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April 10, 2010
April 10, 2010: Roots of Antisemitism and remembering more


David A. Sylvester, is a lay Roman Catholic, a journalist and teacher in the San Francisco Bay Area for 25 years. In 2009, he received a Master's in Theological Studies from the Jesuit School of Theology in Berkeley. He is now studying Catholic-Jewish relations at the master's program at the Graduate Theological Union's Center for Jewish Studies in Berkeley. He can be reached at
 

He wrote the following for TIKKUN and I repeat myself at the end.


Unfinished Teshuvah

The Deepest Wound: Why the Catholic Church Needs to Heal its Anti-Jewish Legacy-NOW!


By David A. Sylvester


 

 

To read the headlines this week, you'd think that this past Easter weekend was more about the Roman Catholic Church itself than the Christian message of hope and new life. A chorus of Church leaders used the Easter services to rally around Pope Benedict XVI for his handling of the scandal over the sexual abuse of children by priests. During Easter Sunday ceremonies at St. Peter's Square, Cardinal Angelo Sodano called the pope "the unfailing rock of the Holy Church of Christ" and obliquely referred the growing anger over the scandal as "gossip of the moment." Elsewhere, the archbishop in Mexico City said the pope was facing "defamation and attacks of lies and vileness," and the archbishop of Paris complained of a "smear campaign" that aims at "destabilizing the pope, and through him, the church." [1]



            To a lay Catholic who loves the Church, the cases of abuse and the reactive defensiveness of the leaders were distressing enough, but another remark actually sent shivers down the spine, because it revealed the terrible reality of another, more profound and persistent crisis within the Church. And this is the crisis over Christian identity left in the wake of the Holocaust, a crisis that haunts the soul of the ordinary Catholic in the pews, whether he or she is conscious of it or not.



            This realization was triggered, fittingly enough, on Good Friday, a day remembered by Christians for Jesus' ultimate sacrifice of love for all humanity and remembered by Jews for the rampages through Jewish communities by the church-goers leaving their services. With Pope Benedict XVI sitting before him at the service in St. Peter's Basilica, Fr. Raniero Cantalamessa tried to speak words of sympathy to him that had come from an unidentified Jewish friend. This friend, Fr. Cantalamessa said, had written a letter with the following:



            " 'I am following the violent and concentric attacks against the church, the pope and all the faithful by the whole world,' " Fr. Cantalamessa said, quoting the friend.  " 'The use of stereotypes, the passing from personal responsibility and guilt to a collective guilt remind me of the more shameful aspects of anti-Semitism.' " Then in his own words, Fr. Cantalamessa said that Jews "know from experience what it means to be victims of collective violence and also because of this they are quick to recognize the recurring symptoms."[2]


            Perhaps his Jewish friend was exaggerating through an excess of sympathy for the pope, but Fr. Cantalamessa was obligated to respond to him with the obvious: There is no comparison between the "collective violence" of 1,800 years of systematic persecution and destruction of Jews - a role in which Catholic Christians played their own shameful role -- with the "collective justice" that is now sought by the victims of pedophile priests and their protectors, whether deliberate or unintentional.  The use of stereotypes and collective guilt are the methods of propagandists everywhere, but anti-Semitism is a historically unique and murderous form of propaganda.


            For such a high Church leader forget this distinction, especially on Good Friday, was a painful reminder how little the understanding of the Holocaust has changed among Catholic Christians, especially the understanding of how it was made possible historically by Catholic anti-Semitism and anti-Judaism. It showed that the work of repentance and penance, teshuvah if you will, is still incomplete for the Church and that even after 65 years, the Church has not fully faced the meaning of the failures of many Catholic leaders and members during the catastrophe.


            Why does this still matter, you might ask? Isn't this now history that should recede into the past? Isn't it time to move on from what might be seen as a preoccupation with the horrors of the Holocaust? My answer is no, it matters a great deal, and it's an illusion to think we can move on unless the past is healed enough to enable us to move on. In coming to terms with any past of oppression, it can be argued that the individual today is not responsible for the sins of the ancestors. But the individual today is completely responsible for the extent to which his or her identity is still shaped by those sins and his or her behavior still reflects that distorted identity. And that is exactly the problem reflected in Fr. Cantalamessa's obtuse remarks.


            They show that the Christian identity today still suffers from the Church's insufficient response to an essential moral imperative: How can I be a good Christian without being anti-Jewish? If Jesus calls on us to accept him as the Messiah, how do we understand those good and holy people who disagree? How do we hear the Gospel accounts, the Church confessions and the great spiritual writings when we know that some of them were used to justify centuries of persecution and destruction? Have we really changed the way we live to account for the horrific mirror that the Holocaust held up to the Christian world?


