While efforts had been made to encourage the assembly to meaningfully address challenges Christians face in the Middle East, Israel was ultimately singled out for outsized and blunt opprobrium. The assembly failed to reflect papal celebration of Jews’ return to their homeland and recognition of Israel’s right to self-defense. It also neglected to acknowledge Israel’s diverse democratic society and protection of Christian life, in contrast with many of its Arab neighbors.
Diverting from a responsible Catholic approach, the polemical “Kairos Palestine” document was promoted on assembly sidelines by key Arab Catholic figures, one of whom even suggested the threat of a “one-state solution” to the conflict—the replacement of Israel.
Most offensive, at a concluding press conference, the head of the assembly’s communiqué drafting committee asserted that a notion of Jewish “chosenness” is an illegitimate basis for claims to the land of Israel. Greek Melkite Archbishop Cyrille Salim Bustros said: “The Holy Scriptures cannot be used to justify the return of Jews to Israel and the displacement of the Palestinians, to justify the occupation…We Christians cannot speak of the ‘promised land’ as an exclusive right for a privileged Jewish people. This promise was nullified by Christ. There is no longer a chosen people—all men and women of all countries have become the chosen people.” Bustros’ regressive views negate Jews’ covenant with God. These sentiments baselessly accuse Israel of invoking spiritual distinctiveness as a foundation for government policy. On the contrary, Israel has repeatedly offered to divide sacred lands, even in the face of violent, often religion-fueled, political rejectionism.
We urge Pope Benedict XVI—who is now considering the assembly’s conclusions—to restore a fair, constructive voice in the pursuit of peace in the Middle East. It is particularly in the Middle East that the church’s stated opposition to anti-Zionism must be actively shared.