An overwhelming number of rabbis, reporters, pundits, journalists and academics in Israel have joined forces to welcome the Pope Benedict XVI on his scheduled visit to Israel.
Israel’s official radio and TV stations have gone out of their way to present hourly updates concerning the Papal visit.
However, dissenting voices to the official welcome are now being heard in diverse circles.
General (res.) Giora Eiland, the former head of the Israel National Security Council, wrote a guest editorial in Israel’s largest daily newspaer, Yediot Aharonot, titled “Harmful Groveling.”
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In his article, he wrote: “It would have been better for this visit not to take place, and contrary to conventional wisdom, it will cause diplomatic harm to Israel rather than benefit.”
Gen. Eiland reminded the Israeli public that Pope Benedict XVI had served as a conscript in the German army, the Wehrmacht, which played a major role in the mass murder of Jews during World War II.
He also criticized the Pope’s desire to beatify Pope Pius XII, who served in the Vatican during World War II.
He wrote: “There are dozens of reports documenting Church representatives, the Cardinals of Holland, Austria and Ukraine, who sent letters to the pope reporting murderous acts by the Nazis, with dates, places and numbers of victims… Pope Pius XII opted to disregard this”
Gen. Eiland also reminded the public that “there were senior Catholic figures who asked him to issue a clear statement, which, even if it did not deter the Nazis, would at least give rise to hesitations among Catholic collaborators in Poland, Ukraine and other countries,” yet “the Pope refused.”
Gen. Eiland also raised questions about the Pope’s desire to visit the State of Israel and raised the fear that “He wants to come here because the holiest sites to Christianity happen to be under Israeli sovereignty.”
Yet from Gen. Eilan’s point of view, the unkindest cut of all was when “The [P]ope voiced support for the Durban II conference” along with his visit to the Palestinian Authority in an United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA) refugee camp near the security fence next to Bethlehem, “so that Palestinian refugees and the fence will provide a fine backdrop for his message.”
Given this background, Gen. Eiland questioned Israel’s willingness to host the Pope and to cover the full $10 million in costs from Israeli taxpayer money, with more than 80,000 police officers assigned to the task at hand.
In conclusion, Gen. Eiland wrote: “Groveling before the pope is a shameful act, and contrary to conventional wisdom, it bears no diplomatic benefit. Just as an unnecessary confrontation can harm the state’s standing, so too can unnecessary groveling be harmful. If we were to say to the Vatican that ‘the time is not right for a visit,’ we would be doing something both justified from a Jewish standpoint and wise from a diplomatic standpoint.”
David Bedein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org