Thursday, October 2, 2014 Tishri 8, 5775

A Misstep on the Road to Reconciliation

August 4, 2005
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How much attention should Jews give to the statements of various churches about Israel? For those who claim we should stop obsessing about the issue, the latest dust-up between Israel and the Vatican was a frustrating example of how things can go very wrong.

It started with a statement issued by the pope that condemned international terrorism, but conspicuously omitted the numerous examples of terror attacks on Israel in a listing of various atrocities. If that wasn't bad enough, when Israel protested the gaffe, a Vatican spokesman poured oil on the fire by claiming that it wasn't possible for the church to fully differentiate between Palestinian terrorism and acts of Israeli self-defense. The incident highlighted the dubious stand of the Vatican on the peace process, which seems to be more a product of European appeasement of the Arab world than a philosophy of interfaith reconciliation.

That's too bad, because if there is any model for a true rapprochement between Jews and Christians, it's the one that has been created over the past few decades by those working for Jewish-Catholic amity. The example of the late Pope John Paul II, whose bold condemnations of anti-Semitism and diplomatic recognition of Israel did so much to heal the wounds of the past, is the one the current pope should follow, not that of an Israel-bashing European Union.

Yet before anyone condemns Pope Benedict XVI as going back on John Paul's work, we need to recognize that he, too, has made a number of statements about anti-Semitism, and is planning to make a highly symbolic visit to a synagogue in his native Germany.

And even though we have every right to be appalled by the Israel-bashing that this recent incident revealed, there should be no comparisons between the Vatican and those Protestant denominations that have voted to divest from companies doing business with Israel or to condemn all measures of Israeli self-defense. The Vatican's statements may be infuriating, but the adoption of measures tantamount to a declaration of economic war on the Jewish people by some churches is a far more serious issue.

This should remind us that the job of mending fences with our Christian neighbors and educating them about Israel is far from over.

Start Reforming Now!
President Bush's use of a recess appointment to send John R. Bolton to the United Nations as the U.S. permanent representative to the world body is intended to short-circuit a bitter fight over the issue. Though partisans will differ on both the president's tactics and the quality of his nominee, the end of this highly politicized debate cannot come a moment too soon.

Even though Bolton's nomination became yet another political football over which Republicans and Democrats were eager to squabble, the current state of the United Nations is simply too messy to delay any longer the arrival of an American envoy who will aggressively seek to implement a reform agenda.

After decades of anti-Semitism thinly disguised as anti-Zionism, scandals such as U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan's "oil-for-food" boondoggle, and inattention to human-rights' catastrophes in places like Sudan, it is vital that the world body be shaken up and set straight. It is far from clear whether anyone - even someone like Bolton, who arrives at Turtle Bay with the clout that comes from having the ear of the president - can create change. But it is high time for the United States to start trying.

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