Israel Resource Review 13th May, 2005


Official Palestinian Authority Unleashes Anti-Israel and Anti-American Messages on the Eve of Israeli Independence Day and Abbas Visit to US
Dr. Michael Widlanski

The Palestinian Authority's offical print and broadcast media launched a broad propaganda attack against Israel and the United States on Friday morning-two days before the May 15 anniversary of the founding of Israel, a date the Palestinians mark as "Al-Nakba": "The Catastrophe."

Coming less than two weeks before Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas is set to visit Washington to seek aid and to proclaim his successes in promoting moderation and democracy, the Palestinian propaganda campaign illustrated how, sometimes, it seems that little has changed in the Palestinian media after the death of Yasser Arafat.

The campaign seemed to peak Friday but over the last two weeks and today it has included the following:

  • Systematic accusations from Palestinian officials and the Palestinian media that Israel is planning attacks on Islamic holy sites such as the Al-Aqsa Mosque on Jerusalem's Temple Mount;
  • Charges of Israel using radiation poisoning and new weapons on Palestinian travelers and demonstrators, respectively;
  • Harsh portrayals of Israel and the United States in mosque speeches and the cartoons of newspapers-both controlled by the Palestinian Authority (PA); and
  • Glorification of dead or escaped Palestinian terrorists.

"Good morning to Jerusalem and to Palestine two days before the 57th anniversary of the Catastrophe of 1948 when 31 of our towns and villages were obliterated and the founding of what is called Israel," declared Rafat al-Qudra, official Palestinian television's Friday morning host at 9 a.m. Jerusalem time.

"Good morning to the martyr and to the mother of the martyr," Al-Qudra declared as a film montage displayed the decorated body of Palestinian terrorist who was given a state funeral.

For three hours, viewers saw almost non-stop anti-Israeli and anti-Jewish incitement, including a long interview with an armed terrorist who, in April 2002, had holed up with several dozen members of the Fatah "Martyrs Brigade" and "Tanzeem" militias in the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem.

"O listeners," said the narrator, "after a long siege of 39 days without water and electricity and without food, 39 of our sons inside the Bethelehem church were banished from the West Bank-26 to Gaza and 13 to Europe. Today we are hosting one of the banished, Brother Mu'ayyad al-Ganazra. Welcome, and tell us about your three years passed."

"For three years we have been banished… and our history is like the history of our people, banished, expelled…with the Zionist enemy throwing our people off their land," said Al-Ganazra, the young Fatah militia member, his hands folded on the belly of his black turtleneck.

Al-Ganazra and other Fatah members used nuns and priests as human shields in 2002, but today he accused Israel of human rights violations because it would not allow him and other "mub'adeen"-banished persons-to return from Gaza to the West Bank.

Some of the men were also accused of physically abusing the Christian worshipers kept hostage in the church, but Israeli forces did not storm the church for fear of irreparably damaging one of Christianity's holiest places.

As part of a deal negotiated at the time, Israeli soldiers refrained from arresting or killing the terrorists, in return for their leaving the area-either to Gaza or to Europe.

"Remember, at this time Mr. Yasser Arafat was also under siege, and the Occupation was trying to suppress the Intifada and to suppress the Resistance," the Fatah fighter said using the term "resistance" which many Palestinians use to describe attacks on Israelis.

After the interview, behind the host, a film showing the full map of Israel-Palestine appeared on a background of fire as a video images superimposed on the map showed Arabs carrying children and suitcases being replaced by religious Jews wearing skullcaps and beards. "So began the occupation of Palestine," intoned a narrator.

A cartoon in today's Al-Ayyam newspaper, which is run by Abbas's Fatah Party, showed an Israeli soldier with a skull- stuffing a rifle into a baby carriage.

Al-Ayyam, May 13, 2005: Cartoon reads: "In memory of 'The Catastrophe,' a 'New Catastrophe.'

