Speaking of freedom, it’s not only the government we have to fear.
Last November, the Christian blogger Seismic Shock, was visited at his home by West Yorkshire Police, in relation to posts he had written regarding the anti-Zionist writings of Rev Stephen Sizer, Vicar of Christ Church, Virginia Water.
Following a call from Sizer, the police visited Seismic Shock for an "informal chat" but, as Seismic Shock explains in a guest post on Harry's Place, the visit still resulted in censorship because the blogger agreed to delete his original blog http://seismicshock.blogspot.com but maintain his current blog http://seismicshock.wordpress.com
The news has sent ripples round the blogosphere – can the police really intervene to solve disputes among bloggers? Stephen Sizer appears to think so as he has warned an Australian blogger:
You must take a little more care who you brand as anti-semitic otherwise you too will be receiving a caution from the police as the young former student of Leeds did recently. One more reference to me and you will be reported.
Today the story is all over the web, Harry's Place carried a guest blog on which Seismic Shock reveals how his collar was felt by the police, and Melanie Philips asks:
What has happened to the British police when they intimidate a writer for material which other people merely find objectionable?
What has happened to the Church of England when it tolerates such behaviour by one of its vicars?
What has happened to Britain when the Communities Minister John Denham hires as an adviser against Islamic extremism one Wakkas Khan who supports the jihadi Hizb ut Tahrir, has opposed government counter-terrorism policies and, as president of the Federation of Student Islamic Societies, invited Hamas-promoting Azzam Tamimi to address a national conference of students; or when the University of Wales Institute and Birmingham University invite as a speaker Islamist Yahya Ibrahim, who has described Jews as ‘monkeys and pigs’, is accused of advocating conflict with the West and has been banned by countries such as the United States or Australia; while at the same time the British police put the thumbscrews on a blogger who defends decency?
Though Stephen Sizer does not like adverse publicity and has no qualms about using the long arm of the law to silence his critics, he is one of Israel's most unremitting critics. Moreover, he had no compunction about informing the world that I was on a par with Holocaust deniers after Evangelicals Now published my wholly negative review of The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine by the revisionist historian Ilan Pappe, and was sorry there was not a law against people like me.
I wrote the following to Stephen:
I was shocked to read your critique of my EN ‘review’ of Ilan Pappe’s The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine for a number of reasons.
After our conversation at Starbuck’s in Guildford High Street earlier in the year, I left feeling that your views on the Israel/Palestine issue had mellowed a little. I realise now it must just have been the excellent Starbucks coffee. That rich, dark roast always leaves me feeling that all is well with the world.
Knowing your strong convictions about Matthew 18:15ff, I wonder why you didn’t contact me before going public and suggesting to the entire world that Mike Moore is a virtual Holocaust denier. But don't worry, I'm not going to set the police on you. Thanks to your blog, I’m now nearly famous. A number of people have brought the blog to my attention.
Do you seriously believe that because I reject Ilan Pappe’s revised history of the tragedy that befell the Palestinian people as a result of the establishment of the state of Israel, I ought to be prosecuted and sent to prison? I do not deny that for the Palestinian people who lost their properties and livelihoods, the establishment of the state of Israel was indeed a nakba. I do deny, however, that the Nakba was the direct result of a deliberate policy on the part of the Ben Gurion government to ethnically cleanse the land. To equate the Nakba with the Holocaust is a gross insult to the memory of the six million European Jews who were systematically exterminated through starvation, hard labour and gassing.
