Pontifications

Pontifications


Catholics and Jews and Gaza, Part Two

posted by David Gibson

Fellow Beliefnet blogger Brad Hirschfield of “Windows and Doors” takes issue with aspects of my post about a Vatican official’s explosive comparison of Gaza to “a big concentration camp.” Brad is at his civil best–no mean feat considering the topic–but has serious problems with a few things. I’ll respond point-by-point:
One, Brad says my argument that it “is only natural that Catholics over-react against Israel because of the possibility of Catholics being killed in Gaza” is “a dangerous road down which to travel.” I do think such religious or racial or ethnic solidarity is natural and understandable, yes, and that it is fine as long as that solidarity is not confined to one’s own tribe all the time. Moreover, this is also a road that Jews (and Arabs and Muslims) use quite frequently. A key difference here is that Catholics (and all Christians) are a tiny and diminishing minority in the land of Jesus’ birth, and violence like this truly threatens to expunge them in a way that it will not do for Arabs and Israelis anytime soon. Moreover, these Christians are not part of the violence against Israel; in a concrete way they are caught in the middle, between Israel and Hamas. But of course they are Arabs and Palestinians largely, and they identify with the Palestinian cause as they suffer under the brutal conditions. Finally, no one else will speak up for the Arab Christians there–without the Vatican’s voice, or that of the churches, the coverage and debate would be all about Arabs and Israelis, Muslims and Jews. Christians would be forgotten. I don’t think that’s “over-identification.”
Second, Brad refers to the photo I post about the suffering in Gaza and links it to a New York Times story “about a Hamas fighter who is happy to see his fellow Gazans die, and is eager to likewise, in order to attain martyrdom.” Brad asks: “I wonder why, especially for Catholics with the religious significance they attach to martyrdom, David chooses not to address this issue.” Actually, the photo was from an online NYT gallery and is captioned, “A Palestinian woman looked at her destroyed house after an Israeli airstrike in Gaza.” It was meant to show the kind of suffering that Gazans are enduring (I obviously could have chosen much worse)–and the kind of thing that prompts the criticism not only from the Catholic Church but from a wide range of international aid agencies and U.S. and world public opinion. I didn’t know of any connection with a story on Islamic martyrdom, which in any case is far different from the Christian idea of martyrdom–which is also different from the Jewish idea of martyrdom. That’s an interesting and terrible topic, but not exactly relevant to the post.
Third, Brad says my statement that a better comparison for Gaza than a “concentration camp” would be the Warsaw Ghetto “represents either tragic ignorance or something far darker, which only he can explain.” I don’t think it’s either ignorance or anything darker (at least I hope not). I do think as a historical parallel, the Warsaw Ghetto would be closer, but I hasten to add that it still wouldn’t work, and that any Holocaust comparisons are futile. Brad seems to think I endorsed that comparison, or Cardinal Martino’s analogy. He says: “We don’t need to participate in the shock culture of most media in order to make an important point. And I hope that next time David, you think twice about doing so.”
Perhaps the post needs to be read twice to see what I was saying–and perhaps that is a problem in the composition. But I don’t think ignoring the Catholic Church’s views, whether well-stated or over-stated (to explain them, not endorse them) or the near-extermination of Christianity in its birthplace, nor the sufferings of the Gazans–or the Israelis and the world’s Jews–is the way to go. We need to examine where these statements and positions and emotions come from, and where the fallout may leave us, in order to, hopefully, begin to pick up the pieces when the lull comes.
One other point I might dispute is Brad’s rejection of any Roman anti-Semitic cast to the issue. No, the Vatican isn’t reflexively anti-Semitic, or anti-Jewish. But the Curia is often home to the same kind of cultural suspicion or resentment of Judaism and the Jewish State that one finds in much of Europe. I’d have to think an American Catholic would be far less likely to make such a facile Holocaust analogy. On the other hand, whatever is in the hearts of the men in the Curia, it doesn’t necessarily invalidate their positions, anymore than Israeli bias against Palestinians might undermine the legitimacy of the Jewish State.
Finally, I’d also recommend John Allen’s latest analysis of the Vatican-Israel conflict, posted here at National Catholic Reporter. John rightly notes how balanced the Vatican’s tone and content has become compared to past years. The Pope and the Vatican are getting it from both sides. That is no fun, but it is perhaps a sign of some policy virtue, as well as legitimate solidarity with Catholics on the ground.



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posted January 10, 2009 at 12:32 am


Dear David, I beleive that the analogy with the Warsaw Ghetto is quite apt, except that the Isareli state does not intend to exterminate the Palestinians as the Nazis did to the Warsaw Ghetto Jews. An even more apt analogy is the brutal bombing and massacres of thousands of innocent Czech villagers by the Nazis after the top Nazi Commander of Czechoslovakia was assassinated by the special Czech commandos specifically parachuted by British intelligence to care it out. This sadistic Nazi Commander by the way was the head of the special meeting held outside Berlin to map out the Final Solution and the extermination of the Jews of Europe. His name at present escapes me. This type of bombing, massacres, blocades, random killing, executions, and various punishments of innocent civilians carried out by the Nazis as reprisals for the acitivities of anti-Nazi resistance fighters was repeated innumberable times throughout Nazi occupied Europe, in order to turn the people against the partisans and resistance fighters. The same tactic is presently being carried out by the Israeli army in the Gaza. It all started by the Israeli economic blocade of the Gaza to turn the population against Hamas which was elected democratically by an overwhelming majority by the Palestinians in the Gaza and the West Bank. Th Hamas government was dismissed by the ex terrorist and billionnaire in the construction industry, Mahmud Abbas the present day corrupt president of the Palestianin Authority. He is viewed in the Gaza and the West Bank as a type of corrupt pro-Western Mubarak. In fact his army and police have been openly financed and trained by the CIA and the Israeli Mossad. This attempt to punish the Gazans by forcing them into untold economic and material hardship and suffering in order to turn them against hamas has lead to this firing of missiles into Israel as a form of defiance to end the blocade. All Israel has to do is allow food and material in, end the economic blocade, and have international observers oversee that no weapons enter the area. The only true way to truly undermine Hamas is by ensuring prosperity, industry, employment and material wellbeing to the people of Gaza. Thank you for reading my blog Tom tsuka



