The Pope and the Sheikh

Pope Benedict XV1 should be congratulated for walking out of a meeting with organizations involved in religious dialogue after it was hijacked by Sheikh Tayseer Rajab Tamimi, Chief Islamic Judge of the Palestinian Authority. He has done a great service to everyone who is serious about peace in the Middle East and the creation of a Palestinian state.

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The Sheikh took the podium even though he was not on the speakers list and launched a vicious tirade against Israel, calling Israelis murderers and urging Muslims and Christians to unite against them. The Pope repudiated his views in no uncertain terms by leaving and castigating them in a subsequent press release. This is exceedingly important because by doing this the Pope, one of the most influential people in the world, effectively took action against the poison and hatred spouted by the Sheikh, poison and hatred which Palestinians are bombarded with daily. Walking out is far more significant and symbolic than merely denouncing Sheikh Tamimi’s views verbally or on paper because actions really do speak louder than words. Good for the Pope!

One can only hope that President Obama will act in the same vein when confronted with such phlegm. The single biggest roadblock to peace in the Middle East and a Palestinian state is hatred of Israelis, Jews, by Palestinians, Arabs. Peace and a state can’t possibly come until that hatred is no longer part of the equation because there can be no security for Israel as long as it exists. Denunciation in action and words by President Obama will play a huge role in sending those attitudes where they belong, the dustbin of history. Let’s hope that he has the vision, sense courage and morality to do exactly that.

Israel will accept and welcome a Palestinian state, but only when Palestinians, and the wider Arab world for that matter, accept and welcome Israel. Pope Benedict has brought that much closer.

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