NEW YORK (Sep. 14)
Jewish leaders protested vehemently today that the Pope intends to meet with PLO chief Yasir Arafat, and called upon the Pontiff to reconsider meeting with the terrorist leader. They also pointed out that such a meeting could only serve to legitimize Arafat and his organization.
In a cable to the Vatican, Julius Berman, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, said “we are profoundly distressed” that the Pope may grant an audience to Arafat. Branding the PLO leader and the PLO “the slaughterer of hundreds of Israeli children, mothers and old people, “Berman, addressing the Pope directly, stated:
“We are particularly dismayed that you, who have spoken so eloquently of the world’s craving for peace, should dignify this cold blooded murderer by meeting with him.”
Berman declared that Arafat “does not deserve to be received by the leader of the Roman Catholic Church…If you grant Arafat an interview the world will interpret it in only one way: that you regard his views as worthy of discussion, his leadership of the Palestinian Arabs legitimate, his pretentious to statesmanship valid, his terrorist acts forgiven. Such a step, we strongly believe, would be a crushing blow to the cause of world peace to which you have devoted yourself. For these reasons we urge you not to receive Yasir Arafat.”
MEETING WOULD CONFER MANTLE OF LEGITIMACY
Rabbi Walter Wurzburger, president of the Synagogue Council of America, the umbrella organization for Reform Orthodox and Conservative congregational and rabbinical groups, protested to Archbishop John Roach, president of the United States Catholic Bishops. He wrote:
“We are appalled that by the very act of receiving the chairman of the PLO, the Pontiff will confer the mantle of legitimacy upon a terrorist organization which has ruthlessly massacred civilians including women and children in Lebanon, Israel and in many parts of the world.”
Kenneth Bialkin, national chairman of the Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith, said: “For Arafat, the encounter with the Pope is a gift of recognition that murder, practiced often and indiscriminately, is not without its reward. We call upon the Pope to reconsider this gratuitous affront to all who abhor terrorism.”
VIEWS MEETING AS INCOMPREHENSIBLE
The American Jewish Committee’s “deep distress” over the possibility of the Pope meeting Arafat was expressed in a cable from AJ Committee president Maynard Wishner to Archbishop Agostino Casaroli of the Vatican Secretariat of State. “It is incomprehensible that the Holy Father who was nearly murdered by a terrorist fanatic trained by the PLO in Beirut would reward the terrorists by giving them implied sanction through the privilege of an audience in Vatican City, “he said.
Wishner recalled that the Pope himself “decried terrorists in his February 18 address to the Christian Democratic World Union, saying ‘Terrorism is the antithesis of everything that you try to promote as democrats and Christians’…The Holy Father’s audience with the architect of international terrorism is irreconcilable with these moral positions.”
MEETING TERMED UNCONSCIONABLE
Rabbi Joseph Sternstein, president of the American Zionist Federation, sent a cable to the Pope today which stated, in part: “It is incongruous lamentable, and unconscionable that the Vatican, the world’s most influential voice should take audience with one who has wreaked so much violence on the defenseless; applauded so much suffering of innocents; persecuted so many for their religious birth rights, and just recently led the slaughter of Lebanese of all faiths.”
The executive committee of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, acting on the recommendation of its president, Rabbi Alexander Schindler adopted a resolution at its semi-annual meeting today stating that a meeting between the Pope and Arafat “can only stain the moral stature of the Catholic church…A meeting of the Pope with the world’s arch-terrorist merits condemnation at any time. Coming on the very eve of Rosh Hashanah, such an audience would fill with deep and bitter disappointment millions of men and women of good will…who yearn and strive for the day when Middle East terror ends and a new ear of peace begins.”
A DISSERVICE TO WORLD PEACE
Robert Zweiman, national commander of the Jewish War Veterans, told the 87th annual convention of the organization, meeting in Kiamesha Lake, N.Y., that the Pope-Arafat meeting is a “disservice to human rights and world peace.” In a telegram to the pontiff, the JWV urged the Pope to reconsider his meeting with the PLO leader “whose followers trained the man who attempted to assassinate you and whose followers desecrated churches and killed and raped thousands of Lebanese Christians.”
Marshall Wolke and Rabbi Benjamin Kreitman, president and executive vice president, respectively, of the United Synagogue of American (USA), sent a telegram to Terrence Cardinal Cooke, Archbishop of New York, and to the Rev. Francis Mugavero, Bishop of Brooklyn, asking them to intervene to rescind the meeting between the Pope and Arafat.” Terrorism in whatever guise will defeat the synagogue and the church’s hope for peace” in the Mideast, the two USA leaders wrote.
Harold Jacobs, president of the International Young Israel Movement, said the Pope’s meeting with Arafat would lend credibility to “the leader of the Communist-inspired international terrorist network.” This, he added, “is totally inconsistent with the most basic concepts of religious morality.”
Philip Givens, president, and Leon Kronitz, executive vice president of the Canadian Zionist Federation, appealed to the Pope “to cancel this audience (with Arafat). Surely a man who is responsible for the murders of countless Christians and many Jews, all innocent victims of deliberate world-wide terrorism, should not be privileged to approach the Pope.”
Irwin Cotter, president of the Canadian Jewish Congress, addressed a telegram to the Papal Pro-Nuncio in Ottawa, Archbishop Angelo Palmas, saying the meeting “would only bestow the mantle of legitimacy on those who spill the blood of innocents.”