By Khalid Amayreh in occupied East Jerusalem
As hospitality is a key Arab-Muslim character, the Pope of the Vatican, Benedict XVI, should be accorded all the respect he deserves as the religious leader of hundreds of millions of Roman Catholics, many of them stand alongside Muslims in rejecting the criminal policies and practices of the Israeli state.
The recent genocidal blitz against the effectively imprisoned and thoroughly starved people of Gaza is only one example of Israeli criminality, a criminality that can be compared with the evil deeds of the worst offenders in history.
I understand that the Vatican often refrains from calling the spade a spade for a variety of reasons. We are talking after all about a unique religious-political entity that is expected to satisfy and please a whole spectrum of people with different, even discordant, political orientations.
However, it is only fair and just to expect the Pope to denounce, politely but strongly, acts and behaviors that Jesus Christ would have denounced. And, undoubtedly, Palestine is, as always, the ultimate test for the moral consistency of states and entities, including the Vatican.
Unfortunately, the Vatican’s behavior in this regard has not been very consistent with Christian ideals of identifying with the oppressed and the weak.
The Pope’s visit to occupied Palestine is unlike any other visit. This is the land where 61 years ago Europe implanted Israel, superimposing it right on top of another people and enabling the children of the holocaust to murder our people, steal our land, and expel the bulk of native Palestinians to the four corners of the globe.
We certainly don’t demand that the High Priest of the Catholic Church undo the Balfour Declaration or reverse the course of history.
However, we do expect the Holy See to behave in full accordance with the ideals and principles it claims to follow.
Today, it is obvious to all those who have eyes to see and ears to hear and brains to understand that Israel is committing every conceivable crime under the sun against the people of Palestine, Christians and Muslims alike.
In fact, Israel is committing crimes against the Jewish people by transforming many of them into addictive killers, land thieves and psychotic liars.
In the Gaza Strip, Israel, in coordination with the Judases of our world, is imposing, for the third consecutive year, a Nazi-like blockade on a thoroughly tormented people whose only guilt is their enduring desire to be free, people who have to prove their humanity on a daily basis by dying, either of lack of medicine or by Israeli bullets.
A few months ago, the whole world was shocked by the phantasmagoric images of death, terror and destruction wrought upon the innocent people of Gaza by the Satanic Israeli war machine.
They killed and killed and killed until the evil men of Zionism satisfied their gluttonous hunger for innocent blood. And when they did, the vile murderers and hideous liars claimed that they really didn’t mean it.
To be sure, the direct, executive killers were Israeli soldiers and officers, long inculcated with the poisoned doctrine that non-Jews are lesser humans whose lives have no sanctity.
But the co-murderers and conspirers were many, and included many so-called Muslims and Christians who still flinch from carrying out their moral duties toward a helpless people languishing in unmitigated pain in a huge concentration camp called the Gaza Strip.
In fact, one would exaggerate little by saying that the whole world has been accomplice against Gaza. This monumental shame will always be remembered as one of one of the most gigantic failures of humanity.
In the West Bank, Israel is committing horrific crimes against Muslims and Christians alike.
In Jerusalem, successive Israeli governments have reduced the old town of Jerusalem to a sad ghetto. This is being done while Israel is preparing evil plans to destroy entire neighborhoods in the occupied city in order to see to it that as many non-Jews as possible immigrate for good.
As to Bethlehem, the traditional birthplace of Jesus, the town has already been reduced to a detention camp, thanks to that Nazi-like wall, a structure that is by all means uglier than ugliness itself. The Israeli onslaught against Bethlehem, especially the economic and psychological strangulation of its people, has already forced thousands of local Christians to leave for Australia, Europe and North America.
This is very sad, indeed. One really wonders if and when the Christians of the West will look themselves in the mirror and realize that their policies and attitudes toward Israel, mainly based on appeasement, are instrumental in pressuring the Christians of Palestine to leave their ancestral homeland, to escape Israeli persecution and savagery?
It is also lamentable that while Christians, such as the Pope, can visit Jerusalem and pray at the town’s holy places, such as the Church of Holy Sepulcher, Palestinian Christians who live only a few hundred meters away, are denied access to these holy places.
The same can be said about millions of Palestinian Muslims who can’t reach Jerusalem because Israel wants to make it an exclusive Jewish monopoly.
Yes, such is the behavior of a state that mendaciously claims to guarantee religious freedom for all.
This is why the people of Palestine, Christians and Muslims alike, expect the Pope to tell his Israeli hosts that the Vatican in particular and Catholics in general can’t and won’t tolerate the continued depravities and persecution meted out to the Palestinian people.
True, the Vatican is not a military power, nor does it possess a magical wand that could heal all the ills of this world. But it can and should utilize its moral influence in combating evil and standing for human dignity.
But in order to do so, the Vatican shouldn’t allow itself to be duped by Israeli lies and prevarications about peace. Nor should it allow the legacy of Jews in Europe to undermine the Vatican’s ability to call things by their real names.
In the final analysis, a state that continues to build colonies at the expense of the indigenous inhabitants of the land is not a peace-seeking state. A state that brazenly violates international law, even its own laws, can’t be trusted to make peace. Such a state ought to be treated as criminal states ought to be treated.