Following the failure of Pope Benedict XVI in his Sunday sermon a week ago to include mention of Israel among a number of countries he named recently hit by terrorism, the Vatican has responded sharply to criticism from Israel. The Vatican statement says, Its not always possible to immediately follow every attack against Israel with a public statement of condemnation and for various reasons, among them the fact that the attacks against Israel sometimes were followed by immediate Israeli reactions not always compatible with the rules of international law … It would thus be impossible to condemn the first [the terror strikes] and let the second [Israeli retaliation] pass in silence. (Haaretz, July 29)
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, We are deeply troubled by the reaction of the Vatican. It was perfectly objective criticism to point out that the Pope failed to include Israel among a list of countries recently hit by terrorist attacks. Now, instead of acknowledging the omission, the Vatican is making the unreasonable claim that it cannot always condemn acts of terrorism against Israel because sometimes it doesnt approve of Israels counter-terrorist operations.
This statement makes no sense. First the Vatican explained the Popes omission by saying he implicitly included Israel among countries that have recently suffered from terrorism. Now it is saying that, in fact, it doesnt condemn terrorism against Israel at least some of the time. That means that the Vatican is actually exempting terrorism committed against Israelis from its general condemnation of terrorism.
The Vatican should immediately retract this inappropriate and illogical approach, whereby counter-terrorism measures are equated with the terrorism that necessitates them. It makes no sense to say that concern over Israeli counter-terrorism supposedly compels it to remain silent about the murder and maiming of Israelis by terrorists. Israel has acted with pin-point precision to eliminate terrorists embedded in the Palestinian civilian population.
The war crime here is not targeting terrorists, as Israel has done, but embedding terrorists in the midst of a civilian population, like the Palestinian terrorists do routinely. Has the Vatican ever condemned this practice by the Palestinian terrorist groups? If its concern is for the maintenance of international law, it should be doing no less.
Even if the Vatican has genuine concerns about the way Israel fights terrorists, it should have no difficulty condemning barbaric crimes by Palestinian terrorists it is willing to condemn when committed elsewhere by other terrorist groups. We urge the Vatican to retract this perplexing and irrational explanation of the Popes words.