Archives for May 2015
It doesn’t matter if you are Catholic or not, the Pope is an international figure that cannot be ignored. As a Jew, I do not fall under his authority like a Roman Catholic would, but I understand that he can be a very influential person.
Over the centuries, many popes have come and gone and those who truly loved the Jews were definitely few and far in between. I do not want to give the impression of being anti-Catholic, yet if history is our witness, the Catholic Church has often failed in the area of Judeo-Christian relations. Where the Church as a religious institution has failed, many catholic individuals succeeded, as there are many stories of Catholics loving, helping, hiding and protecting Jews over the centuries and especially during the Holocaust era.
The current Pope was introduced to the world as a “friend of the Jews”. He comes only a short fifty years after Vatican II and the famous Nostra Aetate document also known as the “Declaration on the Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions.” This short, very ecumenical document was aimed at reconciling Jews, Muslims and Christians among other things. It is at that time, almost 1,700 years after the death of Yeshua (Jesus) that the Catholic Church decided to exonerate the Jews from the charge of deicide (the killing of God). That statement is worth reviewing: “Even though the Jewish authorities and those who followed their lead pressed for the death of Christ (cf. John 19:6), neither all Jews indiscriminately at that time, nor Jews today, can be charged with the crimes committed during his passion. lt is true that the Church is the new people of God, yet the Jews should not be spoken of as rejected or accursed as if this followed from holy Scripture. Consequently, all must take care, lest in catechizing or in preaching the Word of God, they teach anything which is not in accord with the truth of the Gospel message or the spirit of Christ. There is no doubt that a clear attempt was made at exonerating the Jewish people from the death of Yeshua. But outside of a few within the leadership of the time along with a few of their Jewish followers, the corporate guilt for the death of Yeshua was established on a false premise. A simple review of chapter 10 of the Gospel of John would probably have sufficed to see that Yeshua claimed to have given His own life for all. One doesn’t need to adhere to the Christian faith to even see that: “For this reason the Father loves Me, because I lay down My life so that I may take it again. No one has taken it away from Me, but I lay it down on My own initiative. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This commandment I received from My Father”.
Interestingly enough, within the same breath, that statement declares that “lt is true that the Church is the new people of God.” Such a theological construct is also based on a faulty biblical approach seeing Christians has having “replaced” Israel. Replacement Theology has always been very prevalent within the Catholic Church.
Fifty years and a few popes later, the Catholic Church has a new pontiff in Pope Francis, a Jesuit from Argentina. He has the reputation of having nurtured some very positive relationship with the Jewish community of Buenos Aires over the years. He even co-wrote the book On Heaven and Earth with Argentine rabbi Abraham Skorka.
Pope Francis’ relationship with the Jewish community seems sincere and has garnered him a trust from rabbis and Jewish leaders that had not been seen in decades. So it’s all good, right? Well maybe not! Ecumenism by nature is open to a wide array of various belief systems. It seeks a common denominator on which it can build its multicultural, multi-religious and tolerant agenda.
But the Pope should be careful in his ecumenical endeavor to make our world better. While it is our corporate responsibility to do all we can to improve our world–a concept found in Judaism as well, and known as tikkun olam (repairing the world)–it shouldn’t be done at anybody’s expense but to everybody’s benefit. Lately I would posit that the Vatican’s approach to the betterment of the world could end-up being very detrimental to Israel and the Jews.
The world reacted when Pope Francis was quoted saying to Mahmoud Abbas that he was “an angel of peace”. The media outlets were quick to react, the ADL was outraged and the blogosphere buzzed with negative excitement. How could a friend of the Jews call a terrorist an angel of peace? Was the Pope an anti-Semite after all? Many would have easily taken that road, but soon after the statement was published, an explanation followed. The Pope had simply given Abbas a medal that he had also given to other world leaders, telling the head of the Palestinian authority that he hoped that he could become an angel of peace. So calm was restored and the Pope had retained his good reputation with the Jews.
But did he?
I have to admit that calling Abbas an angel of peace would have been a grave mistake. This being said, is it truly better now that we understand that Pope Francis was encouraging a terrorist who clearly wants the total destruction of Israel? I think not!
To remove all doubt, the Vatican also decided a few weeks ago to sign a new treaty to recognize the Palestinian State. The Vatican has been in favor of the recognition of Palestine since 2012, but this upcoming treaty would “formally recognize Palestine”. This will be a blow to Israel and the Jewish people, but it will also hurt the reputation that the Catholic Church has been working hard at changing at least for the last five decades. How can a friend of the Jews mingle with a terrorist and officially recognize a terrorist state bent on eradicating the Jewish people?
Many Jewish people worldwide do not trust the Catholic Church and/or catholic people. While many Catholics were friendly to Jews, like the family of peasants who hid my mother and her cousins during the Holocaust years, they weren’t the norm. Looking at history, words like forced baptisms, forced conversions, Crusades, Inquisition, Pogroms and Holocaust come to mind when a Jewish person is asked about the Catholic Church. While I recognize that even using these words to describe the Catholic Church represents painting with very broad strokes, the connection is real, it is painful and in many cases the wounds are still open.
Pope Francis recent dealings with Abbas and decision to officially recognize Palestine could very well destroy five decades of Judeo-catholic rapprochement and even ad some salt to these wounds. Catholics are part of what is known as Christendom and as such are considered Christians. Next time one of your Jewish friends tells you that ALL Christians are anti-Semitic, even though that isn’t a true statement, the opposite might be a bit more difficult to defend.
In my travels, I meet a lot of people from the Evangelical Christian community. Many of them have never heard of BDS (Boycott, Divestment, Sanctions) and frankly, this frightens me. This movement has picked up a lot of momentum in the past few months and has become quite pervasive.
