Mission & Name
US Foreign Policy (Dr. El-Najjar's Articles)
The Pope, Israel, and ‘Reconciliation’
By Ramzy Baroud
ccun.org, May 26, 2009
“Gaza is not on the Pope’s itinerary, nor will it be. There
will be no change in these plans. But I’ll say it very clearly, the Pope
is absolutely not going to Gaza.”
Such were the astounding
comments made by the Pope’s spokesman in Israel, Wadie Abunasser, prior to
Pope Benedict XVI visiting Palestine and Israel.
As if there was
no massacre in Gaza, no families entirely slaughtered, no human rights
violated to match the record of the most grisly of crimes in modern
history. As if Gaza were a mere irritant in the annals of human suffering.
More, as if there were no Catholic flock in Gaza. To clarify, there are
actually nearly 2,000 Catholics in Gaza, apparently not important enough
for the ‘cut’.
Now, there are a lot of important religious sites
to see around the Holy Land, lots of old churches, stones, ruins and the
like…sites of much more significance, such as the Western Wall, the Holy
Sepulcher and so on… far more important than visiting the site of a fresh
massacre, where the stench of rotting bodies - laid to rest beneath a tomb
consisting of the rubble of their own homes - has just faded. Such sites
are apparently of little import to the Holy See. Rather, there are
memorials to victims of greater standing, in shrines of superior grandeur,
such as Yad Vashem…now, that’s something to see.
trip that was apparently dedicated to promoting “reconciliation”, it is
baffling that Pope Benedict made little mention of the Israeli occupation
of Palestine as a source of discord. Imagine that. But what he did say
was, “Allow me to make this appeal to all the peoples of these lands: No
more bloodshed! No more fighting! No more terrorism! No more war! Instead
let us break the viscous circle of violence.”
As if he was
imploring two nations with common grievances, with mutually strong armies
and nuclear arsenals. As if he were exhorting two peoples, both of which
have access to clean water, both of which are properly nourished and
educated. Or to put it another way, as if both peoples face the daily
threat of their house being toppled while they are held up inside by an
occupying army, as if both peoples face the daily threat of arrest,
extra-judicial execution, the humiliation of curfews and checkpoints.
The Vatican needs some serious introspection. It ought to replace its
highly politicized and, frankly, questionable apologies, with an earnest
apology to oppressed people, who might have little political worth. The
Pope should apologize to Palestinians and to Gazans in particular for
failing to appreciate the seriousness of their plight, for cozying up to
the very Israeli leaders who champion the suffering in Gaza, and fail to
console the very victim of their onslaught.
More, as an
institution that has garnered the reputation of advocating social justice
throughout the world in recent years, the Catholic Church must abandon its
current course, cowering before Israeli leaders, its Holy Father imparting
such smug condescension on a nation that has endured a slow and gradual
process of genocide for the past six decades.
Wishy-washy is the
term that comes to mind. While he never wavered from condemning the
“godless nation” that carried out the Holocaust, his references to
Israel’s illegal occupation of Palestine were so indistinct, that it was
difficult to make any clear separation between the aggressor and the
victim. As he witnessed with his own eyes the monstrosity of the Apartheid
Wall, his comments were painfully elusive, “How earnestly we pray for an
end to the hostilities that have caused this wall to be built.” Oh really?
Is this all the Holy Father has to say? Never mind occupation. Never mind
hunger. Never mind randomly closing schools for months on end and denying
an entire nation the right to education. But now we are talking about
illegal weapons being used on civilian populations in Gaza. Now we are
talking about a wall that has been declared “illegal” by the International
Court of Justice. There is simply no time or place here for indecisiveness
and moral flexibility.
And it is completely unacceptable for
anyone to have the ‘audacity’ to urge Palestinian youth not to allow, as
the Holy Father stated, “the loss of life and the destruction you have
witnessed to arouse bitterness or resentment in your hearts”. More, when
making a stop at Aida Refugee Camp, he blamed the plight of the displaced
population on “the turmoil that has afflicted this land for decades.” It
would have been far more favorable for him to stay home and not insult
these sites of misery at all.
But in the end, the Pope finally was
able to muster up some courage and took one truly audacious stand: When at
the Notre Dame Center in Jerusalem, the Palestinian Authority’s chief
Islamic judge, Sheikh Tayseer Rajab Tamimi, declared that Israelis had
killed innocent women and children in Gaza, the Pope stood up and in an
act of defiance, walked out. Now that’s courage.
and millions of people around the world, expected more from a person who
should be advocating the New Testament teaching: “let justice flow like a
river and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.”
Pope has proven fallible, after all.
- Ramzy Baroud
(www.ramzybaroud.net) is an
author and editor of PalestineChronicle.com. His work has been published
in many newspapers, journals and anthologies around the world. His latest
book is, "The Second Palestinian Intifada: A Chronicle of a People's
Struggle" (Pluto Press, London), and his forthcoming book is, “My Father
Was a Freedom Fighter: Gaza’s Untold Story” (Pluto Press, London)