During the week covered by this review, we received 13 articles on the following subjects:
Christians in Israel
Christians and the Holocaust
Israel Hayom, The Jerusalem Post, July 9, Haaretz, July 10, Israel Hayom, July 12, Makor Rishon, July 14, 2017
During UNESCO’s recent meeting in Krakow, its heritage committee passed a resolution saying that Hebron’s Old City – including the Tomb of the Patriarchs (Machpelah Cave), which Muslims call the Ibrahimi Mosque – was an endangered Palestinian heritage site. Although the vote took place in a secret ballot, it is known that 12 countries voted in favor, three against and six abstained.
Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas called the resolution an accomplishment, adding that the decision was reached due to international support and “…calm Palestinian diplomacy.” PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki praised UNESCO as well, calling the resolution “a victory in Palestine’s diplomatic battle,” and saying that the Israeli campaign against it was based on lies and distortions of facts regarding the rights of Palestinians.
Most of the Jewish political spectrum across Israel condemned the resolution. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu called the decision “hallucinatory,” adding that the site is not in danger, and noting “…only in places governed by Israel is freedom of religion assured for all.” President Reuven Rivlin said, “UNESCO’s decision proves once again that it is determined to continue disseminating anti-Jewish lies.” International condemnation came from Canada and from U.S. Ambassador to the UN, Nikki Haley, who said the decision was tragic and called it “an insult to history.”
Of the three opinion pieces received on this subject, the one supporting UNESCO’s resolution begins by saying that contrary to widely stated reports, it did not call the Hebron sites Palestinian, but rather a world heritage site located in Palestine “…already recognized by the world.” It interprets Netanyahu’s statements on the subject to mean that Netanyahu believes “…any Jewish site must be listed under Israeli sovereignty, no matter its location.” The article asks whether Israel’s position on the matter derives from a religious commandment, “that every Jewish site must be severed from its connection to non-Jews, even if it is under their sovereignty – or whether it derives from Israel’s refusal to recognize the Palestinian people and their right to establish a state.”
The first of the two opinion pieces opposing UNESCO’s resolution calls it “a despicable annulment of identity” for the Christian citizens of its member states, and accuses Jews of being too understanding when faced with ongoing domestic Islamic threats. It objects to statements such as that from Amos Oz, which says, “…the foundation of Islamic terror is a bitter and despairing idea,” as radical Islam teaches its believers “…its right cause, as well as the circle of history, will cause Jews to be slaughtered and disappear like the Crusaders.”
The second article cites one danger in UNESCO’s decision as changing the conflict from the debate about Israel’s existence to “…injuring historical justice and undermining Judaism’s standing in the world.” A second danger cited in the article is the way in which “…the decision gives moral legitimacy to false and distorted educational content in Palestinian schoolbooks.” The article notes, “(History testifies) the roots of the hatred are not connected to ‘Israeli occupation,’ but Islam’s war journeys to rule the religious and cultural identity of those it conquers, both Jews and Christians.” It ends by saying that although the PA presents itself as a peace-loving entity by advancing interfaith dialogue, its determined diplomatic activity against sites important to the Jewish identity proves that is nothing more than an illusion.
Netanyahu has instructed that a further ILS one million be taken from the budget supporting UNESCO, and that these monies be used to build a Jewish heritage museum in Kiryat Arba and Hebron.
Kalkalist, July 11, 2017
The Greek Orthodox Church’s sale of its Jerusalem lands to Israel continues to cause stiff controversy in Jordan and Palestinian Authority areas (see last week’s MR). At the beginning of the week, two protests organized by Greek Orthodox Palestinian institutions occurred. One was organized in front of Jerusalem’s Church of the Holy Sepulcher and the other in front of Bethlehem’s Church of the Annunciation. Calling the transaction “a sale of land to the Zionist occupation,” the protests were part of a Fatah push to show that the land sale creates problems for Palestinians and not solely for the Christian community. The protestors are also demanding authority over these lands be transferred from the Greek Orthodox Church into their hands.
Patriarch Theophilos III, who has been accused of corruption and money-laundering since the land sale became public, appears to face possible ousting over this transaction. A self-appointed committee of Palestinian Greek Orthodox officials is pressuring the Jordanian government and the Palestinian Authority to discontinue their recognition of him. Should this happen, Theophilos would be ousted automatically, as his position depends on joint Israeli-Palestinian-Jordanian recognition. The committee “…refuses to admit Theophilos’ statements regarding Church financial difficulties and lack of assistance from Arab countries” and has also published a demand that he be boycotted and declared persona non grata. Despite a petition to the Jordanian prime minister on the subject, signed by 112 MPs, the Jordanian government and the PA have refrained from making a clear statement on the matter.
Theophilos’ predecessor, Irenaeus I, was ousted in 2005 over having sold some of the Greek Orthodox lands in Jerusalem’s Old City to the right-wing non-profit organization Ateret Kohanim.
