The entity that has caused more bloodshed, sorrow and pain in the name of God, including countless “religious” wars over the centuries, has called for an end to the violence in the Gaza. Unfortunately, one of the people speaking on behalf of the Pope, a high-ranking Cardinal, compared the Palestinians’ plight to those in a concentration camp. While the choice of words may not have been an accident, and may not be inaccurate to some, the Israelis have objected to the comparison.
The comparison was made by Cardinal Renato Martino, a kind of General Peter Pace of the Pope’s Posse, who last issued a 10 Commandments for Drivers, officially called “Guidelines for the Pastoral Care of the Road.” Martino heads up the Vatican office of migrants and itinerants, most of whom, one could argue, probably don’t drive much, so the Pastoral Care guidelines were…at the very least, a bit out of Martino’s daily bailiwick.
But those kinds of details never stopped The Church from issuing proclamations. You can read the whole story here, but what caught my eye, immediately was Commandment Number 5. “Cars shall not be used for an expression of power and domination, and an occasion of sin.” Conclusion? Most of us were full-fledged sinners by 15. But back to Gaza.
Relations Between The Vatican and Israel
First, a little history about the uneasy alliance that has existed in relatively modern times between the Papacy and the State of Israel. The conflict between the Pope and the Jews of Europe, which can be traced to the early days of World War II, has not diminished all that much since after the war when the state of Israel was created. According to the Jewish Virtual Library:
For much of the war, he (Pope Pius XII) maintained a public front of indifference and remained silent while German atrocities were committed. He refused pleas for help on the grounds of neutrality, while making statements condemning injustices in general. Privately, he sheltered a small number of Jews and spoke to a few select officials, encouraging them to help the Jews…As soon as he was appointed Pope, Pacelli (Eugenio Pacelli) did speak out against the 1938 Italian racial laws that dealt with mixed marriages and children of mixed marriages. However, he issued no such condemnation of Kristallnacht (the night of broken glass) which occurred in November 1938, and which recent evidence shows he was informed of by Berlin’s papal nuncio.
But back to Gaza. It seems the Cardinal Martino has upped his pay grade since last he was seen directing pastorial traffic. According to Reuters, Cardinal Martino is president of the Vatican’s Council for Justice and Peace, but his informal title is Vatican “justice minister.” The comment he made in an interview in the Italian online newspaper Il Sussidiario.net. was this:
“Defenceless populations are always the ones who pay. Look at the conditions in Gaza: more and more, it resembles a big concentration camp.”
The BBC’s David Willey in Rome says relations between Israel and the Vatican have been strained recently, after Pope Benedict made it clear that he favoured making Pope Pius XII a saint. Cardinal Martino’s comments were immediately criticised by Israel, who said the Vatican was repeating Hamas propaganda. Cardinal Martino urged both sides to hold peace talks.
Pope Benedict has made several general appeals for an end to the violence in Gaza but has not openly criticised Israel. He is planning to visit Holy Land sites in Jordan, Israel and the Israeli-occupied West Bank in May. The status of that trip has not changed, although the exact itinerary is less than certain.
In the meantime, an Israeli Foreign Ministery spokesman, Yigal Palmor, said “We are astounded to hear from a spiritual dignitary words that are so far removed from truth and dignity.
Rabbi Marvin Hier, dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, went further, saying such comments “are only used against Israel by terrorist organisations and Holocaust deniers.” In an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal Rabbi Hier accused countries and people who protest against Israel’s incursion into Gaza as having a double standard. He said, in part:
The world-wide protests against Israel’s ground incursion into Gaza are so full of hatred that they leave me with the terrible feeling that these protests have little to do with the so-called disproportionality of the Israeli response to Hamas rockets, or the resulting civilian casualties.
My fear is that the rage we see in the protesters marching in the streets is far more profound and dangerous than we would like to believe. There are a great many people in the world who, even after Auschwitz, just can’t bear the Jewish state having the same rights they so readily grant to other nations. These voices insist Israel must take risks they would never dare ask of any other nation-state — risks that threaten its very survival — because they don’t believe Israel should exist in the first place.
