Friday, May 15, 2009
Were pope's mistakes in Jerusalem too obvious to be accidental?
What's up with Pope Benedict XVI? Did the first actual Nazi to lead the Catholic church really think he could visit Israel and not have his every move, his every word, microscopically examined for vestiges of the ideology of hatred? Of course not. He is not a stupid man -- he has risen despite his past to the pinnacle of one of the world's greatest religions. He is considered one of the holiest men in the world and his visit to the Middle East -- holy man in the Holy Land -- was a major event. So why would this guy, with so much to prove, fall so pitifully short? In the first visit of any pope to the Holy Land since John Paul II's trip in 2000, Benedict deliberately alienated his Jewish hosts with cavalier references to the Holocaust, in which 12 million people, including 6 million Jews, were brutally slaughtered by the Nazis, according to the Cable News Network (CNN). Benedict knows what happened in World War II, he has no doubt seen the "concentration" camps that made a perfectly innocuous word into a euphemism for evil. Yet he angered many Jews in Israel by referring to Holocaust victims as having been "killed" instead of "murdered," a distinction not overlooked by his predecessor. No doubt, John Paul II would not have rehabilitated an excommunicated bishop who denies the Holocaust, either. But perhaps Benedict's biggest mistake was trying to navigate the treacherous Israeli-Palestinian dispute without understanding it. The pope actually said that "one of the saddest sights" he saw was the wall being built on the West Bank to protect Jewish communities. What is he talking about? Is the wall around Vatican City "sad?" Is the wall around Jerusalem "sad?" Hardly. Also, the West Bank wall is not made of stone and built to stand for a thousand years; it can easily be removed, and no doubt will be, when the Palestinian Arabs of the West Bank finally resolve to live in actual peace with the people of Israel. That is the problem between the Israelis and the Palestinians, and between the Israelis and most of the other countries of the Middle East, and all the rhetoric in the world is not going to solve it until the Arab nations face up to their internal and international responsibilities and change the dialog. Benedict, apparently, has not even begun to get a clue.