The Zionist Conspiracy
Wednesday, July 07, 2004
Catholics and Israel
In response to my post last week about Commonweal, a reader e-mailed me about the negative attitudes about Israel expressed by that magazine, and, in his view, Catholics generally. His comment and my response appear in the comments to that post, but I think it's worthwhile to post them in a separate entry here, especially since that post was only tangentially about Israel.
Tzvi wrote: Don't give them a free pass on Israel. Why the hell should we put up with this defamation? If Catholics want to be anti-Israel, we can respond by helping those who want to embarrass them on domestic issues that they care about. There are exceptions such as Bill Bennett who spoke very well at the rally in Washington, but overall they are not friendly to our interests.
I responded: I'm not sure what you mean by "helping those who want to embarrass them on domestic issues that they care about" and don't see how that would be an effective approach.
If you're criticizing me for writing something positive about a magazine that doesn't like Israel on a blog mainly devoted to Israel's treatment by the media, your point is fair enough, even if it's also provincial. The truth is that I stumbled across it, was very impressed, and later came across its sentiments about Israel.
Believe me, however, I am troubled by the apparent hostility of many Catholics to Israel. It may be because Bethlehem is in Judea (i.e. the West Bank), because most Catholics in Israel and the territories identify as Arab, or because the Vatican didn't recognize or establish diplomatic relations with Israel until after everyone else did (after Oslo, I think).
My sense, though, is that most of this comes from somewhere else. Perhaps Catholics have a subconscious need to retain some aspect of anti-Semitism, and Israel is a convenient punching bag. Maybe their religious and lay leadership therefore expresses negative things about Israel in Catholic school, in churches, etc. I've read that the re-establishment of the Jewish State is theologically troubling to Catholics, who historically saw the destruction of the Second Temple in 70 CE and the exile of Jews from their land as punishment for Jesus' death.
Still, it seems that liberal Catholics, people who reject the Vatican's views on things like birth control, abortion rights, etc., are at least as likely to be anti-Israel (you point out Bill Bennett, who obviously is very conservative - except with regard to gambling). Maybe there's a rational explanation that makes sense, or maybe it's futile to look for one.