Throughout my growing and deepening relationships with, and as a bridge between Jews and Christians, while meaningful and important to me, I am often asked by Christians why Jews are not more receptive to fellowship and dialogue with them as I am, and why so many American Jews tend to vote for and support candidates who seem to be less in concert with God, and whose support of Israel is questionable.
I am also often asked by Jews, what it is that Christians who say they love Israel really want. What’s the ulterior motive? Jews also push back because of centuries of hatred, crimes, and murder carried out and directed toward us in the name of “the church.”
Recently, one event had the unique ability to provide even greater pushback and widen a rift that, gratefully, has been narrowing in recent years. That event was the Vatican reaffirming its unhesitant recognition of “the State of Palestine” and establishing a diplomatic treaty with this state.
Jewish PTSD [Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder] is long lasting. When one sees the Catholic Church recognizing a supposed state that doesn’t recognize Israel’s right to exist as a Jewish state, much less live in peace with us, we have flashbacks to times when Jews were burned, slaughtered, shot and gassed to death, all in the name of “the church.” Even among the most liberal who want a two state solution, there’s an awareness that peace is not a one way street.
As an entity that has a population less than 1000, with rights and appearances of a state, because it is the center of Catholicism the world looks to the Vatican and the Pope to be an outpost of morality and decency. It’s worse than fingernails on a blackboard to see that state cozy up to another entity that’s bigger but no more a state de facto, whose President is serving the ninth year of a four year term, in which anti-Semitism is public policy and celebrated, which denies the right of Israel to exist, fosters attacks, threats and murder of Israelis, while blaming us for all their problems rather than taking responsibility and building the infrastructure for the state they supposedly desire.
Were Jesus alive today, this state of Palestine would call him a settler, would intimidate and threaten him should he go to the Temple Mount, and might stone, fire bomb or shoot at his car traveling from Galilee to Jerusalem. Is this the state the Vatican is proud to recognize?
Other states have recognized “Palestine,” but they are not supposedly rooted in biblical values. Rather than being a follower down a diplomatic dead end paved with moral potholes, we look to the Vatican to be a beacon of light. On this, they have failed.
Even more glaring is that while the Vatican has now recognized a state that doesn’t really exist, it took the Vatican 45 years to recognize Israel as a state. This is still a bone in the throat of many, calling into question a theology that may still be rooted in replacement theology. Overlaying that with liberation theology, and turning a blind eye to the terrorism still perpetrated by the Palestinian Authority and its quasi-governmental partners, is it any wonder that Jews don’t trust Christians.
I am all for human decency and values, and pray for the well-being of all the Palestinian Arabs. I pray that their leaders’ evil ways will be transformed. I pray for peace. But one cannot whitewash the reality of a “Palestinian state” rooted in terrorism, from the birth of the PLO and continuing with Hamas. Juxtapose that to the rebirth of Israel, while maybe not perfect in every way, as a fulfilling of God’s promise to Abraham through Isaac and Jacob, and not mutually exclusive to the presence or existence of others. A full 20% of Israel’s citizens are Arab and many hold senior political, diplomatic and civic responsibilities throughout Israel.
It stretches the imagination to wonder how and why the Vatican took this approach. I suspect that they are not held hostage regarding the supply of oil, so pandering to the Arab world for that is unlikely. Do they somehow believe that by recognizing “Palestine” miraculously millions of Christians in the Middle East will be safe and not fear the sort of crimes that have befallen Christians in the name of Islam recently? Did someone sneak in overnight and erase the scripture about Israel and God’s covenant with the Jewish people from all their bibles? Or is it plain old Catholic anti-Semitism that we know too well?
Either way this diplomatic hocus pocus will not only not do anything to bring peace in the Middle East closer, but it will make the Palestinian Authority more intransigent and less likely to make peace if they think they can get recognized as a state albeit without the standards or responsibilities of statehood. I have images of Godfather 3 where mafia corruption is shown to run so deep it goes straight back to the Vatican. Did someone in Ramallah pay off someone in Vatican City for such protection?
Israel was reborn 67 years ago after centuries of dispersion, and both Israel’s independence and all that we have built are truly miraculous. The hand of God is seen throughout this historic century of the Jewish people’s return to the Land that God promised us.
I am not a theologian and no expert on Catholicism, but I understand that in order to qualify for sainthood, one has to have performed some sort of miracle. Maybe that’s the issue. Maybe Pope Francis is setting himself up for sainthood, by recognizing a state that doesn’t exist which is perverse, but perhaps could be seen as a miracle. Would making a state out of dust, as God created man, count as a miracle?
But it’s absurd to think that this announcement has any merit or value toward bringing peace closer with or without a Palestinian state, and that’s terribly sad because there’s a lot that can be done and the Vatican could play a useful role. But to make up a state where none exists, to call Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas an “angel of peace” is beyond ludicrous.
Why not just pretend that Jesus were not a Jew, that the Arabs are somehow the successor to God’s promise to and covenant with the Jewish people, and call Abbas the Prince of Peace?