            This coming Sunday is Yom HaShoah, the day of remembrance of the Holocaust, and it would be well for Christians to consider that the Holocaust showed how un-Christian the majority of Christians can be. It showed that in failing to honor and defend the divinity in anyone, Christians failed to see Christ in everyone. In this way, the Shoah is still questioning the meaning of the churchy words that we claim to live by. As Rabbi Irving Greenberg has rightly said, no one can say anything about their religious life that isn't credible before the cries of those 1.5 million Jewish babies, burned alive by the Nazis to save the cost of killing them with poison gas.[3]


            If Fr. Cantalamessa had been remembering those cries, he never would have said what he said last Good Friday at St. Peter's Basilica. Later, he showed his lack of understanding when he later apologized; he did not mean to "hurt the feelings of Jews and victims of pedophilia." But the problem really isn't about hurt "feelings." It isn't about attacks on the Pope or the stability of the Roman Catholic Church. And it isn't about rebutting the usual anti-Catholic demagoguery and ignorance[4] that often surfaces in times like these, reviving those old slanders against the Church as "the whore of Babylon" and the Pope as the "Anti-Christ."[5]


            It's about justice and the duty of the Church to stand with "the least" among us and feel "the grief and anguish of the people of our time, especially those who are poor or afflicted in any way."[6]  By its own Sacrament of Reconciliation, it is called upon to confess its sin of "missing the mark," take action of penance with " a firm resolve to amendment" and take the actions necessary to "avoid the near occasion of sin" in the future. In other words, it needs to change.


            Right now, the poor and afflicted who are crying out are those where were sexually abused as children and young adults.  Yes, this day of reckoning is uncomfortable. Yes, the pope is taking a lot of heat - but this is surely no surprise, considering the magnitude of the crimes. In Ireland alone, some 30,000 boys and girls were tormented, beaten, molested and at times raped in Catholic orphanages and reformatories over a period of six decades. And no one reported this or was prosecuted. Elsewhere, thousands of other young people, mostly between the ages of 11 and 14, have been molested in Catholic churches in the United States, Canada, Australia, and now from new cases surfacing, in France and Germany. Worst of all, church officials ignored reported and allowed the pedophile priests to continue in parishes.


            The issue requires much more than a pastoral letter or a conference of bishops to resolve. It may well require a thorough re-examination of a host of difficult social, ethical and doctrinal questions. To get to the bottom of the problem and make the necessary changes, nothing should be left off the table: priestly celibacy, church teachings on homosexuality, screening and supervision of priests, traditions of secrecy, and assumptions of authority that can lead to authoritarianism and models of domination. And it may also require the insights from spiritual disciplines, such as fasting and penitence, as Fr. Cantalamessa himself suggested to the pope in 2006.[7] 

 Ultimately, the Church must face the awful failings of its priests, the culture that permitted the abuse and the changes that are needed to eliminate the "near occasion for sin" in the future.


            However, as this crisis is being resolved - and it must be - the Church must also listen to the cries of a less audible group of poor and afflicted, those babies who suffered agonizing deaths in self-professed "Christian" Europe. This is a deeper, more  uncomfortable self-confrontation, but one that is desperately needed, because it's clear that the efforts during the past decades by Pope John XXIII and Pope John Paul II to repair the past have not been enough.


            In the spirit of constructive dialogue to help resolve a painful wound shared by lay members and leaders alike, I think the Catholic Church needs to consider at least three important changes. First, it must re-examine more thoroughly and reject more cogently its anti-Judaic theology dating back centuries. Second, it must permanently ban the mention of the "perfidious Jews" at any Good Friday Mass, an insulting remnant of anti-Judaism that has been revived recently by reactionaries in the Church. And third, it needs to own up to the hidden contribution that Christian anti-Semitism has made toward the catastrophe of the Palestinian people. Why? Because Israel's intransigent and ruthless policies towards its neighbors only make sense in the light of historical trauma, including the centuries' of European persecution that made possible the widespread abandonment of Jews and collusion in their destruction by self-professed Christians throughout Europe during the Holocaust.


