Lang geleden, toen ik mijn eerste stapjes op deze wereld zette, waren er autoloze zondagen omdat het kabinet Den Uyl wapens naar Israël had gezonden voor de Yom Kippur oorlog in 1973, en de Arabische Liga dit afstrafte met een olieboycot. Veel mensen hadden 'ik sta achter Israël' stickers op hun auto. Een lid van het enkele jaren daarvoor opgerichte Palestina Komitee vertelde me dat hij in die tijd een spreekbeurt op school over de 'Palestijnse kwestie' hield en werd uitgefloten. Je moest toendertijd sterk in je schoenen staan om het voor de Palestijnen op te nemen, en voor Israël onplezierige feiten naar voren te brengen. Voor je het wist werd je in de hoek van het anti-Semitisme gezet, zat je moreel gezien aan de verkeerde kant. Let wel, dit was het sterkst in progressief Nederland. Het tij keerde in de jaren '80 vanwege de Libanon oorlog en later de eerste intifada. Israël veranderde van David in Goliath, van de onderdrukte die zich terecht en met succes verdedigde in een wrede onderdrukker. Velen waren teleurgesteld, voelden zich misschien zelfs verraden: de joden die zij al die tijd hadden gesteund bleken geen haar beter dan anderen, nu zij zelf de macht hadden. De tweede intifada en Israëls harde represailles deden de weegschaal definitief omslaan. De beelden in de media van tanks, checkpoints en daarna ook nog een betonnen muur riepen afschuw op, en compassie voor de onderdrukte Palestijnen. De pers nam veelal kritiekloos Palestijnse beschuldigingen over, ook als deze op zijn zachtst gezegd twijfelachtig waren, zoals de 'massaslachting' in Jenin en etnische zuiveringen. Door sommigen werden onfrisse vergelijkingen met de nazi's en joodse getto's gemaakt.
Je moet sterk in je schoenen staan om het tegenwoordig nog voor Israël te durven opnemen, en voor de Palestijnen ongemakkelijke feiten naar voren te brengen. Voor je het weet wordt je in de hoek van de Zionistische lobby gezet, en zit je moreel gezien aan de verkeerde kant. Voor sommige mensen lijkt het echter alsof de klok heeft stilgestaan. Zij voelen zich nog steeds pioniers die Israëls minder fraaie kanten aan de kaak durven stellen, maar door de machtige pro-Israël lobby onterecht worden zwartgemaakt en van anti-Semitisme beschuldigd. Zij doen het voorkomen alsof kritiek op Israël nog steeds moeilijk is, en Israël zich dingen kan permitteren waar andere landen niet mee kunnen wegkomen. Ondertussen is kritiek op Israël gemeengoed geworden, zowel in de pers als in de politiek. Dat niet iedereen daaruit dezelfde conclusies trekt, en niet iedereen alles gelooft wat door de Palestijnen en hun sympathisanten wordt beweerd, is eerder een teken dat er gelukkig nog een beetje wordt nagedacht dan dat Israël boven kritiek verheven is. Ik daag u bij deze uit: noem mij een (enigszins) democratisch land (buiten de VS) dat meer wordt bekritiseerd dan Israël, meer VN resoluties tegen zich heeft gekregen, vaker racistisch of fascistisch wordt genoemd, en waartegen allerhande boycotacties worden gevoerd.
Who is Georg Gänswein?” I wondered. A lot of traffic came to this blog when I merely linked to an article which mentioned him. He is tall, dark and handsome, described as “the George Clooney of the Vatican” and the 'Black Forest Adonis. He plays tennis, skis and even has a pilot’s licence. More importantly, he is the private secretary to Pope Benedict XVI. He is also a Canon Lawyer who used to work for the then Cardinal Ratzinger in the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. I only hope that he shares the Pope’s attitude to Jews and concerns about anti-Semitism, as he is probably destined for higher things in the Catholic Church.
I am embarrassed to admit that another Gorgeous George - George Galloway's nickname - is also a Catholic
Ekklesia, self-described Christian ‘think-tank’ which sometimes seems more like a septic tank, has just run an admiring article about Galloway’s appearance on ‘Big Brother’, and whitewashes the nastier aspects of his behaviour.
