Stephen Sizer, the former vicar of the Anglican parish of Christ Church, Virginia Water, in Surrey, England, on Saturday launched a campaign vilifying Masa Israel Journey, considered the leading long-term Israel experience for diaspora Jews.
Sizer posted on Facebook:
Many British Jews do a gap-year visit to Israel, hosted by the Masa program. Some join Marva, an IDF program which includes weapons training, exercises and education. Some even serve in the IDF, carrying weapons in the killing fields of the West Bank. One such British citizen was involved in killing a Palestinian youth last month.
Such actions warrant prosecution under UK law, such as its anti-terror laws, which apply to terrorist acts anywhere in the world. But of course, such laws have been designed and used instead to protect terrorist states allied with the UK.
The Jewish Press covered the killing of the Arab youth in late January (Terrorist Killed in Stabbing Attack at Giti Avishar Junction in Samaria) and omitted the fact that the female IDF soldier he was trying to stab was a lone soldier from London, a fact which someone at the IDF spokesperson’s office chose to publicize, and the Jerusalem Post proudly repeated:
A lone soldier from London helped thwart a stabbing attack against soldiers guarding Gitit Avishar junction near the settlement of Ariel in Samaria on Tuesday. The Palestinian terrorist was killed. Cpl. Lian Harush was at the junction along with her commander when a Palestinian, Attallah Mohammad Rayyan, 17, approached and tried to stab her. Her commander, Sgt. Y., shot and killed the terrorist.
— The Jerusalem Post (@Jerusalem_Post) January 26, 2021
Turns out UK anti-Semites like Sizer read the Jerusalem Post, and used the story to launch a propaganda story depicting Masa as a training program for bloodthirsty British Jews set on murdering innocent Arabs.
Masa Israel was conceived by Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, and officially established in 2004 as a joint project of the Government of Israel and the Jewish Agency for Israel. During the 2004-2005 school year, $10 million was invested in the program, with 45 long-term Israel programs participating. As of late 2009, the budget was expanded to $40 million and the number of programs affiliated with the project has surpassed 200.
The bulk of the budget goes to providing grants and financial aid to participants of affiliated programs. In 2015–16, participation reached an all-time high of more than 13,000 participants.
Masa Israel is not officially connected to Taglit-Birthright Israel, though the organizations do collaborate regarding recruitment and education. In 2009, Masa Israel and Hillel, the foundation for Jewish campus life, began working together to expand outreach on North American university campuses.
Sizer reached back in history to recall that “Britons’ roles in the IDF today have analogies with the several thousand Jews who served as overseas volunteers (Mahal) in Zionist forces during the 1948 war. They contributed to the widespread ethnic cleansing.”
Of course, this is how we know Sizer is a rabid anti-Semite, when we read his equating Israel’s war of liberation with ethnic cleansing. Unfortunately, the validation for this anti-Semitic trope was given in a book written by an Israeli Jew, Ilan Pappé, titled The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine.
The thesis of the book is that the forced move of Arabs from Eretz Israel to neighboring Arab countries was an objective of the Zionist movement and a must for the desired character of the Jewish state. According to Pappé, the 1948 Arab exodus resulted from a planned ethnic cleansing that was implemented by the Zionist movement leaders, mainly David Ben-Gurion and the other ten members of his “consultancy group” as referred to by Pappé.
The book argues that the ethnic cleansing was put into effect through systematic expulsions of about 500 Arab villages, as well as terrorist attacks executed mainly by members of the Irgun and Haganah troops against the civilian population. Ilan Pappé also refers to Plan Dalet and to the village files as proof of the planned expulsions.
But according to renowned historian Benny Morris, Israel Conducted No Ethnic Cleansing in 1948 (Haaretz, Oct. 10, 2016):
The real number of those who fled and were forced to flee was apparently smaller, but more importantly, the Arab countries attacked the State of Israel largely to harm it, if not to destroy it. The fact is, their leaders threatened to invade even before the UN resolution was passed on November 29, 1947, and before a single Arab had been uprooted from his home. And they continued to threaten an invasion in the following months, until May 1948.
It wasn’t the tragedy of the Palestinians that motivated the Arab countries during their invasion. The truth is, the flight and expulsion of the Arabs from their homes in prestate Israel, especially from early April until May 14, 1948 (in that connection the capture of Jaffa, Tiberias and Haifa, and the Deir Yassin massacre have always been mentioned), fostered extremism among the Arab populations surrounding prestate Israel and were one reason Arab leaders decided to invade on the eve of May 15.
But more important factors influenced the Arab leaders in their decision; for example, Jordan’s King Abdullah wanted to expand his country’s borders, the Egyptian king wanted to deny the Jordanian king major territorial achievements, and the leaders of Syria, Iraq and Egypt feared the reaction at home if they did not invade. Concern for the welfare of the Arabs in prestate Israel was not the main motive for the Arab invasion.
Sizer is offering a webinar on Sunday, sponsored by the Islamic Human Rights Commission, and titled “MAHAL – a Gap Year in the Killing Fields,” with speakers Haim Breshteeth, Author of “An Army Like No Other,” Tom Suarez, Author of “State of terror,” and journalist Wafa Al Udaini. It will be chaired by Mick Napier, a founding member of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign (SPSC).
Back in 2012, Sizer linked on his Facebook page an article on The Ugly Truth, an anti-Semitic US site espousing Holocaust denial. Sizer deleted the link after The Jewish Chronicle pointed it out to him, but reportedly only two months after he had first been informed of the true nature of the linked site.
In September 2014, Sizer attended an event in Tehran where 9/11 conspiracy theories such as “Zionist Fingerprints on the 9/11 Cover-up” and “9/11 and the Holocaust as pro-Zionist ‘Public myths'” were discussed. Sizer himself spoke about the Israel lobby in England. He said he came to the conference as an “ambassador for reconciliation,” and the conference was anti-Zionist and not anti-Semitic.
According to The Jewish Chronicle, in October 2016, Sizer attended a meeting organized by the Palestine Return Center at the House of Lords which gained negative media attention for comments made during the session. He wrote about the event online, which broke an agreement he had made. The Bishop of Guildford, the Rt Revd Andrew Watson, issued a statement saying any further such incident would lead to Sizer’s “tenure of office ending with immediate effect.”
Sizer left his Christ Church post in 2017, just before his retirement.