Pope Says Creation of Israel Was Responsible for Palestinians’ Plight

Pope John Paul II told 150,000 persons gathered at an outdoor mass last Sunday that the creation of Israel was responsible for the plight of the Palestinian people. He also appealed to Moslems and Jews to make Jerusalem a common home and “the crossroads of conciliation and peace.”

The Pontiff spoke at Otranto, in southern Italy, on the occasion of the 500th anniversary of the Turkish massacre there. In what many observers regarded as the harshest indictment of Israel by any Pope, the Polish-born Pontiff declared:

“The Jewish people, a people with a tragic experience linked to the extermination of so many sons and daughters and pushed by a desire for security, gave birth to the State of Israel. But at the same time a sad condition was created for the Palestinian people who were in conspicuous part excluded from their homeland.”

“Jerusalem today,” he added, “is the object of a dispute that seems to be without solution. Tomorrow, God willing, it can become the crossroads of conciliation and peace. We pray that Jerusalem, rather than being what it is today, the object of contestation and division, becomes the focus toward which Christians, Jews and Moslems look and around which all feel themselves brothers.”

PONTIFF’S STATEMENT TERMED DEPLORABLE

(In New York, Rabbi Joseph Sternstein, president of the American Zionist Federation, said today that the Pope’s statement equating the plight of the Palestinians with the establishment of Israel “is absolutely deplorable. A thorough review of the facts illustrates unequivocally the Pope’s statement to be both erroneous and dangerously misleading.

(“Let us recall the historical record clearly. The Arabs living within the borders of the newly established State of Israel fled their homes at the insistence and admonition of their Arab leaders and despite assurances of safety from the Israeli army. Moreover, the Vatican statement ignored the fact that at the same time as Arabs fled their houses in Haifa and Jaffa, Jews were forcibly driven from their homes in cities throughout the Arab world.”

(Ivan Novick, president of the Zionist Organization of America, said: “It is of concern that the Pope fails to recall what caused the ‘plight of the Palestinians.’ The distressing position of the mass of Arab refugees from Palestine was entirely the handiwork of the Arab states who continue to perpetuate their misery by refusing to settle the refugees in their wide and empty spaces.”

(Novick added: “In calling to make Jerusalem a common home for Moslems and Jews, the Pope appears to ignore that Israel has already accomplished this. Under Israel’s sovereignty there is now a secure home in the Holy City for all races and creeds, including complete freedom of worship and respect for the holy shrines of all religions.”)

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