Sabbah's hypocrisy

The Archbishop wasn't speaking as a Catholic, but as a Palestinian.

December 22, 2007 21:10
3 minute read.
Sabbah's hypocrisy

sabbah 88. (photo credit: )


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'There is discrimination linked to the nature of the state. Israel says simply 'I am a Jewish state' and that creates discrimination with regard to non-Jews." Once again last week, the Jewish people and the world were treated to the opinion of the Palestinian leadership - the "moderate" one with which a peace process is supposedly being conducted - that the State of Israel must not be allowed to exist as a Jewish state. The speaker who delivered the words above last Wednesday in Jerusalem was not PLO negotiator Saeb Erekat, who famously said a month ago that Palestinians wouldn't recognize Israel as a Jewish state since "no state in the world connects its national identity to a religious identity." While Erekat's assertion may be downright laughable - the Palestinian Authority's Basic Law dealing with its Legislative Council declares that "Islam is the official religion in Palestine" - he was merely maintaining the tradition of the decrepit Palestinian political class that, besides spearheading an international campaign to vilify Israel, has achieved nothing for its people in 15 years of international legitimacy and lavish funding. No, the speaker last week was a scholar with a doctorate from the Sorbonne, by all accounts a compassionate man, and a devoted servant of the pope - Latin Patriarch and Catholic Archbishop of Jerusalem Michel Sabbah, since 1987 the highest Catholic prelate for Israel, Jordan, Cyprus and the West Bank and Gaza. Besides the deep insult inherent in the patriarch's Christmas message, it is hypocritical, significant and damning that Sabbah did not apply his universal principle equally by demanding the de-Islamicization of his native Palestine, from which his flock continues to flee en masse. Indeed, he excoriated only Israel: "The strong party, the one with everything in hand, the one who is imposing occupation on the other, has the obligation to see what is just for everyone and to carry it out courageously." The first Palestinian to serve as Latin Patriarch, Sabbah was following the line of the Palestinian elite regarding the innate illegitimacy of Jewish self-determination. According to this logic, the Jews are not a people upon which a state can be built, but rather - and despite what they may say about themselves - merely a religion. And unlike with Islam, which is present in the formal name of four states - Iran, Pakistan, Mauritania and Comoros - and enjoys an official status in 57, the Jews cannot be allowed to connect their religion with their state. It is impossible to escape the conclusion that Sabbah was not speaking as a Catholic, but as a Palestinian, drawing not from the declared position of the Holy See in Rome but of the PA in Ramallah. Here, in the commitment of the entirety of the Palestinian leadership to the view given by Sabbah, lies the Achilles heel of the peace process. For years, the Palestinian leadership claimed it was ready for peace, but that its people, radicalized by occupation, were not "ripe" for concessions. But we are now being shown time and again that it is the Palestinian leadership, from the Latin patriarch to Mahmoud Abbas himself, and not just the people, who do not understand the nature of the conflict in which they are engaged. Instead of recognizing that the deep tragedy of this conflict derives from the fact that both sides are legitimately demanding self-determination and sovereign independence, the Palestinian leadership continues to insist that there is, and will forever be, no justice to the Jewish demand. This rejection means that the Palestinian elite is divided between the "moderates" who want a cease-fire with an evil enemy in order to rebuild a devastated Palestinian society, and the "extremists" who follow the logic of the moderates themselves in concluding that such a compromise amounts to treason, since compromise with evil is itself evil. There is only one act that can offer presumably well-meaning men such as Sabbah a way to keep their moderation in the face of alleged evil from becoming treason, thereby sabotaging any negotiation. The Palestinian leadership must come to recognize the compelling moral justice of Israel's claim to sovereign rights, and to educate their people accordingly. Until then, as long as they continue to demand their freedom at the expense of ours, the Palestinians will continue rushing headlong, both diplomatically and militarily, into our own natural, vital and correct commitment to self-preservation.

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