The Vatican and the 3 Ds

The Holy See is jumping on the bash-Israel bandwagon.

June 3, 2010 02:50
3 minute read.
pope at temple mount

pope at temple mount 311. (photo credit: Ziv Goren/GPO/MCT)


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Years ago, Natan Sharansky proposed “the three-D test” for determining whether what purports to be warranted criticism of Israeli policy isn’t tainted with deeply rooted antipathy to Jews. Sharansky’s three Ds were delegitimization, demonization and double-standards.

Sadly, most of what has been leveled against Israel following the interception of the Gaza-bound flotilla decidedly fulfills these three criteria.

To take just one small example, highlighted in our news pages today by retired colonel Richard Kemp, the former commander of the British forces in Afghanistan, Israel is being singled out with the demand for an independent international inquiry into the fatal raid.

“Israel should carry out its own investigation,” Kemp notes. It “should be completely up front if it has made mistakes... but I don’t think it should be subjected to an independent inquiry any more than other Western countries are.” 

When 50 to 150 civilians were killed in an air strike by the German army in Northern Afghanistan last year, in “what appears to have been a very serious military error,” Kemp went on, “where were the calls for an independent inquiry about that?”

IT’S THEREFORE especially disconcerting that just as the anti-Israel chorus reaches a new crescendo, the Vatican appears to be chiming in on the wider issue. A newly leaked 40-page Vatican document castigates what it terms “the Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories” as a “political injustice imposed on the Palestinians.”

This is included in an instrumentum laboris, a working document for a synod of bishops on the Mideast scheduled for October, which highlights the lot of the region’s Christians. Pope Benedict XVI is slated to present the draft this weekend to a 12-member pre-synod council during an open-air mass in Nicosia, Cyprus.

According to excerpts cited by Italy’s ANSA news agency, the document alleges that “the Israeli occupation of the Palestinian territories makes daily life difficult for freedom of movement, the economy and social and religious life.” It further deplores lack of “access to holy places, dependent on military permits accorded to some (and) refused to others for security reasons.”

Sadly missing are background facts, like why it was that Israel crossed the 1949 Armistice Line exactly 43 years ago this Saturday. To the uninitiated, the Vatican censure imparts the impression that Israel arbitrarily and without provocation launched the Six Day War as an expedition of conquest and that it subjugates occupied people capriciously. No mention is made of the fact that Israel was forced to fight for its life and that it was threatened with genocide and ethnic cleansing.

Until 1993, of course, the Vatican did not even recognize the Jewish state. But the language of the new document appears dismally out of step with the post-1993 relations, and it smacks of the first of Sharansky’s Ds – delegitimization.

Moreover, the instrumentum laboris makes it a point to take to task precisely those Protestant evangelicals who avidly support Israel: “Some fundamentalist Christian groups cite the Holy Scriptures to defend the political injustice imposed on the Palestinians, making even more delicate the position of Arab Christians.”

We understand that the Vatican is attempting to bolster the beleaguered and diminishing Christian communities within the increasingly intolerant Muslim milieu, but this should not be at Israel’s expense. Accusing Israel of stifling Palestinian daily life, without mention of the terrorist atrocities that made restrictions inevitable, paints Israelis as tyrannical. This is demonization.

Finally, decrying lack of access to holy sites brims with double-standards. Never has access to the Holy Land’s sacred shrines been as free and fair as it is under Israeli rule. The document’s authors failed to note that for 19 years of Arab occupation (1948-67), no Jew was allowed to visit Judaism’s holiest sites in Jerusalem, Bethlehem and Hebron. The Jordanians destroyed 58 synagogues in Jerusalem and ripped out ancient Mount of Olives tombstones to erect public latrines. The Vatican did not protest.

Like his predecessor Pope John Paul II, Benedict has vowed to improve relations with Jews and the Jewish state. As the friend he proclaims himself to be, we can only hope that he will personally assure that this document’s glaring distortions and omissions are rectified.

Failure to do so would be detrimental to the church itself. As Walter Cardinal Kasper, who heads the Pontifical Commission for Religious Relations with the Jews, said just last week, the Catholic Church had weakened itself by “cutting itself off from its Jewish roots for centuries. . .a weakness that became evident in the altogether too feeble resistance against the persecution of the Jews.”

For the sake of the Holy See’s own moral authority, it ought not to jump on the bash-Israel bandwagon.

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