(photo credit: AP [file])
Two of the largest Jewish advocacy groups in the world harshly criticized the highest-ranking Catholic Church official in Jerusalem for challenging Israel's right to continue to exist as a Jewish state.
Both the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America (UOJC) and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) attacked Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah for commenting last Wednesday during his annual pre-Christmas address that Israel should abandon its Jewish character in favor of a political, normal state for Christians Muslims and Jews.
"God made this land for all three of us [Muslims, Jews and Christians]," Sabbah, who was born in Nazareth, was quoted as saying.
"If it's Jewish, it's not Muslim or Christian...If there's a state of one religion, other religions are naturally discriminated against. This land cannot be exclusive for anyone," he said.
In response, (UOJCA), the US's largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization, sent a letter of protest to Catholic officials. UOJCA Executive Vice President Rabbi Dr. Tzvi H. Weinreb said, "We hope that Catholic Church officials will publicly denounce these remarks by Patriarch Sabbah, whose words are as painful as they are slanderous. Under Israeli rule, each Abrahamic faith has full access and control over their holy shrines. We are mystified at the suggestion by Patriarch Sabbah that Israel, which has lived each day of its existence under siege and at war, should be the party at fault in his eyes when each day men, women and children are under rocket attack, living in fear of suicide bombings and sniper attacks, and struggling against radical regimes that seek to literally wipe it off the map."
Meanwhile, in a press release the ADL said it was "deeply disturbed" by Sabbah's address.
"We are deeply disturbed that Father Sabbah would politicize the holy season of Christmas by denying the Jewish people's right to a Jewish state. His comments are particularly ironic considering that he represents a Catholic state and a theocratic monarchy.
"Patriarch Sabbah ignores the fact that the State of Israel was established as a Jewish state out of the nationalist aspiration of the Jewish people and an international recognition of the rights of Jews to a homeland following 2,000 years of persecution. To expect Israel to subvert its own sovereign existence and nationalist identity is unacceptable on its face.
"It is startling that Sabbah would deny a Jewish state when there are many other sovereign religious states. In contrast, all of Israel's citizens Jewish and non-Jewish enjoy the privileges of modern democracy, freely and openly practice their religions and are afforded equal rights under Israeli law. "
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