There is plenty of documentary evidence from the time that Israel was established to prove that the Nakba was caused by the Arab leaders and not by the Zionists. Here are just a few quotes:
‘The fact that there are these refugees is the direct consequence of the act of the Arab states in opposing partition and the Jewish state. The Arab states agreed upon this policy unanimously and they must share in the solution of the problem.’ (Emile Ghoury, secretary of the Palestinian Arab Higher Committee in the London Telegraph, August 1948)
‘The most potent factor [in the flight of Palestinians] was the announcements made over the air by the Arab-Palestinian Higher Executive, urging all Haifa Arabs to quit... It was clearly intimated that Arabs who remained in Haifa and accepted Jewish protection would be regarded as renegades.’ (London Economist, 2 October 1948)
‘It must not be forgotten that the Arab Higher Committee encouraged the refugees' flight from their homes in Jaffa, Haifa, and Jerusalem.’ (Near East Arabic Broadcasting Station, 3 April 1949)
‘The mass evacuation, prompted partly by fear, partly by order of Arab leaders, left the Arab quarter of Haifa a ghost city... By withdrawing Arab workers their leaders hoped to paralyze Haifa.’ (Time, 3 May, 1948)
‘The Arab civilians panicked and fled ignominiously. Villages were frequently abandoned before they were threatened by the progress of war.’ (General John Bagott Glubb (Glubb Pasha), Daily Mail, 12 August 1948)
‘The Arabs of Haifa fled in spite of the fact that the Jewish authorities guaranteed their safety and rights as citizens of Israel.’ (Monsignor George Hakim, Greek Catholic Bishop of Galilee, New York Herald Tribune, 30 June 1949)
Many more of these types of quotes can be found at www.standwithus.com/pdfs/flyers/biglies06.pdf.
You did not have to give EN the benefit of the doubt as to whether the review was commissioned or sent unsolicited (as you think likely). An e-mail to John Benton or me would have satisfied your curiosity. It seems that you and I are both bad at guessing the psychodynamics of the other.
Ilan Pappe, according to your blog, denies that he gave an interview with National-Zeitung but, rather, that he simply “gave a press conference that was published also in that newspaper”. Either Ilan Pappe is telling porkies or else National-Zeitung is, because National-Zeitung states in an introductory paragraph (pardon my poor German):
Original: Im Gespräch mit Erhard Düvel von der National-Zeitung meinte der Autor, dass der 14. Mai 1948 für die Völkergemeinschaft kein Grund zum Feiern sei.
My poor translation: In conversation with Erhard Düvel of the National-Zeitung, the author meant that 14th May 1948 should be no reason for the celebrations for the people partnership.
Pappe claims that he did not say he was using 'oral histories' instead of military archives but he then tells you that, in the case of the alleged Tantura massacre, he researched ‘the archives and oral history’. Furthermore, he says on page xv of the book that he distrusts written Israeli military reports and prefers, instead, Arab sources and oral history. He has his doubts about the written reports of the IDF, ‘as one would and should have about them today’ (my emphasis). Why should one doubt reports written at the time but have no doubts about oral accounts sixty years after the purported events? I am of the conviction that, as a general principle, the faintest ink is more reliable than the best memory.
Pappe states, furthermore, that his allegations of expulsion in the first five chapters of the book are ‘based on the Israeli military archives not on a post modernist notions’. Then he should have made that plain in the book.
Although Pappe may not have declared himself to be a postmodernist and denies that he is ‘a postmodernist scholar’, he certainly speaks as a postmodernist. In February 2007, you recommended that I read The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, adding that it was ‘emotive but also accurate language’.
I responded by pointing out that your choice of Pappe was most unfortunate, as he was probably the very worst of the ‘new historians’. Most anti-Israel writers, I said, at least claimed to base their findings on documentary evidence but in the introduction to his A History of Modern Palestine, Pappe admitted to personal bias and political partisanship:
My bias is apparent despite the desire of my peers that I stick to facts and the ‘truth’ when reconstructing past realities. I view any such construction as vain and presumptuous. This book is written by one who admits compassion for the colonized not the colonizer; who sympathizes with the occupied not the occupiers. [My emphasis].
Furthermore, in the Spring 2001 issue of the Journal of Palestine Studies, Pappe published an article defending Teddy Katz’s Tantura thesis, insisting that Katz’s conclusions were correct, even if his facts were not, since historical research need not be based on facts!
If that is not a postmodernist speaking, I have never heard one.
Pappe told you that Katz’s thesis ‘is not the basis for the Tantura affair, which is only two pages in the book, but my own research into the archives and oral history.’
