"Hypocrisy is an internal division," the Pope declared in a recent address. "We say one thing and we do another. It's a kind of spiritual schizophrenia." - Pope Francis (L'Osservatore Romano)
I agree, which is why I was appalled by the inherent hypocrisy in a resolution passed by the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) the day before the Pope's remarks. On Oct. 13, it voted to accept a lengthy motion that effectively erases any Jewish or Christian connection to Jerusalem's Temple Mount and Western Wall, by referring to these sites solely by their Arabic names.
This entire episode was not only an audacious attempt to rewrite history, it was an effort, on the part of the seven Arab states sponsoring the resolution, to redefine Jerusalem, not as a place holy to the world's three major monotheistic faiths, but as the sole domain of Islam — a religion born about 15 centuries after the construction of the first Jewish Temple on that site. Three thousand years of independent archeological and documentary evidence confirming the Jewish character of the Temple Mount were, in a single Orwellian vote, dismissed by the UN agency that claims to advance education, science and culture.
Despite passage of the resolution, UNESCO attempted to distance itself from its members' hypocritical decision. Director-General Irina Bokova stated that "to deny, conceal or erase any of the Jewish, Christian or Muslim traditions undermines the integrity of the site." She even went so far as to decry the politicization of UNESCO by member states: "When these divisions carry over into UNESCO, an organization dedicated to dialogue and peace, they prevent us from carrying out our mission."
This was a refreshing bit of moral clarity from the head of yet another UN agency exploited by states with an anti-Israel agenda. Moral clarity, it should be noted, shared by the Canadian government official Opposition, who also spoke out against the resolution. And yet, at the time of writing, I have seen no similar statements of disapproval or even mild reservation from mainstream Christian officials who wield enormous moral influence, including Pope Francis and Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby. While it was reprehensible for countries like France to abstain from the UNESCO vote, it is utterly incomprehensible for religious leaders throughout the Christian world not to react with the sharpest criticism.
This silence is all the more deafening — and disappointing — given the deep admiration I and many in the Jewish community have for the Pope and many other Christian leaders. In addition to his anti-poverty and social justice activism, Francis has built on the traditions of his recent predecessors by strengthening relations with Jews and the state of Israel. That he did not address UNESCO's attack on a central aspect of Jewish heritage in a sermon on hypocrisy is as disheartening as it is ironic.
From the heart of one brother to another, I urge my Christian friends: don't be silent when those motivated by the politics of hate attempt to erase your Bible and our shared heritage.
Perhaps most concerning is the failure to respond to what is clearly an assault on the core narrative of Christianity. In attempting to re-brand the Temple Mount and Western Wall as exclusively Islamic sites, the authors of this resolution are negating the history of Christianity, no less than that of Judaism.
Pope Francis once said that "Christians, in order to understand themselves, cannot fail to refer to their Jewish roots." The Christian Gospels explicitly record how Jesus, a practising Jew, preached in synagogues and visited the Temple in Jerusalem. To deny the presence of a Jewish Temple, a matter confirmed by independent scholarship, is to tell Christians that their Bible — and their understanding of the life of Jesus — is based on false history.
When Pope John Paul II crossed the Tiber in 1986 to enter Rome's Great Synagogue, he did more than travel a few hundred metres. In this single act, he transcended centuries of mistrust, persecution, forced conversion and Christian violence against Jews. His historic address, the first by a pope in a synagogue, reaffirmed the indivisibility of Jews and Christians. "You are our dearly beloved brothers," he said. "And, in a certain way, it could be said that you are our elder brothers."
An elder brother serves many roles, perhaps none more important than reminding a younger brother of his roots. From the heart of one brother to another, I urge my Christian friends: don't be silent when those motivated by the politics of hate attempt to erase your Bible and our shared heritage.
Shimon Koffler Fogel, "Why are Pope Francis and Other Christian Leaders Staying Silent Over Unesco's Vile Resolution?" National Post, (Canada) October 20, 2016.
Reprinted with permission of the National Post.
Shimon Koffler Fogel is CEO of the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs.Copyright © 2016 National Post
back to top