[Ed. note -What is not mentioned in the article below are the inflammatory comments made by a leader in the Israeli settler movement and which came to light back in December a few days before Christmas. In a burst of malevolence published in Hebrew, Benzi Gopstein referred to Christians as “bloodsucking vampires,” and called upon Jews to “fight the devious phenomenon,” i.e. Christianity–referred to by Gopstein as “that accursed religion.” I’ll have more on Gopstein’s tirade below, but first a news item that appeared just today, regarding desecration of a Christian cemetery in Israel. ]
Agence France Presse
OCCUPIED JERUSALEM: Vandals have destroyed dozens of crosses at a Christian cemetery west of Jerusalem, the Latin Patriarchate in the city said Saturday, urging Israeli authorities to bring the culprits to justice.
The church did not say who was behind the desecration but in recent years there have been a spate of hate crimes targeting churches and Christian cemeteries, with the perpetrators believed to be Jewish extremists.
“Salesian fathers responsible for the monastery in Beit Jamal reported that unknown persons desecrated their monastery’s cemetery,” the patriarchate said in a statement.
“The fathers reported also that tens of crosses were destroyed at their cemetery,” it said, condemning the attack which apparently took place in December.
Beit Jamal is near the Israeli town of Beit Shemesh, west of Jerusalem.
Vandals had desecrated the cemetery of the Catholic monastery of Beit Jamal, which is run by the Salesian order, in September 1981, said the statement.
The patriarchate urged “the police… and the Israeli authorities in general to invest every possible effort” to bring to justice those responsible for this and past desecrations.
“We do hope that more efforts be made to educate all inhabitants of the country to respect each other despite their different religious backgrounds,” said the English language statement.
In April, vandals had smashed gravestones at a Maronite Christian cemetery in a village near Israel’s northern border with Lebanon.
In June, arsonists attacked the Church of the Multiplication in Tabgha, on the shores of the Sea of Galilee where many Christians believe Jesus fed 5,000 people in the miracle of the five loaves and two fish.
One building within the compound was totally destroyed in the blaze but the church itself was not damaged.
Hebrew graffiti was scrawled on another building that read “idols will be cast out” or destroyed — part of a common Jewish prayer.
Two suspected Jewish extremists were charged in connection with the arson and graffiti, and Israel said it would compensate church officials for the damage.
It’s hard to say what person or persons were behind the desecration, but someone in Israel who clearly hates Christianity with a passion is Benzi Gopstein. Christians, in Gopstein’s view, are not only vampires, but they also pose a threat to Israel and should be expelled from the country. This isn’t by any means the first time he has expressed such sentiments. I put up a post about Gopstein back in August of last year after he and Lehava tried to block a Christian missionary conference from taking place in Jerusalem. But his most recent comments, published the week before Christmas on an ultra-Orthodox Jewish website, are perhaps the most extreme yet. The Times of Israel published a report on the matter on December 22. Here is an excerpt:
“The Christian is no longer considered a threatening vampire, rather a pleasant, friendly tourist and partner in the Western culture that dominates our lives,” he said, blaming the Israeli education system for not instilling enough Jewish education in students. “The vampires can send a message of thanks to the government of Israel for making their work much easier.”
He called on all willing Jews to raise a cry “and fight the devious phenomenon,” referring to Christianity as “that accursed religion.”
“Christmas has no place in the Holy Land,” he concluded. “Missionary work must not be given a foothold. Let’s throw the vampires out of our land before they drink our blood again.”
Additional reports on Gopstein’s screed can be found here and here. Both articles mention moderate Jews in Israel who have denounced his comments and called for a government investigation into his activities, but as one of the writers puts it, “Gopstein is Israel’s teflon man, nothing sticks to him.”
A question we might ask ourselves is why those of us here in America, a nation with a majority Christian population, should find it necessary to go to Israeli media to discover the extent to which Christianity is loathed and detested in Israel–a country which receives billions of our tax dollars each year?
Gopstein’s bombastic diatribe seems to have been ignored by the New York Times. In fact, the only mention of it I could find in any US mainstream media outlet was a brief report (under 400 words) posted on Fox News’ site on December 23.
Another question Americans might ask themselves is how long they intend to allow their political leaders to continue parroting the line about the US and Israel having “shared values” without calling them out on it?
Here is a partial list of those who have made this claim–a list which I included in a post I put up a week ago. I’ll post it again here for those who may have missed it:
Obama (“The bond between Israel and the United States is rooted in more than our shared national interests; it’s rooted in the shared values and shared stories of our people.”)
Joe Biden [speaking of former Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak] (“There is a standup guy. Standing up for his country, putting his life on the line for his country and continuing to defend the values that we all share.”)
Lindsey Graham (“I’m honored to be in your country yet again. And what brings me here so many times, is common and shared values and common and shared enemies.”)
Marco Rubio (“The security of our ally, the strongest and most enduring democracy in the region, Israel, with whom we are bound by the strongest ties of mutual interest and shared values and affection would improve as well.”)
