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Peaceful Meddling With Israel
Israel - Middle East
Friday, May 22, 2015
Alf Cengia

Did he or didn't he say it? There's been a media kerfuffle about what Pope Francis did or didn't say about Mahmoud Abbas. Did the pope really call him an angel of peace or did he admonish him to be the angel of peace? Or was it both?

Some now insist it was the latter. One irony is that earlier, alleged misrepresentations of what the pope said came from media outlets which I consider to be liberal and somewhat biased.  I suppose there's some lesson there for all of us.

Naval Intelligence officer J. E. Dyer seeks to correct the earlier view:

'As is tradition with heads of State or of government, Francis presented a gift to the Palestinian leader, commenting: “May the angel of peace destroy the evil spirit of war. I thought of you: may you be an angel of peace.” Pope Francis had called Abu Mazen a “man of peace” when he visited Bethlehem in May 2014, just as he called the then Israeli Prime Minister, Shimon Peres, a “man of peace” during his subsequent visit to Jerusalem.' (Emphasis mine)

However, the story didn't end there. Perhaps the pope said both. As CAMERA notes, the text of an article published by the Italian newspaper La Repubblica reads (as translated):

'The Pope has, for his part, donated to the Palestinian president a copy of Evangelii Gaudium and a medallion with the figure of the Angel of Peace that "destroys the evil spirit of the war - said the pontiff, according to reports by those present, “I thought of you – an angel of peace.”' (Emphasis mine)

Either way, the pope slapped Abbas on the back and encouraged him to be a nice guy.

Dyer makes a good point about "heads of state." The Vatican is a State with a long political history. The pope is a sovereign politician and an ecclesiastical leader. His Vatican State has already officially acknowledged the State of Palestine. The New Treaty transfers the Holy See's diplomatic relations from the Palestinian Liberation Organization to the State of Palestine.

Call them what you prefer, they're the same guys with a nice new name.

The pope also has a vested ecclesiastical interest in the area. The Roman Church always has. Israel, and especially Jerusalem, has been the battleground for Christianity, Judaism and Islam. The pope isn't only concerned for the well being of Christians in the area - sites which Christians consider holy are a major factor as well.

Pope Francis hopes that this overture to Mahmoud Abbas may somehow change his outlook. The canonization of the two Palestinian nuns seems to have been timed for this occasion. Or am I being too cynical? Notably, Christian Palestinian Hanan Ashrawi quickly seized the opportunity to declare:

“This [canonization] is a recognition of the Palestinian narrative, identity and history. We’ve been here for centuries, and Christianity is part and parcel of our identity. We are the oldest Christians in the world.”

Well, so have the Jews! Sadly, Ashrawi is no stranger to making lamentable and controversial statements about Israel and Jewish refugees. She also thinks Hamas aren't the bad guys.

Despite the pope's gift, Abbas is who he is - the heir to Arafat and someone who refuses to recognize Israel as a legitimate Jewish state. He's also a man who has personally profited from his position as president of the Palestinian Authority. According to Gatestone Institute, Abbas is worth $100 million! Remember Arafat's millions?

When the UN upgraded the Palestinian bid for statehood in 2012, Abbas triumphantly declared:

"The world said in a loud voice... yes to the state of Palestine, yes to Palestine's freedom, yes to Palestine's independence, no to aggression, no to settlements, no to occupation..." (Emphasis mine)

Abbas then announced plans to accelerate moves to reconcile with Hamas. He also said that: "Jerusalem is the eternal capital of the state of Palestine."

I wonder if the pope had a private chat to him about that particular aspiration. Is there room for Christianity and its holy sites in Abbas' future dream country? After all, Christians aren't exactly welcome in his part of the world at the moment.

And notice Abbas' declaration of aggression, settlement and occupation. It's a slogan that won't die and people regularly trot out. When the "angel of peace" fiasco hit the headlines, many opinion writers resurrected the same old aggression-occupation memes.

So essentially what the pope did with his symbolic gesture was put to wind into Mahmoud Abbas' sails. He did this at Israel's expense, whether he intended it or not. Perhaps the pope should have given Abbas a red letter Bible instead.

But even if Abbas were to miraculously respond to the pope's angel-of-peace nudge, his PA party will not. The Palestinian Authority's charter calls for the "elimination of Zionism." The correct Arabic translation actually means "the liquidation of the Zionist presence." This is what Israel's Arab neighbors have wanted to do since 1948.

Even protestant evangelicals have a track record of honoring Israel's enemies. As Paul Wilkinson has noted in several places, Yasser Arafat had many Christian admirers yet he never changed his charter on Israel. People like Stephen Sizer, Gary Burge, Naim Ateek, Desmond Tutu, Hanan Ashrawi and Michael Prior fawned over him. Yet he died without recanting.

These people do more damage to the Arab-Israeli conflict than good. They don't change the Hamas or PA charters. They only serve to justify these organizations and further demonize Israel.

Some may be getting tired of my constantly citing Zechariah. Nevertheless here it is again:

Behold, I will make Jerusalem a cup of drunkenness to all the surrounding peoples, when they lay siege against Judah and Jerusalem. Zech 12:2

When will all the so-called "People of the Book" sit up and pay attention?

About Alf Cengia

Last week: Appeasing the Religion of Peace

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