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