            Let's examine these one by one. First, and most importantly, too often Christianity has taught an implicit rejection of Judaism that has led to contempt for Jews and a gross misunderstanding of rabbinic Judaism. This anti-Judaic theological tradition, known as adversus Judaeos, began in the polemical debates against Jews during the early formation of the Catholic Church. This early history contributed to shaping a European anti-Semitism that became a complex blend of Christian theology, folk culture, ignorance and fear-driven superstition. After the Holocaust, this tradition must be identified and rooted out as false Christianity. As Christian theologian Clark M. Williamson has written: "The 'teaching of contempt' for Jews and Judaism was a necessary but not sufficient cause of the Holocaust. Now that we see the complicity of that teaching in making possible the Holocaust, we may not morally repeat it."[8]



            It's true that since the Holocaust, the Catholic Church has taken considerable steps toward a reconsideration of its past.  In 1965, the landmark declaration of Nostra Aetate, the first major re-thinking of its relations with non-Christian religions, the Church took the most basic step in rejecting any collective blame for Jesus' death on Jews in general. It affirmed the "common spiritual heritage" shared by Jews and Christians and condemned "all hatreds, persecutions, displays of anti-Semitism directed against the Jews at any time or from any source."[9] In 1998, a papal commission issued its reflection on the Holocaust entitled "We Remember," in which it expressed "sorrow for the tragedy" of the Holocaust, and admitted the "heavy burden of conscience" and the "call to penitence" for Christian behavior.



            However, these admissions were far from enough. The statement was rife with euphemisms and equivocations. It only mentioned "the errors and failures of those sons and daughters of the Church," not the actual writings of Church thinkers. It pointed with pride to those Catholics who risked their lives to defend Jews during the Nazi terror but then added that "the spiritual resistance of other Christians was not that which might have been expected by Christ's followers,"   -- an utterly insufficient characterization of the actual events.



            Moreover, the Church statement inaccurately lumped the Holocaust together with other genocidal outbreaks, such as "the massacre of Armenians" or the "countless victims of the Ukraine in the 1930s, or the "genocide of the Gypsies." [10]  In the 4th Century, C.E., St. Gregory of Nyssa was not referring to the Armenians when he was excoriating the "slayers of the Lord, murderers of the prophets, enemies of God," and "advocates of the devil, brood of vipers, slanderers, scoffers, folk of darkened minds." It was not the Ukrainians that in the 13th Century, C.E., Pope Innocent III called a people of Cain, protected from death so that "yet as wanderers upon the earth they must remain, until their countenance be filled with shame and they seek the name of Jesus Christ the Lord." And St. Thomas Aquinas did not mean keeping Gypsies confined, "because of their crime, in perpetual servitude" and their possessions "as belonging to the State" as long as they are not deprived of "things necessary to life."[11]



            No, the Holocaust was a uniquely anti-Jewish genocide in a Europe conditioned by centuries of Catholic Christian theological teachings that targeted, marginalized, ghettoized and persecuted the Jews as Jews. At the same time, it is wrong to think the Nazi catastrophe as primarily an outcome of Catholic anti-Judaism. The Church has accurately identified the Holocaust as an outgrowth of "a thoroughly modern neo-pagan regime" that involved the deifying the nation-state. Also, it's true that Nazi anti-Semitism exploited historical Christian anti-Jewish feelings but in the end, "had its roots outside of Christianity"[12]  - a characterization that Jewish scholars have largely agreed with.[13] And certainly, some key Catholic figures were remarkably courageous in their efforts, such as the future Pope John XXIII who saved thousands of German and Slovakian Jews during the war and issued false baptismal certificates and visas to protect thousands of Hungarian Jews.



            But the heroism of a few doesn't clear the conscience of the many. Perhaps the best summation of the Christian role in the Nazi catastrophe comes from historian Saul Friedlander: Anti-Semitism and its theological anti-Judaism created in Europe the dry underbrush that was only waiting for the flame of Hitler, the arsonist, to catch fire. "Without the arsonist the fire would not have started; without the underbrush it would not have spread as far as it did and destroyed an entire world." [14]



            What, then, is to be done? Besides a rethinking of its theology and history, the Catholic Church should require a corrective teaching at every Good Friday service about the responsibility of everybody, Jew and Gentile, aristocrat and commoner, the rulers and ruled - and the disciples too -- in the death of Jesus. The Church cannot rest until every single one of its members understands that the charge of deicide, that "the Jews killed Christ" is a false understanding of Jesus' death.


It was heartening to hear exactly this preached in my own parish, Our Lady of Lourdes in Oakland, California, when Fr. Tom Weston called on Christians to examine their own violent behavior.


At the very least, Christians might follow Christ by not killing other Christians, he said.[15] "We are always looking for someone to blame," he said. "We blamed the Jews. But let's be clear: Gentiles and Jews joined in the death of Christ." In some churches, it is the congregation itself who shouts "Crucify him, Crucify him" during the crowd's response at Jesus' trial to underscore the universal human participation in the destruction of life that comes through human sin.



