Monday, August 01, 2005

What's Up With The Pope?

As longtime readers of this blog would know, I have been a fan of the new Pope. In his days as Cardinal Ratzinger he was instrumental in helping shape Vatican II, particularly on the subject of the Vatican's relationship with the Jews. He has written papers on the part played by Jews in Gods Plan which are illuminating and, I would even say, visionary.

In other words, Pope Benedict has been a friend to the Jews. And that's why I have included the Ratzinger Fan Club on my blogroll.

Recently however, a statement went out in the name of the Pope, condemning terrorism in a number of countries. Conspicuously absent from the long list of countries mentioned, was Israel. When Israeli officials called him on his omission, he made the following statement:

"It's not always possible to immediately follow every attack against Israel with a public statement of condemnation," a statement from the Vatican press office said Thursday night, "and (that is) for various reasons, among them the fact that the attacks against Israel sometimes were followed by immediate Israeli reactions not always compatible with the rules of international law."

"It would thus be impossible to condemn the first (the terror strikes) and let the second (Israeli retaliation) pass in silence," said the statement, which had an unusually blistering tone for the Holy See.

Here is an excerpt from an article by Alan Dershowitz, wherein he takes the Pope to task over this statement:

Let us now try to understand the Vatican’s bizarre policy on terrorism. Recently Pope Benedict XVI condemned terrorist attacks against civilians in Great Britain, Egypt, Iraq, and Turkey. In a pregnant omission – very pregnant in light of the Vatican’s long history of silence in the face of attacks against Jews – the Pope omitted any mention of the country that has suffered the largest number of terrorist attacks against civilians since 9/11, namely, Israel.

When the Israeli government understandably protested the omission, the Vatican’s position became even more troubling. It singled out Israel for criticism, saying that that beleaguered nation’s responses to attacks against its civilians was “not always compatible with the rules of international law.” It then went on to say that the Vatican could not protest every Palestinian attack against Jewish civilians if Israel did not always follow international law.

Let’s try to understand what this means. Unless a country is absolutely flawless in its response to terrorism, the Vatican will not condemn terrorism against its civilian citizens. This seems to justify the killing of civilians as a protest against violation of international law.

If that “moral” position is not bizarre enough, let us turn to the actual facts. Egypt’s response to terrorism is far, far more violative of international law than Israel’s. Egypt routinely tortures – I mean really tortures to death – suspected terrorists, to say nothing of mere dissidents. Turkey’s record is not all that much better.

The U.S. and Great Britain have killed many more civilians in responding to terrorism in Iraq than Israel has done. So even if the Vatican’s statement of principle were morally acceptable – which it surely is not – that principle would in no way justify leaving Israel off a list that includes many worse violators of international law.

Moreover, the Vatican’s snippy condemnation of Israel for its reprisals is particularly untimely. Israel, unique among nations victimized by terrorism, has refrained from any significant reprisals over the past several months, despite the facts that terrorist attacks against its civilians continue. It has made a point of withholding its right to respond in the interests of facilitating peace.

Why, then, did the Vatican deliberately refuse to condemn terrorist attacks against Jewish civilians in Israel? The truth is that the Vatican has always had a Jewish problem. Today that problem focuses more on the Jewish state than on the Jewish religion. But the Vatican’s perverse refusal to condemn attacks against Jewish civilians in Israel raises even broader questions of discrimination.

I agree with Dershowitz that there is something very wrong with Pope Benedicts statement. However, with his track record, I am willing to wait and find a pattern before concluding that there is a problem with the Pope himself.

I have to wonder if this statement could be more reflective of Vatican politics, than of the position of Pope Benedict. Could it be that the Pope just doesn't have enough power to turn the massive Vatican on a dime?

We shall see, as over time more statements are released. Unfortunately, in the meantime, Israel has to suffer for it.

Seems like that's the way of the world.