Rare Shas, Meretz unity in criticism for pontiff

Benedict criticized for not going far enough in his criticism of Holocaust deniers and taking the Catholic Church backward toward anti-Semitism.

Shas chairman Eli Yishai and Meretz MK Nitzan Horowitz have little in common, but they joined forces in criticizing Pope Benedict XVI during his visit to the capital on Monday. Yishai said Benedict did not go far enough in his criticism of Holocaust deniers and anti-Semites in his speech at Yad Vashem. Hinting at the pope's past in the Hitler Youth and the German army, Yishai said Benedict had a special obligation to denounce modern-day anti-Semites. "It is unfortunate that the people and especially Holocaust survivors did not hear more specific criticism of historic and current Holocaust deniers," Yishai said. "In the Holocaust, six million Jews were murdered, not just killed." Horowitz said Israelis should not be happy about Benedict's visit, because he had taken the Catholic Church backward toward anti-Semitism by rehabilitating an anti-Semitic bishop [Richard Williamson] and reinstituting prayers that demean Jews and call for their conversion to Catholicism. Horowitz, who is homosexual, also hinted at other policies of the pope that spread discord internationally. "Benedict XVI exploits his position to sow division across the world, while remaining indifferent to the suffering caused by his decisions. We should not rejoice about his arrival," Horowitz wrote, in an article published on Ynet. National Union lawmakers blasted Israelis for taking their infatuation with the pontiff too far. MK Arye Eldad said Israel should have welcomed him by "showing him as many IDF soldiers and Merkava tanks as possible," so he would see that Jews are strong. "Israelis are suffering from three diseases," MK Michael Ben-Ari said. "They have Alzheimer's, because they forgot about the Christian anti-Semitism he did not apologize for. They are blind to the pope's Nazi past and current anti-Semitism. And they show that they have Diaspora syndrome when they kowtow to the pope, which is more fitting for a different time and place." A group of activists described by police as far-right protesters gathered on Jerusalem's Rehov Hapalmah, holding signs bearing slogans against the pope's visit. Police moved the group to another street. No arrests were reported. Yaakov Lappin contributed to this report.