Booed and cheered with equal fervour, ‘Gorgeous George’, a practicing Catholic who won thousands of Muslim votes in London’s Bethnal Green and Bow constituency, gave a victory salute and shouted “Stop the War!” before entering the BB house.
Galloway's Catholicism doesn’t extend to taking note of the Church’s changing attitude to Jews – although he tries to conceal his bulky anti-semitism behind a thin stem of indignation about Israel.
“His support for the Palestinian cause began in 1974 when he met a Palestinian activist in Dundee; he converted the rest of the Dundee Labour Party which flew the Palestinian flag over the Town Hall and twinned the city with Nablus. “
After unseating Jewish MP Oona King, (described by Ekklesia as a ‘sensational general elections victory’) he targeted another Jewish MP, Louise Ellman's Riverside seat, describing her as "Israel's MP on Merseyside".
I don’t know why the word ‘gorgeous’ has been attached to his name, as he looks like nothing so much as an ageing salesman of unmentionable products.
This rabidly antisemitic Catholic is gorgeous in neither looks nor behaviour.
Perhaps the title should be removed from him and bestowed on Georg Gänswein instead.
In an interesting article entitled Holy War: The Year the Muslims Took Rome, Sandro Magister tells us about an occasion when Muslim Arabs sacked Rome and stole all the treasures from St. Peter’s.
What happened is that in 846 some Muslim Arabs arrived in a fleet at the mouth of the Tiber, made their way to Rome, sacked the city, and carried away from the basilica of St. Peter all of the gold and silver it contained.
And this was not just an incidental attack. In 827 the Arabs had conquered Sicily, which they kept under their dominion for two and a half centuries. Rome was under serious threat from nearby. In 847, the year after the assault, the newly elected pope Leo IV began the construction of walls around the entire perimeter of the Vatican, 12 meters high and equipped with 44 towers. He completed the project in six years. These are the “Leonine” walls, and significant traces of them still remain. But very few today know that these walls were erected to defend the see of Peter from an Islamic jihad. And many of those who do know this remain silent out of discretion. “Bridges, not walls” is the fashionable slogan today.
I hope that the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem and all the other Christians who join in the general Palestinian bleating about Israel’s ‘wall’, built to protect the Jews from violent attacks by their neighbours, will read this and take note.
Speaking of which, here is a final burp from the annual feast of verbal attacks on Israel which takes place around Christmas, usually inspired by Bethlehem: Bethlehem: A pilgrimage in faith and suffering
But going to Bethlehem is also a journey into suffering. The wounds of the Israeli-Palestinian problem are starkly visible on arrival: the wall which surrounds and suffocates the city is indescribably sad. Bethlehem is a sort of prison: only a handful of people are in sight, people asking for handouts, begging because they are hungry… Everything speaks of neglect and of misery: half-finished buildings, rubbish on the sides of the streets, insecurity, tension, anxiety among the people.
The implication is that this is all the fault of the Israelis, not the real villains – the Palestinian ‘leadership’. The writer should also read the article by Sandro Magister.
Now is the time for prayer, for Ariel Sharon, who is gravely ill, and for Israel.
Various political figures from around the world have sent their good wishes for his recovery, but I have read no reference to a response by any Church leaders. This doesn't necessarily mean that none have sent a message. It may simply be that the writer of the article has not included them. On the other hand, if the Pope or the Archbishop of Canterbury had sent a message of good will or an offer of prayers, surely it would deserve a mention?
At least a few Christians have written here, offering their prayers.
Benedict's comment was in response to a question about the situation in the Middle East, after Sharon suffered a massive stroke Wednesday evening that made his return to power unlikely and prompted widespread anxiety about the future of the peace process in the region.
"We pray for peace in the Holy Land, so that the Lord will grant them durable peace," Benedict was quoted as saying by the Apcom and ANSA news agencies. However, Benedict did not refer directly to Sharon.
