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Catholic Educator Says Alarmists Distorting Mideast History

“The tension in the Middle East will not be diminished much less ended by alarmists, be they Arabs or Americans, Christians or Moslems.” This view was presented here by Msgr. John M. Oesterreicher, director of the Institute of Judaeo-Christian Studies at Seton Hall University, New Jersey. Addressing a meeting of the Cleveland Chapter of the American Professors for Peace in the Middle East, he said these alarmists like to present the reunification of Jerusalem as an annexation by Israel.

In doing so, he said, they “either ignore or suppress the fact that it was Transjordan which, in 1949, annexed 2000 square miles of central Palestine, the so-called West Bank together with the Old City of Jerusalem.” This annexation, he said, was opposed “even by all other Arab states. When Jordan took over the Old City it was by no means an Arab sector. It contained many different quarters, but Jordanian determination and force turned the Old City into an Arab one, by expelling all Jews–or to use a Nazi term by making it ‘juderein.'”

Furthermore, Msgr. Oesterreicher declared, when Christian alarmists speak of an exodus of Christians, for which they blame Israel, they are careful not to mention that there has been, for years, an exodus of Arab Christians from Arab countries. “They also forget to add that lately this trend has been reversed, at least as far as the territories administered by Israel are concerned,” he said.

Msgr. Oesterreicher added that “never before has access to the Christian shrines been as free and easy as it is today. Never before have there been as many Christian pilgrims as at present, and never before was Christian life as unmolested as it is now.” He appealed to all those concerned with the Middle East conflict to adhere strictly to facts. Those spreading rumors or prejudice do not contribute to the peace that eventually must and will come, he said.

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