Moscow’s Catholic Archbishop and the Orthodox Patriarch have sent messages of solidarity to the Jewish community, who were subjected to a violent attack by a knife-wielding neo-Nazi.
The Catholic Archbishop, Mgr Tadeusz Kondrusewicz, described the stabbing of eight worshipers in a Moscow synagogue as “terrible, inhuman, full of blind hatred for our fellow man”. He released a statement stating that he offered prayers that “the victims in the synagogue attack in Moscow may promptly heal and that the person who carried it out convert to better intentions.”
“Let us pray,” he added, “that all those who have violent thoughts may be enlightened and repent so that their souls may grow and bear fruit.”
“Violence does not have religious or ethnical motives. Like any other evil, it is the consequence of the lack of goodness, tolerance and love. . . . The seeds of evil scattered with evil intent in men’s souls, amongst our compatriots, can only be stopped in an atmosphere of cooperation in the understanding that all men are brothers”.
Russian Orthodox Patriarch Aleksij also expressed sympathy for the victims of the attack. He wrote to Russia’s Chief Rabbi Berel Lazar: “I was deeply saddened by the news concerning the cruel incident that occurred in the Moscow Synagogue”. Expressing the solidarity of the entire Russian Orthodox Church, he added that “the authorities, law enforcement agencies, and religious figures should do all they can to prevent such expressions of ethnic and religious intolerance.”
Given the history of Church anti-Semitism in Russia, this looks quite promising. Evidently, changes in attitude are slow and late, but at least they are taking place.
More of the saga of Fr Frank Turner’s baleful influence on the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales, who had previously shown so little interest in the Middle East. In addition to other efforts, our busy Jesuit was organizing an annual meeting of Bishops in the Holy Land, where prelates from the US, Canada and Europe could be exposed to a dose of Bishop Sabbah’s propaganda.
…A Holy Land meeting previously took place in January last year (2002) when the Bishops released a “Message to the Christians of the Holy Land” which stated, “it is profoundly wrong to keep a people under occupations; it is abhorrent to hold millions of men, women and children confined in one enormous jail; it is likewise reprehensible to take vengeance or undertake resistance with random attacks on innocent people”.
More details about the 2003 meeting here: Catholic Summit Sends Message of Solidarity to Holy Land Church and Message to the Christians of the Holy Land from the visiting Bishops of Europe and North America and The Episcopal Conference Coordination In Support of the Church In the Holy Land
Following the terrorist attacks in Spain, the language in the Bishops’ statement of April 2004 grows a little stronger. Suicide bombings have become ‘morally abhorrent’ but are still matched by Israeli self-defence:
Morally abhorrent suicide attacks against Israeli civilians have continued, as have actions of the Israeli Defence Force through which hundreds of Palestinian civilians have been killed in a few months.
Reminder: most Palestinian ‘civilians’ who died were young men engaged in violence (including suicide bombers who blew themselves up)
The 2004 meeting in the Holy Land had an even larger cast of Bishops: Patriarch Sabbah addressed Bishops from England & Wales, the US, Canada, Austria, El Salvador, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Scandinavia and Switzerland and two European bishops’ groupings. As usual everything was seen from the Palestinian point of view, as the Bishops "heard from a wide range of Palestinian voices".
One Palestinian, Wasef Daher, said that the Israeli government's occupation of Palestinian land had "divided my nation into scattered ghettos and turned towns and villages into prisons".
"Families cannot unite, Christians cannot reach their churches, Muslims cannot reach their mosques," he said. "We are not welcome, not accepted by anyone. Our only crime – to be Palestinians."
And here is the statement produced by the Bishops as a result of exposure to concentrated levels of Palestinian propaganda.
At the climax of a four-day meeting, the 15 bishops said: 'We have seen with the devastating effect of the security wall currently being built through the land and homes of Palestinian communities. This appears to be a permanent structure, dividing families, isolating them from their farmland and their livelihoods, and even cutting off religious institutions.'
The statement, released by the bishops at a press conference in the Old City of Jerusalem, continued: 'We had an experience of the frustration and humiliation undergone every day by Palestinians at checkpoints, which impede them from providing for their families, reaching hospital, getting to work, attending their studies and visiting their relatives.'
After taking so long to condemn terrorist attacks against Israel, perhaps it is not surprising that they fail to appreciate the protection from such attacks provided by the ‘wall’.
Those who took part in these gatherings would visit terrorist leader, Yasser Arafat. Naturally, when he died a statement was made by one of the Bishops, Archbishop Kelly of Liverpool:
"On hearing of the death of President Arafat, my first instinct is to pray that at the end of a life touched by conflict and anxiety Yasser Arafat will know that peace – salaam – which only the Lord God can give.
Since then, though, the Bishops of England and Wales have become quieter on the subject of Israel. Why could that be? Well, Mgr Frank Turner no longer works for the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. He seems to have disappeared into some European Union Black Hole. His obsession with the Israelis no longer drives the Bishops. I would like to end this long story by saying "they lived happily ever after" - but who knows what the future holds?
