Sunday, October 23, 2016

Not a peep from the pope - David M. Weinberg

by David M. Weinberg

what's truly infuriating and disappointing about the UNESCO vote is the deafening silence of significant Christian figures

Last Friday, Israeli Channel 10 News anchorwoman Ayala Hasson asked the Executive Board chairman of UNESCO whether that international organization would adopt a resolution that said Christians had no ties to the Vatican or that Muslims had no ties to Mecca.

"Such a resolution would never happen," replied Michael Worbs of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization. Of course not. Such things only happen to the Jews. Such preposterous resolutions can be expectorated by the global community only with regard to Israel. 

Only when it comes to denying the Jewish people's claim to its ancestral homeland; especially its historic ties in Jerusalem; and most especially its foundational links to the site of the Holy Temples -- can crackpot clubs like UNESCO assert that the earth is flat and Jews have no place on it.

The usual suspects voted in April and again last week for the dingbat resolution that ignores Jewish ties to the Temple Mount. Unfortunately, supposedly semi-friendly countries like Russia joined them; and ostensible friends of the Jewish state such as France, Italy, Kenya and Japan abstained.

This is wicked and witless. As Professor Martin Kramer has pointed out, "Jews were worshipping in their Temple in Jerusalem when Moscow was a pine forest, and Jews had prayed for the Temple's restoration for a thousand years before a Slav laid the first brick of the Kremlin."

But what's truly infuriating and disappointing about the UNESCO vote is the deafening silence of significant Christian figures. 

Consider: Palestinians have been pushing the linguistic reframing of the Temple Mount in order to deny the Judaic heritage of the site and to completely Islamicize Jerusalem. Willy-nilly, this nullifies Christian history, too. So you would think that both the Catholic pope and mainline Protestant leaders would rise up in protest against Arab-Islamic negation of Judeo-Christian history and legitimacy.

You would think that Christian leaders would demur when UNESCO calls Matthew a liar. It was he who testified that the Christian messiah threw money changers out of the Jewish Temple in Jerusalem.

And yet, I haven't heard a peep from the pope. Not a word of criticism for UNESCO's disavowal of biblical history. Not even a mild grunt of disapproval.

It's not like Israel didn't seek the Vatican's help in defeating the defamatory Arab-Islamic initiative. A few days before the vote, Jerusalem's new ambassador to the Holy See, Oren David, contacted the Vatican's undersecretary for relations with states, Antoine Camilleri, and asked him to use his influence to get member states to reject the draft. Such a text would harm Christian interests as well as Jewish ones, the Israeli diplomat reportedly told his interlocutor. 

Apparently, the Vatican is still praying on the matter.

Vatican-friendly observers explain that Rome's stillness on this issue stems from its concern for Christians across the Middle East -- who are under daily attack from Muslim radicals. How the pope's strange silence helps Christians anywhere escapes me.

Less church-friendly observers wonder whether age-old Christian supersessionism is at work here; meaning that the church doesn't too much mind the Muslim campaign to de-Judaize Jerusalem. Rome hasn't recognized Israel's sovereignty in Jerusalem, and theologically never will.

Either way, the calm of the church in the face of UNESCO's chutzpah is galling. I would expect the Holy See to be seething, and coming to the defense of its "elder brother" when that brother's very identity is under ungodly assault.

In truth, I really shouldn't be so surprised. After all, what's new here? The hypocrisy of the nations is a constant in Israel's foreign relations, as are melodramatic warnings of Israel's "deepening isolation." And yet, Israel chugs along just fine, thank you. 

Remember that Jews have not been liked for several thousand years, and the Jewish people's collective effort to rebuild a national state in its ancestral homeland liked even less. The world has been opposed to core Israeli diplomatic and security policies from day one of this country's existence.

The U.S. State Department reproached Israel for capturing the Galilee and the Negev in 1948. The U.N. condemned Israel for invading Sinai in 1956; and for Israel's 1967 "aggression"; and for Jerusalem's reunification; and for the annexation of the Golan Heights; and for Prime Minister Menachem Begin's bombing of the Iraqi nuclear reactor, and of Beirut, etc., etc. The U.S., by the way, was party to all these condemnations.

The U.N. annually condemns Israel for (reportedly) building a nuclear weapons capacity, and lambastes Israel for a load of other fabricated evils from stealing Palestinian water to destroying Palestinian archaeology. The U.N. has slap-happily censured Israel for defending itself against Hamas and Hezbollah -- in the First and Second Lebanon wars, and for operations against Hamas in Gaza in 2009, 2012 and 2014. 

Overall, the U.N. Security Council has adopted more than 150 anti-Israel resolutions since 1967. (The U.S. vetoed about 50 others.)

Remember "Black Wednesday"? On December 17, 2014 newspaper headlines howled that the world was closing in on Israel. On one single day, the European Parliament proclaimed its support for recognizing Palestinian statehood; the High Contracting Parties of the Fourth Geneva Convention gathered in Switzerland to condemn Israel; and the EU Court removed Hamas from the European list of terrorist organizations. 

About the same time, the parliaments of Luxembourg, Portugal, France and Sweden recognized Palestinian statehood, too. The International Criminal Court declared the security fence illegal. U.S. President Barack Obama applied the term illegal to settlements. (Now, Obama seems poised to apply this appellation to Israel's presence in Judea and Samaria altogether. He already has called it "unjust").

And still, the sky hasn't collapsed on Israel.

The cumulative weight of all these unfriendly actions is surely somewhat corrosive to Israel's global standing. But as Israel's first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, once said: What counts is not what the "goyim" say, but what the Jews do!

And thus what counts is aliyah, the high Israeli birthrate, more building starts in Jerusalem, the strength of Israel's military, the tone and tenor of the country's educational, cultural and legal institutions, the Jewish and democratic fabric of society, and the depth of loyalty to Jewish and Zionist principles. That's what really counts. 

Everything else, including Israel's standing in the international community, will fall into place if Israelis are united and confident in their creed.

Thus Israel will get past the recent wave of condemnations. It has been there before. 

So the world recognizes make-believe Palestinian statehood and slams settlements? So it negates Jewish history in Jerusalem? So what! No series of condemnations will get Israel's detractors very far, despite the unpleasantness. 

It's ironic that UNESCO took its scalpel to Jerusalem just when Jews celebrate Sukkot; when evangelical pilgrims from 80 countries of the world ascend to the holy city to participate in the festivities, as prophesied in the Bible. The ruffians of UNESCO don't know who and what they're up against. Israel and its loyal friends don't scare easily.

"Om ani choma," proclaims yesterday's Hoshanah prayer -- the people of Israel are a fortress wall, standing guard over Jerusalem.

David M. Weinberg ( is director of public affairs at the Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies.


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