Just look at the spate of attacks this week on Jews and Jewish institutions around the world: a car ramming into a synagogue in France; a Chabad menorah and Jewish-owned shops sprayed with swastikas in Belgium; a banner at an Australian rally demanding “clean the earth from dirty Zionists!”; demonstrators in the Netherlands chanting “Gas the Jews”; and in Florida, protestors demanding Jews “Go back to the ovens!”
How else can we explain the double-standard that is applied to the Gaza conflict, if not for a more insidious bias against the Jewish state?
The United States… of Spin n’ Stall
Although he U.N. Security Council approved a resolution Thursday night (1/8/09) calling for an immediate and durable cease-fire between Hamas militants and Israeli forces in Gaza, the U.S. abstained from the 14-0 vote with Condoleeza Rice saying that the United State “fully supports” the resolution but wants first to see the results of the on-going Egyptian and French efforts to achieve a cease-fire. She did not elaborate as to why voting with the other 14 members of the Security Council would keep the US from also supporting the earlier initiative by President Mobarik of Egypt and President Sarkozy of France. Secretary of State Rice indicated it was sufficient, for now, that the United States did not try to block the resolution.
So, the question remains: When does “fully supoorts” not mean fully supports? Keep reading.
Yesterday US president-elect Barack Obama broke his silence on the crisis, saying that “the loss of civilian life in Gaza and in Israel is a source of deep concern for me.”
At a news conference in Sharm-el-Sheik, Egypt, President Hosni Mubarak said the truce proposal offered by him and French president Nicolas Sarkozy envisaged an immediate end to combat, so humanitarian supplies could safely enter Gaza. Neither of them said their plan offered much more than a distant hope for immediate resolution. Sarkozy, in fact, said the plan offers “a small hope” for a cease fire.
So Condi Rice, a veteran of eight years as top diplomat for the US, is waiting on something one of the designers refers to as offering “a small hope”?
Where Does That Leave The Palestinians in Gaza?
With world opinion weighing heavily against Israel for the civilian loss of life, the pressure was increased by the world community when an Israeli strike on Tuesday near a U.N. school continued. The U.N. agency responsible for the building demanded an “impartial investigation” into the attack. Gaza health officials put the death toll from the initial strike at 39, while the U.N. said 40 were killed. Israel said its troops were being fired on from the school, but a U.N. official said there were no miltants within the grounds of the school but there was some firing of weaponry coming from a nearby street.
So what’s everybody waiting for? They’re waiting for Nancy. Nancy Pelosi and friends will issue a House Resolution today stating that Israel has the right to defend itself against incoming Hamas attacks. The Senate passed a similar resolution yesterday.
Did anyone say they didn’t have the right? Has anyone, other than Hamas and its allies, said Israel does not have the right to defend itself? No. No, the issue is a simpler one. It’s about scale. The scale of the response relative to the acknowledged perpetration of who flung the first mortar. Hamas did. This time. The issue of scale goes directly to the issue of the humanitarian crisis that is being created by the Israeli response. That’s the main issue that has everyone in a state about the State of Israel.
So, to the good Rabbi’s question, “How else can we explain the double-standard that is applied to the Gaza conflict, if not for a more insidious bias against the Jewish state?” perhaps there is another way to look at things. The double standard goes to the heart of the political maneuverings—by countries, groups, individuals. We all know that. And we all know it smarts—but it doesn’t necessarily kill.
But what will kill, and what will justify killing, is the constant martyr dialog and the becoming of martyrs, both profane in the name of all the parties hold sacred. On both sides. And please don’t tell us that you’re fighting for your childrens’ futures when those same children are wrapped in white sheets awaiting burial. For them, there is no future, no Palestine, no Israel. The only real martyrs in this decades-long droning on are also the only true innocents: the children. On both sides.