I find it ironic that most of the people taking such a political stand have very little knowledge of how it got started and by whom. This decade old movement was started in 2005 by the Palestinian civil society. They claim that Israel must meet three obligations for BDS to stop:
1. Ending its occupation and colonization of all Arab lands occupied in June 1967 and dismantling the Wall;
2. Recognizing the fundamental rights of the Arab-Palestinian citizens of Israel to full equality; and
3. Respecting, protecting and promoting the rights of Palestinian refugees to return to their homes and properties as stipulated in UN Resolution 194.
Too often, there is an unspoken expectation from the Palestinian side. There is a great effort made to misinform or simply not inform the people they are trying to influence. I think there is a word for it; it is “propaganda!” The hope is that most people would accept the lies and historical revisionism simply as facts, and too often they do! UN Resolution 194 contains one short paragraph out of 15 on compensation to refugees, not even Palestinian refugees in particular, but refugees in general. I wish people would take the time to verify statements before they buy them and then sell them back as facts. It was Abraham Lincoln who once wisely said:” Do not believe everything you read on the Internet.” Get my point?
BDS was borne out of a Palestinian desire to enroll otherwise unengaged and apathetic people in their fight against Israel. The Palestinian Authority and Hamas’ goal might be the total destruction of Israel, at the end of the day you can only bomb and kill so many people before the more reasonable people in the world turn on you–although it seems that lately the “killing limit” might have been increased.
But what if you could get support from different groups of people, this would greatly help your cause, wouldn’t it? BDS does just that and it does it well, in the government, the universities (here and here) and even some Christian denominations such as PC USA (the same PC USA that unsuccessfully tried to blot out “Israel” from their prayer and hymn books in 2014).
Anybody can feel good refraining from buying Israeli products. This seems like a peaceful and worthy protest that could make a difference and force Israel away from occupation and apartheid. Of course, the current BDS supporters are plagued with decisions to Boycott that forces them to be very inconsistent at best. Divestment is usually a matter of reinvesting your funds elsewhere, and there are plenty of opportunities for such a move. When it comes to boycott, it is a bit trickier. They will gladly stop buying Jaffa® oranges or Osem® cookies from Israel but don’t ask them to stop using the Intel® chip in their personal computers or their mobile phones all together (both originated from Israeli ingenuity).
It is often the same people who choose to boycott Israel who also completely ignore the blatant abuses of human rights by countries like Russia, China, Yemen, Syria, Qatar and many more. The same people also irrationally ignore Hamas’ abuse and murder of their very own people like in the case of the 2014 Gaza War.
BDS is most rampant on US university campuses. As a matter of fact BDS is the main weapon used on US campuses to delegitimize Zionism and demonize Israel. Anti-Israel proponents are organized, eloquent and very resourceful. After visiting several US campuses, Haaretz reporter Ari Shavit recently concluded: ” Zionism has failed to provide “a reliable, relevant and inspirational narrative” to counter the “near-overt anti-Semitism” of the BDS offensive. “And when they arrive on campus and are exposed to anti-Israel venom, the Jewish and pro-Israel identity of many of them collapses.”
They often nip the pro-Israel narrative in the bud, even though their own narrative is flawed and biased.
• BDS uses a false premise of Israeli occupation and apartheid policies. It is our responsibility to expose their lies and educate those who don’t know BDS or who believe that it is a cause worth fighting for.
• BDS proponents are inconsistent in their boycott and need to be made aware of their hypocrisy and/or ignorance about Israel’s contribution to the modern world (and the list keeps growing everyday), not to mention everyday products used by millions.
• BDS sends the wrong message to a lot of people thinking that they are helping to make the world a better place when in fact they are supporting terrorists.
• BDS counts on people’s ignorance but desire for justice to sell their falsified agenda of Palestinian victimhood.
Yet in spite of all the efforts made by BDS and its proponents across the globe, their true colors are starting to show. AIPAC very recently backed an amendment to a trade bill that would make BDS’ destructive progress more difficult within Congress. Additionally, the Illinois State House of Representative unanimously (49-0) passed an anti-BDS bill recently. The bill would stop pension funds from investing in companies that participate in the BDS movement. Bravo to both!
Laurie Cardozo-Moore of Proclaiming Justice to the Nations (PJTN) is also very vocal and active in exposing and fighting BDS. Cardozo-Moore calls BDS anti-Semitism and I fully concur. Looking at the unbelievable one-sidedness and hypocrisy of BDS, we can only deduce that it is more than a political attempt at bringing justice and equality. BDS is proving to be the politically correct way to hate Israel!
A great resource to fight BDS can be found at stopbds.com. Even though it is meant to equip students, most of it is very helpful to equip people eager to learn the truth and apply real fairness and justice.
Another thing we can do is to make sure that buy Israeli products in the USA to beat the BDS proponents at their own game. Here is a partial list of what BDS wants you to boycott. While my mentioning of this list doesn’t mean that I endorse all of it, you will undoubtedly find plenty of brands that you already support, just review them, keep at it and tell others. This is the least we can do.
What BDS proponents and victims too often have in common is a lack of a biblical approach to Israel and the Jewish people. Biblical truth provides a solid foundation for Israel. It describes a people created by God through Abraham, Isaac and Jacob and the twelve tribes of Israel as well as precise land boundaries starting early in Genesis 12:1-3 and continuing through chapters 15, 17 and following. Zionism isn’t this evil colonialism feeding on Arab blood, but without a biblical backbone, Zionism lacks the strength to fight the hypocrisy, hatred, and double-standard of the BDS campaigns around the world.
BDS relies on the Bullying, Delegitimizing and Slandering of Israel and does it on a foundation of lies that can be debunked. If truth matters to you as much as it does to me, join me and speak up!