[WAWA ED NOTE: The Roman Empire's Occupying Forces crucified Jesus]


            Rabbi Michael Lerner thinks the Church should go much farther and broaden its educational efforts. He proposes that it could require every students in Catholic high school and college as well as priests in every seminary to learn about the history of the Church's role in creating and fostering anti-Semitism, perhaps by studying Edward Flannery's classic The Anguish of the Jews or some other comparable work. In addition, it could devote one Sunday a year, perhaps on Yom HaShoah, for teaching lay members too. "This would begin to help Catholics understand that anti-Semitism was not some mysterious phenomenon that popped up from nowhere, but rather a product of a systematic anti-Judaism that was already being built into the Gospels by those who wrote them, and then expanded upon dramatically once the Church took power in Rome," Rabbi Lerner has said.


            In the very least, a more immediate second effort is also needed to eliminate a festering remnant of anti-Judaism. Pope Benedict XVI needs to prohibit the Good Friday prayer in the Tridentine Latin service for the conversion of the "perfidis" Jews. This Latin word is most accurately translated as "non-believing" but has been often rendered into English as "perfidious," meaning treacherous.  Pope John XXIII ordered this word removed in 1960, and actually stopped a Mass in 1963 when he heard it and ordered the prayer repeated without it. Through Vatican II, the modernized Mass changed the offensive prayer. But the Latin Mass, including this word, has been revived by some Catholic ultra-traditionalists who have defied Vatican II. Instead, the pope needs to defend his predecessor's legacy by making sure this word is never again heard in any Roman Catholic Church.


            Finally, the Catholic Church enter into a dialogue with Jewish leaders over what changes in Christian teachings could help relieve some of the trauma that Jews have carried with them to Israel. In a way, we might say that Christians are the unindicted co-conspirator in the suffering of the Palestinian people. How so?  It seems to me that Israeli policies towards the Occupied Territories reflects  a community suffering from the results of severe trauma - a distrust of all other nations, a fanatic determination for safety and security, a terror for its existence in spite of overwhelming military superiority. Israel is behaving as if it always expects to be alone, persecuted and endangered - a fairly accurate assessment of the historical position of the Jewish people throughout Christian Europe. On top of this, Israel seems to be re-enacting the trauma of the medieval ghetto by erecting of its Wall through Palestine against a sea of surrounding enemies, a physical embodiment of the psychological walls that victims of severe trauma establish after repeated violation. Rabbi Lerner has correctly noted the signs of a communal post-traumatic stress disorder in Israel's policies,[16] and traces the trauma to terrorism, the 1948 war and the Holocaust. But he could go further back to centuries of Christian discrimination and its "dry underbrush" of anti-Semitism that was ignited during the Holocaust.


            As penance for its past, the Catholic Church should convey three-way talks with Jewish and Muslim leaders and examine the religious roots of the violence in the Middle East.


One reason that political efforts at peace have been ineffective, apart from the violent nature of nation-states based on military power, is that in their hearts of hearts, Jews, Christians and Muslims still see each other as "infidels."


Ultimately, these three Abrahamic peoples will have to find some way to recognize and appreciate the validity of each other's religion without surrendering their own religious identity - perhaps an impossible task for mere humans but not for the healing spirit of God. The Catholic Church would go a long way by calling upon Christians throughout the world to ensure the safety of Jewish communities threatened with violence and discrimination. Muslims would need to recognize the Jewish right to return to its land as an integral understanding of its relationship with God.  And Jews would need to live up to covenantal relationship not to wrong or oppress the strangers in its land "for you were strangers in the land of Egypt."[17]

 


            If all this seems far afield of the tempest of the moment, I would beg to disagree. It is precisely at the moment of moral challenge, whether from the suffering of the sexually abused or the victims of anti-Jewish genocide, that the Catholic Church has the opportunity to show its true self. It has the powerful spiritual tools of prayer and Gospel values for uncovering the roots of the errors of the past and making the necessary changes. It is my faith and conviction that this will - and must - happen. This is why the sturm und drang of the moment does not disillusion me.
           

