ROME (Jun. 23)
A leading Italian Jewish journalist and intellectual, Arrigo Levi, has responded forcefully to a recent article in the Jesuit magazine, Civilta Cattolica, which implied a comparison between the destruction of Jews in the Holocaust and harsh measures used by Israel to suppress the Palestinian uprising.
“How could a comparison between the repression in the occupied territories and the Holocaust spontaneously spring to the minds of these cultured priests, who cannot help but feel some uneasiness at being the heirs of the first anti-Semitism of all, that of Christians?” Levi asked.
He wrote in the influential Italian daily Corriere della Sera.
His response appeared on the eve of Pope John Paul II’s five-day visit to Austria, where he was to meet with President Kurt Waldheim.
“The authors assure us that anti-Semitism in the Catholic Church is over,” he noted.
“But they argue…that Catholics nevertheless cannot refrain from criticizing the violence of Israel against the Palestinians with a judgment that is also hard.”
‘SERIOUSLY OFFENDS MORALITY’
The article in Civilta Cattolica drew distinctions between Jews and Israelis, on one hand, and the Israeli government, which it charged “seriously offends morality” by “certain of its behavior.”
The Jesuits added that “if because of these facts, one’s thoughts thus turn spontaneously to the methods used by the Nazis against the Jews, this should not be interpreted as an equation between Israelis and Nazis…but as an expression of condemnation and shock over the fact that today, after and despite the terrible experiences that should be a lesson for everyone, methodical violence is being employed against human beings.
“It is the shock that history teaches people — everyone, not just Jews — so little, so that it repeats itself,” the magazine article said.
Said Levi of this line of thinking, “That this springs into the mind of crypto-anti-Semites, happy at the idea that even Jews are capable of reprehensible acts, we know full well.
“But this certainly doesn’t go for the Jesuit fathers. If it springs into their minds, too, it is only because they are not Jews.
‘TORMENTED EVERY DAY’
“For them, the dimension of the Holocaust is symbolic or metaphorical. It is not real. It is one episode of violence like so many others throughout history. They have never entered the gas chambers. But every living Jew has found death there.”
Levy wrote, “As a Jew, I feel tormented every day for the injustices committed by the Jewish soldiers, and even more for the blindness of a part of the Israelis confronting the suffering of other men.
“I force myself, as much as I can, to help Israel save itself from the horrors of occupation. But enough of this Nazi business,” he said. “Just let those people with so much anti-Semitism in their past get a little more control over their spontaneous thoughts.”