Christians in Israel
Zo HaDerekh, July 5, Yediot Haifa, July 7, 2017
On June 28, Knesset Member Ayman Odeh (Joint List) had a series of meetings at the Vatican. First, he met with Pope Francis, then with Secretary of State Cardinal Pietro Parolin, and then with Cardinal Leonardo Sandri, Prefect of the Congregation for the Oriental Churches. During his meeting with Francis, Odeh presented him with a memorandum on Israel’s Arab citizens and “…their struggle for equality, democracy and peace,” which also mentioned the budgetary problems before the Christian schools. He presented Francis with his copy of the Mary Untier of Knots icon, which he said symbolized “…the longing for problem-solving and peace. He also presented him with a pottery vessel made by the Musmar family, and a book of Mahmoud Darwish’s poetry, “…which, according to him, expresses the Palestinians’ sense of belonging and deep connection to their homeland as well as the connection and faith in the universal values.” During his meeting with Parolin, Odeh spoke about issues the need “to end the occupation and for a regional peace agreement.”
The Union of Israeli Christians has stiffly criticized Odeh for his meeting with Francis and his upcoming meeting as well since he intends to speak further about the hardships facing the Christian schools. Union chairman Wadia Hadad stated that as the Christian community has many clerical connections to the Vatican using Odeh as a mediator is unnecessary and inappropriate, as he is a politician rather than a priest. “Odeh’s visit was intended to strengthen himself as representative of the Joint List rather than of the Christian schools,” said the Union.
HaModia, HaMachane HaCharedi, July 13, 2017
An indictment has been served against Catholic priest Jacek Międlar at a court in Wrocław, Poland, accusing him of public incitement to hatred against Ukrainians and Jews during a speech he gave in the city on November 11, Poland’s Independence Day. The articles quote Międlar as saying, “We must be strong in spirit, body, mentality, and knowledge, because only then will we be able to defeat the left-wing, the Jews and the Communists, who are still present in our homeland. Only we will be victorious in fighting evil.”
If declared guilty, Międlar is likely to face a two-year prison sentence. He has pleaded not guilty, and has stated in his defense that he “…defended the Poles’ good name, those same ones whom Jews call worms.” Also, a few months before this speech, Międlar allegedly called Jews a “cancer.”
Międlar was refused entrance into Britain twice during 2016 due to incitement to hatred and racism.
Christians and the Holocaust
Haaretz, July 11, 2017
A ceremony took place on Monday, July 10, marking the 76th anniversary of the Jedwabne pogrom in 1941. Among the attendees were Poland’s chief rabbi Michael Schudrich, Anna Chipczynska, head of Warsaw’s Jewish community, and Emil Jezowski, representing Israel’s embassy to Poland. Also attending was a representative on behalf of the office of Polish President Andrzej Duda, the German ambassador to Poland, Bishop Rafal Markowski, head of the Council for Religious Dialogue and the Committee for Dialogue with Judaism and Mateusz Szpytma, the deputy president of the Institute of National Remembrance. Markowski, who participated in the memorial for the first time, apologized for the pogrom, saying, “…the Catholic Church mourns those who died, and feels the pain of those who contributed to this pain, humiliation and ultimately to death.”
Jezowski, reading a speech for Israel’s ambassador to Poland, Anna Azari, said, “Israel is observing the difficult route being taken by Poland while it is still confronting its past.” The article notes that these remarks allude to the contentious public, political, legal and historical discussion in Poland on the country’s role during World War II and particularly Poles’ treatment of Jews during that time.
The article noted Jedwabne has become a symbol of the rift in Polish-Jewish relations, as research by Jan Tomasz Gross and Anna Bikont has revealed that the town’s Jews were murdered “…at the initiative and with the full cooperation of the Polish residents of the town, without any Nazi intervention or orders.” However, the claims of Polish right-wing scholars range from saying that the Germans were those responsible to saying that any mention of Polish involvement is “…a libel to dishonor the proud name of the Polish nation.” Szpytma’s organization is one which has previously expressed controversial views on the pogrom, even suggesting opening the Jewish victims’ graves, “…wishing to prove, presumably, that they were shot to death by Nazis rather than murdered by their Polish neighbors.”
Yedioth Ahronoth, July 10, 2017
As part of a push to advertise the Giro D’Italia bicycle race, next year’s race will set out from Jerusalem. Although other countries also applied for the distinction, the Italians apparently chose Jerusalem in order “…to project a message of brotherhood between Christianity, Judaism, and Islam.” The Giro is 21 days long, during which contestants cover some 3,500 kilometers. It will begin on May 5, 2018, from the vicinity of Jerusalem’s Old City, and continue in Tel-Aviv and the south. The riders will then fly to Italy to continue the race.
Israel has already hosted other international sports events in recent years, such as the world championships in sailing, the junior European championships in swimming, and the European championships in weightlifting. In the coming months, Israel will host the European championships in judo and the world championships in lacrosse.
Israel Hayom, July 14, 2017
A joint Civil Administration – Tel Shiloh archaeological dig attempting to trace the line of the city’s southern wall has found a subterranean room at the site. This room contained ten large clay pitchers, dated to the settlement period, less than a meter below the surface. The pitchers were apparently intended for storage, and archaeologists surmise that the residents abandoned the site suddenly, with no time to take any belongings with them. “This is a fascinating find,” said Hananiah Hizami, Civil Administration staff officer for archaeology, “It is possible that the reason for the destruction was the Philistine invasion and the fire that took place there.”
Diggers also found a ritual goblet among the pitchers, which may connect to a stone altar previously found in the vicinity.