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From the August AD 2003
Our Lady of the Rosary
Parish Bulletin

    Question: Wasn't Benedict XV being antisemitic by opposing the State of Israel? How could he deny the hereditary rights of the Jewish people to Israel?

    Answer: The Jewish religion and people are not identical with Zionism -- not all were enthusiastic about founding the modern State of Israel in Palestine. An example of the Jewish opposition to Zionism is given by Rabbi David Weiss, of Neturei Karta, an organization of Orthodox Jews:

    The Holy Land was a conditional Divine gift. It was a place set aside for G-d's worship. But it was given to the Jewish people conditionally. The Bible foretold that if the "children of Israel" should fail in their spiritual task, they would be banished from the land and sent into exile....1

    Zionism rejects all of the above. It insists that exile is purely a physical state, caused by military and physical weakness. The movement called upon the Jewish people to end exile by force of arms. It waged war, first against the British, then against the Palestinians.

    In simple terms, if one views exile as the result of military cause and effect, then the very heart and soul is ripped out of Jewish destiny and Divine guidance.... To refute the fact that all reward and punishment to every individual is from G-d and to refute G-d's constant supervision, to ignore this and contend that our punishments are due to physical weakness, is blasphemous and heretical....

    We seek to promote goodwill between Jewry and all mankind. The philosophy of Zionism encourages Jews to lord over all non-Jews. This results in endless Jewish confrontations with all people.... Ironically, the Zionist state was supposedly created to protect Jews from anti-Semitism, yet they are the greatest and main creator of anti-Semitism worldwide.2

    The claims to the lands controlled by modern day Israel are rather tenuous -- much more so than the claims of American Indians to the lands of our United States. Jewish people controlled this land only briefly, in the latter days of King David (c. 1000 B.C.) after expelling the various tribes mentioned in the Old Testament, and during the reign of Solomon.3

    The kingdom was divided in two at the death of Solomon (932 B.C.), existing separately as the southern kingdom of Juda, and the northern kingdom of Israel. In 721, Israel fell to the Assyrians and was carried into captivity. The Assyrians settled foreign people in Samaria, who, even though they adopted Jewish customs were treated as outcasts after the repatriation of the northern kingdom -- the despised Samaritains, mentioned occasionally in the Gospels.

    Juda was captured and taken into exile by the Babylonians in 586 B.C. Although the exile ended in fifty years, Babylonian control gave way to Persian, and then to the empire of Alexander the Great (c. 331), and its successor kingdoms of the Ptolemies, Selucids and Antiochids. A small Jewish kingdom existed at Jerusalem under the Machabees (c. 142), but gave way to Roman domination in 63 B.C.

    The Romans sacked Jerusalem and much of the surrounding territory in 69-70 A.D., ending Jewish occupation of the Holy City until the mid-twentieth century. Modern day Israel was largely Christian from the third or fourth century, until a brief Persian occupation, followed (c. 635) by long term Moslem control, which was interrupted only by the Christian Crusades of the twelfth century, and again by World War I. Jerusalem was not part of the United Nations mandate, which moved many thousand Palestinians to create the Zionist state of Israel in 1947, but was captured in the war of 1948.

    Of course, land claims are often based on use and improvement of the land, rather than on occupation or ownership. Israelis are quick to point out that they have introduced modern methods of farming and industrial production to a previously archaic land. The American taxpayer might be said to have a significant interest in this with a five-billion dollar annual investment of foreign aid.

    But still, one might side with Pope Benedict XV in saying that the holy places of the land have a claim superior to the interests of technology and agriculture and should not have been made subject to the ravages of war so clearly foreseen by so many at the close of World War I. And, if buildings and places have such a claim, a fortiori, the claim to respect for human life is far greater!

    Over the years suggestions have been made that because of its unique character Jerusalem ought to be an international city, not controlled by any single interested party. The idea of a territory with no government is a difficult one for most of us living in a world where politicians have involved them selves in virtually everything. But does there really have to be anything more than municipal government -- one to organize things like police, fire and sanitation services? And even those could probably be minimal in a place like the Holy City where the propensity to volunteerism is undoubtedly high. (This month the imams wear the sheriff's badges, the monks put out the fires, and the rabbis collect the trash -- next month the rabbis put out the fires....) This writer is willing to bet that, with the politicians safely outside the city gates, the inhabitants and the clergy could work things out "just fine."

    And it there are any fears the some group more numerous than the others might unfairly encroach upon the rights of the others, perhaps we could get someone like the Dahli Lama to arbitrate disputes every so often.


    1.  III Kings: ix: 6ff.
   2.  Rabbi Dovid Yisroel Weiss, speaking at The Barnes Review conference, June 14, A.D. 2002. Rabbi Weiss explains the Orthodox Jewish position on Zionism in greater detail at
    3.  Cf. 1-4 Kings; 1-2 Paralipomenon (a.k.a. Samuel and Chronicles in Protestant Bibles).


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