Vatican Weighs in On Middle East Christian Crisis

Tuesday, June 8, AD 2010

The Vatican  released a working paper during Pope Benedict XVI’s pilgrimage to Cyprus to prepare the way for a crisis summit of Middle East bishops in Rome. What I take away from this- along with the Holy See’s call for lifting the blockade of Gaza- is something of a vindication for my more raw views urging for a sea change in American Catholic opinion and action regarding the overall situation in the Middle East, and in Israel-Palestine in particular.

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14 Responses to Vatican Weighs in On Middle East Christian Crisis

  • We really need to get even-handed if we even want to have credibility in the larger Arab world- something the polls indicate we are sorely lacking- to be it mildly.-Tim Shipe

    “Even-handed” in relation to the Arab world of progrom-states and their target is… what, exactly?

    Hamas and extremist Jewish settler movements…

    Conjoining those two categories leads one into a muddle. Let’s have a look at how many missiles, homicide bombers, etc. the two groups, normal Hamas supporters and ‘extremist’ Jewish settlers, have used to terrorize their neighbors.

  • Bravo. There won’t be peace in the Middle East until Americans, including Catholics, stop spoiling Israel and start treating it like we treat every other nation.

    I think this is the one area of Obama’s presidency where I think Obama has been more positive than negative-though he still does too little.

    Conjoining those two categories leads one into a muddle. Let’s have a look at how many missiles, homicide bombers, etc. the two groups, normal Hamas supporters and ‘extremist’ Jewish settlers, have used to terrorize their neighbors.

    The settlers have no need of such tactics since they’re supported by the Israeli military. If they need force, they don’t strap on a bomb; they have the planes drop a bomb instead. It is unquestionable that settlers, at the behest of the government, have continued to expand and continued to take Palestinian land. This is clearly not a motive of peace but one of a desire to usurp and it ought to be opposed.

  • “The settlers have no need of such tactics since they’re supported by the Israeli military.”

    The body count would seem to indicate that the Israeli military then is doing a poor job. From 2000-2008 I believe 45 Palestinians have been killed at the hands of Settlers while 238 Settlers have been killed at the hands of Palestinians. In regard to umbrage at the Settlers, I am a bit puzzled. I have heard some people here at AC condemn Arizona’s law against Mexican illegal aliens as Nazi-like. Perhaps any moral difficulty with the Israeli Settlers could be cured if we simply consider them to be illegal aliens on the West Bank?

    Of course I believe the preferred term would be undocumented immigrants. Someone else on the net has already taken the Israeli Settlers as undocumented immigrants concept and ran with it:

  • Tim, the political leadership in the West Bank, Gaza, and the camps want no settlement that is not constructed on the ruins of the Jewish state. Deal with it, please.

  • The body count would seem to indicate that the Israeli military then is doing a poor job. From 2000-2008 I believe 45 Palestinians have been killed at the hands of Settlers while 238 Settlers have been killed at the hands of Palestinians.


    Here is an opposing view which objects to the stats you and your favorite paper, the NYT, toss about.

    Statistics are like “you know whats”. Everybody has one.

  • Art Deco – I agree with your post whole-heartedly.

    The Pope is wrong here. Israel can give up its blockade after he sends the Swiss Guard home. Before this flotilla stunt, did anyone know that Gaza was being blockaded? A response like this from the Holy See indicates that the stunt has worked.

    The Jews have built a beautiful, thriving country in the desert within the span a 50 years. A feat the Arabs have not managed to do in their own countries for centuries. This whole thing is about envy.

    Arab Christians are being routed by whom exactly? This is not a difficult question to answer.

  • Fuji, your calling the New York Times my favorite newspaper is almost as humorous as your citing If Americans Knew, an organization which is bitterly hostile to Israel. Paul Findley is on its board. Findley was the pro-abort and pro-PlO Republican Congressman from Springfield in my state of Illinois. Thanks to my efforts, along with the efforts of many others, he became an ex-Congressman in 1982.

    I would as soon accept a press release from Hamas as a credible source, as I would anything put out by If Americans Knew.

  • The ADL has some interesting information linked below on Alison Weir who runs If Americans Knew.

  • Fuji,

    You’ve completely misunderstood the purpose of the If Americans Knew “study” — it doesn’t deal at all with whether the statistics which the NY Times publishes about the Israeli/Palestinian conflict are accurate, it deals with how often deaths on each side are mentioned in the headline or the first paragraph of an article. Its claim is not that the NY Times presents false information, but that it talks more about the deaths of some people than those of others.

    An example of this would be, if one news story said, “A Hamas suicide bomber blew himself up in a shopping center, killing three Israeli adults and two children.” and then the next day another story began, “The Israeli defense minister promised to take ‘strong action’ in retaliation for the attack Monday which killed five Israelis, including two children, at a crowded shopping center,” this ‘study’ would consider that to be reporting 200% of the number of Israeli dead, since they were mentioned in two separate stories.

    Nor is the statistic that Palestinians kill more Settlers than Settlers kill Palestinians inconsistent with the fact that overall far more Palestinians have died in the conflict than Israelis, since obviously not all Israelis are settlers and not all Palestinians killed (indeed, very few) are killed by settlers.

  • You can take your rose-colored spectacles off when viewing Israel and still conclude that Hamas and other Islamofascist groups are evil. Not blindly supporting Israel is not a tacit approval of all things Arab and/or Muslim.

    In regards to this so-called peace flotilla – it is obvious that it was a false flag operation designed to denigrate Israel and it is working. In regards to Israel – they are a far better friend than Arab/Muslim states – but they are not a very good friend.

    Israel has a right to exist and to defend herself and I would argue to occupy territories the UN and the British gave to Egypt and Jordan for her defense. Who constantly gets screwed as Muslims and Arabs use the Palestinian Arabs as a tool to beat the West with? Not Israel – the Palestinian Arabs do. The people, especially the children and most especially the Christians suffer at the hands of so-called Palestinian leadership, a secular Jewish state that engages in horrible behavior and the UN and other Arab states.

    Now that we have allowed the Isalmofascists to indoctrinate generations it is practically impossible to work for peace and no one wants it anyway – no one save for possibly the Pope and the poor Christians who live in the Holy Land.

    Can peace be brokered – we can hope – but it is doubtful until the King returns. Muslims specifically never enter a permanent peace with anyone in Dar Al Harb (the House of War). They certainly won’t enter a permanent peace with Jews – Mohammad practically built his religiology on capture of booty, imperialism and slaughter of Jews. Not to mention copious copies of the Torah and Nestorian heresies.

    Strategically speaking, the USA would be fools to turn our backs on Israel – but having blind support for her is just as foolish. I don’t necessarily fault Israelis for their bad behavior, historically speaking – they were coming from a very frightening place and fear makes you do stupid things – they are nevertheless, still responsible but that does not absolve the British for solving their Jewish-problem with better PR than the Nazis. Instead of killing the Jews, the British shipped them out of England to their own homeland – neglecting to tell them they promised the same land to the Arabs that had lived there since the 7th century.

    What did they think was going to happen? Had a different and more balanced solution been developed between 1917 and 1947 – the current mess could have been avoided. I doubt that is what those who want a weak and unstable mid-East wanted. Lebanon and Palestine had the best chance for Christianizing the rest of the Arab and Muslim lands – however, just like the Crusader Kingdoms – the West dropped the ball on supporting them and the price is war and the shrinking of the Christian population and the ascendancy of Islam. Make no mistake – Islam is an imperial totalitarian ideology and will align with the subversive Left in the West to gain entry and then turn on their tolerant, peace-loving, pot-smoking friends.

    If anyone can broker an honest peace in the Middle-East it would be the Pope, but he may need American guns.

  • How would the gallant Turkish (NATO member) army/navy respond to the following? A bunch of Armenian-Americans (two Israeli humanitarian groups already are planning such) get up a couple tons of humanitarian aid and stage a huge guerrilla theater propaganda extravaganza of bringing it to the six Armenians not yet murdered in Turkey. Or better analogy, do it for the Kurds fighting for their independence.

    Hamas, Hizbollah, etc. will end the terror war against Israeli civilians, women and children (and the Arab women and children they use as human shields) when the last Israeli is either murdered or driven into the sea.

    The Pope ought to denounce the Holy See bureaucRAT that came up with this hateful paper.

  • I don’t think you can figure out the justice of a conflict simply by counting up bodies. However, it is a fact that far more Palestinians than Israelis have died in the conflict.

  • I’ll take the Vatican seriously on matters concerning the Middle East, if they would express themselves in the same forthright manner on other wars and conflicts that plague the globe, in particular those that concern Catholics and Christians. The Catholic Church’s hollowness in these matters could be seen most clearly at work in early 2009. In December of 2008 the Israelis invaded Gaza to put an end to the constant rocket barrage, and my how the Catholic press and heirarchy waxed eloquent, counterpoising each other with elavated talk about ‘just war’, ‘human rights’ and the rest of it, not stinting to blame the Israelis by name for all manner of wrongs real and imagined. The bishop here in Singapore (where I live) got on the bandwagon and launched an appeal for Gaza.

    Three months later, in March the Sri Lankans launched their final push into Jaffna, when the dust settled more than 20,000 civilians were dead. Given the proportion of Catholics in Jaffna, it is reasonable to surmise that the number of Catholic dead alone exceeded the total death toll in Gaza. Yet where was the Vatican in all this? Why was no appeal launched for them? Does the criteria of ‘just war’ not apply to the darker nations? Apart from generalised handwringing, nothing much was heard from our Vatican friends. No one tagged the Sri Lankan army with brutality. Their reticence doubtless owed much to the restraining hand of Msgr Malcolm Ranjith, himself a Ceylonese and thus in a position to know that the government would take out any displeasure on the Catholic Church in Sri Lanka.

    This in essence is the well established pattern of Vatican hypocrisy; when it comes to Israel, break out the tomes on jus ad bellum and set them terms that no nation in history has been able to follow, and thereby not incidentally burnish the Vatican’s own street cred with the Muslims at the expense of Jews. On the other hand, when it comes to countless attacks against Christians, from Nigeria to Pakistan to Indonesia, put out a pro forma declaration hoping that the problem goes away.

  • An aside. But perhaps an example of how diplomacy doesn’t work, or at least works poorly:

U.S. Involvement in The Great Game Realpolitiks in Gaza

Friday, June 4, AD 2010

With the news of Israel’s blockade of Gaza still hot all around the world because of the Israeli attack on the activist boats- I think it is important to look back and assess how we have got to this point of chaos, confusion and rage.

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46 Responses to U.S. Involvement in The Great Game Realpolitiks in Gaza

  • Excellent analysis, especially on the historical tie between the Christian’s moral responsibility with the Roman Empire and our own responsibility with the American experiment. In this article you call to mind the sad obligation of the prophet. Amos, Micah, Isaiah and Jeremiah had the unhappy responsibility to call the Hebrew community to moral accountability and unfortunately their words went unheeded and Israel had to learn through hardship and suffering. Jesus Christ also spoke the moral truth to a corrupt social power and within a generation Jerusalem was destroyed. What will be are lot.

    We seem to have such an unreflective society and this in the end will make us morally bankrupt as well. But hope in God we have and struggle we must to awaken the American population to the great values that once guided this nation and to the post war principles that it helped to create in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

  • Frankly the fact that Hamas was elected in a quasi-Democratic election in Gaza is of no more moral significance to me than the fact that the Nazis came to power in 1933 in German in a legal fashion. Of course the article you cite is completely wrong-headed. Hamas has always had a stronger following in Gaza than Fatah, because Hamas is regarded, rightly, as being much more wedded to the idea of waging war ceaselessly against Israel, which is what most Gazans want. The policies followed by the Hamas government are completely in accord with what a majority of the Gazan population want. Their war against Israel, unfortunately for them, simply, and predictably, is not going well.

  • It seems that what you’re saying is that Hitler should have been supported because he was legally elected. We should not have stopped his rampage throughout Europe or his extermination plans? Or perhaps the world should have waited until Germany’s next election to vote Hitler out of office? No matter the millions of lives which would have been terminated by then? It is legal in our country to perform abortions…should we cease fighting against the extermination of life in the wombs of mothers because, after all, it is the law of the land? I don’t understand you…

  • wow- so Hamas equals Hitler? In essence the Palestinians are Nazis who are just crazy to kill every Israeli they meet? I can’t argue with such fantasies- and I won’t because it is such a worn out rhetorical device used by the Left and Right to cover their own inadequacies in presenting the facts on the ground. I’m looking for more thoughtful comments- anybody out there?

  • wow- so Hamas equals Hitler? In essence the Palestinians are Nazis who are just crazy to kill every Israeli they meet?

    Considering that the overwhelming majority of Palestinians don’t believe that Israel has a right to exist, and that many if not most have little moral problem with strapping bombs to people in order to murder scores of innocent Jews, I’d say the comparison is a little less fantastical than that.

    I’m looking for more thoughtful comments-

    You first.

  • “wow- so Hamas equals Hitler?”

    Not quite Tim. Hamas lacks the power to kill every Jew in Israel. If they had the power, based upon prior statements made by Hamas leaders, I have no doubt they would kill every Jew until Palestine was Judenfrei.

  • I think the analogy holds up fairly well if you consider that the extermination of Jews was an objective of the Nazis, but not necessarily of the German people. A good number of Germans were apathetic over what the Nazis were doing, those who would have strongly objected remained silent and inactive out of fear.

    Similarly, a distinction should be made between the Islamic Palestinian people and Hamas and other groups. Thing is the extermination of Jews has a religious character here and it seems the average Islamic Palestinian is far more likely to be inclined to support Hamas’ rhetoric and objectives than the average German was to the Final Solution. I’m distinguishing between Islamic Palestinians and Christian Palestinians because I think the Christians have have suffered at the hands of Israel and would certainly want things differently, but they don’t necessarily hate Jews and want them cast into the sea.

  • Tim,

    I agree with Donald that the Vanity Fair article is completely wrong-headed (Vanity Fair? Really?). IT starts, it seems to me, from an assumption that Israel = wrong/support of Israel = wrong.

    I also disagree with your analysis of what you describe as our Realpolitik, and I disagree that our Yes should mean Yes and our No should mean No as a practical guide to international relations. While it is an ideal to be pursued, it can’t and won’t work in our international community until *everyone* approaches international relationships this way.

    Our government’s first concern should be the preservation of the state. Our country has a right to exist (as does Israel, as does Iran, as does Turkey, etc.). One could argue that the Palestinian people have a right to a homeland too; of course, they’ve never had one (and that isn’t the fault of the US), so it’s hard to say where that should be.

    As to the way events unfolded in the West Bank and Gaza Strip…well, I for one cannot blame the Bush administration for trying. Was it a correct move to try to force Hamas out? Uh…Yeah it was. Hamas is bad. Fatah is to, but the enemy of my enemy being my friend, Fatah had to look like a pretty good compromise. Are there bad people in Fatah? Of course there are. Apparently, there were some pretty bad people among the “peace activists” on that Turkish-flagged vessel, too (good people don’t beat downed soldiers with pipes).

    Governments sanction actions that harm people all the time in order to pursue their national interests. In the case of a war, a government would sanction the killing of other people (objectively evil) in order to protect its country; cities sanction the use of deadly force by law enforcement officers against evil-doers in order to protect its citizens. Your outlook about America’s support for Israel and work against Hamas in the Gaze Strip is simplistic at best.


  • – I’m a bit unclear what the author of the article thinks should have been done. He blames the US for supporting elections when Fatah was not in a position to win them, but he also blames the US for not accepting the results of the elections when Hamas won. He seems to think that Fatah was a better group to remain in charge — yet he blames the US for backing them and he emphasizes their torture and killing of members of Hamas much more than he emphasizes the (at least equally prevalent) torture and killing of members of Fatah by Hamas. He blames the “quartet” for cutting off aid to the Palestinian Authority, but he also blames them for trying to direct and influence Palestinian affairs. I suppose he could think that we should fund them, but not try to influence them in any way, but even then we’re left with having them in a near constant state of war with Israel, and that doesn’t seem great either.

    – Regarding the comment discussion that has developed: I’m not actually clear why comparisons of Hamas to the National Socialists are necessarily that far off. Both are militiant political parties which gained support through street fighting and popular support for their promise to restore national/ethnic dignity. Both endorse a genocidal racial policy towards a designated enemy group which is seen as at fault for the people’s sufferings — a policy which many of their supporters may not enthusiastically share, but which they are willing to overlook. Both came to power in the wake of poverty, military defeat, occupation and perceived loss of standing in the world. And both promise to reverse all of those misfortunes through greater world prestige and military adventures. It’s not a bad comparison, and unless one has particularly grotesque stereotypes about the nature of ordinary German people in the 30s and 40s, I’m not clear why it’s less flattering to the Gazan population than accuracy would demand.

  • I love it. If people discuss the way Israel seems to follow Nazi policy, we are told about “Godwin’s Law.” And that ends all conversation, like usual. But it is perfectly fine to suggest the Palestinians are like Nazis. Of course, I am sure we will also hear how Native Americans were the Nazis, too…

  • Henry,

    One of the main things people have pointed out in regards to your repeated claims that Israelis are “like Nazis” is that it’s incredibly historically insensitive. Which is true.

