Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Israel: protesting just what exactly?

Amy over at open book pulled out the relevant points of the two articles I linked to and discussed here. From there, she let her readers have at it and the debate was on.

The debate over Amy's entry is basically centered around Israeli motivations for wanting to attack the Holy See and specifically Benedict XVI for what they perceive as a lack of comment on Israeli civilian deaths at the hands of suicide bombers.

Amy-reader Christopher Fotos provided a link to a Jerusalem Post article detailing the new Israeli protest. The article begins with a recap of the July 24 Angelus and the lack of any mention of Israel. From there, it goes on to explain the new Israeli position.

Nimrod Barkan, director of the Foreign Ministry's World Jewish Affairs Bureau, called Vatican Archbishop Pietro Sambi into his office to protest what Israel believes was not just an innocent oversight.

Barkan said not condemning terrorism in Israel had been Vatican policy for years, and "now that there is a new pope, we have decided to deal with it."

"We feel that now that there is a new pope, we need to turn over a new leaf and change the fact that the Vatican refrained in the past from condemning attacks here," he said. "They need to help the moderates in the Middle East, not the extremists."

Barkan said that during the reign of pope John Paul II, Israel "quietly" protested in Rome the pope's lack of condemnation of attacks in Israel. He said Israel had now decided to go public with the matter to change an entrenched but negative mode of conduct.

Mr. Barkan commented on why he thought John Paul II failed to comment often enough on terrorism in Israel and then added further on what Israel will do if the Holy See does not alter its ways to suit his government.

If the protest is not effective, "we will have to weigh other steps," he said.

Barkan said he was not concerned the public protest would damage relations with the new pope.

"What could be worse than implying that it is okay to kill Jews? What else am I supposed to do," he said.

Another reader of Amy's responded with a selection of different speeches and letters written by the late pontiff that either condemned terrorism as a whole or specifically mentioned the Holy Land. Apparently, one has to specifically mention Israel's situation in particular when condemning terrorism or else one is implicitly saying it is okay to kill Jews. As one reader pointed out over at Amy's, even when specifically condemning violence in the Holy Land, it's still not a sure thing that one will be cleared of charges of anti-Semitism.

Smokescreen or protest, the State of Israel is playing with fire. The UN condemns Israel and everyone brushes it off as more UN nonsense. But Israel condemning the Holy See over slights both real and more often imagined (it would seem) is a policy that risks that government's credibility with its allies in war against terrorism.

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