Wednesday 14 July 2004

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Lo, these past twenty odd years of my adult life defending, in leftist circles, the indefensible, the Catholic Church. No more. Perhaps the only thing more puzzling than the RCC’s position on Israel/Palestine, is the Church’s mystical and cult-like belief in transubstantiated Eucharist.

Lest anyone think I’m going off half-cocked, I had the misfortune yesterday of speaking by phone with none other than Dr. Eugene Fisher, Associate Director of the Secretariat for Ecumenical and Interreligious Relations, U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, based in Washington, D.C. In my opinion, and I don’t believe opinions are actionable, what an unmitigated church boob. What a dunderhead. What an ill-informed rube.

The reason I called the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is two fold. My emails advocating for Palestinians throughout the years have gone unanswered, and I wanted a clarification on the Ha’aretz article of July 7, 2004 which stated that ’the Catholic Church condemned anti-Zionism as a cover for anti-Semitism by means of a joint statement issued by a forum of Catholic-Jewish intellectuals.’

In speaking to Mr. Fisher, I had the feeling that I was speaking to Ron Doody, the WBAI guest satirist on Bob Fass’s ’Radio Unnameable.’ For the uninitiated, Mr. Doody affects a Republican persona, which is quite funny as satire. In the real-world, Mr. Fisher, a church functionary and world-class buffoon, had not a knowledge of a one state solution, nor what it means. I explained that proponents of a one-state solution intend one democratic secular state for Palestinians (Catholic and Moslem) and Jewish residents of the Holy land. After laughing, in my ear, via telephone receiver, at the novelty of the notion (it’s not a new idea and has been around as long as Zionism), he emphatically posited the unlikelihood of that outcome. His policy, or the Church’s, and it wasn’t clear to me which, is two states living side by side. I bit by tongue at the easy rejoinder: the similarly increasingly unlikelihood of that ever happening.

To his credit, Fisher agreed that that one-state solution was not an anti-Semitic notion, but seemed to vacillate on official policy. He stated several times that Anti-Zionism could be a cover for Anti-Semitism, but in an equal number of times flat out said that Anti-Zionism is Anti-Semitism. When I asked him if he knew how tremendously insulting this sentiment was to anti-Zionist people of conscience in the peace and justice movement, he next spoke both of what he perceives to be a Palestinian wish to drive Jewish people into the sea, as well as Palestinian Terrorism. War Crimes of Israel were not mentioned, and a bit flabbergasted, I did not bring them up. He flatly stated that to be against a Jewish state is to be an Anti-Semite. Next, though and in a bit of a non sequitur, he dramatically expressed his revulsion at all those ’who blame Israel for the problems of the world.’

I asked the bone-headed Dr. if there were any Palestinian Catholics in attendance at the conference, and he seemed to think there were. I’m not so sure. In any case, for official church policy he steered me to a 1988 Vatican Council. Unfortunately, I was not able to find the obscure document readily available in its entirety for this article.

A few hours after I spoke with Secretariat, it happened that there was a pronouncement from the Vatican spokesman Joaquin Navarro-Valls. He has told reporters that the International Court’s condemnation of Israel’s West Bank security wall is a ’weighty sentence’. As the wall is currently encircling several West Bank Cities, Warsaw Ghettos style, I find the Papal spokesman’s statements bizarre in the extreme. Condemnation of the illegal wall snaking through the occupied West Bank is not a weighty sentence on Israel, but rather the wall itself that has been a weighty sentence on the Palestinians.

How sad the mouthpiece for Gianni il Papa couldn’t see the judgment as a vote for humanity and for what is fair and just. Consider the following from the organization Stop the Wall:

’Israel’s construction of the Apartheid Wall in the West Bank constitutes a grave violation of human rights and international law. The Apartheid Wall will result in the unilateral demarcation of a new border in the West Bank and the effective annexation of occupied land. Other violations of international law include collective punishment of the civilian population, the seizing of private property by an occupying power, the demolition of houses and property, and the violation of such basic human rights as the right to work and freedom of movement.’

Well, it should be noted that not all advocates for the Catholic Church have been happy about the wall. Based entirely on self-serving reasons, rather than the harm that the wall has caused to Palestinians, several ’US Congressmen and women, traditionally pro-Israel, have asked several times that the wall alignment be changed in this area. Irrespective of the Court’s or the UN’s decision, they hope that Israel ponders over where it puts the wall on the Mount of Olives. That way they can keep all sanctuaries and holy sights.” together.

Sadly, colonial ventures, settler colonies, conquests, genocides, ethnic cleansings and massacres have usually had a Church and/or missionary imprimatur. Unfortunately, not much has changed over the past several centuries. Look for the Catholic Church to make expedient political apologies several generations from now for having turned their back on their own in Palestine. It is hard to understand the Catholic Church’s failure to condemn Israeli actions, which included the intentional bombardment of the Catholic Bethlehem University, struck by four Israeli missiles on the nights of March 8 and 9, 2002

Don’t get the wrong idea, I’m not renouncing my faith in a deity, supreme being, higher power or whatever, not yet at least. I still hold out hope of dying a good Christian death: in bed, at home and of old age or some other natural causes. Similarly, I still plan on burial in, or on, consecrated ground, but it will now not be on the companion couch (yes they have them) in the Mausoleum at Madonna Cemetery in Fort Lee, NJ. I fully intend to find a church denomination that is a little less homophobic, a lot less anti-scientific, a whole lot less scandal plagued, and one where the degree of hypocrisy is not quite as profound and systemic. Come to think of it, I might also find one that distinguishes between a non-sentient embryo versus a human fetus. Imagine that? Good bye, Catholic Church. I think with a bit of luck I can even get the trappings of a high Mass, replete with incense burning and tinkle bells, in one of your somewhat more enlightened competitor’s churches.

Indeed, what would Jesus do? Support a democracy or an illegal occupation? Perhaps, the answer can be found in the text of St. Matthew, known as the beatitudes:

· Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Verse 3)

· Blessed are the meek: for they shall posses the land. (Verse 4)

· Blessed are they who mourn: for they shall be comforted. (Verse 5)

· Blessed are they that hunger and thirst after justice: for they shall have their fill. (Verse 6)

· Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. (Verse 7)

· Blessed are the clean of heart: for they shall see. (Verse 8)

· Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of (Verse 9)

· Blessed are they that suffer persecution for justice’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. (Verse 10)

No, Mr. Fisher, my good friends of conscience who are also Anti-Zionists are not Anti-Semites. A long time in the coming, I no longer belief in “One Holy Catholic and Apostolic Church ” You, Sir, and the legion of willfully ignorant or proudly hypocritical Catholics, are the proverbial straw that broke the Camel’s back.

As for the procession of Saints, and as a free parting shot, I’d like to point out that the vicious homophobe, “Saint” Hildegard of Bingen, 12th Century A.D., as were most Saints, was most probably certifiably insane.

* The author, Vince, is active in the justice for Palestine movement, and can be reached at

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