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Targeting ‘Israelites,’ archbishop doesn’t promote peace

The Catholic leader in San Antonio has posted a barrage of tweets denouncing Israel's acts of self-defense as akin to Nazism
Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller, San Antonio, Texas, May 4, 2021 (AP Photo/Eric Gay)
Archbishop Gustavo Garcia-Siller, San Antonio, Texas, May 4, 2021 (AP Photo/Eric Gay)

A string of online posts on Israel by Gustavo García-Siller, the Catholic archbishop of San Antonio, Texas, raises alarm about religious leaders engaged in political polemics. This month, the archbishop veered into stirring anti-Jewish sentiment, writing, “Jewish brothers and sisters stop killing Palestinians. STOP!”

This was stunning coming from a prelate of the Catholic Church, which has built indispensable bonds with Jews since the Holocaust.

The tweet dropped seven months after Hamas’s unprecedented terrorist onslaught across Israel. A majority of 250 abducted Israelis and others are still hostages in Gaza.

No post by the archbishop since October 7 issued a similar call to Palestinians guilty of murder and kidnapping – let alone Arabs or Muslims in general. His tweet would be akin to a non-American leader accusing “Christians” of “killing Afghans” just months into the US campaign against al-Qaeda following 9/11.

García-Siller’s comments have not acknowledged non-Jewish Israelis serving in their country’s defense – or non-Jewish civilians, citizens of some 40 countries, among Hamas’s victims. These are in addition to Gazans ruthlessly sacrificed by the terrorists as human shields.

In his posts on May 7, which like several prior ones contained typographical errors, García-Siller wrote, “Why Israel wants to destroy lives Palestines. Why, O Lord, allow people to hate so much to kill people. The Holocaust was already forgotten  forJews and everyone else.”

There is absolutely no comparison between the Holocaust – a systematic, unprovoked genocide that exterminated six million Jews – and a war, however difficult and tragic, of a beleaguered democracy against jihadists explicitly committed to eradicating it.

From the very aftermath of October 7, San Antonio’s archbishop has taken to the X platform with an almost single-minded focus on censuring Israelis, repeatedly calling them “Israelites,” while commenting on few other countries worldwide.

During this period, he hasn’t tweeted about a massive Iranian attack on Israel or relentless attacks by Iran’s proxies, especially Lebanon-based Hezbollah and Yemen’s Houthis. These have included nearly 200 assaults on Americans across the Middle East.

Although once writing that “antisemitism is condemned,” soon after the slaughter of Israelis, he opined: “Hamas did wrong & offended God; the killing out of vengeance of the Palestinians is even worse.”

As far back as October, he posted, “Palestinians despair standing before death… It’s evil to kill innocent people for other gains.”

In December, he tweeted, “This is the result of egos never satisfied. I join the prayer chain for Palestinians, living or death.”

In January, the day after International Holocaust Remembrance Day, he equated the Nazi program of racial annihilation and the Israel-Hamas war, writing, “The Holocaust, the situation with the Palestinians show hatred and violence.”

Despite Hamas’s tactics and Gaza’s uniquely complex urban conditions, Israel has done more to limit noncombatant casualties, and to facilitate aid to the opposing side’s civilians, than any party to comparable conflict. The Nazis herded civilians into gas chambers and crematoria.

In March, García-Siller called Israel’s war against Hamas an “irrational war filled with vengeance, greed… from people who hold the Covenant” – a reference to Jews. Later that same month, he wrote, “This brutal war is based in selfishness, hatred and power. Your God, their God, our God does not approve the actions of the Israelites… Palestinians, you are in most of the hearts of the world.”

He added, “Humanitarian concern is not part of Israel leadership.” And this month he again singled out Palestinian children alone for sympathy, ignoring even Israeli infants killed, dismembered, orphaned or held as hostages by Hamas.

In fact, his only tweets mentioning hostages seem to have referenced those in the world at large, without referencing Gaza, where about a dozen Americans have been among the abducted. “We pray for all those who are hostage around the world,” he wrote.

Having empathy for all people is laudable, and San Antonio’s archbishop need not support any particular government’s policies. But by reserving shrill rhetoric only for “Israelites” – and falsely attributing the war forced upon them to their “egos,” “hate” and “greed,” this religious leader does not promote peace and understanding. He promotes prejudice.

On May 8, the communications director of the San Antonio archdiocese said merely that García-Siller’s posts were on his “personal account.” The next day, that representative told a Catholic website that the archbishop “deeply regrets that posts in recent days… have caused confusion and misunderstanding in some and has removed a few of the comments.” But the archbishop himself has not apologized, nor has the archdiocese explained what in García-Siller’s posts was misunderstood.

There’s enough irresponsible rhetoric among politicians. We should expect better from moral authorities.

About the Author
David J. Michaels is Director of UN and Intercommunal Affairs at B'nai B'rith International, the world’s oldest Jewish service and advocacy organization. He has traveled widely -- meeting world leaders including Pope Francis, Saudi King Abdullah, and UN Secretary-General Antonio Guterres -- and been featured by numerous domestic and foreign print and broadcast media. These have included the New York Times, the Washington Post, Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, Newsweek, the Financial Times, the South China Morning Post, the Times of Israel, the Times of India, Al-Arabiya and La Stampa. A past Wexner Fellow/Davidson Scholar, he holds a Bachelor’s degree in political science from Yeshiva University and a Master’s degree in international relations from Yale. He is a winner of B'nai B'rith's Sidney H. Closter Award and the Young Professional Award of the Jewish Communal Service Association of North America.
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