    In the comment thread above, the logical sequence was as follows:

    Several people pointed out that if it was necessary to support a political faction merely because they won an election, it would have been necessary to grant recognition to the Nazis after 1933.

    In return, Tim questioned whether people were accusing the Palestinians of being “crazy Nazis”.

    RL and I then both pointed out that the sense in which such a comparison might be apt would be that most Palestinians are not “crazy Nazis”, but have ended up supporting a militaristic and radically anti-Jewish faction for fairly understandable reasons — kind of like many non-Nazi-fanatic Germans did in the ’30s.

    You then show up and accuse everyone of saying that “Palestinians are like Nazis” and then go on to suggest that people will say that Native Americans “were the Nazis” too.

    How about this one: Why is it that you are convinced that Hamas is as admirable as Chief Joseph or Sitting Bull? Has Hamas ever behaved as honorably, or sought the good of their people above their own power? Hamas is an organization that routinely kills and tortures its own people, while seeking to kill Israeli civilians in order to relieve their desire for revenge. Their existence has done nothing but hurt the Palestinian people. Why do you see the need to defend them?

    Defending Hamas is not the same as defending the Palestinian people — one may care about the latter while despising the former.

  • All comparisons of present politics to Nazis and Communists that are devoid of direct connections are a stretch and should be avoided.

    With that said, Henry, there are in fact direct connections between the Nazis and Islamist Palestinians. You can begin with Mohammad Amin al-Husayni, continue to the many efforts to kill Jews for being Jews, and head right on up to the present and beyond with the Hamas charter, a document and an ideology that enjoys very strong support. All of this information is readily available, quite twisted, and beyond historical dispute.

  • Why is it necessary even to compare anyone to anyone here? Granted, there are arguably strong parallels between National Socialism and Islamic militancy as practiced by Hamas; that being said, can’t we just deal with history?

    Israel became a state in 1948, whereupon it was immediately attacked by its Arab neighbors. They one that war. Israel was again attacked in the 50’s, the 60’s (which resulted in the destruction of three countries’ military apparatus and the annexation of the Sinai, the West Bank and Gaza, and the Golan Heights. They were attacked again in 73, again in the 80’s, the 90’s and the 00’s (how do you say that in a word?). Each time, its attackers suffered military defeat at the hands of a much smaller (but better trained, equipped and motivated) IDF.

    Ya can’t blame the 48 war on Israel
    s treatment of Palestinian Arabs. Nor can one blame the ’67 or the ’73 war on that. And it is axiomatic that Israel has a right to protect its existence by any proportionate means necessary; we may argue about the definition of “proportionate”, but it is up to the National Command Authority in Israel to determine what is proportionate, and to be liable for the judgment before God.

    The Palestinians are pawns in a game whose goal is the elimination of the state of Israel. If Hamas would do as it’s been asked, this would all be over. They won’t; it’s not. Why do we beat them up so?

  • I love it. If people discuss the way Israel seems to follow Nazi policy, we are told about “Godwin’s Law.” And that ends all conversation, like usual.

    The ‘conversation’ is unnecessary because the analogy is stupid and malicious and not worth discussing. The most militant sector of public opinion in Israel (KACH, Moledet, &c) has advocating expelling the Arab population and forcing them to take up residence in neighboring states. The most precise analogy might be the post-war Czech government’s dealings with Sudeten Germans or the Croatian government’s dealings with Krajina Serbs during the recent unpleasantness in the Balkans. Neither Gen. Tudjman or Eduard Benes had a political programme that resembled that of the Nazis in the least.

    But it is perfectly fine to suggest the Palestinians are like Nazis.

    Repair to the YouTube Mr. McClarey posted a while back. There is a sector of public opinion in the Arab world which has aspirations very like that. For a majority party to advocate liquidating a neighboring state is highly unsual – nay unique – in the world today. Even absent a considered programme of extermination, such a project would comprehend a great deal of killing. The precedent in the eastern provinces of the Ottoman Empire in 1915-18 is sadly relevant here.

  • Regarding the premise that an elected Hamas government is akin to Hitler’s Nazis being elected- so this scores points for the side that says the U.S. should feel free to use any means to upend the Gazan government- be it pouring money into political alternatives or funding armed resistance or perhaps even overt or covert plans of assassination. This is the slippery slope we are on here at American Catholic blogosphere.

    Here’s a little analogical monkeywrench to loosen up the pro-Israel crowd- and I do mean crowd around these parts.

    Let’s say that there was a “quasi-election” in a large nation and a regime that openly supported the termination of unborn children in the wombs of mothers was “elected” by a majority of the citizens. It is determined that in fact 3-4000 children are murdered each day in this hate-filled society. It is also determined that many of these mothers are profoundly disturbed enough to actually volunteer to take their unborn children into a medical clinic to have the personnel there dispose of these children God entrusted to them. This is the consequence of a mass insanity inculturated by a political and economic order that propagandizes that this is no big deal, that this is an expression of women’s rights and so forth. And the mainstream opposition to this situation is a major political party that claims only that this right to kill unborn children should be an issue decided by individual states- not at the federal level.

    Now suppose you live in another nation that universally recognizes the rights of unborn children to live and be born without fear of termination at the hands of their mothers/fathers/society. Should you use your ample resources to undermine the sovereignty of that evil nation of baby killers? Should you stop at public scoldings or should you send monies secretly to agents of influence who would use those foreign monies in ways illegal to their own nation’s electoral laws? And what about organizing a coup with some handpicked military men, or even stage an invasion if you have a superior military yourself?

    Surely, a nation that kills 3000 children a day in a genocide of unborn, unwanted persons is akin to a democratically-elected Adolf Hitler led Nazi Germany? For even as Hitler attempted to export his brand of Nazi ideology and invade other countries with his military- this modern nation exports the propaganda in many varying forms to the rest of the world encouraging the practice of murdering the unwanted unborn. And it is noted that millions of dollars of private monies are coming from the demented citizenry of this nation to actually fund the killing places on an international level. This is all occuring with an apparent majority of these citizen’s support- these people must for the most part be hideous anti-child, anti-decency- whatever comes of them can only be seen as justified by any truly decent citizen of the world. Why should the good people of the world allow for such Hitler/Nazi-like tendencies to continue without doing something now?? I’m sure there are a few decent members of that society who don’t see the killing of their own little ones as a human right, or as a state’s right to choose- but they are so few and have no powerful position in the mainstream political and economic order- they should be overjoyed for a foreign power such as ours to take control of their situation and nation- and save the children!

  • Tim Shipe:

    The most salient characteristic of the Nazi regime in Germany was its revanchism and the consequent impossibility of developing a stable political equilibrium in Europe absent submission to or destruction of the regime. It presented a much more acute problem for foreign governments than would the incorporation of gross injustices in the mundane social practice of a foreign state.

  • “Surely, a nation that kills 3000 children a day in a genocide of unborn, unwanted persons is akin to a democratically-elected Adolf Hitler led Nazi Germany?”

    The analogy only works Tim if they are engaged in forced abortions, a la China. Legalized abortion is an abomination, but our primary problem is with people utilizing the law to slay their own offspring. Neither Hitler, nor Hamas, would rely on private actors to kill the Jews. All the killing would be by actions of the State. When a regime is dedicated to that type of genocide, I weep no tears over efforts to remove it.

  • Let me get this straight:
    Claim: if it is morally acceptable for the US to intervene against NAZI policy to exterminate Jews, it should be morally acceptable for the US to intervene against Hamas policy to exterminate Jews.
    Counterclaim: If it is not morally acceptable for a hypothetical pro-life nation to intervene against US policy to not prohibit private abortions, then it is not morally acceptable for the US to intervene against Hamas policy to exterminate Jews.
    Is that really the level of argument here?

  • Tim,

    I don’t think anyone here is disputing that it’s fairly natural for those in Gaza to resent the idea of the US messing with their elections or providing support to Fatah in relation to a coup.

    The thing I don’t get about the article, though, (and perhaps you don’t support this aspect of it) is that it seems to be taking both sides and no side. The author blames the US for pushing for elections because Hamas won, but it also blames the US for seeking to leverage Hamas out of power again after the election.

    Yet if the US has simply not encouraged elections in the first place, then Hamas would not have come into power since Fatah wasn’t scheduling open elections.

    Then the author both blames the US for cutting off aid money to the PA because Hamas was elected, and also blames the US for giving aid money to Fatah to fight Hamas. But if the US had not encouraged elections, and had not stopped giving aid money in the first place, than Fatah would have been free to use the money to buy weapons and keep Hamas out of power via kidnapping, assassination, torture and street fighting — which is pretty much how Fatah and Hamas were mixing it up in the first place during the time when Fatah wasn’t holding elections because they weren’t “ready”.

    Now, if the answer is simply that the Palestinians would rather be left alone to have elections or coups or civil wars or whatever occurs, but without the US having a hand in it — which I would certainly understand that. On the other hand, cynical though this may sound, there are some benefits to being a region that the major first world powers are constantly sticking their noses into. The Palestinians have been in a state of recurring strife with the Israelis for sixty years now, and in that struggle they’re massively out-gunned. If the Middle East was an area that no one paid much attention to (like Chechnya or Congo or Sudan or Somalia) would the situation of the Palestinians be better or worse?

    Because there’s so much scrutiny on the area, if the Palestinians are able, somehow, to get some leaders who care more about them than about greed and violence, there are a lot of people who would very much like to see them become a peaceful and state. Israel and Ireland are both good examples of countries which made the transition very quickly from being terrorist states fighting much stronger regional powers to accepted members of the international community.

  • Well, guys, let’s not give the Allies too much credit, either. If the Nazis had never attacked any of their neighbors, but had simply pursued the Final Solution quietly within their borders, it strikes me as doubtful that anyone would have fought a war simply to end the holocaust — at least not till it was far too late.

    It’s the fact that Germany attacked their neighbors that ended in their being fought and defeated.

    The beef people have with Hamas is not that they include many anti-Jewist fanatics among their ranks — it that they tend to launch rockets at the country next door. If they kept things within their borders, the “land for peace” thing would have worked.

  • Perhaps Darwin, although I would note that Sir Winston Churchill was tireless in raising the persecution of the Jews throughout the 1930s in his indictment of Nazi Germany, as he sounded the alarm to a Britain still shell-shocked from World War I. He was joined in this, interestingly enough, by two Englishmen sometimes accused of anti-Semitism: G.K. Chesterton, until his death in 36, and Hilaire Belloc. There were others speaking out in England and elsewhere. Pius XII of course had some involvement in an anti-Hitler plot in January of 1940. If WW2 taught us nothing else, I suspect it is the folly of regarding the type of persecution that Hitler unleashed upon the Jews as ever being simply an internal matter. That, and that when a government has a long record of calling for the extermination of a group, do not be surprised that they will act upon it when they have the power to do so.

  • That, and that when a government has a long record of calling for the extermination of a group, do not be surprised that they will act upon it when they have the power to do so.

    So very very true Don.

  • I certainly agree that some people saw what the Nazis were up to, Don. But it wasn’t till the war started and the Germans were almost to the Channel that Churchill was actually called on to form a government. I fear he would have remained a voice in the wilderness if the Nazis had not actually invaded a British ally.

    That said: As I think about it, Tim, I should apologize for pushing the Nazi analogy further. The 30s being a period that particularly fascinates me (and rejecting the theories that are along the lines of: Ordinary Germans supported the National Socialists because they were eeeeeviiiiil) I’m particularly interested in the question of what pushes people to support extremist/militarist political factions which end up driving them into situations that only hurt them more — but as the “Goodwin’s law” point underscores, usually when Nazi’s are brought up in a conversation it’s because someone is trying to claim that a group of people are so lost to hate that one doesn’t need to think of them as human.

    And I recognize that by bringing up your views on this topic here, it’s already enough like facing a firing squad without terms like “Nazi” being discussed.

  • Darwin,

    I think there were about 800,000 Jews in Germany, Austria, and the Sudetenland ca. 1930. Per William Rubenstein, around 360,000 Jews emigrated from Germany during the years running from 1933 to 1939. Absent the war, < 5% of the Jewish population of Europe would have accessible to the SS, so no 'final solution'.

  • When a country faces economic and social stressors, you can have spikes of transient atavism in the political sphere. David Duke’s career in Louisiana during the years running from 1989-93 would be a minor example. The 2d incarnation of the Ku Klux Klan, which had 4,000,000 members in 1924, a quarter that in 1930, and was formally dissolved in 1944, would be another. The Nazi Party was inconsequential in Germany in 1928 and nostalgic parties even more so in the post-war period; their Austrian counterparts were a modest minority readily contained by the Dollfuss-Schuschnigg ministries. One can readily imagine a counter-factual history which would have certain contingencies breaking the other way and the Nazi Party rapidly imploding. They lost support in the last parliamentary election held before Hitler was appointed Chancellor.

    What is disconcerting in comparison is that the — uh – ambitions of Arab particularists of various strains have abided for many decades now.

  • But it is perfectly fine to suggest the Palestinians are like Nazis.

    When you consider that the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem was Hitler’s guest in Berlin during WWII, that there were Palestinian SS troops, and that “Mein Kampf” is a permanent best-seller on the West Bank (and indeed, throughout the Arab world), I don’t see why Henry considers this some sort of outlandish comparison.

    Godwin’s Law is in effect when you compare people who really aren’t Nazis to Nazis. When you compare people who enthusiastically embrace the goal of making the world Juden-frei to people who enthusiastically embrace the goal of making the world Juden-frei, I call that – an apples-to-apples comparison.

  • I think there were about 800,000 Jews in Germany, Austria, and the Sudetenland ca. 1930. Per William Rubenstein, around 360,000 Jews emigrated from Germany during the years running from 1933 to 1939. Absent the war, < 5% of the Jewish population of Europe would have accessible to the SS, so no 'final solution'.

    I suppose, to the extent it would have been easy to simply drive all the Jews out of Germany and Austria, that’s so. (Actually, as I recall, it wasn’t until part way into the war that it was decided for sure to exterminate the Jews. Prior to that, deporting them somewhere suitably out of the way, I believe Madagascar was considered, was considered by the Nazis.)

    On the other hand, I imagine that if all Jews left the Middle East, the anti-Jewish feeling in Hamas would die off pretty soon there after. It’s hard to hate someone who’s not around.

  • It’s hard to hate someone who’s not around.

    I wouldn’t bet on it. Anti-semitism is still alive and kicking in Europe, which now has very few Jews. One of the truly noxious anti-Semites I “met” on the Internet a few years back was from Wyoming. Are there enough Jews in Wyoming to form a synagogue? Yet he knew all about them, without ever having met one in the flesh.

    Just as there sure seems to be a fair number of fundamentalists living in notably non-Catholic areas who know all about the evils of the Pope and Catholicism although they meet Catholics seldom or never.

  • Well guys my impression taken from first hand observation and from the opinions of the Catholics who are actually living in the Holy Land- overwhelmingly the impression I take away is one that is radically different from the positions you hold- it makes me feel ashamed because the Catholic Church is supposed to be a universal, global brotherhood- what I find here is that most of the American Catholics here and elsewhere are so enamored with the propaganda that comes from non-Catholic sources. It seems that no one here wants to take the Palestinian Catholic viewpoint on the subject of Israel-Palestine- I’m not sure what to make of this- some sense of superiority on the part of Americans in general- you really feel a kinship with secular Jews more than Catholic Arabs? I don’t know what else it is because when facts are presented from a Palestinian viewpoint- even from the Latin Patriarch in the Holy Land- these facts and views are immediately dismissed by this crowd-

  • I’m going to move on to other issues because I feel a sick sense of being an alien in alien territory like being on a pro-abortion site and trying to present a case for the unborn- I’m kicking the dirt off my sandals on this issue on this blog in search of another front where there is at least a chance of finding common ground- there is always the easy pro-life zone- it seems to be the one place I can converse with loud and proud conservatives and not experience that sense of dread knowing what is around the next corner- a huge disconnect of mind and heart. These issues may be prudential issues but real people are being killed over them so I am deadly serious about the differences of opinion but I don’t have the time to give these things the necessary documentation to refute the overwhelming number of naysayers- I wasn hoping to attract more of my like-minded brothers and sisters to help make the case while I take care of my 3 little ones and my very pregnant wife- but alas the debate never got off the ground so I’m checking out- do few things but do them well- I can’t do this debate on my own right now- I would suggest maybe taking in Deal Hudson’s reporting- he is a devout conservative and has had lot’s of contact with Holy Land Catholics in the past few years- I have found him to be very informative- you may want to check out his reports at or email him about the Palestinians- part of the problem I do find is that the Palestinians for the most part have not defending themselves very vigorously here in the U.S.- some times it seems like I am pulling more weight on this issue than many American Catholic Palestinians- maybe they are afraid to speak out publicly? I know they have strong views when I speak to them privately- so this is a bit of a mystery- I admire the fight in those Jews who support the Israeli position here in the U.S.. I like to model my own activism on their example- even as I disagree with their position.

