Jewish Groups Express Distress over Some Remarks O’connor Made During His Middle East Trip

A statement issued Saturday night by 53 major Jewish organizations said the leaders were “disquieted and distressed” by statements sympathetic to Palestinians that John Cardinal O’Connor made during his Middle East visit.

The statement noted that O’Connor, the Roman Catholic Archbishop of New York, failed to understand all sides of the Palestinian issue, although this was one of the motivations behind Israel’s invitation to O’Connor.

“The Cardinal was understandably moved by the circumstances of the Arab refugees. But the refugee problem must be understood in the context of the deliberate policy of Arab states, some prodigiously wealthy, that has kept these people as refugees and in a dependent condition for nearly 40 years, serving as pawns in a war that the Arab world continues to wage against Israel. By contrast, Israel has resettled more Jewish refugees from Arab lands than there were displaced Arabs,” the Presidents’ statement said.

O’Connor said he was shocked by the conditions in a Gaza refugee camp he visited and contended that Americans stereotyped Palestinians as terrorists.

Earlier last week, some Jewish leaders praised O’Connor for his ecumenical statesmanship in working out a way to meet Israeli President Chaim Herzog and Foreign Minister Shimon Peres in their Jerusalem homes.

The statement Saturday also noted that “Cardinal O’Connor has shown himself to be a strong voice against anti-Semitism and a supporter of a number of causes to which Jews are devoted, especially that of Soviet Jewry.

“We recognize that the Cardinal is bound by Vatican policy concerning Jerusalem, and we note the sincerity of his apology for the misunderstanding that developed. But we were nevertheless disquieted and distressed by reports in the press of statements he made during the course of his visit to Jordan and Israel.”

O’Connor’s visit highlighted the two critical issues relevant to Middle East peace and closer Catholic-Jewish relations, the statement said.

“First, the failure of the Vatican to establish de jure diplomatic relations with Israel . . . Second, the failure of the Holy See to come to terms with the reality of a unified Jerusalem as capital of Israel.”

The signatories represented virtually every major Jewish group in the nation including community, rabbinical, Zionist and fund-raising organizations.

NEXT STORY