Archbishop Pietro Sambi, who served as the Vatican Ambassador and Papal Nuncio in Jerusalem from 1998 until 2006, died four years ago.
Had Archbishop Sambi, still been alive today, he would have been an honoree at this week’s Global Forum on Anti-Semitism.
I knew the Archbishop, because he opened his office at the Mount of Olives to dialogue. Jack Padwa, who also died four years ago, who served as the honorary head of the ADL in Israel, had introduced me to the Archbishop and we held years of productive meetings
The Papal Nuncio proved remarkable sensitivity to anti Semitism .
Archbishop Pietro Sambi was open to reviewing information that came to his attention and was not afraid to take a stand which may make him enemies in some circles.
In August 2000, our news agency purchased five sets of the new Palestinian Authority school books from the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Education. This was the first time that the PA issued their own school books. the content of the books would indicate their disposition towards peace and reconciliation with Israel.
Archbishop Sambi asked to see the new PA school books to him – In his words, “the Pope wants to see them”. The Papal Nuncio remarked that ever since Pope John Paul’s visit to the Palestinian Authority in March 2000, that he had asked to see what the Palestinian children were learning. What concerned the Pope was that he had heard up cries of virulent hatred of Jews when he visited an UNRWA school in Deheshe, near Bethlehem. The Papal Nuncio said that Pope John Paul II was particularly concerned about anti-semitic hatred in the schools, because the Pope had served as a cleric in Poland during the Nazi conquest in the 1940’s and knew the consequences of antisemtic education.
I presented the new PA books to Archbishop Sambi, who knew Arabic. When he took a first glance at the new PA books, he said right away that the books were a “new tool of indoctrination against the Jews” . He pointed to lessons where Palestinian children learned about the armed struggle to liberate all of Palestine, and new books where children learned to revere those who murder Jews.
Archbishop Sambi brought the new Palestinian school books with him to Rome, and initiated a study of the PA textbooks. The Vatican concluded that these school books were anti-semitic and pro-war in nature. At the recommendation of Archbishop Sambi, the Italian government pulled its money out of the Palestinian Ministry of Education’s PA text book project.
This was not the only time that Archbishop Sambi challenged PA anti-Semitism.
Throughout his term in office, Archbishop Sambi gave briefings in which he did not hesitate to speak out against official anti-semitism from the PA media and PA mosques, and expressed his displeasure of such with Arafat and then with Abbas.
In 2003, Archbishop Sambi addressed an American congressional delegation, during which he excoriated the US officials for US AID funding of the proposed Palestinian State constitution, which the Archbishop said would “create a Sharia law system modeled on Saudi Arabia which would deny juridical status to Judaism, anywhere in Palestine, which he viewed as an “outrage”..
Dr. Arnon Groiss, a journalist with Israel Radio Arabic news service who holds a PHD in Islamic Studies from Princeton, has translated the the most recent schoolbooks that contain references to Jews, Israel and to the perceived solution of the present conflict in Palestinian Authority schoolbooks currently in use. What Archbishop Sambi warned about in August, 2000 continues to this day.
De-legitimization of Jewish presence the country in both past and present
- The Palestinians are direct descendants of the “Arab” Canaanites and Jebusites (Christian Education, Grade 2, 2010, p. 11; Our Beautiful Language, Grade 6, Part 2, 2012, p. 9; National Education, Grade 5, 2013, p. 30)
- Jews have “greedy ambitions” [atmaa’] in the country (National Education, Grade 7, 2013, p. 20)
- Jewish holy places (the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hebron and Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem) are all presented as Muslim holy places threatened by Jewish usurpation (National Education, Grade 7, 2013, pp. 21, 55)
- Jewish cities, including Tel Aviv, are not found on maps, except for one or two cases
Demonization of Jews
- Aggression and robbery (Reading and Texts, Grade 9, Part 2, 2013, pp. 51-53)
- Genocidal intentions towards Palestinians (National Education, Grade 7, 2013, p. 20)
- Unfaithfulness (Islamic Education, Grade 9, Part 1, 2013, question on p. 51)
- Enmity to Muslims (Islamic Education, Grade 9, Part 2, 2013, p. 41)
- Enmity to Christians (Christian Education, Grade 3, 2002, p. 86)
Advocacy of the “Right of Return”, violent struggle, Jihad and martyrdom
- The Right of Return (Islamic Education, Grade 6, Part 1, 2012, p. 69; Our Beautiful Language, Grade 5, Part 1, 2013, p. 91; History, Grade 5, 2012, p. 7; National Education, Grade 2, Part 1, 2007, p. 36; National Education, Grade 4, Part 1, 2013, p. 43; National Education, Grade 5, 2013, p. 35; National Education, Grade 7, 2013, p. 21)
- The violent return of the refugees (Our Beautiful Language, Grade 5, Part 1, 2013, p. 50; Our Beautiful Language, Grade 7, Part 1, 2013, p. 28)
- Violent struggle as the way to liberating Palestine (never specifically restricted to the territories of the West Bank and Gaza alone – Our Beautiful Language, Grade 3, Part 2, 2013, p. 83; Our Beautiful Language, Grade 4, Part 2, 2012, pp. 20-21) Reading and Texts, Grade 9, Part 1, 2013, pp. 9-10, 12)
- Exaltation of Jihad (Islamic Education, Grade 7, Part 2, 2013, p. 60; Reading and Texts, Grade 8, Part 1, 2013, p. 44)
- Glorification and Call for martyrdom (Islamic Education, Grade 6, Part 1, 2012, p. 22, Our Beautiful Language, Grade 6, Part 1, 2013, p. 89; Our Beautiful Language, Grade 7, Part 1, 2013, p. 75; Our Beautiful Language, Grade 7, Part 2, 2013, p. 49; Linguistic Studies, Grade 8, Part 2, 2012, p. 60)