National Conference of Catholic Bishops Statement 'Marked Improvement' Over Fall Resolution

June 15, 2001

June 15, 2001 -  NEW YORK -- The American Jewish Committee described today’s National Conference of Catholic Bishops resolution on the Middle East as a “marked improvement” over the Catholic organization’s statement of last November.

“We believe that our specific criticisms of the unbalanced NCCB statement of last November has been heard in the American Catholic hierarchy. With the passage of time has come a greater appreciation by American Catholic leaders of the complexities of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and of Israel’s serious and justified concerns,” said the American Jewish Committee, the premier American Jewish organization in interrreligious relations.

The AJC statement continued:

“Critical is the bishops’ affirmation of their commitment to the state of Israel, as the NCCB stated: ‘Israel has a fundamental right to security.’

“The NCCB commendably calls for the Palestinian leadership to ‘show the Israeli people that it is fully committed to prepare its people to live in peace with Israel.’ Also critical is the American bishops’ specific call upon Palestinian leaders to clearly renounce violence and terrorist acts against innocent civilians, take effective steps to stop them and bring to justice those responsible, and to end incitement against Israel.

“We agree with the bishops that a way must be found to return quickly to genuine negotiations, but there should be no mistaking what transpired during the critical Israeli-Palestinian talks last summer and fall. It is essential that all political and religious leaders publicly acknowledge the most basic of facts, which is that the Palestinian leadership spurned a generous and far-reaching offer for peace from Israel, actively encouraged by the United States, and, instead of responding with a counteroffer, launched a calculated campaign of violence and terror.

“One of the most disturbing aspects of this Palestinian strategy of diplomatic hostility and deadly terrorism has been the exploitation of religion for violence. We are disappointed that the NCCB has not spoken out specifically on the manipulation of sacred principles of faith to justify and encourage people to engage in suicide bombings – as occurred yet again on June 1, when a Palestinian terrorist, outfitted as a human explosive, killed 20 young Israelis and wounded scores more.

“Also troubling is the implication in the NCCB statement that Israel bears primary responsibility for the continuing exodus of Christians from the region. The fact is that the number of Christians in Israel, mainly in the Galilee, has quadrupled since 1948, and that the decline in the overall Christian population in the region began during Ottoman rule, continuing through the Jordanian occupation.

“The Bishops appear to completely disregard the frightening impact of Islamic extremism on the local Christian communities, as well as the exploitation of Christian neighborhoods and churches to launch attacks against Israel over the last eight months.

“We have long cherished our constructive relationship with the NCCB that has achieved historic gains in Catholic-Jewish relations. The American Jewish Committee has worked in close cooperation with the NCCB for more than four decades on many vital issues, and we look forward to continuing to work together toward the realization of true peace and security for all peoples in the Middle East.”
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Contact: Kenneth Bandler (212) 891-6771

        Lisa Fingeret Roth (212) 891-1385

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