He was never going to please everybody in his visit to the vortex of the world’s spiritual turbulence. Even so, the Pontiff’s visit to Palestine and Israel was a miraculous balance of grace and prophetic energy!
He went with a promise that his tour of the Holy Land would be of a strictly religious nature. Even so, Zionists had plenty to criticise him for:
- The Pope flew directly from Jordan to Bethlehem, thus by-passing Palestine’s Israeli gate-keepers.
- He refused to speak of Israel as a ‘state of the Jewish people‘ (despite promptings from Mr Netanyahu)
- He did refer to the ‘State of Palestine’, confirming the Vatican’s recognition of Palestinian as an independent state.
Even so, the Pope did not openly advocate the Palestinian cause but rather directed all his energies towards emphasising inclusiveness:
- He travelled everywhere with his Jewish and Muslim companions – Rabbi Abraham Skorka and and Sheikh Omar Abboud.
- he spoke of Jerusalem as the birthplace of the three great monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity and Islam).
- He stopped and prayed at a graffitied section of the so-called ‘Apartheid Wall’ that separates Israel and Palestine.
- He likewise stopped and prayed at the so-called ‘Wailing Wall’ in Jerusalem – inserting into the wall a prayer for peace between Christian, Muslims and Jews
The Pope’s coup de gras though came when he invited both the Palestinian and Israeli Presidents – Mahmoud Abbas and Shimon Peres, respectively – to join him at his home in the Vatican to pray for peace between Israel and Palestine.
This was a political master-stroke as neither of the two men could respectfully decline such an offer. At the same time, who knows whether this might not give birth to a genuine peace-process, mediated over by a far more honest broker than the heavily compromised Americans!
With this bold initiative the Roman Pontiff managed to harness leaders of both countries and take them to neutral soil where they will have the opportunity to listen to the Almighty as well as each other!
Was this a piece of subtle political maneuvering or simply the prayerful offer of a pious man. In truth it was both, for prayer and politics cannot be easily separated. Both are concerned with the welfare of people, and so both are the business of the church!
If I were a cartoonist I’d depict Santa trying to get his sleigh over the wall that cuts off the West Bank from Israel, or perhaps I’d do one of Santa trying to break the siege on Gaza by attempting to deliver a sleigh-full of inadmissible toys to Gaza’s children. Either way, one can only imagine a bloody end to big elf’s Yuletide venture to the Holy Land.
It can’t be pure coincidence that the Israeli government unleashes some of its worst violence on the captive populations of Gaza and the West Bank during the Christmas season. Operation Cast Lead began on December 27. This Christmas there have been a series of bloody incidents:
- Scores of Bedouin refugees, including 32 children, were made homeless after a series of housing demolitions in the West Bank that the UNRWA says is a “violation of international law” (see here).
- IDF warplanes and tanks unleashed hell on Gaza, killing a number of civilians including a 3 year-old girl. They claim that they were targeting “terror sites” after an Israeli workman had been shot by a sniper while repairing the fence that keeps the Gazan people captive (see here).
- On Christmas Eve IDF soldiers raided the Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem – intimidating and harassing the beleaguered camp population (see here).
I guess it makes sense that the IDF increases its activity at times when it knows that its US allies are on holidays and otherwise busy with family and partying. Even so, there’s an additional incentive in 2013 for stirring up more trouble at this point in time – the so-called ‘peace talks’.
Reports are coming in that, contrary to all expectations, there may be real signs of hope emerging from John Kerry’s latest rounds of talks. Netanyahu has no intention, of course, of allowing a sovereign Palestinian state to come into existence, but maintaining the illusion that he does support Palestinian independence is a vital element in the great charade.
If a peace deal should start to look inevitable, as it has on more than one occasion already, a spanner will need to be thrown into the works from somewhere – a lead negotiator will have to be disposed of (eg. Arafat) or an incident will take place that will ‘force’ the Israelis to abandon all friendly discussion.
Meanwhile, in Bethlehem, the Latin Patriarch, Fouad Twal, prays for peace:
“Oh Holy Child, who experienced the flight into Egypt after the threat from Herod, who two thousand years ago killed the children of Bethlehem, have mercy on our children, and all the world’s children. Have mercy on prisoners, on the poor, the marginalized, and the most vulnerable among us.”
(read Twal’s complete Christmas homily here)
It appears that the Abbot government has slyly changed Australia’s policy regarding Israel-Palestine without making any mention of it to the Australian public!
Two weeks ago Australia abstained from voting on two resolutions at the UN General Assembly – one condemning the expansion of Jewish settlements and another calling for the Geneva Convention to apply in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.
Just in case there was any doubt about the new position, yesterday Australia voted “NO” to a resolution declaring 2014 the “International Year of Solidarity with the Palestinian People”.
