Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Pope, Palestine, and 'Price Tag' Profanity

Hate message reading, "Price tag, King David is for the Jews, Jesus is garbage" spray-painted on a Jerusalem church, May 9, 2014. (Photo credit: AFP)

Jodi Rudoren and Isabel Kershner had a longish piece about the Pope’s upcoming visit to Palestine (via Jordan) and then day trip in Israel: “Seeking Balance on Mideast Visit, Pope Pleases Few.”

The piece tries to establish that, with his planned itinerary, his poor Popiness can’t please everyone – or maybe even anyone – but reveals some things that are purposefully downplayed by the Grey Lady’s loyal lackeys.

Take this:
His Mass scheduled for Monday evening on Mount Zion, believed to be the site of both Jesus’ last supper and the tomb of King David, has ignited protests by religious Jews and drawn anti-Christian graffiti.
The pope’s refusal of bulletproof vehicles has also created some complications: Vatican officials said Francis had insisted on open-top cars to connect with the public, but the Israeli authorities responded by expanding the security perimeter, which will make it harder for people to glimpse the pontiff. And his short sojourn — the last two popes made eight- and seven-day trips — left the Galilee, home to many Christians and to Christian historic sites like Nazareth, off the itinerary.
While the link is there from one paragraph to the next, the truth is swept under the rug a bit. The reason why “Israeli authorities” have expanded “the security perimeter” has nothing to do with potential violence from Palestinians; rather, the threats of violence come solely from Israeli Jews.

Palestinians voice concern and disappointment with certain aspects of the trip; Omar Barghouti is frustrated that Pope Francis is to lay a wreath at Herzl’s grave, calling it "a nauseating, offensive act of complicity that Palestinian civil society cannot but condemn."

This sentence, however, reveals the sophomoric and petulant (or merely cruel?) nature of Zionism:
The pope’s decision to visit Herzl’s grave, 110 years after Pope Pius X harshly rejected Herzl’s appeal for support, is, for Israelis, a significant signal to offset his embrace of Palestine as a state.
And again, see who is angriest (and why) and who poses a potential threat to the Pontiff:
Monday’s Mass at Mount Zion has escalated a fight over the holy site. Christians, who have not been allowed to hold formal prayer services there other than a few times a year, want the last-supper room opened for liturgy daily from 6 to 8 a.m. Despite Israel’s insistence that no change in the regulations will be discussed during the pope’s visit, religious Jews plan to denounce such a change with a march Thursday night.
After a recent spate of hate crimes, the Israeli police on Wednesday issued restraining orders requiring that several right-wing Jewish activists stay away from the pope and Jerusalem’s Old City during the visit.
A recent Ha'aretz report further notes how Christian officials are increasingly concerned about the Pope's visit and the Christian community in Israel in general and includes a striking anecdote about Israeli police removing a welcome sign for the Pope from outside a Catholic Church and then citing some bogus reason for doing so. Church officials "question[ed] the fact that the police, instead of taking action against the extremists who paint hate slogans on mosques and churches, choose to remove a sign with a positive message that welcomes the pope in three languages."

"We hope the police will act with the same determination to prevent the growing incitement and violence against Christians," they said.

Hateful graffiti, care of right-wing Israelis, continues to appear on Christian churches around Israel and Palestine in advance of the Pope's high-profile visit.

Meanwhile, The ADL's outgoing leader Abe Foxman has written a lengthy op-ed decrying these "price tag" attacks and calling for Israeli (and, more generally, Jewish) vigilance again them. There's must to dissect in the piece, but his conclusion betrays the outrage: "It is not just a matter of protecting the victims of assaults and preventing vandalism of religious sites sacred to Christians and Muslims; it is a matter of living up to the ideals of the democratic and Jewish soul of the State of Israel."

What Foxman (and other like-minded Zionists) refuse to ever examine or admit is the sad fact that the insistence that a state of human beings, which should be governed by laws that protect equality and guarantee justice to all, have a "Jewish soul" - an inherently exclusivist and discriminatory concept, especially considering the indigenous people of that land are do not identify as Jewish - is precisely the impetus for price tag attacks in the first place. It is the very premise of Zionism, and that premise is inherently and explicitly anathema to equality and democracy.

This aspiration was expressly articulated by David Ben-Gurion in a 1937 letter: "What we want is not that the country be united and whole, but that the united and whole country be Jewish."

Without first dismantling this mindset, Foxman and his ilk will do nothing to stop the vitriol or the violence. Meanwhile, the non-Jewish communities and populations under Israeli authority from the river to the sea - Palestinians, Africans, migrant workers and refugees - will continue to pay the price.

Meanwhile, here’s some of what the Pope will be doing in Palestine:
[C]hildren from Bethlehem’s refugee camps will sing him two songs during a 15-minute stop at a community center, where organizers were told the pope would have time to shake only three hands.
“I negotiated with them for 15 minutes; they spoke about 10 minutes,” said Mohammed K. Lahham, a Palestinian lawmaker who also met Popes Benedict and John Paul II, and who as a boy of 9 was among the throngs greeting Pope Paul VI in Manger Square. “Frankly, even if he comes just for seconds and leaves, it’s important. It’s an S.M.S. message for the whole world.”
Isn’t it curious as to why the more diverse and downtrodden are welcoming his visit, while the vitriolic, insular, garrisoned colonizers are so enraged?

Perhaps it's because, when traveling through the Holy Land, Pope Francis will surely remember the supposed words of his savior and bless the meek, those who hunger and thirst after justice, and those who are persecuted for justice's sake. It's pretty clear that the nuclear-armed settler state isn't the one eventually inheriting the earth (annexation and occupation isn't the same thing) and there is certainly no confusing them with the peacemakers, who, according to the region's most famous son, shall be called the children of god.


A shorter version of this post was published at Mondoweiss on May 25, 2014.


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