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JAB

posted January 10, 2009 at 8:28 am


I’m not a great fan of the pope and the Catholic hierarchy, but I did appreciate them speaking out about Gaza. Israel’s blockade was impoverishing people and causing terrible hardship.



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tom tsuka

posted January 11, 2009 at 6:57 pm


I believe that the analogy with is taking place in the Gaza with the Warsaw Ghetto as quite apt, except that the Israeli state does not intend to exterminate the Palestinians as the Nazis did to the Warsaw Ghetto Jews. An even more apt analogy is the brutal bombing and massacres of thousands of innocent Czech villagers by the Nazis after the top Nazi Commander, Reinhardt Heydrich, also known the butcher of Prague, and Hitler’s Reichsprotector of Czechoslovakia was assassinated by two special Czech commandos specifically parachuted by British intelligence to care it out. Reinhardt Heydrich was the head of the SA, the Sicherheitsdients, the German Homeland Security Services, (the Intelligence branch of the SS) and carried out massive and notorious sadistic repression and hardship upon the Czech people. This sadistic Nazi Commander, Heydrich, by the way headed of the special meeting held outside Berlin, the Wansee Conference, to map out the Final Solution and the extermination of the Jews of Europe. This type of bombing, massacres, blockades, random killing, executions, and various punishments of innocent civilians carried out by the Nazis as reprisals for the activities of anti-Nazi resistance fighters was repeated innumerable times throughout Nazi occupied Europe, in order to turn the people against the partisans and resistance fighters. The same tactic is presently being carried out by the Israeli army in the Gaza. It all started by the Israeli economic blockade of the Gaza to turn the population against Hamas which was elected democratically by an overwhelming majority by the Palestinians in the Gaza and the West Bank. The Hamas government was dismissed by the ex terrorist and billionaire in the construction industry, Mahmud Abbas the present day corrupt president of the Palestinian Authority. He is viewed in the Gaza and the West Bank as a type of corrupt pro-Western Mubarak. In fact his army and police have been openly financed, armed and trained by the CIA and the Israeli Mossad. This attempt to punish the Gazans by forcing them into untold economic and material hardship and suffering in order to turn them against hamas has lead to this firing of missiles into Israel as a form of defiance to end the blockade. All Israel has to do is allow food and material in, end the economic blockade, and have international observers oversee that no weapons enter the area. The only true way to truly undermine Hamas is by ensuring prosperity, industry, employment and material wellbeing to the people of Gaza.
Also as far as the Catholic Church is concerned, Pope Paul II canonized the Croatian Ustachi Fascist and anti-Semitic priest of World War ll, whose name escapes me at the moment, over the protests of Israel and the Serbian government. He was present with Croatian Ustachi Nazi-supported troops and those Jews and Serbs who did not convert to Catholicism and he gave the go ahead and allowed the Ustachi soldiers and commanders to execute them. He was present at many of these executions when they were asked to convert. Pope Paul II said that this priest was a staunch anti-communist and a Croatian patriot who fought for Croatian independence. This priest was executed by Tito’s government as a war criminal after a trial at the end of the war. When I raised this issue with John Allen, the almost official reporter stationed at the Vatican for the National Catholic Reporter, he simply said he was executed by a Communist government of Tito, and therefore his conviction is suspect and his war crimes are void, evincing absolutely no sympathy for the murdered Jews and Serbs. Allen’s remarks are very similar to those of a new brand of Holocaust apologist. This time they raise issues of ambivalence, ambiguity and illegitimacy and fairness, even though the Soviet Union was present at the Nuremburg Trials and these convictions of Nazi leaders were accepted by all governments including the US and therefore in no way were their war crime convictions considered null or void just because the Soviet Union was present and a participant at these trials. Moreover, the Soviet Union at the time was an ally of America and Britain against Nazi Germany. It was Russian troops that liberated the extermination camps in Poland and eastern Germany and many of these were led by Jewish Red Army officers and soldiers. Thank you for reading my blog. Tom Tsuka Thank you for reading my blog Tom Tsuka



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Susan

posted January 18, 2009 at 8:24 am


I’m not saying that Israel should not be criticized, but the sheer intensity and ferocity of the criticism of Israel is completely over the top. It is disproportionate.



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Alan Abbey

posted January 18, 2009 at 8:38 am


Fighting a just war against Hamas justly from RabbI Dr. Donniel Hartman
This penetrating essay thoroughly and carefully explains the morality behind Israel’s decision to go to war against Hamas, the moral issues raised in the field of combat, and how the Israeli Army and people are in fact strengthened by exploring these issues even in the heat of battle.
“…our strength as a country and the fortitude of our army and soldiers are grounded in a significant way on our moral fiber and our soldiers’ recognition that they are part of a just cause and a just army. When we and they speak of fighting for our home, the home we speak of is not simply a physical one, but a spiritual and moral one, in which certain ideas and values reign strong and free….
“Embarking on such an operation was morally justifiable – if not obligatory – a long time ago…”



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