  • For the stray open-mind that may be reading this- for more on Middle East issues from an Arab Catholic witness- check out Monsignor Labib Kobti’s excellent web site God Bless, God please bring justice to the peoples of the Middle East and the Holy Land in particular- this scandal of violence, injustice and indifference must conclude- God Willing

  • Tim,

    I recognize that this is a tough topic in a tough venue for you, so feel free not to respond to this, but I’m trying to bridge some understanding here if possible. (Grabbing a moment while my own pregnant wife is keeping the four kids under control.)

    – Do your Palestinian Christian friends agree that Hamas (and the fact that they managed to get 56% of the vote) is part of the problem, with their rocket attacks on Israel? For instance, with Northern Ireland my first instinct was always to blame the Brits for the impact their actions were having on the Catholic population — but at the same time I loathed the IRA and considered them the instigators.

    – I certainly think that living with and talking with your Palestinian friends, you probably have a better understanding than most of us as to what the impact of Israeli actions are on ordinary, non-militant Palestinians. However, do you think it’s possible that, especially given that travel is pretty locked down and news media is all controlled by one side or the other, ordinary Palestinians may often rather less appreciation for the attacks inflicted on Israel which motivate Israeli actions? For instance, on the flip side, I used to work closely with several Jews who’d grown up in Israel, and could tell stories about taking shelter during rocket attacks and seeing the carnage left by suicide bombings. Obviously, formed by this, they tended to be in favor of very militant responses to Palestinian attacks — since they were familiar with the Israeli side of the picture, which the reprisals were in “the other guy’s” territory. Might this same effect not actually make Palestinian opinion rather biased?

  • Good post, DC. I don’t doubt Tim’s sincerity or his attachment to his Palestinian Catholic friends, but it frankly, disturbs me that he appears to see it as a matter of “rooting for our tribe.”

    Rachel Corrie has gotten a tremendous amount of publicity. But she’s very far from being the only Rachel who has been killed in Israel. Here are some Rachels who had no plays written about them or ships named after them:

    RACHEL Thaler, aged 16, was blown up at a pizzeria in an Israeli shopping mall. She died after an 11-day struggle for life following a suicide bomb attack on a crowd of teenagers on 16 February 2002.

    Even though Thaler was a British citizen, born in London, where her grandparents still live, her death has never been mentioned in a British newspaper.

    Rachel Levy, 17, blown up
    in a Jerusalem grocery store

    Rachel Charhi, 36, blown up
    while sitting in a café

    Rachel Gavish, 50, killed with her
    husband and son while at home

    Rachel Kol, 53, who worked for
    20 years in the neurology lab at
    Jerusalem’s Hadassah Hospital,
    murdered with her husband in a
    drive-by shooting by the Fatah
    al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigades, in
    July 2005 (in the midst of a
    supposed Palestinian truce)

    Rachel Ben Abu, 16, killed with
    her teenage friends by a suicide
    bomber at the Netanya shopping
    mall, in July 2005 (in the midst
    of a supposed Palestinian truce)

    Rachel Shabo, 40, murdered with
    her three sons aged 5, 13 and 6,
    while sitting at home

    Should we not care or sympathize with those deaths because those women were Jews and not Catholics?

    Of course, the link is from a non-Catholic source and so, I suppose, can be dismissed as Zionist propaganda.

    Yes, I realize innocents have, tragically, been killed on the other side too. And the Arab Christians there are in a very difficult bind. If the Arabs laid down their arms tomorrow, there would be peace. If the Israelis did so, they would be slaughtered pitilessly, right down to the last infant. I firmly believe that, and that thought really does kinda bother me, even though they’re not my tribe.

  • Darwin- I really appreciate your effort to understand- I do think that American Palestinians as well Americans here now from Israel will have some obvious points-of-view- it helped me in formulating my own view to spend time with both Palestinians in a village 1/3 muslim, 1/3 Catholic, 1/3 Orthodox, and then a few weeks in West Jerusalem living with an American with a Russian Emigree wife. This was in the early 90’s during a lull after the first intifada which was truly serious overkill by the Israelis- and I went into the West Bank and saw what occupation looked like in Hebron- the Israeli military was there to police the Palestinians- something like 100,000 of them so that a couple of hundred of extremist settlers could set up shop and take over some Arab homes and establishments- this was rubbed in the Palestinian faces every day- I was supposed to take a U.S. AID job teaching English there and I turned it down because I really thought that it would be tough for some Palestinians not to respond to me with violence in their frustration.

    The facts as I saw then and have read more extensively about ever since- is that no matter if Palestinians respond collectively without violence- they do not get rewarded with a true statehood on the 1967 border lines- it seems obvious to me that Israel’s leadership has simply been buying time to move more settlers into West Bank and East Jerusalem- and when they provoke violent responses like when they assassinate some Palestinian or build up some settlement- then they respond with overwhelming and extreme force- look at the numbers of Palestinians killed over the years and especially during intifada times- how many suicide bombers were there back during the first intifada in 1987? If Israel were to give to the Palestinians what has been set forth by the UN resolutions and then continued to receive the suicide attacks of rocket attacks- then I would say- yes- this is self-defense time- I would even agree that the US should make their defense of Israel a part of the peace agreement that gives the Palestinians their WEst Bank/East Jerusalem/Gaza State and gives monetary repayment to those Palestinians forced out during the 48 War- recall that as part of geneva conventions you cannot permanently settle on lands taken during war.

    Now here is Pat Buchanan on the Gaza situation:

  • Donna- I did not see your response when I was writing one to Darwin- I am in agreement that civilian deaths all around are horrible- that is where my deepest concern begins and ends- we differ as to who is primarily to blame for the root causes of all the violence, and also what steps should we take with our American resources and clout to do everything we can to bring an end to these tragic circumstances.

    If you look back to the First uprising by the Palestinians from 1987-1993 the First Intifada- and here is a link to Wikipedia on that-

    You find that the Palestinians were responding to Israel’s dominance and some extreme examples of violence, and that in the beginning the Palestinian citizens responded on their own with many acts of non-violent protests, and with youths mostly throwing rocks and such- the Israeli response was not to stop and listen to the just complaints for the need to allow the Palestinian people a homeland of their own to address the situation of the post 1967 borders whereupon the Palestinians of Gaza, West Bank and East Jerusalem were placed under Israeli occupation- instead of taking the clue that the long term peace depended upon granting autonomy to the Palestinians- Israel instead decided to try to break down the Palestinians at every level- brutal tactics, and increasing Jewish settlements in the Occupied Territories just heaped gasoline on the fire and was also illegal by international legal standards- you cannot permanently settle your folks on land taken during a war- and this is exactly what Israel did and actually has continued to do for reasons that appear to indicate that they hope to one day create a duplication of the American experience with the Native Americans- squeeze them out or put them into little tribal land reservations- this strategy is what I believe is the leading cause of the violence putting the Israeli and Palestinians into a quagmire of repeated violent cycles. This has not historically been a Muslim Jihad thing if you just look at the history of the Palestinian people and their leadership- it threatens to become such with the emergence of Hamas as a new model of extreme Palestinian response to the extreme position of Israel’s establishment. If you choose to see all of this as a Hamas-Jihad problem I would suggest that you have come late to the game- I was in the area in the early 90’s and the Palestinians at that time were a mix of secularists, Christians, and Muslims, Hamas had been initially a group supported by Israel to drive a wedge between palestinians who were led by mostly secularists along the PLO model- so don’t give me the storyline that the Palestinians are just a bunch of Islamists who only know about killing infidels- that fiction is one that will only serve the cause of more and perpetual killing of future civilians.

  • Tim, DC and Donna: I was dimayed by the orginal discussion attempting which attempted to paint the issue by tossing around the “nazi” label. Louis Black’s recent contribution at the Daily show to critique this type of politically bantaring hit it home for me to dismiss this type of political arguement.

    But the conversation has thankfully moved on to address the real issues of suffering and our need to create policies of compassion. Our Catholic religious community, the Passionist, has a house in Bethany and in 2005 “The Wall” was built through our property. Priority must be given for the population that is in the midst of suffering must be listened to. Scripture reminds us that the cries of the suffering goes up to heaven. If we do not tend to these systemic forms of violence then God will tend to us for the role we did or did play in tending to our brothers and sisters in the holy land.

    Both sides of the wall have faced great pain and violence. The Palestinian community suffer from a brutal occupation. The Israeli community suffer acts of terrorism to their communities. What makes the situation difficult is that neither side wants to budge. Groups have tried to bridge this ethnic divide and the Jewish voice for Peace stands out for their great work in attempting to reconcile this ethnic violence.

    Our community has a vested interest for peace. Many of our Catholic community comes from Palestine and violence againts the Palestinians makes no distinguishing difference between Muslim and Catholic Arabs. Not that a policy for peace should but of course it is only human to be concerned primarily with ones own family member. To address this concern our UN NGO, Passionist International, has taken to work with other Catholic NGO’s to go back to the legal international framework that started this entire issue. The violence that both sides face is systemic and that system is particularly rooted in the international organization called the UN. It behooves the United States to return the international body where this situation originated and to again work at empowering this body to force both sides to come to the table by applying real international pressure (primarilly through economic pressure) If Israel knew that their military financial subsidy (which is enormous) is about to be touched don’t you think their tone would change. Likewise if the Palestinian people thought for one second that they would get an actual chance to have a real and secure state that their own political tone would not change. I am not a betting man, but I would money on that possibility. A possibility that no one has wanted to really approach because the self interest of so many players have gotten in the way. Below I will share the position for Passionist International.

  • Freedom Flotilla and Israel’s Attack:
    The attack by Israeli forces on a flotilla carrying humanitarian supplies to Gaza might have left more than 10 activists dead. The survivors, mostly Turkish, have been taken to Ahshod, where dozens have been hospitalized.

    As Christians, we tend to naturally sympathize with the Jewish people because of the connection of Christian origins with Judaism, and because of the suffering the Jewish people endured with the Holocaust. Post September 11, we also tend to view terrorist organizations will little sympathy and therefore can identify with Israel, feeling it is justified in its actions of blockading Gaza. So perhaps some important clarifications are needed to gain some perspective on what is happening.

    It is true that innocents, including children, have been killed on and by both sides in the conflict that has raged between Palestinians and Israelis, and both sides have violated international law in doing so. But the violence by Israelis and Palestinians does not have the same roots, nor are the 2 sides culpable in the same way.

    Palestine has been under military occupation for some time, and this in itself is illegal. All Israeli violence in the occupied territories stands in violation of international law – specifically the Geneva Conventions that identify the obligations of an occupying power to protect the occupied population.

    The blockade is a de facto occupation of the territory, asserting control over the land and halting vital aid. The amount of material and food provided is inadequate, precipitating a humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip. Building materials such as cement are disallowed. Occasionally, Israel will dispense with strictness and show a tempered quality of mercy, but given the destruction of homes in Gaza and the need for building materials, that quality is thin.

    Palestinian violence is the violence of resistance, and has escalated as conditions of life and loss of hope breed greater desperation. It is carried out primarily by individual Palestinians and those linked to armed factions, and is aimed mostly at soldiers and settlers in the occupied territories. The rocket attacks in recent years have targeted civilians and are themselves a violation of international law. But the overall right of an occupied population to resist a foreign military occupation, including through use of arms against military targets, is recognized as lawful under international law.

    Israel has every right to arrest and try anyone attempting to attack civilians inside the country. But it does not have the right to occupy a neighboring country, not block aid to the civilian population. And, if it is serious about ending attacks on its own civilians, it must be serious about ending that occupation.

    It is an important fact to remember that Israel’s admission to the United Nations in 1948 was conditioned on its willingness to abide by General Assembly resolution 194, which states, “Refugees wishing to return to their homes and live at peace with their neighbours should be permitted to do so at the earliest practicable date, and that compensation should be paid for the property of those choosing not to return,” something Israel has never complied with.

    Also, Security Council Resolution 242, passed after the 1967 war, identifies “the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war.” That is understood to mean that the territory Israel captured by war must be returned; that to keep it is inadmissible.

    Unfortunately the combination of the U.S.-Israeli “special relationship” and the vast superiority of Israel’s power in the region, with the 5th most powerful nuclear arsenal in the world and one of the most powerful conventional militaries anywhere, means that other countries in the region and around the world will tend to limit their diplomatic imagination to what they think Israel will accept. That means acquiescence to continued U.S. control of any negotiations. And here in lies the danger, for the U.S. position has never placed international law and U.N. resolutions at its centre.

    Branding activists as terrorists and denying the human situation in Gaza will not help an Israeli cause that is proving more alienating the longer it persists. If there is an inquiry into this incident, it will have to be wide ranging and international.

  • Thanks John for your extensive comments- we will see if anyone who spoke out earlier will take up your challenging perspective.

    As for my own use of the “Nazi” comparables- I did so only to show that such linkages can be cover almost any political situation where there is a conflict with Jewish involvement if one wants to play the Holocaust card in the Israel-Palestine Conflict- but it could also be applied to any situation where there are mass killings taking place with seeming public indifference of support- like the Germans who mostly accepted Hitler’s plans, or much closer to home- Americans who don’t see or don’t want to see the humanity of human lives being terminated in abortion clinics- some 50 million lives according to reports I’ve heard- so when I see the Palestinians- Hamas in particular called out as Hitler Wanna-Be’s- I think that is more than a bit much- it is way to tough to separate out how much of Hamas’ rage against the Jews is really just rage against the Machine of Israeli occupation and assassinations et al. And we have to make clear that our own society is full of contradictions such as our stated ideals of democratic self-determination and aversion to foreign influences- and then taking on the right to intervene in all kinds of ways in places all over the world without really defining how our interests are coinciding with the interests befitting a majority Christian nation.

    Finally- to Donna et al- it is important to place special interest on Catholic Palestine and take care to help with special concern the Catholic Palestinian community- this is something that the Church has always upheld- one of the defenses of the Pope during WWII was that he was compelled to attempt to defend his flock wherever they may be- the reason being is that for the Church to fulfill her evangelical mission She must spread and inculturate everywhere- The Church implanted first by foreign missionaries, is to become impregnated with indigenous priests and bishops- this is what has happened in the Palestinian community- as evidenced by the Latin Patriarchs in the Holy Land- we need to take special interest in listening to their cries, their perspectives must be taken deep, deep into our consciences especially when they are calling out their American Catholic brothers and sisters- I am and I have been listening very intently- I don’t believe that many of the commentators here at American Catholic are quite getting the significanse of this necessary point of contact between Catholic communities. If we are indeed concerned over the possibility of a global radical Islamist movement- then we should do everything in our power to assist the smaller Catholic communities in the Middle East- they are the seeds of hope for the future- to be peacemakers, to be the bridge between peoples- Middle Eastern and Western. Now according to Fr. Mitch Pacwa of EWTN, he estimates that in Israel upwards to 80% of the citizens of Israel who are “Jewish” are actually atheistic or agnostic- so “Jewish” has come to indicate something cultural/biological for some and not really connected to a belief in the Torah/Judaism. This is relevant since we are always debating the Israel-Palestine conflict along the lines of how being on the side of Israel is to be on the side of those closest to us and our way of living and believing- this would be true only if by “we” we are referring to the secular liberal American society- which I don’t think most conservative Catholic commentators are suggesting. So this is just more food for thought for those who have taken a hard position in favor of “Israel- good guy- yesterday and today- Palestinians- violent- not appreciative of Israel’s good faith offers- Islamic radicals bent on wiping out all Jews- just like Hitler”. I will continue to challenge those who pen such beliefs at every turn- they may feel like they and Israel are receiving so much unfair criticism all the time- but just follow the money and the military hardware- Israel has received billions of American public and private dollars every single year for decades- Israel has received American political support in international bodies at every turn as well- American Catholic Israel supporters are hardly the “Davids” in this debate- they are the all-time, big-time, winners if one judges by the facts of where all the American establishment clout has been directed- short answer- it hasn’t been to support the Palestinian Catholics and their leadership’s views on how Americans should act in the Holy Land. I stand with my brother and sister Catholics in the Holy Land- if you wish as Catholics to stand with the mostly secularized Israelis- that is your call- I’m just here to challenge your stated positions and check your influence as Catholic witnesses who are actually harming the Catholic peoples of the Holy Land- contradictions abound here at American Catholic.

  • No sooner did I post the above – then I read that the Vatican shares the perspective that religious freedom is vital in our relationships with Muslim countries- as I wrote a blog entry about a couple of weeks ago about- and also blame is attached to Israel for undermining the Catholic community in the Holy Land- read the article for yourself at

  • Tim,

    Thanks for the thoughtful reply, I hope that you’ll feel that I live up to the tone in responding to it.

    I must admit, if I’m understanding your description of when Palestinians would see as a suitable point to consider attacks against Israel unacceptable:

    If Israel were to give to the Palestinians what has been set forth by the UN resolutions and then continued to receive the suicide attacks of rocket attacks- then I would say- yes- this is self-defense time- I would even agree that the US should make their defense of Israel a part of the peace agreement that gives the Palestinians their WEst Bank/East Jerusalem/Gaza State and gives monetary repayment to those Palestinians forced out during the 48 War

    it gives me very little hope that there will ever be peace in the region. It represents pretty much a best-case demand, and I can’t think of any situation in history where insurgent nationalists have received that. (Also, a few elements are notably one-sided: I don’t imagine anyone is stepping forward to compensate the equal number of Jews expelled from surrounding Arab countries in the ’48 war.)

