Is Pope Francis Using Anti-Semitic Imagery in Criticizing His Opponents?

March 21 2017

In a recent letter to the pope, Rabbi Giuseppe Laras—the former head of the Italian rabbinic assembly and an important figure in Jewish-Catholic dialogue—called the pontiff to task for the presence in his preaching of “an undercurrent . . . of resentment, intolerance, and annoyance on the Christian side toward Judaism, a substantial distrust of the Bible, and a subsequent minimization of the Jewish biblical roots of Christianity.” Matthew Schmitz explains:

In his morning homilies, Pope Francis has been offering increasingly frequent and bitter denunciations of Catholics who oppose his push to give communion to the divorced and remarried. Sometimes he has portrayed these people as effeminate and womanish. More usually he has portrayed them as rigid legalists—as Pharisees who “sit in the chair of Moses and judge.”

Of course, his opponents don’t like to be insulted. As it turns out, the people he stereotypes in order to insult his opponents (vain, clothes-mad women; bitter, rule-obsessed Jews) don’t like it, either. . . . Laras is aware of and grateful for recent improvements in Catholic understanding of Judaism—but he laments that these seem to be lost on Francis. . . . Laras says that “it is saddening . . . that those who raise objections, perplexities, concerns, and indignation . . . must always be Jews . . . and not instead in the first place authoritative Christian voices that right away and much sooner should assert themselves with a bold and frank ‘no.’”

Too many authoritative Christian voices—both bishops and theologians—have greeted Pope Francis’s anti-Jewish rhetoric with silence, smooth excuses, or applause. When will they speak out with the boldness of Rabbi Laras?

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More about: Anti-Semitism, Catholic Church, Jewish-Catholic relations, Pope Francis, Religion & Holidays

The Impossibility of Unilateral Withdrawal from the West Bank

Feb. 19 2019

Since throwing his hat into the ring for the Israeli premiership, the former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz has been reticent about his policy plans. Nonetheless, he has made clear his openness to unilateral disengagement from the West Bank along the lines of the 2005 withdrawal from Gaza, stating the necessity of finding “a way in which we’re not controlling other people.” Gershon Hacohen argues that any such plan would be ill-advised:

The political and strategic precepts underlying the Oslo “peace” process, which Gantz echoes, vanished long ago. The PLO has unequivocally revealed its true colors: its total lack of interest in peace, unyielding rejection of the idea of Jewish statehood, and incessant propensity for violence and terrorism. . . . Tehran is rapidly emerging as regional hegemon, with its tentacles spreading from Yemen and Iraq to the Mediterranean Sea and its dogged quest for nuclear weapons continuing apace under the international radar. Even the terror groups Hizballah and Hamas pose a far greater threat to Israel’s national security than they did a decade ago. Under these circumstances, Israel’s withdrawal from the West Bank’s Area C, [the only part still under direct Israeli control], would constitute nothing short of an existential threat.

Nor does Israel need to find a way to stop “controlling other people,” as Gantz put it, for the simple reason that its control of the Palestinians ended some two decades ago. In May 1994 the IDF withdrew from all Palestinian population centers in the Gaza Strip. In January 1996 it vacated the West Bank’s populated areas (the Oslo Accords’ Areas A and B), comprising over 90 percent of the West Bank’s Palestinian residents, and handed control of that population to the Palestinian Authority (PA). . . .

This in turn means that the real dispute between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as within Israel itself, no longer revolves around the end of “occupation” but around the future of eastern Jerusalem and Area C. And since Area C (which is home to only 100,000 Palestinians) includes all the Jewish West Bank localities, IDF bases, transportation arteries, vital topographic sites, and habitable empty spaces between the Jordan Valley and the Jerusalem metropolis, its continued retention by Israel is a vital national interest. Why? Because its surrender to a potentially hostile Palestinian state would make the defense of the Israeli hinterland virtually impossible—and because these highly strategic and sparsely populated lands are of immense economic, infrastructural, communal, ecological, and cultural importance, not to mention their historical significance as the bedrock of the Jewish ancestral homeland

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More about: Benny Gantz, Israel & Zionism, Two-State Solution, West Bank