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Communique from bishops offends Jewish organization

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Catholic bishops’ statement disappoints B’nai Brith Canada
By Deborah Gyapong
Canadian Catholic News

Photo Caption: CCCB vice president Bishop Lionel Gendron, of Saint-Jean-Longueuil, Quebec (Canadian Catholic News)

A spokesman for B’Nai Brith Canada says a communiqué from Catholic bishops seems to blame Israel for lack of progress on peace in the Holy Land.

“We’re disappointed that the communiqué seems to ignore important issues dealing with the conflict in Israel, including such important issues as ongoing Palestinian incitement to violence and the fact the PLO and Hamas Charters both continue to call for the destruction of the State of Israel,” said Michael Mostyn, the Chief Executive Officer of B’Nai Brith Canada.

“While we all wish for peace in the region, it is important to acknowledge the very serious security concerns that Israel faces on an ongoing basis, and when communiqués such as this ignore security issues, it is not helpful.”

Mostyn said he would be writing to the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) to outline B’Nai Brith’s concerns.

Bishop Lionel Gendron of Saint-Jean-Longueuil, vice-president of the CCCB and one of the bishops who signed the Jan. 19 statement, said blaming Israel was not their intention.

“We truly wanted to show the occupation as it is: problematic – not only for the Palestinians but also for Israelis,” he said upon his return from the Holy Land Jan. 24.

Bishop Gendron was one of a dozen bishops primarily from Europe and North America who issued the statement after an annual pilgrimage to the region sponsored by Holy Land Coordination. This was Bishop Gendron’s third participation in the pilgrimage.

Bishop Gendron said many bishops, some of whom have participated in the pilgrimage for more than a decade, had become “tired” of encountering the same problems, so they decided to focus on the occupation and the settlements. The statement also called for non-violent resistance, based on Pope Francis’ message Jan. 1 for the World Day of Peace that spoke of how non-violent means had led to positive change in many countries.

Though Israeli occupation after the 1967 War was “supposed to lessen and disappear, that has not happened,” Bishop Gendron said. “It has not happened because of the violence from Palestinians. But at the same time occupation provokes a reaction,” he said. “Often, if rights of people are not respected, some of them become violent.”

The Bishops were also influenced by the Dec. 22 United Nations Security Council resolution condemning the building of illegal settlements in both the West Bank and East Jerusalem as a violation of international law, Bishop Gendron said.

Mostyn objected to the communiqué’s reference to the UN resolution. “When the Security Council of the United Nations calls even the Jewish quarter in Jerusalem occupied, and the United Nations attempts to remove the Jewish history from even areas such as the Western Wall and Temple Mount, this has caused widespread outrage within the Jewish community worldwide,” Mostyn said. 

“Re-writing history is not the pathway forward to peace.”

The communique makes no mention of the Jordanian occupation of East Jerusalem prior to 1967 during which Jewish inhabitants of the ancient Jewish quarter banned from living there, he said.


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