    Consider, by comparison, the way the Irish won independence:

    During the Irish War of Independence of 1919-1921 (which was only the most recent of centuries of Irish rebellion against British rule), the Irish civilian population suffered frequent reprisals from British military/police organizations such as the Black and Tans. One egregious example was the football massacre on Bloody Sunday, when in reprisal for the targeted assassination of 13 British intelligence officers and military personnel, British auxiliaries sent to look for IRA gunmen at a soccer match ended up firing randomly into the crowd with rifles, pistols, and a machine gun mounted on an armoured car.

    In the Anglo-Irish treaty of 1921, the Irish delegation led by Michael Collins got far less than they had hoped for. They sought a united and independent Irish republic — they got an Irish Free State, which had to acknowledge the British crown, and they didn’t get Ulster.

    In many ways, perhaps, it was the same as the situation that Arafat found himself in the Camp David Summit. Fortunately, however, Collins was a much greater man than Arafat. The treaty was put up for a public referendum, and Collins (who had won popularity through his leadership of the IRA during the war) supported it publicly.

    When the treaty was in fact passed, a significant minority of the revolutionaries refused to accept it, and the Irish Civil War began. Irish Free State leaders who until months ago had seen their comrades tortured or put before firing squads by the British, had to turn to the British for arms and supplies and fight their own former comrades in order to secure the imperfect free state.

    That was the price for freedom and peace. Once the Irish had shown themselves as a peaceful and responsible neighbor, and once the wounds felt on both sides had healed, there was no violence when Ireland declared full sovereignty in 1937, or left the commonwealth in 1949.

    Keenly though the Palestinians feel their injustices, it’s important to understand that the Israelis also believe themselves in the right — and given the amount of blood spilled at this point there will never be peace if the condition for stopping the violence is that the Palestinians get everything they want. One can only pray that there will someday be a Palestinian leader with the moral and personal courage of a Collins (who was himself killed in the Civil War).

    recall that as part of geneva conventions you cannot permanently settle on lands taken during war.

    I probably shouldn’t bring this up, since it’s a tangential point, but this strikes me as an example of how the UN and modern international agreements are sometimes more an obstacle to peace than a move towards it. The fact is, wars have, throughout history, resulted in the acquisition of territory. And indeed, there’s a certain irony that it was enacted in 1949, as from 1945 to 1950, the Allied powers had set new boundaries in Europe as a result of being the victors in the war, and engaged in the largest act of ethnic cleansing in recorded history: deporting around 14 million ethnic Germans from Poland, Hungary, Czechoslovakia, Romania and the Netherlands in order to make the ethnic makeup of Europe match the newly drawn borders and assure that a resurgent Germany would never again justify aggression by claiming they were only “liberating” the German-speaking populations in neighboring countries.

    By holding out the promise that property loss 60+ years ago will somehow be made right at some point in the future, if only people will hang around in refugee status indefinitely, I think our international community probably makes nasty conflicts of ethnic nationalism (such as that in the Middle East) even worse than they would otherwise be.

  • Tim Shipe,

    The Arab leadership passed on three clear opportunities to obtain an Arab state on portions of the former mandatory Palestine demographically dominated by Arabs. That, without a lot of deal-breaking paraphenalia, is simply not a political goal of theirs.

  • The highest ranking Catholic in the Holy Land (just recently retired), has been the Latin Patriarch Michel Sabbah ( The Patriarch has been pleading for years that American Catholics need to work to change the American policy of financing Israel’s occupation of Palestinian territory. He has stated that: “ The State of Israel encompasses 78% of historical Palestine…the remaining 22% was occupied by Israel in 1967, and this is all Palestinians want- a small part of what they had before 1947. They want that 22% to be free of occupation, all of it. Israel cannot have both things- security and occupation. They must give up occupation for security.” (As quoted in the St. Anthony Messenger). The Church has stood behind the Geneva Conventions regarding the right of people displaced by war to return to their homes, and the UN Resolutions 194, 224, and 478, as well as Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of human rights.

    I’ll stand by the Holy Land Catholics- if American Catholic commentators want to deny them and write off their view of their own immediate situation then that’s your deal- I can only urge you do some Deal Hudson type of research instead of relying on whatever dubious sources you have been up to this point- has anyone commenting here actually spent any time in a Palestinian city, town, or village?

  • By holding out the promise that property loss 60+ years ago will somehow be made right at some point in the future, if only people will hang around in refugee status indefinitely, I think our international community probably makes nasty conflicts of ethnic nationalism (such as that in the Middle East) even worse than they would otherwise be.

    Exactly so. Since 1948, the Palis have lived as human title deeds on the West Bank and Gaza. That was not done out of concern for the Palestinians’ well-being (I believe their fellow Arabs could care less) but solely out of a desire to hurt the Israelis.

    Tim, again, you might discount this source because it’s not Catholic, but the renowned Israeli novelist Amos Oz wrote back in 2002 that he recalled his parents telling him that in the Poland of the 1930’s, graffiti abounded saying “Jews to Palestine.” Now graffiti writers in Europe scrawl (and American journalists say): “Jews out of Palestine.”

    Amos said “We are not supposed to be in Europe. We are not supposed to be in Palestine. The message is: don’t be.

    Where, Tim, do you think the Jews should be?

  • This article appeared in the Asian Times:

    It may seem odd to blame the Jews for the misery of Middle East Christians, but many Christian Arabs do so – less because they are Christians than because they are Arabs. The Christian religion is flourishing inside the Jewish side. Only 50,000 Christian Arabs
    remain in the West Bank territories, and their numbers continue to erode. Hebrew-speaking Christians, mainly immigrants from Eastern Europe or the Philippines, make up a prospective Christian congregation of perhaps 300,000 in the State of Israel, double the number of a decade ago.

    The brief flourishing and slow decline of Christian Arab life is one of the last century’s stranger stories. Until the Turks killed the Armenians and expelled the Greeks, Orthodoxy dominated Levantine. The victorious allies carved out Lebanon in 1926 with a Christian majority, mostly Maronites in communion with Rome. Under the Ottomans, Levantine commerce had been Greek or Jewish, but with the ruin of the Ottomans and the founding of Lebanon, Arab Christians had their moment in the sun. Beirut became the banking center and playground for Arab oil states.

    The French designed Lebanon’s constitution on the strength of a 1932 census showing a Christian majority, guaranteeing a slight Christian advantage in political representation. With the Christian population at barely 30% of the total and 23% of the population under 20 – Lebanon’s government refuses to take a census – Lebanon long since has lost its viability. The closing of the Christian womb has ensured eventual Muslim dominance.

    Precise data are unobtainable, for demographics is politics in Lebanon, but Lebanon’s Christians became as infertile as their European counterparts. Muslims, particularly the impoverished and marginalized Shi’ites, had more babies. In 1971, the Shi’ite fertility rate was 3.8 babies per female, against only 2 for Maronite Christians, or just below replacement. Precise data are not available, but Christian fertility is well below replacement today.

    Lebanon was a Catholic project from the outset, and the Vatican’s thinking about the region is colored nostalgia for a dying Christian community and a searing sense of regret for what might have been. If only the State of Israel hadn’t spoiled everything, many Arab Christians think, the Christian minority would have wielded enormous influence in the Arab world. It is true that in many Arab countries, Christians comprised a disproportionate share of merchants and intellectuals. But the same was true of the 130,000 Jews of Iraq before 1947, who owned half the businesses in Baghdad.

    Contrary to the Arab narrative, the peak of Arab Christian influence occurred a generation after the founding of the State of Israel, when Boutros Boutros-Ghali became Egypt’s foreign minister in 1977, and Tariq Aziz became Foreign Minister of Iraq in 1983. In fact, the founding of the State of Israel propelled Christian Arabs into leadership positions in Arab governments. The Arab monarchies installed by the British in Egypt, Jordan and Iraq failed miserably in their efforts to crush the new Jewish State in the 1947-1948 War of Independence. Young military officers replaced the old colonial regimes with nationalist governments, starting with Gamal Abdel Nasser’s 1952 coup in Egypt.

    Nationalism opened the door of political leadership to Arab Christians. The Syrian Christian Michel Aflaq founded the Ba’ath party which later took power in Syria and Iraq. The rise of secular Arab movements with strong Christian influence was a response to the Arab failure to prevent the founding of the State of Israel. After the Turkish destruction of Orthodox Christian populations in the Levant, the Arab Christian elite – for centuries graced by not a single name the world remembers – saw its chance to shine. Lebanon, previously a backwater, and the pugnacious Maronite population, a marginal group except for their ties to France, improbably emerged as the focal point of Levantine Christianity.

    But Arab nationalism failed just as miserably as did the monarchies invented by the British after the Turks were thrown out. Having rolled the dice with Arab nationalism, Arab Christians were left with diminished leverage and declining numbers on the ground in the advent of political Islam. Both in politics and demographics, the Arab Christians largely had themselves to blame. Understandably, they find it more palatable to blame the Jews.

    A case in point is Father Samir Khalid Samir, a Jesuit of Egyptian Arab origin who prominently advises Pope Benedict XVI on Islam. I reviewed his fine book 111 Questions on Islam last March [1]. Samir is circulating what he calls a “Decalogue for Peace”, leaked August 9 on the website of veteran Vatican analyst Sandro Magister [2].

    According to Samir:
    The problem goes back to the creation of the state of Israel and the partition of Palestine in 1948 decided by the superpowers without taking into account the population already present in the (Holy) Land. There resides the real root of all the wars that followed. To repair a serious injustice committed in Europe against a third of the world Jewish population, Europe (supported by the superpowers) decided to commit a new injustice against the Palestinian population, who are innocent of the martyrdom of the Jews. The original decision-making was shaped largely as reparation by the superpowers for doing little or nothing to end a systematically organized persecution against the European Jews as a ‘race’.
    Samir’s plan includes international troops on Israel’s borders, recognition of the Palestinian right of return, an international commission to decide the future of Jerusalem – in short, what the Israelis would consider the end of their sovereignty and the liquidation of the Jewish State. That a prominent Vatican Islam expert would take such a stance speaks volumes about the power of nostalgia.

    There is not a single fact in place in Samir’s presentation.

    Leave aside the fact that the League of Nations in 1922 confirmed the object of the British mandate to establish a homeland for Jewish people in Palestine, and that preparations for the Jewish State were complete before World War II. Leave aside also the pope’s Biblical belief that the Jews are in the Land of Israel because God has commanded them to be there. The fact is that most Israelis, contrary to Samir, descend not from the Jews driven out of Europe by the Holocaust, but rather from Jews driven out of Arab countries after 1947.

    There were 600,000 Jews in Israel on the day of its founding; an additional 700,000 were expelled from Arab lands, including Iraq, where the Jews had lived for 1,000 years prior to the arrival of the Arabs. By expelling the Jews, the Arab countries created a population concentration in Israel that made possible the country’s emergence as a regional superpower. The results were an exchange of populations of roughly equal numbers, Palestinians leaving the new State of Israel and Jewish refugees arriving from Arab countries.

    No, Tim, I haven’t lived in or visited any Palestinian Christian communities. I haven’t lived in or visited any Israeli Jewish ones either. Have you ever considered that your closeness to Palestinian Catholics might be distorting your views a bit?

    Palestinian Christians might think they’ll get a better shake under Muslim Arab rule than under Israeli rule. The facts seem to point in a different direction.

  • Tim, your recommendation makes sense only under the assumption that American aid to Israel in an impediment to some sort of settlement. That aid gives the Jewish population the wherewithal for greater resistance, but that is not a problem for the United States and would not be much of a problem for the Arab population either if the Arab leadership and populace maintained a set of political goals which could be incorporated into a stable political equilibrium. They do not, and no amount of ‘research’ by Deal Hudson or gas from the Latin Patriarch are going to change that one bit.

    Why do the Jews have a state? Because they built one. What problem do you have in the Fertile Crescent? The entrepreneurial sector have other things to do with their lives than cope with the environment created by that region’s wretched political elite and emigrate – to the Gulf emirates, to the United States, to France. The process is most advanced on the West Bank and Gaza where the field has been left to capos, gangbangers, and ululating hags.

  • I have to say that I spent only two weeks in Israel and the West Bank. Went there with a Franciscan priest who lived there for 19 years. Met with both Israelis and Palestinians. Found both prejudiced in their own way. Felt hate towards the other by both. Israelis can be biased. Like American Catholics, so can Palestinian Catholics also be biased.

Some Information You Should Know About The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (From Jewish Voice For Peace)

Wednesday, June 2, AD 2010

It is always time to step back and review the record whenever a discussion starts up on “what’s the deal with that crazy Israel/Palestine conflict?”.  It is tiresome to be on the losing end of the political fight in shaping American policies regarding the Middle East- It is maddening to have to always be on the defense against the charges of anti-Semitism when one is highly critical of the policies of the State of Israel- especially when being anti-Semitic as in being anti-Arab is all the rage today, while being anti-Jewish is one of the worst things any American could be accused of. I am bold in my own words and deeds on this issue because I have nothing to hide, no shameful anti-Semitism, no axe to grind, no family connections- just a strong desire to see the Holy Land be a place that is humane and just, and to see to it that my own nation is a contributor to a positive outcome for the peoples of the Middle East.  That’s it- that’s my storyline- that’s my truth.

I don’t hate America, I hate the sin but love the sinner.  I love my nation but I hate when my nation does something in my name as an American citizen that I believe is really evil, really stupid, or both. It is a glaring fact that America has been the #1 ally and supporter of the State of Israel- both in economic and political terms. This fact of life is not missed by those who believe that the State of Israel has been the primary agent of violence and injustice in the conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. Iagree with this perspective, and I want to change the reality because it is the right thing to do, and many lives all over the region, and even here in the U.S. are in present or potential harm’s way due to some really bad, one-sided, and misguided policies emanating from Tel Aviv and Washington D.C.

I am not going to run over my own story of the time I spent with Archbishop Elias Chacour of Ibillin, Galilee  many years ago- and what I saw in Hebron at that time. And I am not going to run down the list of books I have read to get additional background to the Conflict which has shaped and emboldened my position on this important Catholic and American issue. I am not going to take the chance of being charged with any sort of anti-Semitism with this blog entry because I am going to use a source that is decidedly Jewish. I want an elevated discussion to get going and I don’t want my Catholicism to get into the way- one could (I suppose) make the charge that the organization Jewish Voice For Peace is full of self-loathing Jews, who hate Israel, hate themselves- whatever.  But I think they can manage such charges for themselves- I met some of them when I used to visit San Francisco frequently- they seemed pretty secure in themselves. I think they are a good source of information and here they provide a primer on the Israel-Palestine Conflict 101  (from

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24 Responses to Some Information You Should Know About The Israeli-Palestinian Conflict (From Jewish Voice For Peace)

  • A: The ongoing occupation of Palestinian territories is the single most destabilizing factor in Israeli-Arab relations. The Arab League has offered full normalization of relations with Israel if the occupation ends

    You touched on so many issues that I’m going to deal with them one by one as the days go by.

    This one being the first that caught my eye.

    As soon as the Arabs recognize Israel’s right to exist then Israel should give up the “occupied” territories.

    Israel was attacked on its birthday by hostile Arab and Muslim forces.

    The lands get returned first only when the Arabs recognize their right to exist.

    Everything else is secondary.

  • Q: Didn’t Ehud Barak offer the Palestinians almost everything they wanted at Camp David in 2000? And didn’t the Palestinians respond to that offer by launching this much more violent Intifada?

    Arafat had nothing to give. It was a farce from the beginning.

    Until the “Palestinians” recognize Israel’s right to exist, the “Palestinians” won’t negotiate in good faith.

  • Q: Don’t we have to support Israel because it is surrounded by countries that want to destroy it?

    A: The ongoing occupation of Palestinian territories is the single most destabilizing factor in Israeli-Arab relations. The Arab League has offered full normalization of relations with Israel if the occupation ends

    Again, the Arabs/Muslims need to recognize Israel’s right to exist before any negotiations can move forward.

    Israel defended itself and won fair and square.

    The Arabs/Muslims can’t have it both ways.

  • And now, a few notes of reality:

    1. Missed is the fact that Israel became the occupier of the West Bank, etc in a defensive war. The Palestine Liberation Organization was formed prior to 1967 – it is designed to “liberate” that part of “Palestine” currently making up the State of Israel, proper. You start a war and then lose, you take the consequences. Sorry, but Israel gained dispositive authority over the West Bank, Gaza, Golan Heights and Sinai. They can do with it as they please – Moslems are supplicants at the table of the victor as far as this goes, and if the Israelis volunteer to give any of it back, then that is sheer generosity on their part.

    2. If we accept, for the sake of argument, that it is the occupation which causes the problem, then where does “occupation” end and Israel begin? Is there a border line where the Moslem world will agree that Israel has given as much as it can and must not be pressed to give any more? Anyone who looks at the situation knows that the answer to this is, “no”. It isn’t, then, “occupation” but “Israel” which is the bone of contention.

    3. Its a nice bit of gliding over the political differences…Israel is just kinda, sorta democratic and not much better than the Moslem nations. But there are, currently, 14 Arab members of the Knesset – how many Jewish members of, say, the Saudi government? The last time there was a Jewish cabinet minister in Egypt? In fact, how many Jews live in, say, Libya?

