A prominent Islamic cleric used an interreligious meeting in Jerusalem presided over by Pope Benedict XVI as a platform to accuse Israel of systematically “killing Palestinian children” and to call for an “Islamic-Christian rebellion” against Israel.
Sheikh Taysir Tamimi, head of the Muslim Shariah courts in the Palestinian territories, had not been scheduled to speak, but made his comments in Arabic after seizing the microphone at the meeting.
The Pope had planned to use his appearance at the Notre Dame Center to promote interreligious dialogue between Christians, Jews and Muslims, but he walked out of the meeting before its scheduled end after Sheikh Tamimi launched into his tirade.
Israel Minister of Tourism Stas Misezhnikov, who is coordinating the Pope’s visit to Israel, expressed his disappointment.
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He said: “The sheikh’s provocation hurt, first and foremost, Pope Benedict XVI who came to the Holy Land to promote peace and unity between the peoples of the region and all persons of faith. Israel condemns these words of hatred uttered by the sheikh, who instead of fostering peace and coexistence chose to plant seeds of division and confrontation between Israelis and Palestinians, as well as between Jews, Muslims and Christians.”
Mr. Misezhnikov added “it is a shame that the extremists were those who represented the Palestinians and the Muslims in this important event in the presence of the Holy See.”
The Pope’s spokesman in Jerusalem told the Voice Of Israel radio newsreel that Sheikh Tamimi’s speech was “not in the spirit of the conference.”
David Bedein can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org