B’nai B’rith International condemns a reported declaration made by the Syrian-born leader of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church, Gregorios III (Laham), that recent terrorism against Christians in Arab countries was part of a “Zionist conspiracy.” The statement was made at an archdiocesan ceremony in Lebanon meant to emphasize interreligious coexistence.Gregorios’ demonizing and blatantly false claim represents classic scapegoating of Jews, and is unacceptable. It is most disturbing that a Christian leader would make such a baseless and hateful accusation against Jews, in clear violation of contemporary church teachings against anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism.
In October, Catholic bishops’ Special Assembly for the Middle East, whose stated focus was the welfare of Middle Eastern Christians, was overshadowed by regional prelates’ highly critical focus on Israel. The Vatican event was followed by Islamists’ massacre of parishioners at an Assyrian Catholic church in Baghdad, and further threats against Christians there. The Melkite Catholic patriarch's libelous comments highlight the problem of some Middle Eastern Christian leaders’ mimicry of Arab animus against Israel.
“I believe it is necessary to deeply examine fundamentalism… and terrorism that are masked by religion, along with violence and disturbances against Christians here and there and on an increasing level. All this behavior has nothing to do with Islam," Gregorios said in his remarks. “But it is actually a conspiracy planned by Zionism and some Christians with Zionist orientations and it aims at undermining and giving a bad image of Islam."
“It is outrageous and frightening that Gregorios wholly disregards the truth in making his statements,” B’nai B’rith International President Dennis W. Glick said. “These sentiments expressed by a religious leader only serve to worsen interreligious relations in the already volatile situation in the Middle East.”
Gregorios III had already asserted in the past that Israel aspires to an exclusively Jewish society, though the democratic Jewish state stands out in the region with its free, and growing, Christian citizenry.
“The patriarch’s statements demonizing Jews and Zionism are reprehensible,” B’nai B’rith International Executive Vice President Daniel S. Mariaschin said. “Attributing anti-Christian violence to ‘Zionists’ is inestimably damaging to peace and to the cause of addressing real persecution of Christians.”
B’nai B’rith calls for the retraction of these detestable statements, and for the refutation and condemnation of them by global Christian leaders.