    Boiled down we’ve got here a list of half truths – all ultimately designed to undermine the Israeli position. True, it is a Jewish group putting it out…but if ANSWER puts out some opinions about America, would any American of wisdom pay them heed? Should any foreigner rely upon such a group for a true appraisal of American actions and interests? Just because something bears kinship with another doesn’t mean they are on the same side.

    The fact of the matter is that Israel is there and not only must it not go away, it can’t go away – there must be a place in the world where Jews, as Jews, can be absolutely assured of protection. Too much blood has been spilled for us to contemplate a world without Israel. Unless and until the Moslem powers recognize this fact, there simply will not be peace – grasp that: until THEY change, there’s nothing we can do.

    The best form of change would be for the Moslem world to become democratic in governance – I absolutely assure one and all that once the governments of the Moslem world have to cater to the needs of the people, the concern about Israel will dry up…and the Palestinian “refugees” will be swiftly integrated in to their host societies, rather than being kept in cages as political pawns and living title deeds.

    Justice is what works – would you volunteer to go live under Moslem rule? Do you think that if you came in to conflict with a Moslem in Moslem nation that you would receive equal justice under law? You know darned well you wouldn’t – and unjust things cannot demand justice. Its just not possible – until the Moslem world becomes just, all we can do is fend them off and try to change them, but we can’t make peace – and neither can Israel.

  • Q: Isn’t Israel the only democracy in the Middle East, surrounded by dictatorships?

    A: While it is certainly true that Israel?s democratic structures are considerably more advanced than those of its neighbors, Israel fails on many counts. Discriminatory laws and bureaucratic practices in Israel bar Arabs in Israel from many privileges, especially owning land.

    When I see free and open elections in the Arab world like in Iraq, then negotiations can begin in good faith once they recognize Israel’s right to exist.

    And if they don’t, then we know with full certainty the ‘hate’ they have for Jews.

    The blame ‘colonialism’ card only works in the classroom.

    In the real world it’s called racism when your opponent calls lower than apes and dogs.

  • Q: But didn’t the Arab countries kick a million Jews out of their countries after the 1948 war?

    Again with the ‘colonialism’ charge.

    It’s typical that the other is always to blamed for ones situation.

    Arabs invaded Israel and lost.

    Israel has a right to defend itself.

    If you deny that then we have deeper problems to deal with.

  • Q: I see people compare Israeli law to Apartheid, what’s the truth?

    When Christians in Muslim dominated countries can have their issues addressed the same way you all accuse Jews of ‘apartheid’, then we have a starting point.

  • Q: But I have heard that the Palestinians and other Arabs sided with the Nazis in World War II.

    Arafat’s uncle was the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem that wanted to “wipe the Jews out” of what was then called Trans-Jordan.

    Pretty much explains itself.

  • Q: I keep hearing about the Palestinian Right of Return. What is this about?

    When Christians get their issues resolved of their ‘Right of Return’ then this issue can be honestly addressed.

  • Tim,

    I appreciate that you have great passion on this issue, and FWIW I certainly don’t think that you are anti-Jewish. I would, however, like to point out what I think are a couple of the actual divisions between pro/anti Israel viewpoints on this issue — in that I really don’t think (given what you quote here) that it’s to any great extent the historical facts that are in question or the desire to the Palestinian people live under a stable and just government.

    While I understand the reasons why you’re so gunshy to being accused of anti-Jewish feeling, I’d point out that those who take the Palestinian side in this conflict (and oppose the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan) have an equally inaccurate tendency to reflexively accuse their opponents of being anti-Arab in sentiment regardless of the evidence.

    1) Many of us have a very low level of tolerance for terrorism as a means to achieving what a faction wants politically, and thus have little sympathy for the idea of making major concessions to Palestinian representatives who are actively engaged in terrorism (which the PLO and Hamas have both been to a great extent). One of the reasons why the more hardline elements of Israeli politics have been increasingly successful over the last couple decades it that Palestinian organizations have, by their actions, lent a lot of credence to the claim that if they are given concessions they will simply make more demands and continue to use terrorism against Israel. I think I can claim a fair amount of consistency in this regard as I had exactly the same attitude towards negotiating with Sinn Fein/IRA leaders the The Troubles which started up again in the 60s and ran through the 90s, despite the fact that I sympathize very strongly with the desire for a united Ireland free of British rule.

    2) I have a lack of sympathy with nationalism and old grudges. At this point, the ’67 war was 43 years ago, and for the 20 years from 47 to 67, Jordan owned the West Bank and Egypt owned Gaza. Prior to that, the whole area belonged to the Brits, and before that Turkey. I don’t think that the Israeli’s had an inherent right to have their own country in which they’re the majority either, but the fact is that Israel exists and has been fairly stable and responsible for 60+ years now. So it strikes me as troublesome and unjust to question their right to continue existing. A Palestinian state, on the other hand, has never existed. And I don’t really see why it should be unacceptable for them to either become part of Jordan or become part of Israel — other than that by this point the region has become so troublesome that no one really wants it. If their leadership can show some ability to behave peacefully and responsibly, I certainly have no objection to Palestine being an independent state. But I don’t see why we should see it as a necessity. Indeed, I think far too many people put far too much energy into ethnic nationalism, and we’d all be a lot better off if everyone laid off on that. It’s been one of the most destructive forces of the last 200 years.

  • Suppose for the sake of argument that Barak’s offer was not generous as the Israelis made it out to be. What was the harm then to take what was on offer and wait for better times? One must recall that in 1996-2000 the Israelis were negotiating from a position of strength. Why rachet up the conflict with suicide bombs? Why engage in an unnecessary war which you are bound to lose? It is obvious that for Muslims, peace mean something different than commonly understood. For them peace means a total vindication of their position, given anything less they would be much happier extending the truce and living off the Israelis. And in the meantime they can justify themselves with stories of Saddam Hussein the new Saladdin, or the return of the Iranian Mahdi or now Erdogan Pasha who will restore the caliphate and banish a thousand humiliations.

  • Lost in all this verbiage is the following:

    1. You will not construct a consensual settlement if one of your stipulations is that one party’s obligation is to bend their neck for the axe.

    2. The ultimate and abiding political goal of the Arab leadership in the West Bank, Gaza, and the camps is an ethnic cleansing extravaganza. There is no indication that the bulk of their constituency objects to this.

    3. One cannot help noticing that mention of Sephardic and Oriental Jews is absent, for all that you said.

    4. One also cannot help notice that mention of other refugee problems on the table in 1948, their dimensions and resolution, is absent.

    5. ‘Palestinian refugee’ is defined by the UNRWA as anyone resident in that territory prior to 14 May 1946. Now, just where was it that Yasir Arafat spent three-fourths of his formative years, and Edward Said spent all of his?

    6. There are currently two sovereign states where speakers of the Levantine vernacular Arabic compose nearly the entirety of the population, and a third where they form half the population.

  • Lot’s of he said, she said going on. Would help if Israel released all video footage taken by the passengers.

  • I write as a Jew who has long been active in the Catholic Worker movement and lots of social justice causes over the years. There is too much above to respond to it all. One thing I want to say though is that the Arab world on numerous occasions, including Hamas, have formally or de facto accepted Israel’s existence. It is Israel that has never declared what it’s borders ought to be in a way that truly would allow a viable Palestinian state to exist.

    Christians have been killing Jews and Muslims and Arabs in droves for a long time, but I am not calling for retribution against today’s Christians. I would like us to stop blaming Muslims and Arabs for so much of the violence of the world. The US is responsible for half the arms trade in the world and half the military spending. We’re no real peacemaker. A local synagogue newsletter had an absurd commentary in January about why Martin Luther King Jr (okay, not a Catholic, I know) would support Israel. My general response can be found in the following link, and I hope you will check it out . I also edited the War Resisters League Peace Calendar of 2008 which featured case after case of nonviolent organizing and cooperation across the Arab and Muslim world. Very few Muslims are Wahabists, just as few Catholics are Opus Dei and few Jews are as violent and intolerant as the settlers in Hebron.

    Finally, I hope some of my Catholic Worker and Christian Peacemaker Team friends see this discussion and chime in.

  • “One thing I want to say though is that the Arab world on numerous occasions, including Hamas, have formally or de facto accepted Israel’s existence.”

    Quite right, in English or some other Western language. Then they go back to calling for Israel’s destruction in Arabic to their own populations.

  • Christians have been killing Jews and Muslims and Arabs in droves for a long time,

    Come again?

  • Jim,

    Welcome to the blog, glad to hear your thoughts.

    This is a tangential point to your comment, and I’m not sure if what you say the result of actual misconception, or just reference to pop culture stereotypes, but it’s worth pointing out in reference to your remark:

    Very few Muslims are Wahabists, just as few Catholics are Opus Dei and few Jews are as violent and intolerant as the settlers in Hebron.

    Contrary to popular imagination, Opus Dei is not a remotely fanatical or violent group. (Nor are there such things as Opus Dei monks — even albino ones.)

  • Leaders held Zionists Twenty-three conference since 1897 and the latest conference, held in Jerusalem for the first time in August 14, 1951 to discuss the surface, the issue of immigration to Israel and the question of borders and the purpose of all these Conferences is to study the plans that lead to the establishment of the Kingdom of Zion International, which is one of the most important goals Brotokolathm.

    Met in the conference last hundredth of the hardest of the Elders of Zion, they represent the fifty-Jewish society, and decided in secret plan to enslave the whole world under the crown of king of the descendants of David and through:

    * Come to grips with things in the world

    * Create chaos and pornography among peoples

    * Shed doctrines corrupt and reprehensible calls on the minds of his sons

    * Undermine the foundations of every religion and national ethics and

    Schemes, these criminals, dangerous and highly confidential and it is impossible to give any person (of course this in the past but today they are scattered), but how you became months of fire on science and translator for all languages

    Are the Jews deliberately disseminate these protocols and Tzahero people as confidential, and it leaked to Istfedo of sales or some kind of hype people want to acquire and intimidate those who want to terrorize this expectation can arise in our minds

    But the best known and famous in the history books is to tell the Agreed:

    Is said to be able to master France during the meeting with the leader of the Jews in Akaber hotbed of Secret Freemasonry in France, and misappropriation of those protocols to flee ….

    Received the documents to the ((Alex Nicholas)) a large group of notables Russia East at the time of caesarean section and who pushed her to the world (Russian (Sergei Nilus)), which studied carefully and compare them with the events of the current policy that day and was able to because of it to predict much of the serious events that took place a few years later, such as:

    1. Predicted the fall of the Ottoman Islamic caliphate at the hands of the Jews before the founding of the State of Israel

    2. Prediction of fomenting world wars for the first time in history, losing the victors and the losers together and not accrue Bmganmha only Jews

    3. Predicted the fall of monarchies in Europe were still property already in Germany, Austria, Romania, Spain and Italy

    4. Predictable deployment of strife and unrest and economic crisis internationally, the structure of the economy on the basis of the gold which is monopolized by the Jews

    And other predictions which have been confirmed in large events over the years that followed the era of world, the Russian ((Sergei Nilus)) such as the fall of the Tsarist Russia and spread communism and ruled by a brutal authoritarian rule and to take a center for the dissemination of conspiracies and Kulql in the world

    What is the purpose of these protocols??? You will find the answer through your reading of protocols, but you sum up some of these objectives:

    Develop a Jewish plan to control the world, as the case led Gmawhm This plan is derived from the hatred of religions

    * Jews seek to destroy governments and the temptation kings persecuted peoples and the lure of the people to disobey the kings, and by disseminating the principles of freedom, equality, and so on with the interpretation of a particular interpretation is impossible to achieve

    * Publication of chaotic and pornography through the secret societies, religious, artistic, sports and Masonic Lodges

    * Jews believed that the methods of governance present in all the world and to increase the corrupting included in until it is time for the Jewish kingdom on the world

    Must Statute governed on the people as vile beasts and have to deal with any others with non-Jews, even of the rulers excellent spare chess in the hands of the Jews and enslave most susceptible to money and women, or lure them into positions and the like

    Search the means of printing and publishing, journalism, schools, universities, theaters and the role of cinema and its role and arts of seduction and speculation, and others should be placed under the hands of the Jews

    * Global economy must be based on Gold, Jews monopolized the most powerful of the labor force and production and other forms of wealth

    Develop a Aloguetsaa’almi founded on the basis of the gold which is monopolized by the Jews to be the gold of the strongest weapons to corrupt the young and the elimination of conscience and religions and nationalities, and family and to arouse public opinion and lure people Blshahuat bestiality harmful

    * The need to make a global economic crises always so for Ajriah the world and never gives in the end of the Jewish control of

  • You know, one of the reasons I am a philo-semite in regard to the Jews is because so many people in this world believe the poisonous tripe that emmy is pushing.

  • except for emmy, a great exchange.

    how about this:

  • You really going to allow “Protocols” sort of stuff to remain on the comments?

  • You know, one of the reasons I am a philo-semite in regard to the Jews is because so many people in this world believe the poisonous tripe that emmy is pushing.

    That is exactly how I feel, Donald!

    I have a dear Jewish friend who has developed quite a spiel on the “Jews run the world” theme. She says she keeps hearing about how Jews control this, that, and the other – but the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem has yet to give her a call and invite her to join the plot to control the world. She feels quite slighted.:-) She often says, “I’m dying to be a part of this big Zionist cabal that runs the whole planet, but nobody calls, nobody even sends me a lousy postcard. What am I, chopped liver?”

    A lovely lady. When I was sick with the flu this winter she turned up at my doorstep with a big pot of chicken soup.

  • Indeed Donna, I have a similar friend, a young Jewish judge. I only wish all Christians I have encountered in this life had the same kindess, and wonderful good humor, that I have experienced in my interactions with him from his days as a young attorney just starting out.

    n4nadmin, the hate-filled comment remains up because it serves a useful purpose in this thread of reminding readers of the reality of the irrational hatred that motivates anti-semites.

  • Donald- I also will allow the comment to stand- I just now saw it- not to encourage folks to take the easy way out and go- “Oh see, everyone who criticizes Israel must be a Jewish conspiracy nut!”- but to allow that there are some and always will be some who take their criticism of Israel to irrational lengths- just as some who criticize President Obama do so from ulterior motives like they just believe in the inferiority of black people- but it doesn’t follow that all or even most people who don’t like the Obama presidency are simply angry racists.

    A better discussion of sorts is the one still lingering over at the Gaza thread dealing with my complaint against U.S. Realpoliticking there.

Israel vs. the "Freedom Flotilla"

Tuesday, June 1, AD 2010

I’m generally sympathetic to Israel. Despite its faults, it’s one of the most stable and liberal regimes in the region, and many of its critics fail to account for the corrosive effect on the national consciousness of being surrounded by peoples who want them exterminated and routinely take steps (however ineffective) to visit random violence upon them.

However, while it’s easy to understand their seige mentality, this doesn’t mean that this mentality does not at times cause them to go to far and put themselves in the wrong. In this regard, I think Megan McArdle has a pretty good and balanced response to the attack on the “Freedom Flotilla”:

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84 Responses to Israel vs. the "Freedom Flotilla"

  • The Israeli government has said that international law allows the boarding of a vessel which is attempting to circumvent a declared embargo even while the ship is still in international waters. Not being an expert in international law, I can’t say whether that is an accurate statement or not.

  • Is this not yet another effort to see actions by other countries through U.S. eyes? These matters are far more serious than can fit into term paper discussions. How many of those who feel called upon to comment can speak and read Hebrew? Arabic? How many know the day-to-day situation?
    It is one of the calamities of our education system – reflected in the “mainstream media” – that survey courses pretend to understand truly complex situations.

  • The Israelis had previously indicated that the flotilla could have docked at any Israeli port. The cargo would have been searched for weapons and other contraband and then sent on to Gaza. Considering that the Palestinian President Abbas recently accused Hamas of smuggling large amounts of arms and ammunition, I think the Israelis have a legitimate concern.

  • I agree the Israelis had a legit concern, and that the Flotilla organizers were clearly trying to create exactly the sort of incident that occurred by refusing to dock at another port or undergo inspection. Anyone portraying this is a “oh, poor Gazans” thing is clearly being a ‘useful idiot’ for a propaganda operation.

    However, the main weapon being carried by this flotilla was pretty clearly not arms and ammunition (let’s be honest, Israel can handle Hamas with no problem) but propaganda, and by allowing themselves to be maneuvered into the “attacking aid ship in international waters” situation, Israel seems to have needlessly pointed that weapon at themselves and pulled the trigger.

  • I’m usually suspicious of Israel. They have a history of disproportionate response. But I had the same reaction as McArdle. It was at least conceivably proportional but for the fact that they were hijacking a civilian ship in international waters.

  • The “declared embargo” alluded to by Blackadder is of course the core issue here, and is a gross violation of the moral law, and most likely a war crime. After all, the Vatican accused the Israelis of turning Gaza into a “big concentration camp”. One could argue that attempting to break this blockade is actually just.

  • One could argue that attempting to break this blockade is actually just.

    One could. But one would also be an morally obtuse useful idiot for Islamist terrorists for so declaring.

  • Israel was in a lose-lose situation and I think they made the right choice. Allow convoys free access to Gaza and who knows what interestng devices could turn up in the hands of Hamas, once Israel established the precedent that they would not stop such a convoy.

