A group of the most senior Catholic clerics in Israel, headed by the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal, accused Israel on Thursday of responsibility for the recent wave of Palestinian violence, saying Israeli policy has created despair and frustration among Palestinians, leading them to carry out acts of terrorism.
The Catholic clergy spelled out their position in a statement of the “Commission for Justice and Peace” of the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries, a panel of archbishops and other senior clerics of the various Catholic rites in Israel, the Palestinian Authority, Jordan and Cyprus.
Twal is the president of the Assembly of Catholic Ordinaries and is the most senior Catholic cleric in Israel.
Thursday’s statement asserted that the current situation for Palestinians was “inhuman,” and said that settlements, the “siege of Gaza,” the “siege of the rest of Palestine,” military checkpoints, house demolitions “and the arbitrary behavior of Israeli soldiers humiliating the Palestinians” have led to the last five months of Palestinian terror attacks against Israeli civilians and security personnel.
The declaration from the Latin Patriarchate also said that the “Judaization” of Jerusalem was a factor in spurring Palestinian violence.
The Catholic clerics failed, however, to make mention of incitement to violence within Palestinian society, on social media or from PA officials, although the document did say that “Israelis need security and tranquility.”
“It is the siege of Jerusalem and the Judaization of the city, the sending away of its Palestinian inhabitants. It is the all-inclusive accusation of terrorism against all Palestinians and the collective punishment that results from it,” observed the Commission for Justice and Peace.
“Today the situation has become a new intifada in which Palestinians plunge to their death out of despair caused by a life full of frustration, humiliation and insecurity, with no hope at all.”
The commission’s statement called on Israeli leaders to “enlarge your vision and your hearts,” and to change the current political reality, and said Palestinian leaders should “let Israel and the world hear... a voice of peace and justice for two peoples,” and “stop every self-interested vision and all corruption.”
Addressing Israeli leaders again, the commission said, “There is enough space in the land for us all. Let all have the same dignity and equality. No occupation and no discrimination. Two peoples living together and loving each other according to the way they choose. They are able to love each other and to make peace together.”
A spokesman for the Foreign Ministry strongly criticized the statement of the Catholic clergy, saying that the correct address for the violence was the Palestinians.
“It is a great shame that senior [clergy] in the church are accusing the victim instead of the aggressor,” said Foreign Ministry spokesman Emanuel Nachshon in a statement to The Jerusalem Post
“Israel is dealing with an unprecedented wave of incitement and violence from the Palestinians, a wave that reflects the Palestinian refusal to conduct negotiations. It would have been better for the senior clergy in the church to turn to the Palestinians and implore them to return to the negotiation table.”
Deputy Defense Minister Eli Ben-Dahan said in response that the claims made by the Latin patriarch regarding the causes of Palestinian violence were not founded in reality.
“During the history of the last 150 years it has been proved that the Arabs don’t need excuses to commit violence against the Jews,” Ben-Dahan told the Post
. “Every few years there is a new wave of violence and terror committed by them because they cannot stand that Jews have come back to their land.
“With all due respect to the Latin Patriarchate, it should not simply repeat Palestinian propaganda,” he added.
Father Gabriel Nadaf, a Greek Orthodox cleric who has been active in promoting Arab integration into Israeli society, also criticized the Latin Patriarchate for its comments, saying his comments “encourage terrorism” and harm Jewish-Christian relations in Israel and around the world.
“It seems that the Latin Patriarch Fouad Twal has forgotten that only last Christmas the IDF rescued him from a Palestinian attack in Bethlehem,” Nadaf told the Post
in reference to a incident when Twal’s car was bombarded with stones and rocks by protesting Palestinians.
“This incident characterizes the terrible situation of Christians under the control of the Palestinian Authority. It is known that since the Israeli withdrawal from Bethlehem in 1995 and its transfer to the PA that Christians there suffer and are persecuted and their number has dropped drastically. The Latin patriarch decided apparently to reward the aggressors and to those who are the true causes of the decline in the population of [Christian] believers. In no Arab country do Christians have as good a life as they have in the State of Israel.”