The best in the Catholic tradition reflects a pilgrim Church on the journey of growth and change. Who could predict the miracle of Vatican II, instigated by the pope at top of the hierarchy? Who cannot admire the courage of martyred bishops, like Monseñor Oscar Romero in El Salvador and Monseñor Juan Gerardi in Guatemala, who gave their lives standing up for the poor and afflicted? Who can not respect the sacrifice of Catholics like Maximilian Kolbe died in place of a Jewish brother at Auschwitz in spite of his own anti-Jewish past? Those who mock and deride the Catholic Church right now for its obvious human failings and weaknesses are only seeing its surface, its exterior shell of statues and stone. You have to love it to see its inner power and beauty, to understand its heart. If you did, you'd know this is a church capable of amazing transformation for itself and compassion for the victims of this world. You'd know that no matter how it trips over its robes and gets waylaid in the labyrinths of its palaces, it will eventually find its way out and bring comfort, hope and new life to the slums and shantytowns in this world, and in those rejected places in the human heart where people go to cry out silently, shivering, alone, wounded and afraid.



 
 


            [1] "Vatican's Easter Message is Support for Pope" By Daniel J. Wakin, New York Times, Monday April 5, 2010,  pg. A1.
          
            [2] Wakin, New York Times, April 5, 2010.
 
 
            [3][3] Quoted in: Clark Williamson, A Guest in the House of Israel: Post-Holocaust Church Theology, (Louisville, Kentucky: Westminster/John Knox Press, 1993) pg. 13.
          
            [4] One good example of ignorance in the service of prejudice: "Abuse Charges Mount against Catholic Church" by Bill Underwood, April 3, 2010, San Francisco Examiner, which says this about religious identity: "People seem to equate 'being Catholic' with, I don't know, being blonde or Guatemalan or diabetic…as though it's something you're born with that can't be changed."  http://www.examiner.com/x-17373-Phoenix-Signs-of-the-Times-Examiner~y2010m4d3-Abuse-charges-mount-against-the-Catholic-Church
 
            [5] For a glimpse at the ugly history of anti-Catholic propaganda, see: Alexander Hislop, The Two Babylons: The Papal Worship, proved to be the worship of Nimrod and his wife, The mark of the Beast Revealed  666, (A&B Publishers Group, Brooklyn, N.Y., reprint of original 1858 edition.)
          
            [6] Gaudium et Spes, Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World, Vatican II, Dec. 7, 1965.
 
            [7] In an Advent sermon on Dec. 15, 2006, Fr. Cantalamessa urged the pope to declare a day of fasting and penitence for the victims of the sexual abuse by the Catholic clergy, "to publicly express repentance before God and solidarity with the victims". He called on the Church "to weep before God, to do penance, as God himself has been abused; to do penance for the offense against the body of Christ and the scandalizing of the 'least of his brothers,' more than for the damage and dishonor that has been brought upon us." http://www.cantalamessa.org/en/predicheView.php?id=77
            [8] Williamson, pg. 13.
 
            [9] Nostra Aetate: Declaration on the Relationship of the Church to Non-Christian Religions, Second Vatican Council, Oct. 28, 1965. Section 4.
          
            [10] We Remember: A Reflection on the Shoah,  March 16, 1998. Pontifical Commission for Relations with the Jews. Section IV.
 
            [11] Adapted From Edward H. Flannery, The Anguish of the Jews (Paulist Press, 1985) in "An Outline of the History of Jewish-Christian Relations," Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley.
          
            [12] We Remember, Section III.
 
            [13] Dabru Emet: A Jewish Statement on Christians and Christianity, National Jewish Scholars Project, Baltimore, MD., Sept. 10, 2000. "Without the long history of Christian anti-Judaism and Christian violence against Jews, Nazi ideology could not have taken hold nor could it have been carried out. Too many Christians participated in, or were sympathetic to, Nazi atrocities against Jews. Other Christians did not protest sufficiently against these atrocities. But Nazism itself was not an inevitable outcome of Christianity."
          
            [14] Saul Friedlander, Nazi Germany and the Jews, 1939-1945: The Years of Extermination, (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 2007.), pg. xix.
          
            [15] Fr. Tom Weston: "We are a violent species, and blame/kill/torture/wound easily.  The Vatican Council II specifically taught that "the Jews killed Christ" is a false and dangerous reading of history and the Gospel.  And as Mr. Gandhi said: Christians are the only ones who have not yet noticed that Jesus was non-violent."
 
 
            [16] Michael Lerner, "Israel at 60," in Tikkun Magazine, May/June 2008 pgs 19-21.           
          
            [17] Exodus 22:20-21  "You shall not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.

 

 

 


 

RELATED: The morning after April 5   Read more...


Published first April 9, 2008

Remembering What NOT Many of We the People Ever Knew about Never Forget, Deir Yassin, 9/11 and Israel Too


eileen fleming

 

Deir Yassin was once a peaceful Palestinian village on the west side of Jerusalem. On April 9, 1948 the lives of over 100 innocent men, women, and children ended by the hand of Jewish terrorists from the Irgun and the Stern Gang.

