new haven schull A Grave Mistake in Need of Correction: A Response to the Meeting Between Rabbi Shlomo Riskin and Pope Benedict XVI (journal article)



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A Grave Mistake in Need of Correction: A Response to the Meeting Between Rabbi Shlomo Riskin and Pope Benedict XVI

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Article/book #: 143002
Title: A Grave Mistake in Need of Correction: A Response to the Meeting Between Rabbi Shlomo Riskin and Pope Benedict XVI
By: Rifat Odeh Kassis  
Published in: Alternative Information Center
Date of issue: Wednesday, 19 January 2011
Topic(s) addressed: People/entities mentioned in this item: Place(s) mentioned in this item:
Commentary

Abstract:

»The only thing worse than injustice is an attempt to disguise it. This was among my first reactions to a piece of news published on Zenit.com, "Rabbi Visits Benedict XVI,"[1] which describes the meeting between the Pope and Rabbi Shlomo Riskin (chief rabbi of the illegal Efrat settlement in the West Bank), ostensibly to inform His Holiness about the work of the Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation (CJCUC). Among this centre's objectives are to connect Christians and Jews, both religious leaders and members of these religious communities, in "dialogue," as well as to find ways to alleviate Christian poverty in the Holy Land.
At first glance, this encounter smacks simply of normalisation: an initiative that tries to gather Israelis and Palestinians and/or foreigners without expressly exposing the occupation and oppression to which Palestinians are subjected, especially one that (to quote the definition put forth by the first Palestinian BDS conference of 2007) "impl[ies] equity between Israelis and the Palestinians in the responsibility for the conflict, or claim that peace is achieved through dialogue and understanding…without achieving justice." «

»First and foremost, Rabbi Riskin is not only the chief rabbi of the Efrat settlement, but one of its co-founders (together with Moshe Moskovics, Chairman of the tellingly named Judean Hills Development Company and Efrat's first mayor). These settlements – constructed on land stolen from Palestinians, enforcing discrimination and completely disparate access to resources and basic liberties between Israelis and Palestinians, and perpetuating a situation in which rampant acts of violence committed by settlers go without investigation or trial -- constitute one of Israel's gravest violations of international law, as well as one of the greatest obstacles to a just and lasting peace in the region. In short, settlements are not only morally reprehensible but also utterly defiant of international standards of justice: they are illegal; they are crimes. Settlers themselves are perpetrators of these crimes. Founders of settlements are leaders of these crimes. Rabbi Riskin is one such leader.«

»The mentality of anyone who actually believes that "everything was handed over to the Palestinians," and that the Oslo Accords constituted "concessions of land for peace" that were met only with terrorism, is characterised by the delusions and aggressions produced by fervent pro-Israeli nationalism. Indeed, Rabbi Riskin's portrayal of the Oslo Accords is ludicrous in itself: if anything, the Accords effectively legitimized and certainly normalized the occupation. Moreover, they did not cause Israel to decrease its settlement activity; in fact, settlement construction increased after the signing. Rabbi Riskin's position is quite clear; equally clear, then, is the fact that he lacks even a shred of ethical or political credibility to appeal before His Holiness in the name of "cooperation."
What makes matters worse is one of the CJCUC objectives I mentioned at the beginning, an objective Rabbi Riskin discussed with the Holy Father during their meeting: to help "alleviate Christians' poverty." He refers to Christians' poverty (which also means Palestinians' poverty, although he never says so) in the Holy Land as if it were an accident, a merely unfortunate circumstance that charitable acts can resolve. It is not. Our poverty is a product of our occupation: the result of the Separation Wall and the way it economically chokes us off from centres of work, education, and health; of the movement restrictions imposed by the Israeli government and military; and of the settlements so valued by Rabbi Riskin.«

»Dialogue is not enough, and understanding is impossible, when words serve only to paint over injustice. It is my sincerest hope that the Vatican will share this conviction.«











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