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.
Whoah Nellie, it seems seismicshock did a little bit more than just write screed on his blog
That’s an open letter to the then anonymous blogger
I promised to write one more time and offer to meet, as Jesus instructed us to do in Matthew 18, in response to your decision to use an anonymous blog to criticise me repeatedly since September.
You also gained access to our church facebook account without revealing your identity and then wrote to many of our church family to warn them about me, including children who were, not surprisingly, disturbed as were their parents. You also wrote anonymously to the hosts of various conferences I was invited to, to urge them not to allow me to speak. You know from the responses you received, some from Messianic leaders, that they share the Apostle Paul’s disdain for your methods.
That link came from Sizer’s post, “Seismic Shock: One Year On”
OK, it is NO WONDER the police got involved! He wrote to church members and CHILDREN? Goose cooked.
“As for the police “knock in the middle of the night” (as Wiseman melodramatically portrays it),”
– No he doesn’t. He quite openly says it happened at 10AM in the morning. See here:
“Sizer also reports that Wiseman infiltrated his church’s Facebook page and sent nasty messages about him to members including children of the parish.”
– Are you sure? I clicked the link you provided and it described these events coming from a character called Moredechai Ben Emet, ‘using the IP address of Agaf HaModin, the Israeli Military Intelligence Directorate’. Surely that’s not the same person as Joseph Wiseman, who was blogging from Leeds University? Can you explain!?
Richard Silverstein says
I didn’t get it quite right as I was paraphrasing fr memory. But tell me if this isn’t a tad melodramatic:
Mordechai Ben Emet is Wiseman’s nom de guerre.
Roger Pearse says
Can we leave left-vs-right out of this? The issue being whipped up is one of free speech, and I would hope that everyone on the left would be just as keen as those on thr right to resist police censorship of the web. After all, the left may be in power now, but these things change.
As you have rightly observed, Seismic’s claims are beginning to look a bit dodgy (although we don’t know for sure), and his actions rather more like stalking than freedom of speech. If Seismic is a rogue, let’s show it and abuse him accordingly. If he is right, then let’s support him.
But I imagine most people are currently supporting him because they want to uphold free speech. Please … don’t demonise people for that. Is that really the prerogative of the Right? That is something we should all do.
Richard Silverstein says
When someone damages one’s right to earn a livelihood by attempting to get speaking engagements cancelled or smearing one with unsolicited communications to members of one’s church, that is a valid legal matter that SHOULD be investigated by the authorities. No one is saying Wiseman can’t blog or that he can’t say the dumb things he’s saying about Sizer. They’re saying he can’t engage in illegal conduct in doing so. That is NOT free speech. That is ordinary everyday harrassment with economic consequences. This is tort law. Standard stuff.
But I am glad that you are conceding that Wiseman’s behavior is a “bit dodgy” and that he’s likely guilty of stalking his opponent. That’s how I see it too.
On the Facebook matter. Christ Church Virginia Water Youth Ministries has a Facebook which is now set to Closed: Limited public content. Members can see all content.
If an account is not set to closed like this one is now, then all friends show. Facebook allows anyone to send a message to anyone without being their friend. I have done this myself on many occasions.
In fact, in cache you can see that Facebook account used to be open with all friends showing. Just google it and you will easily see that
On the ip address, people get tech lingo mixed up all the time. The account that Seismic closed was a blogspot account. On blogspot when you open a blog you can set your URL to show up however you want it to if that url is available. I suspect that this is what Sizer meant rather than ip.
Richard Silverstein says
I don’t think you’re right. Sizer would have needed an IP address in order to locate Wiseman as a student at Leeds University unless the Blogger public contact info indicated he was (which I’m sure it didn’t since the blog was pseudonymous). Either that or he would’ve had to supoena Blogger to get this information. I don’t think he did that.
You seem to have been able to throw more light onto the matter than most. I read the Harry’s Place post by Wiseman (it’s mirrored also by Engage) and wasn’t entirely sure what to think of it. The British anti-Zionist blogosphere appears largely to have chosen to ignore the incident but the Zionist ‘faux-left’ world wide have rallied around their comrade with a vengeance usually reserved for the US Far Right.