 

Deir Yassin is 1,400 meters to the north of Yad Vashem, the most famous Holocaust memorial, where the world is taught to “Never Forget.”

 

Might the world also remember that on May 15, 1948, the British left Palestine and the Israeli military force consisted of three independent groups: "The larger one was the Hagana. Within the Hagana there was a strike force known as the Palmah. Outside Hagana there were two more independent smaller forces. The bigger of the two was Etzel, which was the underground terrorist organization of the opposition party led by Menahem Begin, and the smaller one was Lehi, known also as the Stern Gang, a splinter group which separated from the Etzel a few years previously."[1]

 

"The Deir Yassin incident was part of the Middle East war of 1948, variously referred to as the Israeli War of Independence, the First Arab-Israeli War, or the First Palestine War. The conflict arose out of decades-old competing claims of nationalist Jews and Arabs for sovereignty over Palestine (today Israel, Jerusalem, the West Bank, and Gaza Strip). European Jewish nationalists, organized as Zionists in 1897, sought to establish a Jewish state through colonization of Palestine, while Arab nationalists sought an Arab state for Palestine's Arab majority." [2]

 

There are many versions of what happened in Deir Yassin on April 9, 1948. One report by then Colonel Dr. Me'ir Pa'ill, [who later represented the Meretz Party in the Knesset] a liaison officer representing the Palmah in the headquarters of the Hagana in Jerusalem gave an interview in the magazine Monitin, April 1981, Edition 32, page 36:

 

"Etzel and Lehi had decided to carry out one operation together. They counted their men and discovered that together they could supply 130 fighters. Among the Etzel members there was one, Joshua Goldshmid, who lived in Giv'at Shaul, a western suburb of Jerusalem close to Deir Yassin and he was the one that pushed for Deir Yassin. The place itself was a small village of 750 inhabitants. It did not have a strategic location and wasn't situated on any important road....Since the Hagana was holding the lines of communications, Etzel and Lehi asked David Sha'altiel, the commander of the Hagana's Jerusalem district for a meeting. I'm telling you this to show that I knew what was going on, because I was in the picture from the beginning. Sha'altiel told them that the plan of the Hagana was, that when the British army leave (shortly), they would take over Deir Yassin and level it to build an airport… [3]


"It was Friday, the 9th of April 1948 and I went in together with them. I had a tommy-gun with a disc magazine, 50 bullets and proper boots. On that day I did not fire even one bullet. With me was a guy with a good Leica camera capable of taking 36 still, black and white pictures. Half of them were shot during the battle and half afterwards...The raid was supposed to start two hours before dawn. The road to Deir Yassin was open. It was not mined or obstructed because it was constantly in use. The plan was that the van carrying the Etzel/Lehi members would drive on this dusty road and a loudspeaker would call to the inhabitants to flee from the village. I was walking on this very road. They (Lehi) didn't know who I was. They were late and reached the village when it was already daylight…I thought that now a small skirmish would develop, but there was actually a battle. From my battleground experience I noticed that the Arabs had only rifles. All their shots were single shots. Only the attackers had automatic weapons...Suddenly; at about 11 o'clock in the morning, I heard the explosions of 2 inch mortar shells. I looked out of the window and I saw ten Palmah fighters under the command of the late Jacob Wog, descending and taking over the rest of the village…They (Etzel Lehi), were not able to carry out even their own task. We had to send in a tired platoon to finish the job for them. Suddenly I started to hear shooting from all directions in the village. I ran there with my photographer and I saw gangs of Etzel and Lehi running through the alleys. In my report I added: 'with bulging eyes' as if they were 'running amok'. They were running from house to house. They got inside, and butchered whoever was there by shooting, not by hand grenades! By shooting! I called it hot blooded murder. It was spontaneous, not planned. I ran after them shouting:' what are you doing?' They looked at me as if I was crazy, also with those bulging eyes. The photographer was taking pictures of scenes that I can still see, even now, with my own eyes: A corner in a room. A woman, children and an old man, butchered. [4]


 

"...On the Saturday, Etzel and Lehi notified David Sha'altiel: 'Tomorrow we leave the place. We are a crash unit. We don't hold to command posts. They were asked to at least bury the corpses. 'We don't care' was their answer. Two platoons of Gadna, seven and eighth grade students (a pre-military unit of the Hagana), were brought to Deir Yassin on the Sunday and they did most of the burying. They counted the corpses. The Red Cross arrived later on. There were 254 dead out of 750 people who had lived in this village. A third was killed, a third was evacuated and a third escaped."[5]


