News reports indicate that the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, “the top Roman Catholic official in the Holy Land,” planted an olive tree on Sunday in the path of the separation wall being built by Israel. He said that the wall “serves no purpose.” Well, that’s what the media said he said, and that’s unfortunate.
I was particularly offended by the WTOP [Washington, DC news radio] broadcast that described his action as a “move for peace” in the Holy Land. The AP report (linked above) explains that “Israel began building the barrier after a series of deadly Palestinian suicide bombings. Attackers infiltrated across the unmarked West Bank-Israel line to blow themselves up in Israeli cities, killing hundreds.” That sort of clear linkage is a fresh breeze from the news media, and was nowhere in WTOP’s radio broadcast.
The Latin Patriarch’s actions must themselves be examined as well. The Palestine News Agency, Wafa, did not hesitate to say that he was demonstrating a one-sided Palestinian bias. Several months ago, Rabbi Adlerstein offered a definition of “functional” anti-Semitism:
Why is it “functionally anti-semitic” to divest from Israel? (Those who use this term mean that the behavior is so over the top that it must be seen as anti-semitic, even if it is not a product of any animus to the Jewish people.) When you hold Jews to a different standard than you would use for any other people, you are functionally anti-semitic, no matter what your motivation. If you demand that Israel put her citizens in range of suicide bombers in order to spare Palestinians dislocation of their lives, you ask it to do what no other country would. When you focus so disproportionately on Israel, as if it were the cause of all evil in the world, and neglect for decades to take action in places like the Sudan, Tibet, North Korea – places where a strong unified church voice might actually do some good – you are being anti-semitic.
By those standards, the Latin Patriarch’s actions probably qualify. But were they more than merely functionally anti-Semitic?
The AP report distorted what he said, claiming that the security wall “serves no purpose.” For someone living in Jerusalem, that would be anti-Semitic, plain and simple. It has saved hundreds of lives — just look at the numbers before and after. But then they quote him, and what he actually said was “This position and the confiscation of lands have no reason at all.”
Anyone who trusts the expertise of the IDF in these matters should disagree with him. And it’s functionally anti-Semitic to suggest that we should care, since no other nation in any similar situation would — least of all the Arab states, but the United States as well. But to say that the position of the wall is without purpose — meaning you could minimize disruption without losing security — is not saying that the wall serves no purpose.
So the AP, which at least managed to link the wall to the suicide bombings, also cast the Patriarch as saying that he condemned the wall itself, not just its position. If he actually said that, then the anti-semitism is more than functional. If not, then the AP inadvertently fanned the flames. Unfortunately, of course, neither of these would be new…