On the weekly show, "Good Morning Jerusalem" (Arabic: Sabah al-Kheir Ya al-Quds ) telephone callers consistently berated Jews in general and the "Jewish enemy" as well as the "American-Israeli conspiracy" against the Arabs, while the show's host thanked them.

After the show was over, Palestinian television turned to Sheikh Ibrahim Mudeiris, the white robed cleric who led the broadcast prayers at the Sheikh Zayid Sultan al-Nahayyan Mosque in Gaza.

Sheikh Mudeiris, who is a noted supporter of Osama Bin-Laden Al-Qaeda organization, did not waste time and from the first word of his sermon attacked Jews over the centuries for their "immorality" and "corruption."

In a speech dedicated to "The Catastrophe," Sheikh Mudeiris mixed a traditional Muslim phrase with today's politics.

"Praise be to Allah whom we to praise even for what is hateful, and [praise be to Him] for having made heroes of us to withstand what the Jews have done to us," declared the young rotund, bearded cleric as he clutched his gold-trimmed white robe.

He unleashed scathing charges against "the Jews who the Prophet [Muhammad] warned had killed their prophets, distorted the teachings of their Torah and corrupted their way of life."

Most Jews were treacherous and unreliable, Sheikh Mudeiris said, and the Prophet Muhammad and his follower Abu-Bakr were correct in fighting them and evicting them first from Muhammad's base city of Medina and then from ancient Arabia.

"Israel is a cancer among the Islamic peoples," the sheikh shouted at the crowd kneeling at his feet.

"I don't ask you to read the Quran [for this]. All you have to do is read history. Ask the British what they did with their Jews. They were thrown out for 300 years. Ask the French what they did with their Jews."

The young charismatic cleric also accused the Jews of idolatry of "corrupting their morality." In previous speeches in recent weeks, he and other mosque speakers on Palestinian television and radio have said that there is an Israeli-American plot against the Arab states, and called for holy war against both Israel and America.

Such grandiose charges were symbolized in today's cartoon in Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda, a Fatah newspaper completely controlled and funded by the Abbas regime.

Al-Hayat Al-Jadeeda, May 13, 2005

The cartoon depicts the Jews, holding an Israeli flag, gaining bloody control over the entire Islamic world from Indonesia to Morocco and the Atlantic Ocean.

Sheikh Mudeiris and other mosque speakers who are paid by the Abbas regime have also promoted the idea that the Israeli government and "Jewish extremists" are plotting together to destroy the silver-domed Al-Aqsa mosque and the golden-tipped Dome of the Rock shrine, even though there has been no evidence of this.

The Palestinian charges led to riots near the Temple Mount Monday this week when

The "independent" daily newspaper Al-Quds, which gets sizable subsidies from the Abbas regime, today and yesterday ran headlines making fun of America's fears of terrorism and assassination as well as gloating over America's casualties in Iraq.

Today's cartoon showed America as a bloodied Viking on the turret of a tank in Iraq, while yesterday's cartoon showed a sweating White House with an innocent advertising plane in over-flight:

The intense anti-Israel campaign of the Abbas regime comes at a time when Abbas himself, according to Palestinian public opinion polls and recent elections, has not translated his succession of Arafat into public acceptance.

Abbas's Fatah Party squeaked out a statistical victory in local elections earlier this month, and it is considering asking to delay the national elections in July.

Members of the Fatah militias as well as HAMAS and Jihad terrorists have openly poked fun at Abbas's statements-usually made in foreign appearances-that he will disarm militia members.

At the same time, however, when speaking in Arabic or in Arab press interviews, Abbas and his top aides have made it clear that they will not "seize weapons" from anyone involved in "resistance," but only from criminals.

"We distinguish between the fighter and the killer, between the resister and the criminal," asserted Deputy Prime Minister Nabil Sha'ath in remarks shown on Palestinian television earlier this month.

