A Church of England vicar could face removal amid accusations that he posted antisemitic articles online and shared content with Holocaust deniers.
The disciplinary tribunal reviewing the allegations against Reverend Stephen Sizer, 68, was formed after the Board of Deputies of British Jews filed a complaint highlighting 11 incidents of antisemitism.
According to the Daily Mail, it was the first time in the board’s 260-year history that it filed a complaint against a church member.
Though church tribunals are usually private, Sizer chose for his to be public, saying he wants to clear his name. The vicar has defended himself by arguing he is not antisemitic and that his actions were aimed at Israel, not the Jewish people.
The complaint against Sizer included a 2006 meeting with Sheikh Nabil Kaouk, a senior member of the Lebanese terror group Hezbollah, and his sharing of an article in 2015 titled “9/11: Israel did it.” In the post on the article, Sizer wrote, “is this antisemitic? If so, no doubt I will be asked to remove it. It raises many questions.”
Sizer took down the post after 48 hours and apologized to the Bishop of Guildford. He also agreed to stop writing, speaking or teaching about the conflict in the Middle East.
“He would have to have known how offended the Jewish community must be by this deeply offensive document, but he nonetheless endorsed it not just by reposting it, but by saying himself how many questions it raised,”
board representative Nicholas Leviseur told the tribunal, according to a report in the UK’s Jewish Chronicle last week.
Sizer also shared a link on Facebook to an article claiming former Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn was a victim of “the hidden hands of Zionism,” according to the Jewish Chronicle. Corbyn lost his leadership post in 2020 amid claims he did not do enough to address antisemitism in the party.
Marie van der Zyl, the president of the Board of Deputies, told the newspaper that Sizer’s views were “enough to make me sick forever.” She also said he “promotes antisemitism on every platform he has access to.”
The Scottish Council of Jewish Communities has posted a detailed list of Sizer’s association with Holocaust deniers and antisemitic platforms.
Stephen Hofmeyr, who is representing Sizer, claimed the vicar does not share the antisemitic views of those whose articles he shared.
“It is significant that not one word or statement from Dr. Sizer has been shown to be antisemitic. There are none,” the Daily Mail quoted Hofmeyr as telling the tribunal.
“Association with others who are recognized to have antisemitic views is by itself insufficient, as is where the association is for good reason such as challenging or presenting views,” he added.
Hofmeyr told the hearing that Sizer has previously written that Holocaust denial has no place in discourse and that legitimate criticism of Israel should not be used to attack the Jewish people.
He also said his client was asked to meet the Hezbollah commander and that his aim was to negotiate the release of captive Israeli soldiers.
“Imagine if he had refused. Instead, he used the opportunity for good. He went to proclaim freedom for the captives,” he said.
Presiding Judge David Pittaway will publish a ruling on the matter at a yet to be determined date.
Sizer was suspended from practicing as a vicar in 2018 by the Bishop of Winchester, pending the outcome of the tribunal.