Thanks for the post.
Seems like there are only a handful of important facts here:
1. Sizer is targeted by someone who writes a blog.
2. Said someone apparently find’s the facebook page for Sizer’s church and posts a few choice idiotic comments.
3. Said someone also writes to complain about the attendance of Sizer at various events.
Now, I am as pro-Palestinian as they come. I detest the attitude of the Zionist shit-stirrers and would not put it past them to make a mountain out of a molehill.
But.. but… what it actually boils down to is that someone wrote a blog someone else didn’t like and found a facebook page which was publicly accessible – and for the privilege had the Plod come to visit.
Hell, I’ve done a lot more than that during various Palestinian campaigns. I don’t know the truth, but it doesn’t actually appear that this guy threatened to burn Sizer’s house down or anything does it? (I could be proven wrong here, of course)
Richard Silverstein says
No, he didn’t post comments. From what I understand he actually sent individual messages to the members of the Facebook page. That’s diff. & much more like stalking. And he didn’t write to “complain” about Sizer’s “attendance” at events. He demanded that the sponsors cancel his speaking engagement. Since there are usually speaking fees involved in such matters this is a direct economic harm caused to Sizer potentially & therefore a tort.
There’s little that Sizer can do about Wiseman’s taunts & abuse in the context of the blog itself. But when you try to take things to the next level as Wiseman did then things get dodgy if you can’t control your venom as Wiseman clearly can’t.
What do you mean ‘he demanded that the sponsors cancel his speaking engagement.’ though? Presumably unless he is actually paying for the event, he has no more power than anyone else who writes to an event organiser. I think he has the write to complain to event organisers if he choses – and they have the right to totally ignore him. Not really much difference there to what we’ve done several times.
And if he has abused the facebook system, then it is up to facebook to sort it out – the police involvement appears to be as a result of a complaint by Sizer about someone calling him an anti-semite rather than stalking.
Again, probably worth reiterating that it is hard to get all the information about what happened.
I hestitate to post this, but it appears that Sizer himself appears to repeat this threat (that of calling the police on people who call him an antisemite) in a comment on the blog of one of his detractors
If this is true, I think this is a mistaken tactic by Sizer and plays right into the hands of his foes. If it is a fake, I guess that just shows how far people will go.
Richard Silverstein says
I don’t want to make the mistake of arguing that Sizer is God’s gift to anything. He may have his idiosyncracies as well for all I know. And I should say that I only report to the police those who threaten me with physical harm (which the police promptly ignore anyway). But if someone was interfering with my livelihood in the way that Wiseman did with Sizer, then I might report him as well.
So far fr. what I can tell whatever foibles Sizer may have, Wiseman has him beat hands down.
Richard Silverstein says
How many people do you know of who make a pt of writing to a conference sponsor & attempt to smear a participant & demand he be removed fr. a panel or keynote speaking assignment?? I don’t know many. This isn’t a common occurrence & it’s a very weird practice.
I’ve seen several calls recently to write to conferences where an IDF general is speaking – including one to SOAS IIRC. Not to mention those calling for arrests of these on war crimes charges.
I don’t think it is particularly strange or weird. I doubt it has much effect, it is probably true. But y’know, I actually believe in freedom of speech, hence there is no contradiction in allowing mudsucking zionists call people names if they want to.
Richard Silverstein says
It’s not the same. Not even Weissman has named Sizer as a war criminal (though I shouldn’t give him any ideas). IDF generals are most definitely targets on multiple legal fronts for war crimes allegations. And having IDF generals speak publicly is an attempt to put forward their narrative about Israel’s view of the Palestinians. So calling for IDF generals to be disinvited fr. public speaking engageents is an entirely legitimate act. And if they feel like Sizer that they’re being damaged in some way then let them take their accusers to court in what jurisdiction is mandated.
I agree. But y’know – what is good for the goose is good for the gander. I want the right to call the IDF generals war criminals. If that means that Zionists want to call Sizer names that is up to them. The cost of living in a democracy.
