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‘Christian Jihad’ proposed at ‘Love Your Neighbor’ conference

Last month, Christian activist Stephen Sizer adopted Islam’s favorite term for violent struggle to describe his peaceful assault on Zionism: jihad. His double-talk caps a career of anti-Semitic comments and libels against Israel, which haven’t changed. What has changed: Sizer’s underdogs pursued by the Zionist demon are no longer the Palestinian Christians, but the Iranian Shi’ites. 

For decades British Anglican vicar Stephen Sizer has made headlines with his efforts to save the Christian community from the “heresy” of Zionism. His mission often seems to take priority over the integrity standards expected of a clergyman. Correction: ex-clergyman. Last March, only weeks before retirement, he was unofficially defrocked for violating his written commitment to his bishop, Rev. Andrew Watson, to “refrain from writing or speaking on any theme that relates, directly or indirectly, to the current situation in the Middle East or to its historical backdrop.

That restriction was imposed in 2015 after Sizer posted someone’s claim that the Israelis (and/or American Jews) were behind the Sept. 11 terror attack in New York. While withholding outright agreement, he implied that the idea had merit: “It raises so many questions.

Under fire, Sizer zigzagged, protesting that the British Board of Jewish Deputies was making a crisis out of “one little link,” but later apologizing for his “insensitive” endorsement of the conspiracy theory as worthy of discussion. In mainstream U.K. media he pleaded neutrality: “I was neither saying Israel did it or that they didn’t.” To Jewish media, however, he coolly issued a challenge to produce proof that “Israel didn’t.” He never went on record demanding proof from anyone that “Israel did.”

Years earlier, a similar complaint was sent to his spiritual overseers, triggered by Sizer’s link to a different anti-Semitic site. The tension was defused in 2013 by a joint reconciliation statement between Sizer and the Board of Deputies. Here too he denied any anti-Semitism and anti-Israel sentiment: “I care passionately about the safety of the Jewish people and the right of Israel to exist within internationally agreed borders.” Here  he also pledged to be more “sensitive.

The resolve proved hollow. In 2014 Sizer spoke at a Tehran conference where “the Zionists” were openly accused of perpetrating 9/11. Equal time was devoted to accusing Israel of sabotaging Iran’s nuclear-deal negotiations with the West, and of forming a “terror alliance” with Saudi Arabia. These are pretexts for repeated declarations that Iran must erase Israel from the world; subtly reinforced by the conference name, “New Horizons” (somewhat more discreet than “World Without Zionism”). On Day One of this Shi’ite confab, Sizer presented the same “Christian Jihad” concept that he would later offer to the 2017 Christian peace gathering. More on that later.

When criticized for his participation in the 2014 Iran “hate fest,” Sizer claimed to be promoting “reconciliation.” His meaning was explained in his warning that Western criticism of Tehran’s anti-Israel rants could have “consequences” for Iranian Jews and Christians. This is characteristic of the dhimmi mindset, in which non-Muslims are conditioned to blame themselves for any Muslim violence or injustice committed against them or their friends. Under those conditions, “reconciliation” means siding with the Muslim viewpoint at the expense of truth, covenant and self-respect, in the hopes of securing a temporary truce.

The dhimmi brand of reconciliation was also seen in the October 2016 campaign to have Britain apologize for the Balfour Declaration, sponsored by Brits and Palestinians, warmly supported by Iran, and attended by Sizer. But when he went on to publicly endorse the project, he violated his 2015 commitment to abstain from Middle East commentary. Until then, it wasn’t clear that the vicar would value “reconciliation” with Muslim ambitions to erase Israel above “reconciliation” with his church. Even his own bishop had assured the U.K. Church Times that “the publicity surrounding [his commitment] would ensure that Dr. Sizer kept his word.” Regardless, Sizer again evaded punishment by being “hugely remorseful” to his supervisor on the one hand, and claiming to have misunderstood the terms of his commitment on the other. He was granted one more chance.

Last March, Bishop Watson confronted Sizer over yet another violation of his 2015 promise: anti-Zionist statements posted on his Facebook page (spotted by Daphne Anson). He was ordered to stop teaching, preaching and leading services. Some Christian commentators observed that this church discipline should have come years ago, given Sizer’s history of apologizing for anti-Semitic comments without evidence of repentance.

Stephen Sizer retired in April, using his freedom from church supervision to renew his attacks on Israel and his fellow Christians who support Israel. He also continued a personal tradition dating back to 2008: defending Iran from its enemies. That brings us to his “Christian jihad” jingle, first applauded at Tehran’s 2014 death-to-Israel conference and recently recycled for peacemaking purposes.

Sizer’s speech at the “Justice Conference Asia 2017” in Hong Kong last month, as a representative of a new organization called Peacemaker Mediators, was under the theme, “Love Thy Neighbor.” His priority for peacemaking and showing love is revealed in the photo he chose to represent his contribution to the conference. Behind him is a projected text describing a potential U.S.-Israel strike on Iran in the near future, made possible by America’s strong Christian Zionist community. To the latter he attributed the motivation of fulfilling end-time prophecy and triggering the second coming of Christ.

Sizer’s portrayal of Israel and the U.S. (more precisely, the Jews and Zionist Christians) plotting to provoke Middle East wars echoes a long-running Iranian fantasy. The Shi’ite leaders are positively paranoid about the Jews (not just the Israelis) conquering the world through “sorcery with the Americans as the sorcerers’ apprentices. Not to be outdone, Iran has been tattooing their missiles with spells for wiping out Israel… reportedly in Hebrew.

