I agree with Jonathan Tobin, who notes the Pope’s missteps and tone-deafness while in Israel, but then goes on to add this important caveat:
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But to say that Benedict is not John Paul should not be an excuse for Israelis or Jews to spend this week bashing either the Vatican or the Pope. While there are many shortcomings in the positions enunciated by the Pope about the conflict between Israel and the Palestinians (his call for the lifting of the embargo on Hamas-ruled Gaza is remarkably muddle-headed), it is a colossal mistake to treat him or the vast institution he represents as either an enemy of Israel or a major problem for the Jewish people. The Vatican has maintained its ties with Israel and has spoken out against anti-Semitism repeatedly, no small gesture at a time when the tide of Jew-hatred is rising in Europe.
This Pope is no master of public relations; he is prone to mistakes that raise the hackles of Jews and others. And it’s hard to see how any Pope who served, albeit briefly, in Hitler’s Wehrmacht would ever be able to cope with the hard feelings that many Jews understandably have about the Holocaust unless he did nothing but continually apologize.
But at a time when Israel is currently beset by real enemies, including an Iranian regime threatening the Jews with a new Holocaust, fixating on the Pope’s shortcomings and the Church’s history is an absurd misreading of the situation. Like it or not, Israel and the Church are on the same side of a clash of civilizations in which radical Islam is a deadly threat to both Jews and Christians. Rather than bashing the Pope, Israelis and Jews need to embrace him as a friend, best as they can.
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