|Patrick Kelly, archbishop of Liverpool|
By Giuliio Meotti
No mention of rockets on Israeli civilians, nor Islamic persecution of Christians. Visiting bishops saw only how Gaza is a "large prison."
Eight Catholic bishops from Europe and North America have just visited the Christian community in Gaza.
The Vatican high profile delegation included Patrick Kelly, archbishop of Liverpool; Richard Smith, archbishop of Edmonton, Canada; Gerald Kicanas, bishop of Tucson, US; Michel Dubost, bishop of Evry, France; and Riccardo Fontana, bishop of Arezzo-Cortona-Sansepolcro, Italy.
French Bishop Dubost's comment was, “Last week, I asked prisoners in the largest prison in Europe (in Evry) to pray for you”.
The inference is clear: Gaza’s Christians are living in a big prison and terrified by Israel.
News.va, the Roman Catholic Church news agency, published a report on the event, writing, “The signs of the 2009 conflict and the continuing Israeli air strikes are all around…”.
Not a word about the Islamic repression of that tiny Christian community in Gaza - and Bethlehem and the rest of the PA.
The prison comparison was reiterated by another bishop. “I have just returned from visiting two of the largest ‘open prisons’ in the world – Bethlehem and the Gaza strip”, wrote William Kenney, auxiliary bishop in Birmingham who led the Catholic delegation. Bishop Kelly said that “violence is evil especially when it blocks humanitarian relief desperately needed”.
Raymond Field, auxiliary bishop of Dublin, also defined the Gaza Strip as “a large prison”.
Last December, Palestinian Hamas leader, Mahmoud al Zahar, met with with Father Manuel Musalam, head of the Latin Church in Gaza, who is known for having a radical anti-Jewish stance (in 2006 Musalam met also with Khader Habib, a senior Islamic Jihad official in the Gaza Strip). “Christians are not threatened by Muslims” – Musalam said – everyone faces the same problem, that of Israel’s “humiliation”.
This Catholic head of Gaza once told the Palestinian Authority television: “The Jew has a principle from which we suffer and which he tries to impose on people: the principle of the ‘gentiles’. ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion’ are based on this principle, and anyone who reads the ‘Protocols’ feels that we are in this period with the Jews …”.
The Bishops’ official visit in Gaza is part of a recent Vatican course of action with the Palestinian Authority. Last September, Patriarch of Jerusalem Fouad Twal, named by Pope Benedict XVI, was at the White House for a meeting with the American administration as well as to support the PA statehood bid at the UN.
On December 1st, several Christian and Muslim dignitaries met in Beit Sahour for a conference on “How to live together in a future Palestinian state?”. Patriarch Emeritus of Jerusalem Michel Sabbah and Sheikh Muhammad Ahmad Hussein, Grand Mufti of Jerusalem, attended the event, organized by Al Liqa, a Vatican ecumenical center based in Bethlehem.
Several days ago the head of the Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales compared the Palestinians to the Jesus’ passion. “We are to be freshly attentive to the needs of those who, like Jesus himself, are displaced and in discomfort”, Archbishop Vincent Nichols said during his Christmas Mass sermon at Westminster Cathedral. “A shadow falls particularly heavily on the town of Bethlehem tonight … We pray for them tonight”.
At the Al Liqa center Christmas’ celebration Muslim Palestinians presented a Qur’anic recitation of the birth of ‘Isa. Isa is the Islamic name for Jesus.
The writer, an Italian journalist with Il Foglio, writes a column for Arutz Sheva. He is the author of the book "A New Shoah", that researched the personal stories of Israel's terror victims, published by Encounter. His writing has appeared in publications, such as the Wall Street Journal, Frontpage and Commentary and has been translated in the Hebrew media.
Source: Israel HayomThe Associated Press and Israel Hayom Staff
In effort to stem wave of illegal African immigrants from the Sinai, Knesset grants authorities power to imprison illegal migrants for life over property crimes and detain them for up to three years without trial • Human rights advocates decry measure, calling it a "stain" on Israel's legal code.
Israel's parliament on Tuesday approved harsh new penalties on illegal immigrants and Israelis who help them, passing one of several controversial measures designed to stop the flood of Africans seeking sanctuary from poverty and conflict.
The bill makes it possible to imprison illegal migrants for life over property crimes and detain them for up to three years without trial. Anyone caught helping migrants could face prison terms of five to 15 years.
Critics deplore the new law and say it is an unconstitutional trampling of human rights. They accuse the government of failing to formulate a coherent, humane policy on illegal immigration that would address an issue that has become increasingly urgent over the years.
Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has called the swelling number of illegal immigrants a "national scourge," voted for the bill. His spokesman, Mark Regev, called the legislation part of a "multi-tier strategy to deal with the challenge of illegal immigration to Israel." But he would not comment on critics' concerns about the new law.
MK Nitzan Horowitz (Meretz) called the new law a "stain" on Israel's legal code. In a commentary Monday, retired Judge Boaz Okon, the legal affairs analyst for the Yedioth Ahronoth newspaper, called it "unlimited license to employ terror against anyone who reaches Israel."
Africans began trickling into Israel through its porous southern border with Egypt's Sinai Peninsula after Egyptian security forces violently quashed a demonstration by a group of Sudanese refugees in 2005, killing at least 20. The number of migrants surged as word spread of safety and job opportunities in the relatively prosperous Jewish state.
The government estimates that 50,000 Africans have entered Israel illegally since then. The overwhelming majority, officials say, have come in pursuit of a more comfortable life and are not fleeing persecution.
Migrant advocates contend the Africans are bona fide refugees and should be granted asylum. They accuse the government of ignoring the retribution most of the migrants face should they return home.
The influx has touched off a national debate in a country that grew out of the Nazi genocide of Jews. Some Israelis call the migrants an economic and social burden and fear their mounting numbers will dilute Israel's Jewish character.
Others say the Jewish people, because of their history of persecution, must be especially accommodating of others escaping persecution or conflict.
The Africans have congregated in several cities, but the lack of a coherent government policy has led to the creation of slums and friction with locals who claim the migrants have brought crime and harassment of women.
Israel already has repatriated hundreds of Africans, and Netanyahu has said he will explore the possibility of repatriating others when he visits Africa this year.
Last month, the government voted to finance a $160 million program to finish building a 150-mile (250-kilometer) border fence along the Egyptian border and expand detention facilities to hold thousands of new arrivals. Employers who hire illegal migrants now face stiffened fines of up to $18,000.
Israel's Population Immigration and Border Authority says infiltrations through the Egyptian border reached an all-time high in December. According to its website, 2,931 people were detained in the Saharonim Detention Center last month for crossing illegally into Israeli territory from the Sinai, the largest figure ever recorded for a single month. For 2011, the number stands at more than 16,000. Almost 55,000 have crossed into Israel from Egypt since 2006.
Interior Minister Eli Yishai recently said that the swift action must be taken. "The current state of affairs is unacceptable and we must act to stem the tide," Yishai said. "I spoke with the prime minister and asked that alongside the construction of the fence [along the Egyptian border] and the new detention center that he step-up negotiations with African nations, particularly Eritrea and South Sudan, to send all the infiltrators back to their homelands."
According to the authority, Yishai also favors constructing detention centers in Africa to stop the would-be immigrants in their tracks.