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Catholic-Jewish Solidarity for Religious Freedom

Under the headline "The Vatican's Twisted Priorities," the Italian journalist Giulio Meotti published an incendiary denunciation of alleged Catholic anti-Semitism in the March 16 edition of the Israeli news site Ynet. Meotti wrote:

In a special interview with Die Tagespost last week, Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal, named by Pope Benedict to represent the Vatican in the Jewish State, declared that “Israel’s existence as such has nothing to do with the Bible.” He then compared Christians’ condition in today’s Jerusalem with Jesus’ Passion: “We Christians never forget that even our Lord himself suffered and was mocked in Jerusalem.”

Ynet should hire a fact checker: Fouad Twal represents not the Vatican, but the small and dwindling community of Arab Catholics in Israel and the Territories. The Vatican's diplomatic representative in Israel is its ambassador, the Italian Archbishop Antonio Franco. That Arab Christians are Arabs before they are Catholic and maintain an implacable hatred for the Jewish State is nothing new. To survive as an Arab minority, they ingratiate themselves with the  Jew-hatred prevalent in the Muslim majority.  But there are only 120,000 Arabs among the 300,000 Christians resident in the State of Israel, and a growing number attend Catholic services in Hebrew.

The irremediable bitterness of the Arab Christians aside, the Jewish people have a friend in Rome in the person of the present pope, as they did with his great predecessor. As Assaf Sagiv, the editor of the conservative Israeli quarterly Azure, wrote after Pope Benedict XVI's visit to Israel, "Benedict XVI—the former Joseph Ratzinger—is actually one of the best friends the Jewish people has ever had in Vatican City." The Israeli columnist Aviad Kleinberg wrote at the time, "John Paul and Ratzinger buried once and for all not only the accusation of the Jews’ murdering the messiah, but the entire theological theory that the Christians replaced the Jews and are now the Chosen People and that the New Testament annuls the Old Testament. The Old Testament is still valid, declared the two, and the Jewish people is still God’s chosen and beloved people."

This is important not simply as a matter of accuracy, but because lingering distrust and anger continue to undermine what should be a Jewish-Catholic alliance for religious freedom. As I argued in a February 19 post ("After they come for the Catholic Church, they will come for us"), the Obama administration's attempt to force the Catholic Church to dispense abortion pills and contraceptives through health plans offered by its institutions violates the First Amendment. To argue that Catholic institutions should accept federal standards because they accept federal money is nonsense, because they have no choice but to offer health insurance under Obamacare. The haredi organization Agudath Israel backed the Catholic bishops, I reported, but not the Orthodox Union, the Modern Orthodox organization.