If you read the details contained in the resolution (below) there is nothing in them that is remotely anti-Israel. Even so, the usual culprits objected:
- Israel, the United States and Canada (the big three)
- Micronesia, Marshall Islands and Palau (the three US protectorates) and …
This effectively reverses the stance of the previous Australian government. Former Foreign Affairs Minister, Bob Carr, was right in calling this a “shame”. Julia Bishop had the gaul to refer to the new policy as more “balanced”!
From a purely mathematical point of view – 110 votes in favour and only 7 against – I suppose Australia is contributing to more balance, in a sense, until you realise that the rest of the world has good reason to stand in solidarity with the Palestinian people. They are victims of the longest military occupation in human history!
I personally cannot reconcile how the new Australian Prime Minister can openly call himself a Christian and yet taken such an inhuman stance on both refugees and the suffering people of Palestine. Perhaps I’m missing something?
UN Declares 2014 As International Year Of Solidarity With Palestinians
The resolution called for all efforts to promote the realisation of the inalienable rights of Palestinians including their right to self-determination, support the Middle East peace process for the achievement of a two-state solution and the just resolution of all final status issues, and to mobilise international support for and assistance to Palestinians.
The resolution also affirmed the general assembly’s support for the Middle East peace process on the basis of relevant UN resolutions, the terms of reference of the Madrid Conference, including the principle of land for peace, the Arab Peace Initiative adopted by the Council of the League of Arab States and a permanent two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Among others things, it welcomed the resumption of Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations on July 29 aimed at resolving all core final status issues and concluding a final peace agreement within the agreed time frame of nine months.
Admittedly, the signatories to this statement are all American Rabbis. It would be more encouraging still if a hundred or so Israeli rabbis signed a similar statement. Even so, this is a significant step forward and another solid indication that not all Jews support the war-mongering of the Israeli President.
The most impressive thing about this statement, from my perspective, is the open confession of the history of willful violence enacted on Iran by the United States. Even so, it is disappointing that the great elephant in the room – namely, the massive Israeli stockpile of nuclear weapons – doesn’t get a mention.
Step by Step toward Shalom with Iran
As Rabbis, Cantors, and other Clergy serving the American Jewish community, we are deeply committed, as Jewish tradition teaches –
§ to the shalom –- peace, social justice, functioning democratic process, and ecological sanity –of the country where we live – all of which would be damaged by still another unnecessary war;
§ to the shalom, peace and security, of the State of Israel, to its democratic character, and to its special relationship with the Jewish people;
§ to unequivocal action by all the Arab-majority and Muslim-majority states to make peace with Israel, and to Israel’s unequivocal action to make peace with all its neighbors, including an emergent Palestine;
§ to our respect and our prayers for salaam, peace and justice, among our cousins in the Abrahamic tradition, Arab and Muslim civilizations;
§ to the peace and prosperity of all the “70 nations” of the world;
§ and to the healing of our wounded planet.
For all these reasons, we welcome warmly the greatly increased possibility of a peaceful resolution of the conflicts among the US, Iran, Israel, and other nations.
We especially welcome the new attitudes toward the Jewish people and toward the nuclear issue set forth by the new President of Iran, and his assertion that Iran will never hold nuclear weapons. We also recall the repeated assertions and fatwas by Grand Ayatollah Khameini that for Iran to possess nuclear weapons would violate Islam.
We urge the US and Iran to move swiftly to agree on a step-by-step process of reducing and ultimately ending sanctions against Iran in accord with steps by Iran to make its nuclear research transparent and to allow verification that its research is directed wholly toward civilian uses of nuclear energy. We believe that such a step-by-step process is the best way to guarantee that both parties are fulfilling their commitments.
We urge Iran to make clear its full acceptance of Israel as a legitimate state in the fabric of international relations, protected like all other states from aggression and attack.
We urge the Government of Israel to welcome steps by Iran to make clear and verifiable its commitment to use nuclear energy and research for peaceful purposes only, not for pursuit of nuclear weaponry, and while this process is under way, we urge Israel to end hostile acts and statements toward Iran.
We urge the peoples of the United States, Iran, and Israel to reject and oppose all statements and actions from whatever source that undermine the swift and thorough achievement of agreements to ensure the civilian nature of Iran’s nuclear program and to end sanctions against Iran.
We urge the American people to recognize and do tshuvah (“turning” or “repentance”) for the ethical errors of our own government toward Iran – particularly, the US Government’s intervention in 1953 to overthrow the democratically elected reform government of Iran; US actions to support the tyrannical regime of the Shah until the Iranian people overthrew it in 1979; and US support for Iraq’s wars of aggression against Iran in the 1980s, including US support for Saddam Hussein’s use of chemical weapons to kill 100,000 Iranians.
We urge the Iranian people to do tshuvah for their government’s demonization of the United States and Israel, for its holding US diplomats hostage for more than a year in 1979-1980, and for the support it seems to have covertly given for attacks on Israeli citizens.
We believe that this combination of governmental acts and public rethinking and re-feeling can move American society, the entire Middle East, and the world toward the shalom that Judaism yearns for.
to read the list of signatories, click here