This is what Sizer wrote Richard: “Why are you using the IP address of Agaf HaModin, the Israeli Military Intelligence Directorate?”
I think Sizer was getting “IP” mixed up with URL. Blogspot when you open an account doesn’t automatically assign your URL, YOU do that, if it is available. What I am saying is that perhaps what Sizer was saying is that on the blogspot blog (the one Seismic took down), that URL MAY have been a derivative of “Agaf HaModin”
One thing MOST interesting, is that the wordpress blog he is blogging from now goes all the way back to Dec 25, 2008! http://seismicshock.wordpress.com/page/34/
Pray tell, one was taken down but the other one seemingly the same content covering the same time period is still there! Anyone in blogging knows it’s MUCH easier to complain to blogger to get a blog taken down than it is to WordPress, and if Seismic was so intimidated by the police who came why didn’t he delete BOTH blogs?
Does any of this make sense to you, additionally that this occurred in NOVEMBER and he is just now blogging about it?
Richard Silverstein says
Ah, I see. Yes, you’re prob. right.
I don’t know why he had 2 blogs & agreed to take 1 down. Perhaps his WP blog is self hosted & therefore as you said harder to take down. When police appeal to Blogger.com complaining about a blogger chances are they’ll take it down since they’re the web host & not the blog owner.
I wonder if somehow the blog he took down was associated with the University in some way & so he felt he had to do so to stay in the school’s good graces.
bozhidar balkas vancouver says
[comment deleted for comment violation]
Dicky V says
Joe makes an excellent point which is 100% on and the blog owner here left it up – who then follows up with this reply –
This is absolute nonsense, or perhaps more aptly rubbish. He can “demand” whatever he likes. Just like students can protest a University for hosting a pro Israel or anti Israel speaker… it is still up to the host and/or sponsors to ignore such a request… he didn’t threaten the sponsors with violence so he can demand or request whatever he likes based on whatever reason he has… that is called F R E E D O M. and there is NO tort involved whatsoever with that..
What’s amazing is that boycott Israel movement does damage to store’s businesses by “harassing” or protesting outside of stores that sell products they “don’t approve of”… The hypocrisy is SO RICH it’s tantalizing…
If you stand on your head or hang upside down you could then see how Richard S trying to construe how this is somehow “different” and not just a potentially civil matter but yet a “criminal” one justifying police involvement?
Laughable and embarrassing to even try and posit such innanity.
Richard Silverstein says
There is if a lecture sponsor actually cancels an engagement and there is if Wiseman continues to send such demands since there is a potential tort.
Stay on topic please. I know how easy it is for the hasbarists to drift off into their own pet ideological diatribes of which this is a perfect example.
I don’t have to construe it that way because the local UK police already did that for me & frankly bet. yr judgement & theirs & given they know the facts of the case & you don’t–I’ll stick w. the police anyday.
I guess we’ll let readers here judge which of us in the inane one.
I am not a lawyer of any description.
Over the last few weeks I have been preparing an article about an ingredient in food which has been directly linked to rainforest destruction. Are you saying that by writing to complain to supermarkets and brands about their use of this ingredient, those who are destroying the rainforest could sue NGOs/individuals engaged in a boycott for ‘tort’? I don’t see there is any logic in that position – though it would be interesting to see it tested in court.
I’ve spoken to Sizer a few times. I know the people at Sabeel. They all seem to me to be honest people.
The bottom line is this: if Sizer and Sabeel are so insecure that they need to call the cops when someone calls them a name, they’re in serious trouble. And more than that, if the cops think this is a reasonable response, every single blogger who writes something even slightly edgy is in trouble.
Yes, if there are threats, of course the police should be involved. But just saying that Sizer reposts things which are shite, gets himself reposted on known far-right blogs, and is the architypal ‘antisemitic’ bogeyman is not a crime as far as I am concerned. And behaving as if it is may be just stabbing ourselves in the foot.
Again, who knows, maybe the police really do know more than is being let on.