The saga of the Catholic Bishops of England and Wales: the year they finally condemned suicide bombingJanuary 13th, 2006
The story continues. It was April 2002 before Palestinian suicide bombings were finally condemned by the Bishops. Prior to that there had merely been vague references to violence on both sides.
The first statement condemning suicide bombing was made by Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor, although he contrived to make Israel’s attempts to defend itself appear as bad, if not worse. Cardinal Calls for Political Intervention in Middle East Crisis: Critical Situation in Palestinian Areas.
Recent attacks, such as suicide bombings, specifically directed at civilians are utterly to be condemned. Today, however, news is emerging that the Israeli Defence Forces' invasion of Bethlehem and other Palestinian cities and towns is itself being marked by wanton and indiscriminate killing. An urgent appeal by the Patriarchs and Heads of Churches in Jerusalem adds that ambulances and medical supplies are being prevented from reaching the wounded, and that there has been massive destruction and looting. Meanwhile Bethlehem and Ramallah have ominously been declared closed military zones, so that the media and other international observers are barred from the areas concerned.
Later that month, the Bishops issued a joint statement
The bishops also called for an end to violence on both sides of the conflict saying "the invations of the Israeli forces into the Palestinian towns go far beyond the limits of self-defence" and the attacks on Israelis by individuals were "moral outrages" that "betray the legitimate claims of the Palestinian people".
The Conference stated: "The recent murderous attacks mounted from the Palestinian territories against innocent Israeli civilians, such as the one at a Passover supper, cannot be tolerated: they are moral outrages, both in their indiscriminate targeting of the civilian population, and in their effects. They betray the legitimate claims of the Palestinian people and they inevitably erode aspirations for a just peace among Israeli leaders and the general public."
A little bird tells me that at this particular meeting, the topic was considered so controversial, and discussions were so prolonged, that other agenda items had to be postponed. Why, I wonder, was it so difficult to come to the conclusion that suicide bombing is bad? Why should there be prolonged arguments about this?
A year before, in 2001, an IRA bomb exploded in Birmingham, doing very little damage and hurting nobody, and yet the Archbishop of Birmingham condemned the bombing as ‘evil’.
Archbishop Vincent Nichols of Birmingham said: "I thank God that no one suffered serious injury in the incident.
"This deliberate targeting of defenceless and innocent people shows just how evil terrorism is. No one can justify such actions. No one should support or defend them."
Why was a bombing which killed no-one ‘evil’ while the many suicide bombings which killed and maimed hundreds in Israel were not?
Compare also the language used in the too-little-too-late statement about terrorism in Israel with that produced by Cardinal Murphy-O’Connor a couple of years later about terrorism in Spain Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor writes to Spanish Cardinal about Massacre: Solemn Mass in Westminster Cathedral for victims of the Madrid bombings.
Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, President of the Catholic Bishops' Conference of England & Wales and Archbishop of Westminster, today (Friday, March 12) wrote to the Archbishop of Madrid Cardinal Rouco Varela, in the wake of yesterday's terrorist outrage.
Cardinal Murphy-O'Connor conveyed on behalf of the Bishops of England and Wales and the people of the Diocese of Westminster his deepest condolences, as well as shock and outrage, at the terrible loss of life and devastation caused by these terrible attacks.
Massacre? Terrorist outrage? Deepest condolences? Condolences, deep or otherwise, were never on offer when Jews were murdered and maimed in similar terrorist outrages.
To be continued.
The story so far: The 'anti-Israel' fox gets into the episcopal chicken coop. Fr Frank Turner, (he who was so chummy with Arafat and Tariq Aziz) was appointed as leader of the Department for International Affairs in autumn, 1998. Before his arrival, the Bishops’ Conference had shown no public interest in the Holy Land, and published no statements on the subject. After his arrival, statements start to appear, and by April 2000, Solidarity appeal for Christians in the Holy Land was published, including this slanted brief account of the ‘history’ of the Israeli-Palestinian situation: The Holy Land 2000. In other words, Palestinian propaganda, along the lines favoured by the Patriarch of Jerusalem, was disseminated to every Catholic parish.
After the Palestinians started their latest ‘intifada’ in September 2000, biased statements, whose bitter attitude to Israel reflect that of their author, Fr Turner, appear after most of the twice-yearly joint meetings of the Bishops.
In November 2000 we saw Sustain the Momentum of Peace in Holy Land displaying an example of Palestinian use of numbers, which ignores the fact that most Arab casualties were young men engaged in violence, including suicide bombers who blew themselves up, while most Israeli victims were innocent men, women and children going about their daily business.
The Bishops' Conference… …recognises that every death by violence is a tragedy, and in many cases a crime. But it is also important to notice that there is a gross disparity between the numbers of those killed and wounded on each side
Or, in 2001, this objection to Israeli attempts at self-defence:
In particular, the illegal Occupation needs to be brought speedily to an end: otherwise the appropriation of territory by force will have been successfully consolidated. The invasion and blockade of Palestinian cities likewise cannot be condoned: this practice destroys the fabric of their social and economic life.
