The Church of England is investigating a vicar over a Facebook post linking to an article accusing Israel of involvement in the 9/11 terror attacks through a “Zionist” conspiracy.
Reverend Stephen Sizer’s has apologised for and deleted the post, which was called “unquestionably anti-Semitic” by the Board of Deputies of British Jews but he has denied the charge.
It linked to an article called “9/11: Israel did it”, adding: “Is this anti-Semitic? If so no doubt I’ll be asked to remove it. It raises so many questions.”
Dr Sizer, who is the vicar of Christ Church in Virginia Water, Surrey, has a history of disputes with the Board of Deputies over his blog posts and comments on Israel, Palestine and Zionism.
Vice president Jonathan Arkush, who pushed for the link to be taken down, told the Jewish News: “Posting, and giving approval to, an article which in effect accuses Jews of responsibility for the 9/11 atrocity is unquestionably anti-Semitic, just as it is beyond absurd.”
The article, on the WikiSpooks conspiracy site, claims to present evidence that Israel was behind the attacks that killed 2,996 people in 2001, calling al-Qaeda “Mossad playing dress up”.
A spokesperson for the Church of England noted the timing of the post on Thursday, two days after Holocaust Memorial Day.
“Our attention has been drawn to comments by the Rev Stephen Sizer made on social media. In those comments Rev Sizer linked to an article entitled ‘9/11 Israel did it’, he added.
“These comments would rightly be seen as unacceptable whenever they were posted. It is a matter of deep sorrow and shame that they have been posted in this week of all weeks.
“The Diocese of Guildford, where the Rev Sizer is licensed, is taking immediate steps to investigate. The diocese is aware of the seriousness of the matter and are also in touch with the Board of Deputies of British Jews.”
On his website, Dr Sizer describes himself as a patron of the Israeli Committee against House Demolitions, member of the Advisory Council of Evangelicals for Middle East Understanding and founding member of the Institute for the Study of Christian Zionism.
Among his three books are works on “Christian Zionism” including one titled Zion's Christian Soldiers: The Bible, Israel and the Church.
After another complaint from the Board of Deputies in 2013, over Dr Sizer's writings on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was resolved through a meeting convened by the Church of England's clergy discipline measure, he denied prejudice against Jews.
Dr Sizer initially defended his post but apologised on Friday for the "distress caused".
"I very much regret and apologise for the distress caused by the reposting on Facebook of a link to an article about 9/11 from Wikispooks," he said.
"It was particularly insensitive in that last week coincided with Holocaust Memorial Day. I removed the link as soon as I received adverse feedback, and realised that offence had been caused.
"I have never believed Israel or any other country was complicit in the terrorist atrocity of 9/11, and my sharing of this material was ill-considered and misguided.
"At the request of the Diocese, I will be suspending my use of all social media and blogs with immediate effect and until further notice.”