Monday, May 12, 2014

The Pope seems in more danger in Israel than he was in Lebanon

[Originally posted at NOW]

Around three years ago, while doing some desktop research on religious extremism, I signed up for the mailing list of the Christians United for Israel (CUFI) organization, an influential American fundamentalist outfit (boasting over a million members) that advocates the total colonization of historic Palestine by Jewish settlers, to whom God eternally granted the land in the Book of Genesis.

It’s been an invaluable window into the underworld of Christian Zionism ever since, regularly dispatching Christmas greetings from Benjamin Netanyahu; invitations to conference calls with Glenn Beck and Michele Bachmann and; above all else, reminders of the multiple options available to me for making tax-deductible cash donations.

What it takes great care not to disclose, however, are the actual realities of the Christian situation on the ground in the Holy Land today. There is curious silence, for instance, on the fact that Israeli troops occupy the land of the world’s oldest Christian community – the Palestinian one – whose access to religious sites in Bethlehem and, particularly, Jerusalem is subject to the whim of a foreign military authority. Nor is there mention of the steady rise of Jewish fundamentalist bigotry against Christians, which sees churches regularly defaced by fanatics (“Jesus is garbage” read a slogan sprayed on a Jerusalem church last week) and is officially represented in parliament: sent a copy of the New Testament by Christian well-wishers in 2012, MK Michael Ben Ari tore the thing up and threw it in the bin, calling it an “abominable book” that belonged “in the garbage can of history.”

These omissions of detail can often occur with unfortunate timing. Thus, my latest receipt from CUFI, sent six days ago, tells me that:

The freest Christians and Muslims in the Middle East are the Christian and Muslim citizens of the Jewish state of Israel […] While Christians throughout the Arab world are being bombed, shot and decapitated, the Christian population of Israel can worship in complete safety.

Which is rather odd, because the Israeli Haaretz newspaper reported last week that anti-Christian hate in Israel has grown so toxic that police fear a “massive hate crime” is being planned by Jewish fundamentalists to coincide with Pope Francis’ visit to Jerusalem later this month; something Christian patriarchates in the city say authorities are doing almost nothing to forestall. Indeed, the only discernible action taken by police so far has been the removal of a sign welcoming Francis to the Old City – lest the fanatics deem it a provocation!

Incidentally, this makes for an interesting contrast to Lebanon, where the Vatican flags erected all over the damn place in anticipation of Pope Benedict XVI’s 2012 visit still haven’t been taken down in some neighborhoods, and where – however contrived it might all have been – every one of the country’s twelve non-Catholic sects wore a smile and professed joy at His Holiness’ arrival (in a vulpine gesture, Hezbollah even sent its Mahdi Scouts to receive him at the airport). Is the Pope, then – and are Christians in general – at greater risk in Israel than in Lebanon?

No comments:

Post a Comment