In truth, however, Iranian leaders dream of igniting a global conflict themselves — exterminating Israel in the process — thereby fulfilling Shi’ite prophecy and enabling their messiah, the Mahdi, to reign over a worldwide Islamic empire. Shi’ite imams believe the time is already here for the Mahdi’s warriors to rise up. In short, the wolf is pointing at the sheepdog and crying, “A wolf in the flock! Get him!”

Sizer, who shows no awareness of Shi’ite eschatology, has nevertheless internalized their strategy to project their own ambitions onto their enemies. It was the focus of his 2004 book, whose title (like his 9/11 post) framed the libelous stereotype as a question: Christian Zionism, Roadmap to Armageddon? His 2008 sequel, which insinuated that Christian Zionists blindly obey Israeli orders, also ended the title in a question mark: Zion’s Christian Soldiers? 

Sizer’s solution to avert this made-in-Tehran disaster scenario is a peaceful offensive against Christian Zionism, yet it’s identified by a term more often associated with bloodshed. His website displays the text of his Hong Kong talk, entitled “Christian Jihad, A Biblical Basis for Proactive Peacemaking.” His only reference to Palestinians was an unlabeled photo of the Bethlehem security barrier.

Tellingly, he used the same text in Tehran, changing only the title, introduction and photo (this one depicting Crusaders). The 2014 version introduced “Christian Jihad” as the answer to ISIS, which he said is driven by the same “spiritual forces” as American Christian Zionism. How does Christian Zionism work as “a pawn of Satan”? Besides encouraging a long list of evils attributed to Israel (“racial superiority, land expropriation, home demolitions, population transfer, colonial settlements, the denial of international law and fundamental human rights”), Christian Zionism also “wages a jihad against Muslims and indirectly against Jews…. It not only fuels Islamophobia but also anti-Semitism and imperils the existence of the indigenous Christian community in the Middle East.

A “Christian jihad” that labels the activity of its opponents “Christian jihad” is an example of the logical gaffes in Sizer’s thinking. But his claim that Christian Zionism hurts the ones it loves is a different matter: “It incites and exacerbates Islamist retaliation against both Jews and Christians.” Sizer was again expressing the dhimmi viewpoint: all Islamic violence is “retaliation incited” by unacceptable non-Muslim behavior. Incitement is not Iran’s continual threat to annihilate Israel, but rather (as claimed in the 2014 text) Sen. Joseph Lieberman and Pastor John Hagee suggesting a military response to that threat before it’s carried out. ISIS was wiping out Christian civilization in the Middle East not for its own reasons, but in “retaliation” for American “incitement”, mostly support of Israel. As for Jewish support of Israel, Sizer confidently asserted (2014) that “ISIS is no more representative of Islam than Zionism is of Judaism.” This Iranian-approved distinction turns Jewish faith into a stateless religion, and obvious terrorism into “retaliation” for all sorts of fabricated wrongs; it was most recently applied to Israel’s destruction of Hamas terror tunnels.

Recognizing that Islam views even criticism as “incitement,” Sizer’s introduction to his 2014 “Christian Jihad” included a disclaimer: “What follows is not a critique of Islamic Jihad, nor Christian Zionism.” The 2017 version reads, “not a critique of Islamic Jihad, nor Jewish Zionism, nor Christian fundamentalism.” Yet both versions concluded with the same harsh critique of Christian Zionism; and with the same rebuke that “Jesus continues to weep” over Jerusalem because of its “theology of war and conquest” (a slam against Jewish Zionism). A final sentence mildly denounced “the ISIS perversion of Islam,” which is certainly in the “Islamic Jihad” camp (although ISIS is not a “perversion” but a return to classical Islam).

So, what was the point of Sizer’s disclaimer? It was to keep Iran-sponsored “Islamic Jihad” groups targeting Israel — like Hezbollah, PFLP, Hamas and (literally) Islamic Jihad — from taking his comparison personally and “retaliating” against him as he mingles with Palestinians. (Iran also opposes ISIS because its Sunni goal of a worldwide Caliphate clashes with Iran’s Shi’ite end-time goal mentioned above.)

While some might view Sizer as an unwitting victim of Iranian brainwashing, his conduct over time suggests that he has consciously made Iran’s mission his own, along with their MO. Like the Ayatollahs in Tehran, Sizer doesn’t let trivial concerns like loyalty and truth get in the way.

It’s significant that Tehran’s calls earlier this year for a new bloody Palestinian “uprising” in exchange for massive payments failed to get much response; the open secret is that most Palestinians mistrust Iran’s sincerity. It’s time for Palestinian Christians, along with Christ at the Checkpoint supporters, to also reassess whether Iran’s mouthpiece Stephen Sizer has been fighting for Palestinian interests after all.

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Hannah Weiss
Hannah Weiss lives in Israel with her husband Hillel, their three children and two grandchildren. Besides writing on issues relevant for followers of Yeshua, she also works as an English writer, editor and translator for Israeli exporters and academics. Hannah is part of a small home fellowship, Restorers of Zion, which serves the Body of Messiah by focusing on neglected or dysfunctional areas of Scriptural teaching and practice.

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