Sometimes we think the Israel blogging flame wars are confined to the U.S. or perhaps Israel. But it’s happening in the UK as well.
Stephen Sizer is an Anglican vicar who writes a blog and lectures about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. His particular speciality is critiquing the Christian Zionist movement and warning of its dangers for Israel and contemporary Christianity. From what I’ve read on his blog and his Wikipedia article he holds views roughly similar to Desmond Tutu. He’s in favor of Israel’s existence in secure, recognized borders, but harshly criticizes the Occupation and uses terms like “racist” and “apartheid” to describe it. He also supports divestment. Here’s a statement by him giving his overall views:
I affirm the right of the State of Israel to exist within secure and internationally recognized borders. Sadly the evidence shows that Israel is a racist and apartheid state. The UN World Conference on Racism, together with US State Country Report, have highlighted the institutional racism within Israeli society. The South African ruling ANC, the Jewish human rights organisation B’Tselem, as well as leading Jewish academics such as Noam Chomsky..have all made similar comparisons between South African and Israeli apartheid. I do not regard such views as anti-Semitic.
It is true that at various times in the past, churches and church leaders have tolerated or incited anti-Semitism and even attacks on Jewish people. Racism is a sin and without excuse. Anti-Semitism must be repudiated unequivocally. However, we must not confuse apples and oranges. Anti-Zionism is not the same thing as anti-Semitism despite attempts to broaden the definition. Criticising a political system as racist is not necessarily racist. Judaism is a religious system. Israel is a sovereign nation. Zionism is a political system. These three are not synonymous. I respect Judaism, repudiate anti-Semitism, encourage interfaith dialogue and defend Israel’s right to exist within borders recognised by the international community and agreed with her neighbours. But like many Jews, I disagree with a political system which gives preference to expatriate Jews born elsewhere in the world, while denying the same rights to the Arab Palestinians born in the country itself.”
Many of you will know that like here there’s a pro-Israel “idiot wind” blowing in England represented by the likes of Melanie Phillips and slightly more sophisticated types like Harry’s Place and Engage. Some of these have attacked me before. It appears that a Leeds University grad student named Joseph Wiseman created an anonymous blog (at one time he used the self-serving pseudonym, Mordechai Ben Emet), Seismic Shock, whose main purpose was dragging Sizer through the mud. Among other things it accused him of “supporting terrorist activity against Israel,” “whitewashing terrorism,” and “associating with some very nasty terrorists and Holocaust deniers.” It also inferred that he embraced “antisemitic [sic] theology and was a “fascist thug.” The primary rhetorical technique seems to be to associate Sizer with those who may truly be anti-Israel or anti-Semitic or pro-jihadi, or pro-Ayatollah, or Holocaust deniers. Once you establish a mere one or two degrees of separation, Sizer is as good as tarred and feathered. You know how it goes: David Duke republishes Sizer’s article–ergo, Stephen Sizer is…well you get the drift. It’s a sophisticated, but sleazy job by an articulate pro-Israel hasbarist. So naturally it rankled Sizer, especially the round the clock abuse published in Wiseman’s blog.
Sizer also reports that Wiseman infiltrated his church’s Facebook page and sent nasty messages about him to members including children of the parish. When Wiseman found out where Sizer was giving lectures he’d write the sponsor urging them to cancel his appearance (thanks to reader Robin for reporting this to me).
This is the same cyberstalker who had the audacity to write about Sizer:
Political and theological disagreements should never be accompanied with threats of litigation or police action, but instead with logic and open debate.
Did Wiseman decide to embrace “logic and open debate” before or after he tried to get Sizer’s speaking gigs cancelled or smuggled himself into the parish’s Facebook page under false pretences?
As I have periodically done when vexed by a persistent comment troll or cyberstalker, Sizer noticed that the IP address Wiseman used to post comments to his blog traced back to the University. As you know, most companies, government agencies and universities have rules governing the use of their telecommunications (including computer) equipment. These rules usually preclude the use of such facilities for engaging in illegal, abusive or stalking behavior.
Sizer reported Wiseman to the University and the local police department. The University made him stop using its facilities to publish his blog. Given the nature of Wiseman’s harrassment and the fact that he was attempting to harm his career and cost him speaking engagements, it’s not surprising the police took his hard drive. But in mind of the panting right-wing blogosphere this becomes the embodiment of the police state. C’mon. The police had reasonable suspicion that Wiseman may’ve broken the law. They were within their rights.
As only the wingnut right can do, they’ve turned Wiseman into a shahid for free speech. “We’re all Seismic now,” was one particularly moving slogan that for some reason called to mind the notion that the entire right-wing blogosphere was radioactive. Melanie Phillips has taken up the free speech cugdels as to be expected. Make pro-Israel hay while the sun shines seems to be the governing principle.
Let me throw a little cold water on the party: no one has the right to use public computer facilities to smear the reputation of others and lie about them. They can do that on their personal computers if they wish. No one who gets caught doing this has the right to whine about free speech. No one’s taking away Wiseman’s free speech. They’re just saying you can’t smear Sizer on the public dime.
As for the police “knock in the middle of the night” (as Wiseman melodramatically portrays it), I’ve had multiple commenters threaten my life and abuse my child as well (not to mention the lawsuits and threats of lawsuits) and the police in my town could care less. The FBI as well. So I’m glad the local police force took this issue seriously. People like Wiseman should know there are red lines they can’t cross (if they don’t know it already).
Let’s get a grip, folks. Stop shilling for Joseph Wiseman. The pity and melodrama is misplaced. He’s a big boy. If he wants to play rough, his victims can give as well as they get. Or does Joe think they have to lay down and enjoy it? Joseph Wiseman is a semi-professional character assassin. A nasty piece of work. Don’t cry for him, Argentina or anyone else.