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

 

Who Changed the Term “Nakba” into a Symbol of Arab Victimization?

April 19 2019

In contemporary Palestinian discourse, not to mention that of the Palestinians’ Western supporters, the creation of the state of Israel is known as the Nakba, or catastrophe—sometimes explicitly compared with the Holocaust. The very term has come to form a central element in a narrative of passive Palestinian suffering at Jewish hands. But when the Syrian historian Constantin Zureiq first used the term with regard to the events of 1948, he meant something quite different, and those responsible for changing its meaning were none other than Israelis. Raphael Bouchnik-Chen explains:

In his 1948 pamphlet The Meaning of the Disaster (Ma’na al-Nakba), Zureiq attributed the Palestinian/Arab flight to the stillborn pan-Arab assault on the nascent Jewish state rather than to a premeditated Zionist design to disinherit the Palestinian Arabs. “We [Arabs] must admit our mistakes,” [he wrote], “and recognize the extent of our responsibility for the disaster that is our lot.” . . . In a later book, The Meaning of the Catastrophe Anew, published after the June 1967 war, he defined that latest defeat as a “Nakba,” . . . since—just as in 1948—it was a self-inflicted disaster emanating from the Arab world’s failure to confront Zionism. . . .

It was only in the late 1980s that it began to be widely perceived as an Israeli-inflicted injustice. Ironically, it was a group of politically engaged, self-styled Israeli “new historians” who provided the Palestinian national movement with perhaps its best propaganda tool by turning the saga of Israel’s birth upside down, with aggressors turned into hapless victims, and vice-versa, on the basis of massive misrepresentation of archival evidence.

While earlier generations of Palestinian academics and intellectuals had refrained from exploring the origins of the 1948 defeat, the PLO chairman Yasir Arafat, who was brought to Gaza and the West Bank as part of the 1993 Oslo Accords and was allowed to establish his Palestinian Authority (PA) in parts of those territories, grasped the immense potential of reincarnating the Nakba as a symbol of Palestinian victimhood rather than a self-inflicted disaster. In 1998, he proclaimed May 15 a national day of remembrance of the Nakba. In subsequent years, “Nakba Day” has become an integral component of the Palestinian national narrative and the foremost event commemorating their 1948 “catastrophe.”

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More about: Arab World, Israeli-Palestinian Conflict, New historians, Yasir Arafat