From Bro. Timothy Gardner OP Sir, Though the thoughts expressed by Gerard Noel in his piece "Is Catholic support for the Palestinian cause a matter of simple anti-Semitism?" are a "Personal View" they call for a response.
That response must be no. Though there can be little doubt that Catholics have been guilty of outright anti-Semitism and of complicity with anti-Semitic forces throughout history, it is offensive to suggest that any criticism of the State of Israel is purely anti-Semitism. One must surely distinguish anti-Semitism from misgivings about Zionism (such as those Albert Einstein clearly had). Moreover, I do not doubt that one could support
the State of Israel in principle and yet still find much to criticise.
It seems that Mr Noel has swallowed the Israeli rhetoric which alleges that Arafat is corrupt and has behaved illegally and cruelty in the past. The implied conclusion seems to be that the Palestinian Authority does not therefore deserve recognition or any sort of human rights. Why should this be so? Perhaps one of the reasons that Mr Arafat is now leader of the PA is that many of the Palestinian leaders in waiting have long ago been assassinated.
What must concern us, as Christians, in Israel is surely just that which exercises us in the Balkans, in Iraq, (and earlier in Apartheid South Africa): namely, the undoubted sufferings of a group of human beings. A Palestinian Arab in Israel is more likely to be unemployed, more likely to be restricted in where he can work and travel, more likely to have his home destroyed, more likely to be poor, more likely to be arbitrarily arrested and mistreated and more likely to flee as a refugee than a Jewish Israeli. This alone ought to cause us concern especially given that Israel is a country which only got around to banning torture two years ago and which, according to several Human Rights organisations, still covertly practises it.
I wonder also whether Mr Noel has appreciated the sick irony in his happily trotting out the fact that Yasser Arafat strangles babies with his bare hands? This is exactly the kind of behaviour that the Nazis attributed to Jews. Seventy years ago some people had the courage to reject such scandalous rubbish and stand against it. We must hope that we have the same courage today.
Yours faithfully, TIMOTHY GARDNER Blackfriars, Oxford