 

The massacre in Deir Yassin was neither the first of its kind nor the most horrific, but "its timing, scope, and historic long-term consequences have made Deir Yassin, in the words of philosopher Martin Buber, "infamous throughout the Jewish world, the Arab world, and the whole world."[6]

 

Also infamous is the 1954 incident when Israel attempted to bomb US government offices in Egypt and Israel's 1967 two hour attack upon the lightly armed spy ship the USS LIBERTY, which resulted in 34 dead sailors and a still traumatized crew who were commanded to keep silent by the LBJ Administration, who sacrificed the troops rather than embarrass an ally. [7]

 

Another infamous fact is that, "through the years, Israel has regularly spied on the US. According to the Government Accounting Office, Israel 'conducts the most aggressive espionage operations against the United States of any ally.' Secretary of Defense Caspar Weinberger said of Israeli spy Jonathan Pollard: 'It is difficult for me to conceive of greater harm done to national security.' And the Pollard case was just the tip of a very large iceberg; the most recent operation coming to light involves two senior officials of the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Israel's powerful American lobbying organization."[8]


 

In December 2001, FOX News began a four part series [that has since been removed from their website] regarding Israel's spying on America. However, Information Clearing House has preserved those insights. In Part One, Part I, host Brit Hume stated,


"It has been more than 16 years since a civilian working for the Navy was charged with passing secrets to Israel. Jonathan Pollard pled guilty to conspiracy to commit espionage and is serving a life sentence. At first, Israeli leaders claimed Pollard was part of a rogue operation, but later took responsibility for his work. Now Fox News has learned some U.S. investigators believe that there are Israelis again very much engaged in spying in and on the U.S., who may have known things they didn't tell us before September 11. Fox News correspondent Carl Cameron has details in the first of a four-part series."[9]

 

Carl Cameron reported, "Since September 11, more than 60 Israelis have been arrested or detained, either under the new patriot anti-terrorism law, or for immigration violations. A handful of active Israeli military were among those detained, according to investigators, who say some of the detainees also failed polygraph questions when asked about alleged surveillance activities against and in the United States. There is no indication that the Israelis were involved in the 9-11 attacks, but investigators suspect that they Israelis may have gathered intelligence about the attacks in advance, and not shared it. A highly placed investigator said there are 'tie-ins'; But when asked for details, he flatly refused to describe them, saying, "evidence linking these Israelis to 9-11 is classified. I cannot tell you about evidence that has been gathered. It's classified information."[10]

 

Numerous classified documents obtained by Fox News indicated that even prior to September 11; as many as 140 other Israelis had been detained or arrested in a secretive and sprawling investigation into suspected espionage by Israelis in the United States. Investigators from numerous government agencies are part of a working group that's been compiling evidence since the mid '90s. These documents detail hundreds of incidents in cities and towns across the country that investigators say, "may well be an organized intelligence gathering activity." [11]

 

"Why would Israelis spy in and on the U.S.? A general accounting office investigation referred to Israel as country A and said, 'According to a U.S. intelligence agency, the government of country A conducts the most aggressive espionage operations against the U.S. of any U.S. ally.' [12]

 

"A defense intelligence report said Israel has a voracious appetite for information and said, 'the Israelis are motivated by strong survival instincts which dictate every possible facet of their political and economical policies. It aggressively collects military and industrial technology and the U.S. is a high priority target…Israel possesses the resources and technical capability to achieve its collection objectives."[13]

 

After the dot-com bubble burst in 2000, Israel's economy was devastated, but then came 9/11, and "suddenly new profit vistas opened up for any company that claimed it could spot terrorists in crowds, seal borders from attack and extract confessions from closed-mouthed prisoners…Many of the country's most successful entrepreneurs are using Israel's status as a fortressed state, surrounded by furious enemies, as a kind of twenty-four-hour-a-day showroom--a living example of how to enjoy relative safety amid constant war…Israel now sends $1.2 billion in "products to the United States—up dramatically from $270 million in 1999…That makes Israel the fourth-largest arms dealer in the world…Much of this growth has been in the so-called homeland security sector. Before 9/11 homeland security barely existed as an industry. By the end of this year, Israeli exports in the sector will reach $1.2 billion--an increase of 20 percent. The key products and services are …precisely the tools and technologies Israel has used to lock in the occupied territories. Israel has learned to turn endless war into a brand asset, pitching its uprooting, occupation and containment of the Palestinian people as a half-century head start in the "global war on terror." [14]

 

Thinking people comprehend that all governments lie, that politicians get addicted to gaining and keeping power and that religion has been misused for eons.