Really? First of all ‘The Massacre at Tantura’ takes up five pages of chapter 6, not two. Secondly, Pappe says the chapter is based on his ‘own research into the archives and oral history’. Which archives? Those Israeli archives he avowedly distrusts? However, as I pointed out in the EN review, the section features about a dozen quotes and citations, only three of which are sourced, one of them to a previous book by Pappe himself.
Professional Israeli historians may not ‘refute’ (sic) that the half of Palestine’s population was expelled’ but few of them share his ideas about the reason they were ‘expelled’.
I'm grateful to you for allowing readers of your blog to read my review and to judge for themselves whether it is ‘balanced’; I’d be most surprised, however, if any disagreed with you. But what do you mean by ‘balanced’? And what do you mean when you say Evangelicals Now is ‘highly regarded for its factual and balanced book reviews’? If by ‘balance’ you mean my review should have contained some praise for Pappe, then you fall short yourself because I’ve seen some very unbalanced reviews by your good self. In an EN review, you dismissed one of Julia Fisher’s books on Israel as ‘inflammatory’ because you interpreted her concern for the Palestinians as a statement that they should get off their backsides and do something to make a better life for themselves (or words to that effect). You have written off Paul Wilkinson’s For Zion’s Sake even though his research was based on primary documents, as well as summarising Barry Horner’s 400+-page Future Israel as a ‘nasty little book’ (my emphasis)?
Contrary to what you claim, Stephen Lendman’s review of The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine is not ‘a much more balanced review’ than mine. His review is as totally positive as mine is almost totally negative. I say ‘almost totally negative’ because I at least acknowledge the possibility of barbarism on the part of the Israelis. Lendman, however, has nothing but praise for Pappe and nothing positive to say about Israel in his review.
Neither Lendman nor the website which hosts his review is ‘balanced’. The Global Research website speculates whether 9/11 was an inside job’ (which, incidentally runs counter to the theory to that the Israelis were responsible for the collapse of the twin towers, a theory that you brought to the attention of readers of CZ. Lendman has numerous articles on Ziopedia, a website whose raison d'être includes the following unbalanced statement:
We consider Israel to be the most racist and evil country on this planet, an illegal political entity, controlled and protected by a Mafia-like criminal network with a 19th century style colonialist and social-Darwinist agenda. We fight for Israel's replacement with a free, united, egalitarian and secular Palestine.
We refuse to believe in self-evident truths and known facts, promoted by psychopathic liars like the Zionist masters of deception and enforced by criminal codes. We refuse to believe in dogmas that have become such a taboo that mentioning even the slightest doubt in some of their most non-sensical [sic] beliefs, leave alone in their three core dogmas - a plan to kill most, if not all European Jews, 6 Million Jewish victims, and the use of chemical slaughter houses - is treated like medieval heresy, punished by job loss, financial ruin, social shun, and - in thousands of cases - even prison.
In conclusion, Stephen, I’m very disappointed and dismayed that you chose to critique my review in this manner. I do not understand your almost pathological aversion to Israel nor your willingness to embrace anyone, however extreme and however anti-Christian, who shares your negative opinion of the only democracy in the Middle East.
After we met in Guilford earlier in the year, I shared with some interested friends that I thought you had become more reasonable. After reading your blog, I find myself regretting my naivety.
Stephen Sizer's response was as follows:
I did not accuse you of being a holocaust denier. Come on now… I have not knowingly changed my views since we last spoke. I do believe the Nakba and ethnic cleansing of over 500 villages listed in my pre-1948 Time Atlas and UN documents leading to over 5million displaced Palestinian refugees registered with the UN today is historical fact.
By the way – I am working closely with the police and Leeds university authorities identifying those associated with Seismic Shock and his/her campaign of harassment that is now putting lives at risk.
If Zionists are going to insist on the right of return for Jewish people worldwide then I equally identify with those who insist on the right of Palestinians to return to their homes or receive compensation.
I simply believe the Zionist cause is not served by rubbishing the integrity or credibility of academic research through this kind of book review.
I hope you have a good Summer.