Hilary Clinton (Our countries and our peoples are bound together by our shared values…”)
Jeb Bush (“US-Israel alliance is founded not merely on shared interests, butshared values. I’ll rebuild this vital friendship. “)
Nita Lowey (“The U.S.-Israel relationship is based on shared values and an unbreakable bond, not on personalities.”)
Paul Ryan (“Our shared democratic values and national interests are supported by maintaining a close friendship with Israel.”)
Ted Cruz (“I look forward to working to strengthen the already incredibly strong alliance between the United States and Israel. In my view the United States should stand unshakably alongside the Nation of Israel. I thank you personally, I thank your nation for its leadership for democratic values in a very dangerous region of the world, also for your leadership protecting the security of the nation and ultimately of the United States as well.”
Rand Paul (“With our shared history and common values, the American and Israeli people have formed a bond that unites us across the many thousands of miles between our countries and calls us to work together towards peace and prosperity for our countries.”)
Chuck Grassley (“The proliferation of weapons of mass destruction by rogue regimes, state-sponsored terrorism, and the spread of Islamic radicalism place the entire Middle East – and the values of Israel and the United States – at risk.”)
Dan Coats (“Israel and the United States enjoy a long and prosperous friendship that transcends politics and is cemented by our shared history, values, strategic interests, culture and religious heritage.”)
Steny Hoyer (“This bill reflects the immutable and enduring bond between our two nations. It is a bond that reflects the shared values of our people and our shared interests in preserving stability in the Middle East.”)
Elizabeth Warren (“For generations, the United States and Israel have shared a commitment to a stable, secure, and peaceful Middle East. But our alliance runs far deeper: it is a natural partnership resting on our mutual commitment to democracy and freedom and on our shared values. Both our countries have been sustained by our commitment to liberty, pluralism, and the rule of law. These values transcend time, and they are the basis of our unbreakable bond.”)
Chris Coons (“While too often the debate about this agreement in Washington has struck a sharply partisan political tone, the conversation here in Delaware while passionate remained thoughtful, and anchored in our shared values.”)
Barbara Boxer (“Since 1948, United States Presidents and both houses of Congress, on a bipartisan basis and supported by the American people, have repeatedly reaffirmed the special bond between the United States and Israel, based on shared values and shared interests.”) [as stated in S. Res. 2165 introduced by Boxer in 2012]
Tom Cotton (“At root, regardless of one’s religion, Israel is a liberal constitutional democracy that respects individual freedom, and that has a market-based economy. Those are deeply shared values that the United States has encoded in our national DNA .”) [Whoa! Not only shared values, but shared DNA!!!]
Nancy Pelosi (“The unbreakable bonds between the United States and Israel are rooted in our shared values, our common ideals and mutual interests.”)
Richard Blumenthal (“Israel is not only an ally of strategic necessity, but a partner with deeply-held commitments to America’s own foundational values of democracy, rule of law, individual liberty, religious freedom, and the pursuit of international peace.”)
Joe Kennedy (“There has been no greater champion for our shared values and defender of our shared interests.”) [speaking of former Israeli President Shimon Peres]
Trent Franks (“President Shimon Peres has embodied a commitment to themutual values shared by the United States and Israel — values that include the preservation of life, faith, family, and freedom.”)
Robert Menendez (“And I look forward to doing even more to strengthen our commitment to Israel, to shared democratic values — no matter what may bloom from the shifting sands of the Arab Spring.”)
79 House Members (“This is why we urge you to persevere in reaffirming that the two-state solution is still achievable and that it, and the joint U.S.-Israel commitment to shared democratic values and to Israel as a Jewish and democratic state, remains fundamental to U.S. policy.”) [from letter sent to President Obama in March, 2015, and signed by the following 79 House members: Nadler, Aguilar, Bass, Bera, Beyer, Blumenauer, Bonamici, Bordallo, Brady, Capps, Capuano, Cartwright, Cicilline, Katherine Clark, Yvette Clarke, Clyburn, Cohen, Connolly, Conyers, Courtney, DeFazio, DelBene, DeSaulnier, Doggett, Doyle, Edwards, Ellison, Eshoo, Farr, Fattah, Al Green, Grijalva, Gutierrez, Honda, Huffman, Jeffries, Eddie Bernice Johnson, Hank Johnson, Kaptur, Kind, Kuster, Larson, Lawrence, Barbara Lee, Sheila Jackson Lee, Lewis, Loebsack, Lowenthal, Sean Patrick Maloney, Matsui, McDermott, McGovern, McNerney, Moore, Norton, Payne, Scott Peters, Pingree, Plaskett, Pocan, Polis, Price, Rangel, Rush, Tim Ryan, Serrano, Schakowsky, Robert Scott, Slaughter, Adam Smith, Speier, Takano, Tonko, Tsongas, Van Hollen, Velazquez, Watson Coleman, Welch and Yarmuth ]