Former International Development Secretary Clare Short has waded into a row over a controversial Church of England vicar’s comments on Israel.
In a letter to the JC, she backed Reverend Stephen Sizer, who earlier this year was the subject of a church disciplinary procedure after complaints that his blog had linked to websites promoting Holocaust denial and Zionist conspiracy theories.
Ms Short, who retired from Parliament at the 2010 general election, was responding to comments made by Anglican priest Nick Howard this month in which he had criticised the Diocese of Guildford’s handling of the action against Rev Sizer.
Ms Short wrote: “I am disturbed by Nick Howard’s false allegations against Stephen Sizer. Anyone who knows Stephen knows that he is not remotely antisemitic, but he is a scholar of and expert on Christian Zionism.”
She added: “I believe it belittles the terrible gravity of antisemitism to use the accusation as a smear against anyone who is critical of Israeli policy.”
Rev Howard, who had not directly accused Rev Sizer of being antisemitic, said Ms Short must explain whether she agreed with previous comments Rev Sizer had made in which he appeared to draw an equivalence between the Holocaust and Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians.
Ms Short is a patron of the Israeli Committee Against House Demolitions UK and lists working towards a “just settlement of the Palestinian/Israeli conflict” as a leading feature of her work.