Israel Condemns Vaticanâs âConcentration Campâ Remarks
By RACHEL DONADIO
Published: January 8, 2009
ROME â Tensions rose between the Vatican and Israel on Thursday after Israel condemned a high-ranking Vatican official for comparing the Gaza Strip to âa concentration camp.â
"Look at the conditions in Gaza: more and more, it resembles a big concentration camp,â Cardinal Renato Martino, the president of the Council for Justice and Peace, said in an interview published Wednesday in an online publication.
He defended his comments in the center-left daily newspaper La Repubblica on Thursday. While noting that Hamas rockets into Israel were âcertainly not sugared almonds,â he called the situation in Gaza âhorrificâ and said conditions there went âagainst human dignity.â
Israel on Thursday harshly condemned the cardinalâs use of World War Two imagery. âWe are astounded that a spiritual dignitary would have such words, that are so far removed from truth and dignity,â said Yigal Palmor, a spokesman for the Israeli Foreign Ministry.
He added that it was âshocking to hear the vocabulary of Hamas propaganda coming from a member of the church.â But he denied that it would cause a diplomatic crisis. It âdoesnât change the nature of relations between Israel and the Holy See,â Mr. Palmor said.
The Vatican sought to downplay the cardinalâs remarks. The Vatican spokesman, Rev. Federico Lombardi, called Cardinal Martinoâs choice of words âinopportune,â and said they created âirritation and confusionâ more than illumination.
While calling the cardinal âan authoritative person,â Rev. Lombardi added that âThe more authoritative voice and line would be that of the pope.â
Indeed, the cardinalâs remarks overshadowed an important discourse that Pope Benedict XVI delivered on Thursday, in which he called for a ceasefire in Gaza and decried âa renewed outbreak of violence provoking immense damage and suffering for the civilian population.â
âOnce again I would repeat that military options are no solution and that violence, wherever it comes from and whatever form it takes, must be firmly condemned,â he told diplomats accredited to the Vatican.
In unusually direct remarks, the pope looked ahead to âcrucial electionsâ coming up in the Middle East and called for dialogue between Israel and Syria, the âstrengthening of institutionsâ in Lebanon and a ânegotiated solutionâ to âthe controversy surroundingâ Iranâs nuclear program.
Israelâs ambassador to the Vatican, Mordechay Lewy, said events Gaza had âno connectionâ to plans underway for Benedict to visit Israel, the West Bank and Jordan this spring. The Vatican has not yet officially announced the trip.
In the past, some Jews have seen the Vaticanâs approach as more sympathetic to Palestinian suffering than Israeli security. Mr. Lewy called the popeâs speech âequivocal.â
âThe language and the expectations of the Holy Father and the scope of his interests are different from those of a politician,â Mr. Lewy said. âIn practical politics, Iâm sure Israel wouldnât have existed if we would have acted without any force.â
The Vatican cleric is correct.
If it had been any other country bombing children they would be screams of genocide. Even if Israel say its self-defence its actions are disproportinate and sadistic - and this comes people who have the claim to be God's chosen special ones.