears Vicar of Anti-Semitism
Jewish Chronicle: Bishop: anti-Zionist vicar ‘no antisemite
Jewish Chronicle: Sizer: I am ready to meet the Board of Deputies any time