    As to Tony stating that the Vatican accused Israel of turning Gaza into a “big concentration camp”, whoever made that obscene comment, I doubt if it was made with the approval of Pope Benedict. His family lived in fear of real concentration camps for years, and he can distinguish between them and hysterical comments by individuals calling Israelis Nazis out of political bias and latent, and not so latent, anti-semitism.

  • MM,

    Would you say that there was a moral imperative for the flotilla to insist on going straight to Gaza rather than allowing itself to be searched for weapons? It would seem that there is a distinction between not allowing anything into a region, and trying to control all shipments in so as to avoid the import of arms.

    I think Israel probably did itself and the region more harm than good here — but to class the organizers of the convoy as virtuous in this exchange is pretty delusional. Their primary objective was pretty clearly to cause an incident, not to get aid to Gaza (which they could have done just fine without a fuss if they’d allowed themselves to be searched.)

  • Perhaps MM has a link to the “Concentration Camp” statement.

  • Actually, I’m inclined to agree with MM on this one. The blockaid has always struck me as being morally dubious at best, and things like the flotilla incident make me think that it’s not even a good idea from a practical standpoint.

  • Considering that the Hamas government has continually carried out acts of war against Israel, I think Israel had every right, legally and morally, to impose a blockade. The attitude of the Hamas government is amusing on this score. They continually make the most bloodthirsty pronouncements against Israel, allow terrorist acts to continually be launched from Gaza, and then they are shocked, shocked, when the Israelis act as if they are in a state of war with the government of Gaza.

  • I guess the good news is Egypt is opening its border with Gaza for humanitarian aid to flow. Now why has Egypt had a closed border with Gaza? I thought this was just an Israeli problem.

  • Considering that the Hamas government has continually carried out acts of war against Israel, I think Israel had every right, legally and morally, to impose a blockade.

    I disagree. Blockaids are problematic because they attack the people instead of the government.

    I also don’t agree that Israel is acting like it’s at war with Gaza. If they were, it would be a simple matter for the IDF to just invade and take the place over again. That they have not done so suggests that, in the mind of the Israeli government at least, allowing themselves to be attacked is preferable to the political and tactical consequences that would come from an outright invasion. It seems to be that a similar calculus would apply to the existence of the blockaid.

  • Watch the border be closed again just as quickly Phillip. Hamas has strong ties with the Muslim Brotherhood and other revolutionary groups in Egypt, and the Egyptian government hates Hamas almost as much as the Israelis do.

    “I disagree. Blockaids are problematic because they attack the people instead of the government.”

    Not in this case since the Israelis are only intent on seizing arms and ammunition.

    “If they were, it would be a simple matter for the IDF to just invade and take the place over again.”

    Been there, done that. The Israelis do not want to run Gaza and neither do the Egyptians whose territory it originally was in 48. Gaza is a hellhole with no natural resources except angry Palestinians. Israel would leave Gaza strictly alone if Gaza had a government that would leave Israel alone. That seems to be beyond the capabilities of the Gazans, so Israel will continue to do what it believes is necessary for its safety whether the rest of the world approves or not.

  • Not in this case since the Israelis are only intent on seizing arms and ammunition.

    The blockaid isn’t limited to arms and ammunition.

    The Israelis do not want to run Gaza and neither do the Egyptians whose territory it originally was in 48.

    Israel doesn’t want to run Gaza because it believes the costs of doing so outweigh the benefits. I believe the same calculus applies to the blockaid itself.

    Put it this way: whatever you think about the flotilla incident, it has clearly been a major propaganda victory for the pro-Palestinian forces. Given that, it would be naive to think that they won’t respond by launching more “freedom flotillas” and to force the IDF to either attack them again or let them through. At some point, I suspect that the Israeli government will conclude that the costs of maintaining the blockaid just aren’t worth the benefit (just as they concluded that staying in Lebanon wasn’t worth it, that staying in Gaza wasn’t worth it, etc.) The question is how long it will be before they reach this conclusion.

  • Enough with the conseqentialism, Paul – the imposition of an economic blockade that reduces a civilian population to conditions of great deprivation is an intrinsically evil act. I may be an “idiot” by your ideology, and that’s fine, because it is the correct “moral” position.

    Read what the Church in Gaza and the rest of the occupied territories are saying. I gave the same advice during the Iraq war – listen to bishop Warduni and other Iraqi clerics who will have a perspective that -surprise, surprise – deviated substantially from the kind of Fox News American triumphalism that was so dominant at the time. In other words, side with the ‘least among us’.

    And in fact, there are clear similarities between the leadership of Hamas and Israel – both come with a militarist mindset, both wallow in victimhood, both have engaged in extreme forms of rhetorical violence about cleansing their territory of the other. Both have attacked civilians and defended it. Oh, but one has nuclear weapons and the other has firecrackers.

  • “At some point, I suspect that the Israeli government will conclude that the costs of maintaining the blockaid just aren’t worth the benefit (just as they concluded that staying in Lebanon wasn’t worth it, that staying in Gaza wasn’t worth it, etc.) The question is how long it will be before they reach this conclusion.”

    Different situations BA. Unlike Lebanon, the Israelis aren’t in Gaza. The Israelis have no place to withdraw from. Additionally, the Israelis have evidence that the blockade has worked as terrorist attacks on Israel from Gaza have plummeted since the blockade was initiated. Between taking over Gaza militarily again, and maintaining the blockade, I know which I would choose if I were an Israeli. Of course if Egypt keeps open their land border with Gaza, which they will not, the entire issue would be rendered moot.

  • So I guess MM doesn’t have an official Vatican statement that Gaza has been turned into a “Concentration Camp.”

  • Phillip,

    See here.

  • Actually I was looking for an official statement of the Vatican. We know Cardinals are capable of using the Nazi analogy quite easily from recent immigration discussions.

  • At the time, Cardinal Martino was president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace i.e. he was the Vatican official speaking directly in his area of responsibility.

  • I suspect you realize that not everything a Vatican offical says is an official statement of the Holy See.

    But perhaps given that, maybe California can start lobbing missles at Arizona given Cardinal Mahoney’s recent assessments of events there.

  • There is no real way to spin this in Israel’s favor. Yeah, the flotilla is from a Turkish Islamist organization. Yes, it was seeking a confrontation, which the the Israelis gave them–in just about the worst way possible. The AKP government in Turkey is in full freakout mode, which adds to the debacle.

    “Own goal” is about the nicest way to put it.

  • It wasn’t “the Vatican”, but an extremely culturally tone-deaf and insensitive Cardinal Martino who invoked Godwin’s Law against the descendants of Holocaust victims:

  • Cardinal Martino was a long time victim of hoof in mouth disease.

    “But Vatican sources have said Pope Benedict wants his cardinals to keep a lower profile and that Martino had been told by Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone to keep the lid on and not be so controversial.”

  • Darwin,

    You claim that the aid-brigers were seeking to provoke. Perhaps so, but was this unjust? It sounds to me like a classic non-violent resistence strategy. After all, Gandhi’s tactics were designed to provoke a maximal response from the British (which is why I dispute McArdle’s contention that somehow Gandhi would not have approved). He was very shrewd.

    I also dispute the fact that the aid would have been let in had they agreed to a search. We will never know the answer to this, and the architects of the blockade saying so does not give me comfort.

  • This is the reality of the situation in Gaza. This is from someone intricately connected to the formation and development of Israel, as a friend of Israel. He is himself a Jew.

    The idea that “oh, the Cardinal just fell into Godwin’s Law” shows the stupidity of people who think Godwin’s Law means anything. It doesn’t. It is not a logical fallacy to use analogy. Indeed, those who deny analogy are showing a reductionistic, positivistic, anti-Catholic sensibility. Catholic thought is analogical.

  • The UN has been feeding and clothing the people of Palestine for about 60+ years. The Gaza strip (I thought) butts up on Egypt. The flotilla (eight little ships are going to feed 1,000,000 people!) could have sailed to Egypt. Or, Egypt won’t let them pass either?

    There is no humanitarian catastrophy that requires a flotilla of terrorists to run any (moral or immoral) blockade.

    I see and hear a lot of anti-semitism in all the unjust attacks against Israel.

    And, I know wherof I speak. Until 9/11, I was one of the worst anti-semites.

    These “nonviolent” terrorists are out to detroy Israel as are cathoblog anti-semites calumniously attacking the gallant State of Israel.

  • You claim that the aid-brigers were seeking to provoke. Perhaps so, but was this unjust? It sounds to me like a classic non-violent resistence strategy.

    Is beating soldiers with metal pipes also a classic non-violent resistance strategy?

  • Your Ghandi analogy would be more convincing if there was no resistance to the boarding (assuming the reports are accurate that there was – at this point, I find it hard to believe anyone in that region).

    That said, Dale put it quite accurately – “own goal” indeed. Shaw, really? You see criticism of Israel regarding this incident as unjust?

  • As one who abhors violence, I will not condone this reaction. But it certainly falls under the banner of what most Americans consider “legitimate defense”, no?

  • This guy went and looked up the relevant laws.

    The ships acted like gun-runners for the other side, so Israel was forced to respond like they might, possibly, be a threat. (Me, I’m shaking my head over having bloody paintball guns.)

    As one who abhors violence, I will not condone this reaction. But it certainly falls under the banner of what most Americans consider “legitimate defense”, no?

    Nope. You break into my house and the cops pull a gun on you, you don’t have a right to defend yourself, even though your life is in danger.

  • “(Me, I’m shaking my head over having bloody paintball guns.)”

    Indeed Foxfier. It appears that the Israelis have been infected with some of the unicorn and fairy spice rubbish in regard to the use of force that captivates so much of the West. If the Israelis had gone on heavily armed, I suspect the riot that confronted them may not have happened, and that a much lower body count would have been the result.

  • It seems impossible to make definitive statements about exactly what happened in this raid. The Israelis jammed media and communications on board the vessel, though a satellite feed was able to broadcast some of the event until it was halted by the IDF (at least according to the cameraman who has since been released). Other eyewitnesses claim to have had photographs and video of the events but everyone had their equipment seized. What we do know is that the Israelis boarded the vessel outside of their own exclusionary zone and in the cover of darkness. They have since released their own video and version of the events. However, short of all the available evidence we don’t really know what happened. Based on what we do know, I don’t see how anybody could justify this. Just from a prudential standpoint, it was an idiotic move on Israels part, and they are going to have to face the consequences. They are isolating themselves diplomatically and shifting the worlds attention away from where they need it (on, say, Iran). I happen to suspect that the Israeli actions were probably unjust and illegal, but even from the standpoint of their own self-interest, this action was stupid. Even if your sympathies lie entirely with the Israelis, I cannot see how someone could defend what happened here.

  • As one who abhors violence, I will not condone this reaction. But it certainly falls under the banner of what most Americans consider “legitimate defense”, no?

    Whatever one thinks of the actions of the men with clubs, they certainly can’t be considered “a classic non-violent resistence strategy.”

  • It strikes me that this whole series of events underscores the difficulties with the approach to “international law” and avoiding war which has been so prevalent since WW2.

    While the idea of keeping weapons shipments out of Gaza, while not going to war with it, is in theory appealing, the fact of the matter is that the means of enforcing a ban on shipping weapons to Gaza have to be so draconian to be effective that people will frequently be outraged by it. And at the end of the day, if Israel isn’t willing to use act-of-war type means to keep away ships ignoring their blockade, then the blockade ceases to have any meaning.

    Nonsensical though such a strategy might seem, it would probably make the most sense to take a completely hands-off approach to Gaza, and then, when Hamas does something truly unacceptable, roll in with tanks, flatten things for a bit, and then leave again.

    Countries are able to make war pretty effectively, but their ability to enforce peace is tenuous at best.

  • Israel and Iraq are the only mideast/Arab countries not suffering under the yoke of Islamo-fascist dicatorship or monarchy/oligarchy/sharia misrule.

    Freedom flotilla my eye.

    Anti-semitic commmenters seem consistent. They apparently support both abortion (Obama) and Islamofascist tyranny.

  • Even though I take for the most part the narrative of Palestinians as primary victims in this whole Israel/Palestine debacle over the years- I do not justify acts of terrorism directed at civilians conducted by Palestinians- I comprehend the rage that is at the root of such actions, but I don’t try to justify them- to comprehend and wish to prevent root causes is not the same as justification or endorsement.

    Now, it seems that many of my Catholic friends who take the side that Israel is the principal victim of Palestinians et al- many seem to labor hard at justifying any and every violent action on the part of the Israel establishment ( not saying the author of this entry is doing so)- be it the actions during the First and Second Intifada, the most recent attacks on Lebanon soil, the blockade of Gaza, the attack on Gaza, and this assault on the activist’ boat. None of these actions seem to constitute a moral dilemma for many Israel supporters even though civilians are very often caught up right in the middle things with civilian centers bombed, and civilians, not soldiers, being on board the boats. No matter that the WHO has condemned the embargo of Gaza- to many Israel supporters, all international organizations are rejected to a degree that is to my ear decidedly un-Catholic- if one is taking their cue from the Hierarchy- a prudential judgment to be sure- but so is the fact that I love my wife even if 9 of 10 American Catholic writers express their doubts.

    I would only suggest that those Israel defenders who also like to leap at the notion that those who generally take the Palestinian “victims of the Victims” line, are anti-semites who just hate Israel and maybe hate America as well.. Well I would only suggest that those out there who are taking this line, please look long and hard in the mirror and ask yourself if you may hold some deep-seated anti-Arab, anti-Persian prejudices that cause you to get angry at the drop of a hat- and maybe the very idea of Muslims causes a thick hatred in your heart, and maybe the reality of some of these types of persons- civilian or not- getting wacked by Israeli high or low command- actually makes you feel pretty, pretty good. Maybe it is an unspoken aspect of anti-Semitism that now holds aloft the Victims of the Holocaust but also feels no sympathy for low rent Arabs, Palestinians, or any of the rest of those who don’t feel blessed by the advent of secular Zionism or Christian Zionist Fundamentalist prophesies.

    I’m just saying that in my prudential judgment and as the result of my own eye-ball tour of Israel-Palestine years ago- it seems pretty obvious that the Palestinians are the little guys with very few friends who have any real clout in the major power centers- or at least are willing to use that clout- the Israeli side of the fence seems to be a yard full of European living standards, American-style military hardware and Intelligence operatives, and even a couple of hundred of nukes hidden away- and to think that Hamas and a 4th world economy in Gaza with homemade rockets are really providing an existential threat to Jews akin to Hitler’s Germany?? I just don’t make those kind of difficult leaps in my thinking. And so it goes for those of us more connected to brother and sister Catholics actually living in the Holy Land, and who take in the Hierarchical view from the Latin Patriarch with lots of interest and respect. As a Catholic convert, I had thought that part of being Catholic was being very much formed in the conscience along the lines of the Hierarchical teachings and leadership views- allowing for prudential judgments but for one to really put on the Mind of Christ, one couldn’t really just circumvent the thinking of the official Church and her Hierarchs. But I have learned that many Catholics like to take matters into their own hands, to be bold liberals and conservatives standing up to the old fuddy-duddy out-of-touch bishops and prelates in the Vatican. Good luck with that:}

  • tim shipe-
    The tools don’t matter. What you’re willing to do with them, does. Doesn’t matter if I have an M-16, if I won’t use it; doesn’t matter if you have “only” a baseball bat to use against me, if I won’t use my gun.

    If Israel were willing to carpet-bomb Gaza, then their troubles would be over. (For the obvious impaired: wouldn’t be right, but it would be simple.)

    Were they willing to send their guys in with actual weapons drawn on those trying to break the blockade, this would be a more complicated story.

    Didn’t happen. They took the idiots at their word, more the fools they.

    The biggest testament to Israel’s good will? The long line of volunteers for America’s liberals to get cheap grace by “standing up” to them.

  • “Nope. You break into my house and the cops pull a gun on you, you don’t have a right to defend yourself, even though your life is in danger.”

    Funny that. Israel was the one who “broke into” someone else’s house.

  • “As a Catholic convert, I had thought that part of being Catholic was being very much formed in the conscience along the lines of the Hierarchical teachings and leadership views”

    On secular matters Tim that has never been the case. In regard to foreign policy matters for instance Catholic rulers and peoples have never simply followed the Pope. There is a very long history in this area of Catholics making up there own minds on these types of questions, for good and for ill. I might add that this type of independence includes some of the greatest saints of the Church, for instance Saint Louis the IX of France always respected the popes of his day, but never forgot that he was King of France with duties and responsibilities in the secular realm that might well clash with the wishes of the Pope.

  • Even though I take for the most part the narrative of Palestinians as primary victims in this whole Israel/Palestine debacle over the years-

    Error #1.

  • This post by British MEP Daniel Hannan does a good job of expressing my views on the subject.

  • No, Karlson, the people who are “stupid” are the ones who compare (or defend those who compare) the admittedly deplorable conditions in Gaza to the systematic rounding up and murdering of 6 million people by roasting them in ovens.

    Can you really not recognize the cultural insensitivity of making an inapt Nazi comparison in accusing Jews of turning Gaza into a “concentration camp”?

