July 30, 2005

Terrorism in all its forms

The Vatican is in a bit of a diplomatic flap with Israel at the moment. According to Zenit.org, after praying the Angelus on Sunday, Pope Benedict added a special prayer for those countries who had recently experienced terrorist attacks including "Egypt, Turkey, Iraq and Great Britain." The next day, the Israeli Foreign Ministry summoned the apostolic nuncio and demanded to know why an attack on the town of Netanya two weeks earlier was not mentioned in the prayer. "The Vatican's failure to condemn the latest attack cries to the heavens," they said. "...It can possibly be interpreted as, in effect, giving a stamp of approval to acts of terrorism committed against Jews."

Then on Tuesday, Nimrod Barkan, an Israeli foreign ministry official, told the Jerusalem Post that it had been Vatican policy not to condemn terrorist attacks against Israel, and while they protested quietly during John Paul's pontificate, they've decided that since there is a new pope, they were going to be a bit more vocal.

Um, not exactly so, responded the Vatican Friday. "John Paul II's declarations condemning all forms of terrorism, and condemning single acts of terrorism committed against Israel, were numerous and public." And to prove their point, they attached a list of 20 different occasions in which John Paul denounced terrorism in the Holy Land, from the beginning of his pontificate to just a few weeks before his death.

The Vatican acknowledged that it hasn't issued a denunciation after each and every attack.

"There are various reasons for this, among them the fact that attacks against Israel were sometimes followed by immediate Israeli reactions not always compatible with the norms of international law. It would, consequently, have been impossible to condemn the former and remain silent on the latter."

In another words, you want us to condemn Palestinian terrorism? Well, then we'd also have to condemn Israeli actions that would be considered state terrorism, and do you really want us continually pointing out how many children are dying as a result of Israeli military actions or settler violence? (According to Defence for Children International, 676 Palestinian children have died in the last four years while 9,000 children have been injured. Remember these Children notes that same number, as well as the 122 Israeli children who have died in the same period.)

The Guardian explained the Israeli strategy a bit more bluntly.

Israel has repeatedly demanded that other governments recognise Palestinian attacks as part of an international Islamist campaign against western democracy, therefore implicitly not connected to its own actions in the occupied territories.

Targeting civilians is wrong, regardless of who is doing it. Whether you're Hamas, the IDF, the IRA (which has recently announced it's ending armed struggle) or the US military. Something this pope, as well as the last one, have always been very clear about.