Report compiled by Michael Widlanski Associates.
Commissioned by the Center for Near East Policy Research.
[Permission to quote or reprint from article conditional on citing Michael Widlanski or Michael Widlanski Associates.]

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The Vatican's Sin of Omission
Rabbi Arthur Hertzberg

Last week, Pope Benedict XVI vowed to Rome's former chief rabbi that he would renew the Vatican's commitment to Catholic-Jewish dialogue. The statement, which came at the same time that Germany unveiled its new Holocaust memorial in central Berlin, was but one of several gestures the new pope has extended toward a receptive Jewish community. The Israeli government, the Anti-Defamation League and the European Jewish Congress have welcomed these overtures and urged Benedict to continue his predecessor's work.

But from my own experience as the chairman, more than 30 years ago, of the first international Jewish delegation to meet formally with a comparable delegation from the Vatican, I am far from certain that a new age in the Jewish-Catholic relationship has dawned. At that Paris meeting in 1971, we asked the Vatican to acknowledge that it had remained silent while Europe's Jews were murdered. The Catholic delegation responded that it was not empowered to act.

The delegates were following the instructions of the Vatican's commission on theology, which held that the policies of Pope Pius XII and the church under the Nazis could not be questioned, because the church and its leader are, as the First Vatican Council declared in 1870, free of error on matters of doctrine and morality. When Cardinal Ratzinger became the head of that Vatican commission, he issued the same advice to Pope John Paul II, who pronounced the murder of six million Jews by the Nazis an unspeakable crime, but a crime by some Catholics, not by the church.

This position obscures the fact that in 1930's and 1940's Europe, the Roman Catholic Church was the only institution that possessed the moral stature and strength to denounce and forbid the murder of the Jews. It did not do so. And in all the years since, rather than acknowledging this failure to provide moral leadership in the critical hour, the Vatican has repeatedly claimed that while individual Catholics behaved sinfully or misunderstood what the church taught, the sin of letting the Holocaust happen at its doorstep need not haunt the church as an institution.

This remained the Vatican's view throughout the 1990's, even though both the German and the French bishops' national conferences issued ringing confessions of their wartime sins. In 1995 the German bishops pointed out that the "church community" had "looked too fixedly at the threat to their own institutions" and "remained silent about the crimes committed against Jews and Judaism."

The French bishops, for their part, stirringly concluded their September 1997 statement with the following words: "In the face of so great and utter a tragedy, too many of the church's pastors committed an offense, by their silence, against the church itself and its mission," and added: "This failing of the church of France and of her responsibility toward the Jewish people are part of our history. We confess this sin. We beg God's pardon, and we call upon the Jewish people to hear our words of repentance."

Not only did the Vatican fail to adopt a similar attitude of contrition, but Pope John Paul II and Cardinal Edward Cassidy, who was then in charge of Jewish-Catholic relations, devalued the French and German bishops' statements.

When he was elected, Benedict XVI knew that there were doubts about him within the Jewish community, and he tried to allay them. His supporters could point to some significant achievements from his quarter-century as guardian of Catholic orthodoxy. Under John Paul II, the Vatican forbade the teaching of anti-Semitism, for example, and Cardinal Ratzinger authorized the publication of a 2002 report expressing regret that certain New Testament passages condemning individual Jews had been used to justify anti-Semitism. He added, "It cannot be denied that a certain insufficient resistance by Christians to this atrocity is explained by the anti-Judaism present in the soul of more than a few Christians."

What Cardinal Ratzinger did not do, however, was to question the orthodox Catholic position that though individual Catholics can err morally, the church and the pope cannot. Until the Vatican reconsiders that outlook, one of the Holocaust's greatest wounds will continue to fester - namely, that the major European institution that stood for morality looked away from genocide. No amount of personal outreach toward the Jews and Judaism from the new pope will make the Jews forget that the institution of which he is the monarch has not come to terms with that history.

This appeared in the New York Times on May 14th, 2005

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