    I won’t defend Israel over what is taking place in Gaza. My problem with Cardinal Martino’s statement isn’t in his bringing attention to the conditions in Gaza, it’s in the symbolically loaded words that Cardinal Martino used in doing so. Given what they went through in the Shoah, for Jews to be accused of acting like Nazis (especially when they are, in fact, NOT acting like Nazis) is despicable.

    Apart from the specific cultural insensitivity involved in accusing Jews of being like Nazis, let’s address the use of Nazi comparisons, in general. Analogical thinking is useful so long as the things being analogized are alike and the comparison is at least somewhat apt. Comparing people (or their actions) to Nazis is certainly an EASY rhetorical device because it invokes such strong imagery and paints the person being accused in the worst possible light. But it is the last refuge of the intellectually lazy and unthinking.

  • Give Karlson a break Jay. I suspect he thinks Israelis, at least those who run the military and the government, are Nazis, analogy be hanged.

  • Calling Gaza a big concentration camp does seem historically insensitive. I would have said “giant prison.”

  • I think a more accurate phrase is “a giant lunatic asylum”.

  • Some interesting information on some of the flotilla participants.

  • Funny that the “peaceful flotilla” was going to break into Israel’s backyard.

  • Here’s an interesting quote right up front on Don’s link:

    “Al-Baltaji, who is deputy secretary-general of the Muslim Brotherhood parliamentary bloc in Egypt, said at a March 2010 conference, “A nation that excels at dying will be blessed by Allah with a life of dignity and with eternal paradise.” He also said that his movement “will never recognize Israel and will never abandon the resistance,” and that “resistance is the only road map that can save Jerusalem, restore the Arab honor, and prevent Palestine from becoming a second Andalusia.[1]”

    One may look at Palestinians as being “alone” against Westernized Israel with “Big America’s” help. But there are tens of millions of Arabs who think like this.

    Is Israel innocent? No. Can Arabs like this prove an existential threat to Israel? I don’t know if they can now but they certainly did in the past. Can Arabs and Palestinians who think like this kill many Israelis? Yes. Should Israel protect itself against their like? Yes. How should they do that? I don’t know.

  • I might also add that if Gaza is a “giant prison” then its not Israel alone that is the prison guard. Egypt also seems to have problems with Palestinians by keeping their border with Gaza closed. I’ve never seen Egypt as a Western style, “Big America” type of country. But maybe that’s my anti-Muslim prejudice.

  • We need to get beyond the notion that the Shoah was somehow unique in history, and that the Jewish people have been wronged in a particularly unique manner, which justifies a “soft glove” treatment concerning the actions of Israel. This has been the consistent tactic of the secular state of Israel – to daub itself in the blood of the Jewish dead and dare us to criticize them. This must stop. Of course, the holocaust was a monstrous evil, but no worse than other great genocides of the 20th century, from Armenia through Stalin through Mao through Saloth Sar through Rwanda.

    The descendents of those who suffered in the Warsaw ghetto are now the ones patroling the ghetto in Gaza. They are the perpetators of injustice, and should be called out for it. And the foreign minister, Avigdor Liberman has used rhetoric that does indeed sound like the nazis. That they get away with consistent war crimes and human rights violations is a disgrace.

  • MM,

    I think the reason why people have difficulty seeing that approach as something other than simply anti-Jewish is that very often the same people insisting that the Isreali’s need to just toughen up and get over their hurt feelings about the Shoah are at the same time insisting on reparations to Palestinians for territory and property lost in ’48 or ’67.

    In a region afflicted with long memories, insisting that one side forget the past, while holding that the grudges of the other side are valid, doesn’t work well.

  • It’s not clear to me that people are excusing Israeli actions because of the Holocaust. I think most are saying that equating Gaza to a “concentration camp” is flawed and certainly not a Vatican pronouncement. As noted, there are other countries that are contributing to the problem including countries such as Jordan that have in the past rejected Palestinians efforts to live there. (What ever happened to the right to immigrate?!)

    Comparisons with Nazi Germany are unfortunate polemics. They do nothing to address the complex problems that both sides contribute to.

  • Minion, whether Israel is treated with a soft glove or an iron fist, the structural defect which prevents a stable equilibrium between the contending parties remains and is unaddressed.

    It has been remarked that material conditions in Gaza are rather less agreeable than those in Singapore or Hong Kong. Could have something to do with who lives there.

  • It is interesting that many seem to think that the American Left is effectively anti-Israel- the fact is that the mainstream liberal forces that dominate the Dems and media like the NY Times is hardly friendly to the progressives like Chomsky et al on the Israel/Palestine issue. The Dem party has been even more pro-Israel on the whole than the Repubs- in the book – They Dare to Speak Out- the majority of voices are Republican conservatives who have faced the charges of anti-Semitism due to their criticism of Israeli policies. Today you do see some strange bedfellows with progressives and “American conservative” types sharing disdain for such things as the Federal Reserve Board, American Empire “blowback” foreign policies, and the broad and excessive official support for the State of Israel- no matter what. So- I would say that it is a mistake to label the criticism of Israel as Leftist or anti-Semitic- even if you can find some Leftists and anti-Semites who criticize Israel with unusual intensity.

    My own passion is somewhat unique in that I didn’t visit the Holy Land/Middle East as a soldier or as a spiritual tourist focused on the Bible places and ignoring the humanity and politics around me. I won’t back away from an argument on Israel/Palestine because it is personal, it is Christian Holy Land, it is a situation of bigtime American involvement to support only one side in the Israel v. Palestine question, and I have lived and accepted the hospitality of both Palestinians and Israeli civilians when I stayed in the area for 3 months. I’m not interested in scoring points for the Left or the Right- I’m a Catholic not some liberal or conservative ideologue with a chip on his shoulder trying to dumb down the universe into a corrupt stream of human political sentiment- and I don’t have some racist or patriotic darkness that makes claim on my soul. I found Christ and His Church by following a simple prayer- “Lead me to the Truth”.

    Now let’s get serious- all the “Israel is the good guy- the victim in all this” crowd- stop whining about a few progressive online stories- you have been winning every battle for the sake of the support Israel movement for decades now- America doesn’t send billions of dollars of “aid” every year to Palestinians to use pretty much as they please, America doesn’t transfer the latest military technology and weaponry to Palestinians, America doesn’t lead the interference on behalf of Palestinians in the U.N. or any other international body- no my friends you pro-Israel types are the clear winners here in America- congrats on one of the most one-sided fights ever conducted- but I am lined up in opposition to you because you are wrong. That is my prudential judgment after long years of paying close attention to this issue. To view the Palestinians as the primary victims in the Israeli conflict is to be myself in a small minority status here in the U.S.- if I was running for Congress or the Presidency it would probably kill my campaign chances- so the world here in America is so obviously stacked in Israel’s favor- ok- you pro-Israel types are powerfully successful- that’s all you have though.

    I consider the Israelis and Palestinians to be equal in their human worth and I judge the political conditions they are in accordingly- I think it is clear that the Vatican and most Catholics with authority have determined that the best way forward is to see to it that all parties adhere to the natural law, the international laws, the international consensus as documented in the U.N. resolutions- and this is where I feel the confidence of my position since it is the same one I have arrived at after my own research, my own time spent in directly observing things in the region, and my own common sense. I think there has been a massively successful propaganda campaign in this country in both major establishments in the Left and Right Dems/Repubs, to portray things upside down in the Middle East- to ignore the facts on the ground like how beholden most of the Middle Eastern leaders are to outside the country forces- which explains why the polls of the people and the policies of their leaders are in such a state of disconnect. The result is that the Palestinians as a whole are left to rot, left to be occupied/embargoed/invaded/settled over and there is almost nothing to be done about it- except to pray and speak up, and wait for God’s judgment on all of us. It is very, very, important to me to have a clean conscience on this matter relating to the people of the Holy Land- if we can’t get that deal straight then where is the hope for any part of this planet? And we can’t hide from responsibility as the world’s superpower -especially since we have collectively laid down a fortune in time and treasure defending the Israeli position of absolute superiority and command of the air, sea, and land.

  • It has been remarked that material conditions in Gaza are rather less agreeable than those in Singapore or Hong Kong. Could have something to do with who lives there.

    It might also have something to do with the fact that the blockaid prevents any industry or commerce from taking place there. If Singapore of Hong Kong were subject to the same restrictions on the Gaza strip, material conditions would be pretty horrid there as well (and I dare say you’d say a fair amount of political extremism among the population).

  • Tim,

    They Dare to Speak Out was a polemic published twenty years ago by Paul Findlay. Not to current and not necessarily a thorough survey of that particular perspective. Quite likely biased in favor of political circles Mr. Findlay found otherwise aggreeable.

    You might suggest to your Arab hosts the next time you visit that they concoct a somewhat more elevated ultimate objective than running an ethnic cleansing extravaganza. Don’t imagine they’ll take that to heart, but you can make the attempt.

  • Blackadder, the blockade, whatever its effects, is comparatively recent. The place has been a hellhole for decades.

  • I might also note the list of folk inclined to run a blockade of Singapore or Hong Kong is short. There is a reason for that.

  • Blackadder, the blockade, whatever its effects, is comparatively recent. The place has been a hellhole for decades.

    I believe the amount of stuff allowed in and out under the blockaid is between 1/4th and 1/40th of what was occurring before the blockaid began (that includes food).

  • “They Dare to Speak Out”

    Written by Paul Findlay, the pro-abort, PLO loving former Republican Congressman from Springfield. The only time I have personally helped out Democrats to defeat a Republican. We finally took him out in ’82. He was defeated by Dick Durbin who ran as a pro-lifer. He then went to Congress and flip-flopped on abortion I think around 88 or 89 when he became ambitious and realized that a strong pro-life Democrat had no future in the Democrat leadership in Congress. The district is currently represented by a pro-life Republican. Mr. Findlay has spent his retirement railing against Israel. Hey Paul! Don’t forget us pro-lifers! We helped retire you also!

  • Foxfier,

    If aid to Gaza really did go up 900% in 2009 that would be a rather strong indictment of Israeli policy there, no?

  • Blackadder-
    Since they’ve been talking about how the Gaza strip needs more aid for as far back as I can remember, no, not really.

  • Mildly amused… just dawned on me: Israel stopping aid to Gaza: they’re big meanies. More aid than ever going into Gaza: they’re big meanies. Can’t win for losing.

  • Mildly amused… just dawned on me: Israel stopping aid to Gaza: they’re big meanies. More aid than ever going into Gaza: they’re big meanies.

    The fact that you find this a paradoxical combination suggests a touch of innumeracy. You seem to think that aid to Gaza increasing 900% means there must be lots of aid, whereas if anything it suggests the opposite. Imagine trying to increase the amount of food you consume by 900%. Heck, imagine trying to increase it 100%. If I tell you that a guy has increased his food intake by 900% and you had to guess whether he was obese or underweight, which option would you pick?

  • One difficulty you have had in the Near East is the dole from the United Nations Relief and Works Agency which has been continuous for 60 years. That has tended to insulate a section of the Arab refugee population from a consideration of the real costs and consequences of various courses of action.

    The population is subject to a blockade because they misbehave; they are heavily dependent on aid because they are comparatively unproductive. One might even speculate that the lack of human capital and the lack of salutary and constructive political goals have a common source.

  • To solve this, one must know how much aid was going in before and how much is now. Using the analogy of how much food one eats doesn’t really help. We need real numbers.

  • I think that was Blackadder’s point – 900% doesn’t really tell us much in absolute terms.

  • – 80 percent of Gazans dependent on humanitarian aid.

    – Massive spike in poverty and unemployment. UN: 60 per cent of households are “food insecure”.

    – Over 90 per cent of Gaza’s factories shut or operate at less than 10 per cent of capacity.

    – Exports reduced to almost zero.

    – Severe restrictions on fishing activity.

    – Only half the weekly fuel needed for Gaza’s only power plant let in, and less than half of needed monthly gas supply. Widespread electricity shortages.

    – Humanitarian aid at whim of Israelis. WHO trucks repeatedly turned away.

    – Almost no movement of people. Familes ripped apart. West Bank students and seminarians trapped.

    – Medical emergencies that cannot be dealt with in Gaza require a permit to leave, which is often delayed or denied. Some deaths resulted.

    – Banned list includes basic goods, including food.

    – Banned list designed in part to protect the profit margins of Israeli producers.

    – Widespread shortages, including of basic goods like soap, school materials and clean drinking water. Rampant black market (benefits Hamas).

    And there are still Catholics and those who claim to be pro-life that support this???

  • I would not stipulate that all of the conditions you enumerate are in force, but the description does not surprise me.

    I do not ‘support’ that state of the world. I do not ‘support’ people drinking themselves to death either, but they do. No, I do not think it is wise to unconditionally subsidize hopeless alcoholics.

    Why are they dependent on ‘humanitarian aid’? Because they are not producing for export. They neither migrated to locales where they would be useful nor developed local industries. (Labor migration in the Arab world in the 1970s was immense, by the way). Neither (after a certain date) did they conduct themselves in a manner congruent with maintaining orderly international commerce. Well, there they are. There is a great deal of pathos in their situation, particularly in so far that there are undoubtedly many who are quite innocent in any corrupted population, but it is not a destiny they collectively sought to avoid.

    It is generally not that difficult to live with your neighbors. It is difficult to live against your neighbors, if that’s what you want to do.

  • The fundamental problem is 1). Hamas and the many other radical Islamist groups in the area 2). the very large percentages of the population that support these groups.

    There are very deeply sick cultures the Iraelis, and any decent person in the region, has to deal with on a daily basis.

    Responsibility for the unfortunate fact that Gaza and other areas have been one giant welfare black hole for decades rests with the population, and with their death-worship ideologies.

    Odd and sadly predictable that so many continously bash the only humane liberal democracy anywhere in sight – the only place where can be openly gay or an athiest and not worry about keeping their life, for example – with little condemnation Hamas and Egypt (and why do they treat their fellow ethnics so badly?), among others (such as the Iran and Syria that smuggle weapons and support young “martyr” cannon fodder to the more than eager residents of Gaza).

    BTW, Not a surprise:

    And let’s not be pretend that this latest stunt by “peace activists” (what a joke) was not (it now seems pretty clear) anything else than one more effort by Turkey to seek regional prestige – probably against Iran.

  • Blackadder-
    “aid coming in” is quite a bit different from “amount of food being eaten.”

    A more fair comparison may be “taxable income”– which it is entirely possible to have go up by 900%; should someone’s taxable income go up by 900%, it means they are not going without pay…but it does’t needfully mean their taxable and untaxed income put together was lower.

    You still haven’t explained how Israel is letting only between a quarter and 1/40th of (you imply) the food it was before and admitting more (official) aid than before. Now, if it’s 1/4th the total weight of EVERYTHING it was before, and they were shipping in lots of bunker building supplies, that would make sense…and kinda prove Israel’s point.

    Phillip, c matt– the numbers are linked from the link I posted. If Blackadder objected to relative amounts being used, he probably wouldn’t have used them himself.

  • “We need to get beyond the notion that the Shoah was somehow unique in history,”

    What an appalling statement Tony. I will defer to the Jewish philosopher Emil Fackenheim on this point:

    “The “Final Solution” was designed to exterminate every single Jewish man, woman and child. The only Jews who would have conceivably survived had Hitler been victorious were those who somehow escaped discovery by the Nazis.

    Jewish birth (actually mere evidence of “Jewish blood”) was sufficient to warrant the punishment of death. Fackenheim notes that this feature distinguished Jews from Poles and Russians who were killed because there were too many of them, and from “Aryans” who were not singled out unless they chose to single themselves out. With the possible exception of Gypsies, he adds, Jews were the only people killed for the “crime” of existing.

    The extermination of the Jews had no political or economic justification. It was not a means to any end; it was an end in itself. The killing of Jews was not considered just a part of the war effort, but equal to it; thus, resources that could have been used in the war were diverted instead to the program of extermination.

    The people who carried out the “Final Solution” were primarily average citizens. Fackenheim calls them “ordinary job holders with an extraordinary job.” They were not perverts or sadists. “The tone-setters,” he says, “were ordinary idealists, except that their ideals were torture and murder.” Someone else once wrote that Germany was the model of civilized society. What was perverse, then, was that the Germans could work all day in the concentration camps and then go home and read Schiller and Goethe while listening to Beethoven.”

    Other examples of mass murder exist in human history, such as the atrocities committed by Pol Pot in Cambodia and the Turkish annihilation of the Armenians. But none of those other catastrophes, Fackenheim argues, contain more than one of the characteristics described above.

    I might add Tony that while the Holocaust was going on more than a few Palestinians, including the Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, were cheering Hitler on. The Holocaust does not absolve Jews from moral responsibility for their actions, but it should make any thinking individual understand why the Israelis are concerned for their security, especially when a staple of Palestinian propaganda are calls for a second Holocaust.

  • “aid coming in” is quite a bit different from “amount of food being eaten.”

    So your view would be what, that the vast majority of food shipped into Gaza just sits there rotting after the Palestinians have all eaten their fill?

    You still haven’t explained how Israel is letting only between a quarter and 1/40th of (you imply) the food it was before and admitting more (official) aid than before.