Further update. Pat Robertson, described as a 'Christian broadcaster', who appears to be deranged, suggests that Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's stroke was divine punishment for ``dividing God's land.''
...the evangelist said he had personally prayed about a year ago with Sharon, whom he called ``a very tender-hearted man and a good friend.'' He said he was sad to see Sharon in this condition.
But he's not praying for him now.
Sir Jonathan Sacks, the UK Chief Rabbi, has expressed fears that a "tsunami of anti-Semitism" is threatening to engulf parts of the world.
While saying that the UK is "obviously" not an anti-Semitic country, Sacks noted that there have been attempts to ban Jewish societies in universities because of their support for Israel.
"(This) is quite extraordinary because…British Jews see themselves as British citizens," Sacks said
The UK may not be ‘obviously’ anti-Semitic, but anti-Semitism lurks under the surface. When it rises into view, nothing is done to combat it, or it may even be applauded. When Dave Brown’s blood libel cartoon of Sharon eating a baby appeared in The Independent, not only did he get away with it, but was given an award as Cartoonist of the Year, although his work is generally rather second-rate. Also, according to the Community Security Trust, the number of recorded anti-Semitic attacks in the UK has risen in recent years.
From July 2004 through June 2005, the Community Security Trust (CST) recorded 482 anti-Semitic incidents in the United Kingdom. CST recorded 77 assaults and 43 instances of desecration and damage to property. The number of anti-Semitic incidents rose significantly during 2004. Figures from Israel's Global Forum against Anti-Semitism stated that 310 anti-Semitic incidents occurred in the United Kingdom during the year, of which 77 were violent, as opposed to 163 anti-Semitic incidents in 2003, of which 55 were violent. The report stated that a "central cause" of the increase in incidents was "years of hostile reporting and commentary about Israel in the UK press."
Are there any Christian King Canutes trying to turn back the tide of anti-Semitism in the UK? A number of ordinary Christians, people of little power or influence, do what they can, but what about the Church leaders? Church attendance figures may be low, but the majority of people still describe themselves as Christians, and Church leaders enjoy a certain amount of influence. Journalists seek the views of Bishops on various topics, and politicians appear to pay some attention to them. We know about the bias of the leadership of the Church of England, but what about the Catholic bishops?
Here, for instance, is an English Catholic Bishop at a meeting in Bethlehem in 2004, describing episcopal efforts to lobby on behalf of the Palestinians.
Archbishop Patrick Kelly, Vice-President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England & Wales and Archbishop of Liverpool, told the meeting of the efforts being made in England and Wales, including communications with the Israeli embassy in London, and debate in the House of Commons and House of Lords, where a letter from the Archbishop had been quoted.
And here is a record of their efforts, in Hansard (4 November 2003), where Gerald Kaufman amplifies their complaints about the Israeli security fence, because it inconveniences the Palestinians: Israeli Security Wall
Not surprisingly, the wall has caused deep concerns among Christians and Muslims. I contacted the Cardinal Archbishop of Westminster, and received a reply on behalf of the Archbishop of Liverpool, who leads the Bishops' Conference on this issue. Father Frank Turner SJ wrote to me and said that, after discussing the matter with the Archbishop of Liverpool, he was aware of the gravity of the issues that I had raised. He said that
"the Bishops' Conference, and the Church in the Holy Land, fully share your profound concern about this structure and its effects."
He said that the Catholic bishops of several countries will meet their brother bishops of the Holy Land in Bethlehem and Jerusalem in January 2004 when the focus of the meeting will be the social situation of the Palestinian people and the Church's humanitarian efforts to meet their needs by both advocacy and practical support. He sent me a copy of a letter from the Archbishop of Liverpool to the Israeli ambassador, which expressed the Archbishop's
"great concern about the government of Israel's plans for the construction of a wall separating Israel itself from the West Bank."
Ah yes – Father Frank Turner SJ, the Jesuit Sir Humphrey (or perhaps Grima Wormtongue) quietly pursuing his anti-Semitic ‘anti-Zionist’ agenda during his years behind the scenes in the bureaucracy of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference. I will write more about him later.