 

Shortly after my first of five trips to occupied Palestine, in 2005, a USA Episcopal priest and I exchanged a few emails before he left America to work with Yad Vashem, the Jerusalem Holocaust memorial, where the world is taught to “Never Forget.”


I wrote to the priest about my concern that the fastest growing cult in the U.S.A. is the cult of Christian Zionism and that approximately 25 million U.S. Christians choose the simple answers of fundamentalism rather than struggle with a God of justice, mercy and compassion.


Christian Zionists, such as John Hagee cling to Genesis 12:3: "I will bless those who bless you, and the one who curses you I will curse: and in you all the families of the world are blessed" as if God meant blessings to be political power and military might.


The ancient Israelites and today's religious fundamentalist nationalist Zionists hold to the belief that a particular religion and race are more chosen, worthy, special and esteemed by God over and above any other. Looking down on one’s enemies to foster one’s own tribal interest and praying to God to smite one’s enemies is what the ancients did.


The fact that Genesis 12:3 was promised even before Ishmael, the father of the Arab nation, and Isaac, the Jew, were born is overlooked and ignored by Christian Zionists, who also fail to comprehend that the very first mention of Israel is when Jacob was renamed Israel for having wrestled and struggled with God. Thus, in the Biblical sense, anyone and everyone who struggles and wrestles with God is Israel, too, for Israel means more than a geographical location.


The Episcopal priest insisted that the modern state of Israel is the fulfillment of the prophetic scriptures, and God’s covenant with Israel is eternal, exclusive, and will not be abrogated. He referred me to Genesis 12:1-7, 15:4-7, 17:1-8; Leviticus 26:44-45; and Deuteronomy 7:7:8.


I wrote back that for Christians, the New Testament holds greater weight than the Hebrew Scriptures and I referred him to Matthew 5:43-45, which not only critiques Genesis 12:3; it blows it apart, for Jesus commanded his followers to, "Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them that despitefully use you, that you maybe children of your Father."

 

I asked that priest to consider the fact that blind allegiance to the Israeli government has allowed our 'best friend' in the world to become a very big bully. I questioned that priest regarding how God is always on the side of the oppressed and if we truly love our friend, wouldn't we hold them accountable when they cross the line and practice injustice?

 

I asked that priest to consider how the views of Christian Zionists who have come to see the political state of Israel as a replacement for Jesus is at the center of their Christian faith, and that certainly is not Christianity.

 

I asked that priest how he could take Genesis 12:3 to literally mean that blessings equal land and political power, and ignore God’s promise in Genesis 21:17-20 to ‘make a great nation out of Ishmael’s descendents’ and that ‘God was with the boy.’

 

I charged that priest that his way of thinking allows for the continuing military occupation of Palestine and oppression of people that God also made promises too, and I asked him aren't Christians to be on the side of the oppressed and marginalized?

 

I cautioned that priest that whenever religion and politics get in bed together, we the people for justice and peace always get screwed!

 

I alerted that priest if he ever considered that the Israeli government is using uninformed, misinformed Christians like him to become apologists in support of their agenda of illegal occupation and settlements in the West Bank, east Jerusalem, Golan, and Gaza, on literal biblical misinterpreted grounds taken out of context.

 

I admonished that priest to consider how American Christians blind allegiance to every act of Israel as being orchestrated by God and therefore is to be condoned, supported, and even praised, should instead compel all people of integrity and good will to instead question and challenge the true motives of Christians who actually relish the idea of Armageddon-and who love to speculate on who gets left behind on Judgment Day.

 

After three email exchanges, I never heard from that priest again, but a parishioner of his from his Central Florida church wrote me that he had moved to Jerusalem and was now working at Yad Vashem.

 

Jesus' other name is The Prince of Peace, and he was very clear that on the final day, there will be a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth by those who were so sure they were in, because they get left out.

 

If only the self-righteous and militant minded amongst us could remember what they have never even known and seek to do what Jesus promised; be peacemakers for they are the children of God.

 

1.http://www.deiryassin.org/shimontzabar.html

 

2. http://www.deiryassin.org/mh2001.html

 

3. http://www.deiryassin.org/shimontzabar.html

 

4. Ibid

 

5. Ibid

 

6. http://www.deiryassin.org/mh2001.html

 

7. Ennes, James E., Assault on the LIBERTY

 

8. http://www.counterpunch.org/weir04042008.html

 

9. http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article7545.htm

 

10. Ibid

 

11. Ibid

 

12. Ibid

 

13. Ibid

 

14. http://www.thenation.com/doc/20070702/klein


   
 
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