    The blockaid has been in place since 2007. The statistic you cited was that aid in 2009 was 900% higher than aid in 2008. Is it really so hard for you to understand how both these things can be true?

    Suppose that, prior to the blockaid, 40 million tons of food is brought into Gaza a year. After the blockaid, only food aid is allowed into Gaza. One million tons of food aid is brought in in 2008; ten million tons is brought in in 2009. Result: aid went up 900% in 2009, yet the total amount of food brought in is still 1/4th of what it was before.

  • Why are they dependent on ‘humanitarian aid’? Because they are not producing for export.

    Export is all but prohibited by the blockaid, so the fact that Gaza isn’t producing for export is hardly shocking. And given the nature of the land in the Gaza strip, the only way for people to be able to feed themselves by selling exports. And since that’s not allowed, dependency on food aid is inevitable. If you were under the restrictions placed on Gaza you would have to depend on food aid too.

  • The blockade was imposed in June 2007. Gaza was not a prosperous little city-state prior to that. Again, the UNRWA dole has been in place for sixty years. It is the most durable example of collective mendicancy in the world today.

    Likewise, political revanchism is not a product of any blockades imposed in the last three years. Revanchist candidates won the municipal elections Israel held in the West Bank and Gaza in 1972 and 1976. An authentically liberal-democratic strain of political thought is inconsequential on the West Bank and in the Gaza strip and that is just the deal.

  • Blackadder-
    You pretty clearly aren’t even bothering to try to find out what’s up.

    First you say there’s only a tiny fraction going in, then you say that because there’s a lot going in things are dire, then you think all the aid is food– even though GLANCING at the list of items on any of these stories would let you know that “aid” is all sorts of things (fuel not being counted in the weight) and now you’re not even aware that, hey, Gaza actually does export. It is a bit restricted, since they have a habit of being used to smuggle the primary export of “kill the Jews,” but every other outrage about Gaza is how Israel is horrible for messing up their exports.

    Me, I’m startled that thousands of flowers (last St. V’s day’s outrage) thousands of tons of strawberries and tomatoes is both “prohibited” and not worth mentioning.

    Shoot, maybe if they had greenhouses they could grow more food….

    Meh, screw it; I’m done with banging against this wall. You’ll just decide to insult me, again. It’s like arguing against contraception with a child of the ’60s.

  • The flotilla organizers drew attention to the illegal blockade. I’m not convinced, based on what I’ve read, that resistance preceded violence on the part of the commandos. There are reports that suppressive fire resulted in activist deaths prior to the commandos boarding. It also sounds like the Israeli team lacked the means to engender crowd dispersal (such as tear gas). An American was shot 4 times in the head and once in the chest but I suppose he had it coming, despite being unarmed, because he was “spoiling for a fight” and at least associated with people who aren’t “nice.”

  • “despite being unarmed, because he was “spoiling for a fight” and at least associated with people who aren’t “nice.””

    I guess Mr. Furkan Dogan, who had dual Turkish and American citizenship and who was living in Turkey, wasn’t clear on the concept that “running a blockade” might not be the safest of pastimes. As to people who aren’t “nice” I think that is a rather mild description of the terrorist affiliations of the individuals on board the Turkish ship.

Deal Hudson on Israel and Palestinian Christians, Revisited

Sunday, April 19, AD 2009

In his latest article for, Deal Hudson presents Ten Hard Facts Confronting Benedict XVI in the Holy Land concerning the plight of Palestinian Christians.

One would expect that — when presenting a list of “hard facts”, particularly a topic as provocative as the Israeli-Palestinian conflict — elementary journalistic standards would require the citation of a source.

Furthermore, one might expect the placement of such statistics in context to further enable a moral evaluation.

That Hudson completely neglects to do this is frustrating, to say the least.

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5 Responses to Deal Hudson on Israel and Palestinian Christians, Revisited

  • The Palestinian Human Rights Monitoring Group is a good source. The group is very critical of Israel, Hamas and the Palestinian Authority and seems quite even-handed. There is a wealth of material on the site.

  • Jerusalem Fever, that malady that frequently affects traverlers to the Holy Land seems to have bitten Deal.

  • Christopher,

    Good post but you may want to go back through and clean up the formatting. It’s a little unclear when you are quoting others and when you are writing in your own voice.

    Again, good post and one I plan to share with friends.

  • Mark,

    Thanks — For some reason I always have this difficulty w/ WordPress. (I tend to write in straight HTML to my other blogs, cut/paste into WordPress; for some reason the latter has trouble interpreting multiple-paragraph blockquotes. I’ll have to be more vigilant. =)

  • Good information. I remember a Lebanese Christian family I once knew. They were terrified of their Muslim countrymen.

Should Pope Benedict visit Gaza? – A response to Deal Hudson

Monday, April 13, AD 2009

In February, a group of Palestinian Christians asked Pope Benedict XVI to call off his planned visit to Israel and the West Bank, concerned that his visit would “help boost Israel’s image and inadvertently minimize Palestinian suffering under Israeli occupation.” (Haaretz).

Adopting a different approach, Ma’an News Agency reports that a petition raised by the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley, California, the University of San Francisco, and several other U.S. peace organizations asking Pope Benedict XVI to make a stop in the Gaza Strip has received over 2000 signatures.

In a recent post to, Deal Hudson raises the question: Should Benedict XVI Include Gaza in his Holy Land Visit? — answering in the affirmative:

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12 Responses to Should Pope Benedict visit Gaza? – A response to Deal Hudson

  • Well- here is the problem I have with the case made by those American Catholics who pretty much toe the pro-Israel line in these type of discussions. The 800 lb. gorilla in the room is the Palestinian Catholic and Christian community point-of-view. This is the point-of-view I champion because first- these are my brothers and sisters in Christ- many American Catholics act as if the mostly secular Jews of America and Israel are their spiritual soul mates- this smacks of the distorted theology of fundamentalist Christian Zionism.

    Secondly, I took up the challenge of coming to a position on events in Israel-Palestine, by going to live in Galilee with a Palestinian priest who started a school for children- Catholic, Orthodox and Muslim. I spent about 3 months in this community, and travelled with some of the high school studentsand teachers around the region. The history teacher kept pointing out where former Palestinian villages were destroyed or taken over by Israelis and given new names and new residents. The bitterness was palpable. I also was offered work as a teacher for U.S. AID, in Hebron, West Bank- I went to scout it out and found a nightmare. About 500 Jewish settlers took over some buildings in the downtown of a town of around 100,000 Palestinians lived. They were supported and protected by the Israeli military- they even have holidays where the Jews are allowed to march down the streets shouting racist tripe while the military keeps the Arabs off the streets at gunpoint- sounds like something American Catholics should be rallying against, not supporting to the hilt. Needless to say I turned down the job because I felt that I would be a legitimate target for Arab violence, representing the U.S. government who sponsers and supports Israel like it was a U.S. state, not a foreign country.

    I really just don’t get how American Catholics can so easily overlook the obvious best source of information on the Israel-Palestine conflict- the local Catholic community. I suspect it is because most Americans go to the Holy Land as tourists seeking personal spiritual fulfillment, not as comprehensive truth seekers. And of course, American Catholic poll just the same as all other Americans on every major issue, seemingly, so it is apparent that most are not doing much homework to dig into Holy See viewpoints, let along the Holy Land’s Catholic Hierarchical views. And so, the AIPAC/CAMERA narrative wins the propaganda war, dominating both major parties, all the major media, and with strong footholds in Christian Zionist and conservative Catholic niches, it is a slam-dunk for Israel, All-Israel- all the time. The Palestinians are ignored during long stretches of relative non-violent resistance- with no attention given to the checkpoints, the land and resource grabs by extremist Zionist settlers until some Palestinian resistance turns violent, then the idea that Palestinian lives are anywhere equal to an Israeli life is completely rejected- the Palestinian civilians are not even equal to an Israeli military personnel- any attack from the Palestinian side is terrorism no matter the target, and the Israelis can indulge in assassinations of Palestinian leaders and attack civilian centers and call it unfortunate collateral damage. It is all such a sham.

    The only way to see this dark story more clearly is to actually listen and learn from the one community in the area that should be our natural go-to partner- the Palestinian Catholics. That’s what I did, and that is the basis for my confidence in my own position- and because I made it personal by staying with actual Palestinians, and actual Israelis, I don’t have any truck with the propagandists and those with anti-Arab prejudices, and see Islam only through the lens of 9-11- Where have you been? I will take every opportunity to defend the Catholic community in the Holy Land- it seems that the American Catholic community is bent on a self-fulfilling prophesy that pits Palestinian Muslims in a holy war against Palestinian Christians- that may end up happening thanks to U.S. and Israeli power politics, but it will be mostly on the souls of Americans and Israeli apologists- I am convert to Catholicism, so maybe I’m missing something- I thought that it was the first responsibility of the Pope to help nurture and cultivate the seeds of the Church, the small oppressed Catholic communities- I would think the Holy Land Catholics would qualify- but it seems the interest in their plight- like that of Iraqi Christians, is really not a high priority for the American Catholic community- I, for one, won’t just sit on my hands fearing the accusation of anti-Semite. I will stand with the forces within the Jewish community, I know that Jews are very much conflicted about the politics of Israel, just as patriotic Americans are very much conflicted over American wars and foreign policies- for very good reason.

  • Tim,

    I’d agree that it’s important to listen to the voices of local Christian populations, but it can hardly be the only factor. The obvious counter-example would be the situation ten years ago in Bosnia, where the US intervened against Milosevic and the local Christian populations in one of the very few US military actions in the last 30 years which the Vatican specifically endorsed the justice of.

    Yet having been in Greece at the time I can assure you that the local Christian (Orthodox) populations were absolutely livid, and thought that the Bosnian Muslims had simply been getting what they deserved. Being Christian does not save one from having one’s viewpoints poisoned by nationalism.

  • It also has to be said that Palestinian Christians will collaborate with whatever terrorist regime they have to, even their own persecutors, if they believe it will redound to their material benefit.

    It’s the same for our Catholic brothers in Iraq. They spend decades actively collaborating in Saddam’s genocidal regime, putting their stomachs before their souls, and then they’re shocked, SHOCKED!, that once that government is toppled their Church is revealed to be decrepit, irrelevant, and dwindling.

    If Palestinian Christians are oh-so concerned about the dwindling nature of their communities, they have none but themselves to blame. Arab Catholics, and their leaders, are ALWAYS going out of their way to protest how strong they DISCOURAGE conversions and REFUSE to evangelize their Muslim neighbors. Bishop Hinder of Saudi Arabia and Patriarch Delly of Babylon are two major examples of prelates who publicly and explicitly dissent from Christ’s Great Commission, and I read interviews ALL THE TIME from Christian leaders (mostly Catholics!) in Muslim countries who say all they want are Muslims to be better Muslims, that they TURN AWAY people who come to them asking for baptism.

    There’s also the issue of long-standing anti-Semitism, some Christian and some Islamic, which Arab Christians by and large have failed to shake off in the years since Vatican II.

    I don’t do tribal politics, and neither I suspect does Mr. Blosser. A cause is not just and right, and neither is a perspective accurate, just because it happens to be embraced by someone who calls themselves Catholic. Palestinian Catholics are wrong to embrace Hamas and Fatah, just as American Catholics were wrong to embrace Barack Obama and the Democrat Party. Blind tribal politics are for the uninformed and the ignorant, and to pretend that Palestinian Christians do not act out of base, selfish motives, and even out of a kind of cultural Stockholm syndrome, is VERY naive.

    Shame on Dr. Hudson for his LATEST hackjob report on Arab Christianity, failing to take even the smallest steps toward reporting in an objective and balanced manner. We are all dhimmis now.

  • Agreed on the point that the local Catholic community is not to be the only point of reference- but the problem here in the U.S. is that I hear almost no mention of the Palestinian Catholic viewpoint on this important U.S. foreign policy concern. I found that having a view from the ground of the Holy Land really helped me to get some clarity- no one in their right mind wants to risk being labeled anti-Semite- and since I grew up in a suburb that was heavily Jewish, I didn’t want to offend people I grew up with, and a really close Czech Jewish friend who I spent a great deal of time with during my year’s stay in Czech. But all of the evidence from my stay with Palestinian Catholics, and also a couple of weeks with an American married to a Russian Jewish emigrant- combined with a lot of reading from multiple perspectives- led me to see a convergence of evidences- as is the path to our certainties as taught by Father Dubay.

    I just wanted to point out that we should be doing all we can to get the perspective of brother/sister Catholics whenever there is a big conflict going on where we are neck-deep with our tax monies and powers of state and commerce- I don’t want anything to do with supporting the oppression of Catholics anywhere in the world- we must be extra-aware, and extra-cautious.

  • Mr. Shipe:

    It’s Islamdom which is oppressing our Catholic brothers and sisters, both directly and indirectly. Everybody would live happily ever after if only Palestine would accept a two-state solution and stop behaving like savage barbarians. It really is THAT simple.

  • Benedict XVI simply repeats the itinerary of John Paul II. “There will be bad consequences for the Church if he does this,” Abu Zuluf told me.

    This smacks of Stockholm Syndrome, and might at least partly explain the attitude of many Palestinian Christians. They are powerless against the Islamo-fascists who couldn’t care less about world opinion, so they seek to turn world opinion against the Israeli’s, essentially trying to ransom themselves by spreading their tormentors propaganda.


    many American Catholics act as if the mostly secular Jews of America and Israel are their spiritual soul mates- this smacks of the distorted theology of fundamentalist Christian Zionism.

    Can you tell me where you read this in the above posting? This is not responsive in any way to the posting, it’s simply a liberal talking point.

    The history teacher kept pointing out where former Palestinian villages were destroyed or taken over by Israelis and given new names and new residents.

    Did he point out any places where Jewish villages were destroyed or taken over by Arabs? Just curious, it seems you’re only interested in one side of the story.

    I felt that I would be a legitimate target for Arab violence,

    Sounds like you suffered from a little Stockholm Syndrom yourself. It seems to me that unarmed civilian workers sent to AID THE PALESTINIANS are not “legitimate targets” by Catholic doctrine.

    the Palestinian civilians are not even equal to an Israeli military personnel- any attack from the Palestinian side is terrorism no matter the target, and the Israelis can indulge in assassinations of Palestinian leaders and attack civilian centers and call it unfortunate collateral damage

    Since Palestinian attacks rarely successfully target Israeli military personnel, they’re successful attacks are overwhelmingly terrorist in nature. When they are successful in killing Israeli troops it’s usually at a border crossing. Interesting, the very place where IDF is vulnerable is the place that they allow goods to travel into the Palestinian territories… Do you think Israel provides for these goods to benefit some Zionist goal? It would certainly be safer for the IDF to simply wall them up permanently. Remember these attacks are the work of the legitimate government of Gaza, they can’t be blamed on some isolated group of extremists.

    This argument is getting tired. If Israel was bent on genocide they would simply get it done, nobody doubts their ability to make a clean sweep. Does anybody doubt that if Hamas had the power to do a clean sweep of Jews from all Israel/Palestine it would wait 1 hour before doing so? Try and look at things more objectively.

  • I strongly agree with both Matt and Lex. Might does not automatically make right, but that does not mean the weaker party automatically has moral superiority. If the Palestinians laid down their arms, they would have peace – and their own state. If the Israelis laid down their arms, they would perish.

    The Hamas charter specifically calls for the destruction of Israel. The Palestinians, and the Arab world in general, have stated openly time and time again that their ultimate goal is to drive the Jews into the sea. Why is it so hard for so many people to take them at their own word?

  • A good article here as to how Palestinian Christians are often treated by Palestinian Muslims.

    Blaming Israel for the plight of Palestian Christians ignores the simple fact that native Christians are usually treated as third class citizens throughout the Arab world. The best assistance that native Christians in a majority Arab muslim culture can receive from their fellow Christians in the West is a one way ticket to the West. 35% of Palestinian Christians have emigrated in the past four decades. They are the fortunate ones.

  • If the Israelis suddenly left life wouldn’t be any better for the Arab Christians. Indeed, the Palestininas would just have more time to persecute them.

  • The Holy Father doesn’t need to go to Gaza. A symbolic gesture of solidarity such as allowing a little Catholic child from Gaza to visit the Pope in the Holy Land would suffice. The persecuted and suffering members of the Church Militant are spread throught the world, not always telvised and without lobby groups, from the gang-infested barrios of East LA to the terrorist-infested slums of Southern Philippines.

  • I actually live in Israel and work as an interfaith represenative in Haifa. Most Jews, Christians, and Muslims in Israel live together in peace. Most people on both sides of the border have been unfairly stereotyped. The Pope should have the right to go anywhere that he chooses without the political hot air getting in the way. His visit could help promote peace; but I did not know that he represents the United Nations? He is the leader of The Catolic Church

  • How can Catholics of the world show such utter disdain for the brave Catholics of Palestine? They’re suffering terribly from the failed state they’re living in (including attacks from their traumatised neighbours). But they’re trying to hang on, trying not to be forced from their homeland by the occupation. The Catholic father in Gaza, running his mixed school, is Manuel Musallam, a courageous man indeed. If he ever leaves his flock, Israel has told him he’ll never be able to get back in. He goes months with no visitors able to come and see him. Shame on the Pope for deserting a man of the cloth in such need!