The Board of Deputies of British Jews is demanding an investigation into why a Surrey vicar travelled to Tehran, Iran, to speak at a conference described by the Board as an “anti-Semitic hate fest”. Rev Dr Stephen Sizer has attracted criticism from the Board in the past for blogging about the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians in an anti-Semitic manner. However, Dr Sizer has defended his actions, claiming to have attended in order “to build bridges”, The Telegraph has reported.
The conference program for the second annual “New Horizon” conference shows Dr Sizer speaking within five sessions during the three day event, including on “Christian Jihad vs. Christian Zionism”; “Christian Responsibility against Systematic Iniquity” and “The Mechanisms of Action of the Israeli Lobby and their Effects in Western Capitals”.
Other discussions over the weekend included themes such as “Mossad’s Role in the 9/11 Coup d’Etat” and “US-Israeli Dual Citizens working in the interest of Israel: the Case for Treachery”, alongside of holocaust denial in “9/11 and the Holocaust as pro-Zionist “Public Myths””. A video of the anti-Jewish French comedian Dieudonne M’bala M’bala was also shown.
Dr Sizer, described by the Telegraph as “a prominent campaigner against Israeli policy in Palestine” insisted that he strongly disagreed with many of the things said by other speakers at the event, but told the Telegraph “Jesus called his followers to be ambassadors of reconciliation – and ambassadors work on foreign soil.
“Iran is foreign soil and I was there as an Englishman but also as a Christian leader where Christians and Jews are a minority and ambassadors are needed.
“I was seeking to build bridges within a faith context to help to improve relationships for minorities and between our countries.
“Those who criticise this kind of conference must think very carefully of the consequences of their words for Jews and Christians in countries like Iran.”
However, Jonathan Arkush, Vice President of the Board of Deputies, was unconvinced, saying: “His appearance at a conference sponsored by a regime that actively persecutes Christians and other minorities is inexplicable.
“The Iranian Government denies the Holocaust and openly calls for the destruction of Israel, which is tantamount to bringing about another Holocaust.
“Rev Sizer’s participation might be seen as lending pseudo credence to an event whose premise is clear from its programme: to lay blame on Israel and Jews for the world’s ills, including, it would seem, 9/11.
“The Church of England should investigate why one of its ministers deemed it appropriate to take part in an anti-Semitic hate-fest.”
Last year Dr Sizer and the Board of Deputies resorted to mediation to bring to an end a long-running dispute between the two parties over the content of Dr Sizer’s blog. Commenting on this latest dispute, a spokesman for the Diocese of Guildford said: “We are aware of the statement by the Board of Deputies regarding the recent attendance by Revd Dr Stephen Sizer of the ‘Second New Horizon’ conference in Tehran.
“In 2012/13, the Diocese facilitated a process of conciliation between Dr Sizer and the Board of Deputies, and will seek to clarify whether the conciliation agreement has been contravened.”