This is quite a long tale, so I will continue the story in another post.
"I am a Jew, and that is the most important thing for me. Therefore when it comes to security Israel will not make any compromises."
These words, spoken in Sharon's last interview before he suffered his massive stroke, typify his view on Israel and peace very accurately. Joining the Haganah in 1942 at age 14, and being wounded in the 1948 war against the invading Arab armies, Sharon has spent most of his life defending Israel against its enemies, at first in the army and later in politics. He never trusted the Arab states and the Palestinians. He thought that the only way for Israel to survive is by being tough and aggressive, to convince the Arabs that there is no other option than to come to terms with the existence of Israel. He is known for his daring and decisiveness, as well as obstinacy and a great flexibility in choosing the means to achieve his aims. Some opponents and anti-Zionist criticasters claim that Sharon is bloodthirsty and driven by a hatred for the Arabs. This however is too simplistic. He is driven primarily by a conviction that the Arabs want to destroy Israel and nothing but force can keep them from doing this.
The title question is on the minds of many people, and Sharon is praised for the disengagement as much as he is loathed for his part in the massacre in Sabra and Shatila and for being 'the father of the settlement movement'. Critics say that Sharon didn't withdraw from Gaza out of love for the Palestinians and is not willing to offer them a viable state. His decision was indeed motivated by 'demographic' reasons (Israel cannot remain both democratic and Jewish if it rules over millions of Palestinians, and the population in the Gaza strip doubles about every generation), and security (how many soldiers should spend the best years of their life and risk being killed by defending 7000 settlers?). However, Sharon also referred to the "occupation" for the first time in public and said it is wrong to rule another people, and his decision to withdraw from Gaza was important and hopeful for peace. It was the first time that settlements were removed from Eretz Israel - the land of Israel, including the territories. The settler movement was convinced that the evacuation wouldn't take place in the end, and right wing politicians warned that the evacuation might lead to a civil war, but this didn't happen, and all went in a very orderly and well-organized manner. It was a major defeat for the settlers, and a victory for democracy, as a clear majority wanted to get rid of Gaza. The Kadima party that Sharon founded recently was another victory for democracy. While a majority of the Israeli public is fed up with the occupation, they are also highly skeptical of the Palestinians' will or ability to dismantle the terrorist organizations and make peace. Especially since Arafat refused the Barak and Clinton offers in 2000/2001, and the Intifada broke out instead, few Israelis trust the Palestinians anymore. Sharon's unilateral approach is the perfect translation of the Israeli wish to disengage from the Palestinians without having to negotiate with them. Although this approach emerged first in the Labor party (the fence/wall was their idea, and Sharon adapted it and changed the route so that it came to encompass the large settlement blocs), Sharon started carrying out this policy successfully.
It is not accurate to state that Sharon has become a man of peace. He has never been a dove, and it is doubtful, to say the least, whether, had the Palestinians fought the terror and delivered on their part of the Roadmap, he would have been willing to offer them something similar to Barak's Taba proposal, which meant a state in virtually all of the West Bank with some minor land swaps and division of Jerusalem. However, he has certainly changed his mind about the future of the territories. He has little confidence in the feasibility of a Palestinian state, but has come to recognize that it is not in Israel's interest to rule over another people who have national aspirations. Besides that, because of his strong security and military record, he is trusted by many people in the political center, to execute this disengagement without compromising Israel's security.
Sharon is not the first 'hawk' who made concessions to the Arabs: Begin gave up all of the Sinai to Egypt in return for peace. It was a much larger offer, and Israel got something in return, but in both cases land was returned to the Arabs and settlements were removed. In both cases this was done for strategic reasons and under pressure of the USA. Begin hoped to be able to keep all of the West Bank by giving up the Sinai. Sharon hoped to save at least the large settlement blocs and East Jerusalem by evacuating smaller and more isolated settlements. This aim does not change the fact of the evacuation however, and does not make future steps beyond Sharon's aims impossible. Some political opponents both on the right and the left allege on the contrary, that by setting the example of evacuating territories without a peace agreement, he has increased the possibility of future removals of more and larger settlements without getting anything in return.
It is probably also the settlers themselves who have helped make Sharon popular among part of the left, by their strong opposition to the Gaza evacuation, including death threats and obnoxious comparisons with the Judenrat. Shortly before his stroke I saw some of these accusations repeated on a right-wing website. It is difficult to say who hates him more: the settlers whom he had always supported, but whom he recently 'betrayed' by removing a few of them, with pain in his heart, because he deemed this in the interest of his - and their - country, or the Arabs against whom he has fought five wars and for whom he never felt much compassion. The latter certainly have more reason to hate him, albeit they should not forget it was mostly their own leaders who brought them into war with Israel, just as by instigating the second Intifada, Arafat himself helped bring Sharon to power.
Biography of Sharon: