Your Holiness, stall the agreement with the Palestinians

Dear Pope, Your Excellency,

Let me write you, humbly but looking you straight in the eye, to explain how, as a journalist who has been covering the Middle East for decades, I was caught by a deep sadness when I read that the Vatican, your Vatican, is recognizing the Palestinian State with a new treaty. Rumor has it that the new treaty is still unsigned. Pope Francis, think some more about it. Stall the signing. The Vatican is not one of the many national states in the European community. In the eyes of history, it is the guardian of a quite unique memory and responsibility in the relationship between Jews and Christians.

Let me say here that the Vatican has a difficult history with the State of Israel. John Paul II, as an authentic revolutionary, decided to recognize it twenty years after the Egyptians. Don’t you think it is time to take care of this little country like a precious plant? A country that, in contrast with what happens everywhere else in the Middle East, actually looks after its Christians and defends them?

The Vatican does not ignore that the Palestinian world is an abyss of anti-Semitism being disseminated through textbooks, comics and TV programs, up to the incitement to kill Jews. Since Fatah and Hamas became allied in the Palestinian government, the situation is even worse. Certainly, Holy Father, you will not intend to endorse an anti-Semitic state, given that the Charter of one of its most important components – Hamas – calls for the murder of Jews.

Pope Francis, you perfectly know that the discriminated and abused Christian population had to flee Bethlehem, as you know that they are subject to persecution in Gaza. This is not an epiphenomenon that Fatah could ever manage to erase because, according to the most recent surveys, Hamas will win two-thirds of the votes in the next election, which sooner or later Abu Mazen will have to concede, as he was elected for four-years back in 2005 and then no more.

Your Holiness, the peace that you certainly want cannot be obtained by promising everything to one side without negotiations. It takes two to make peace, especially when the matter is really controversial. It is ungenerous to think that one side could draw the borders between two countries, one of which – Israel – is being threatened like no other country in the international community. You should have become aware, dear Pope, of how Islamist hatred is unyielding and aggressive. Israel is being attacked since its birth, not for strictly territorial reasons, but because it represents a democratic culture in the very heart of the Islamic Ummah.

It is a stranger that needs to be eliminated. In order to survive, it always had to vigorously defend itself. How is it supposed to do it without having its say about the borders? The ones that, on the contrary, the Palestinians identify with the 1967 borders, virtually a couple of meters from the international airport and just one from Jerusalem. Holy Father, did you notice that, after your announcement, the Palestinian Authority said that it will not restart the negotiations if an end to the Israeli “occupation” is not established?

Moreover, Pope Francis, you do love democracy: how do you imagine the new state? Do you think it will guarantee equal rights to all its citizens, even if they dissent, even if they are homosexuals or women? It seems that, unfortunately, according to Freedom House, the very opposite is true. And Hamas is enforcing a shariatic penal code in Gaza. Would you like a Palestinian State without the death penalty? This is not possible.

Furthermore, there are militias in the streets, killing their enemies and everyone they suspect to be a collaborator. Also, journalists are not free, while the economy is plagued by corruption and sustained by an enormous flow of international funding. It would be a good thing to help building the state before you recognize it.

Dear Pope, we know you are extremely concerned about the fate of Christians in the Middle East. It is right to do so, but this way you will not be able to win them any greater protection or sympathy, even if Abu Mazen promised it and would be willing to oblige. The idea that the instability in the Middle East is rooted in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not valid anymore, as borders and states are currently crumbling down and reshaping themselves according to the vision of Isis and the Iran-led Shiites.

Instead of soothing the antagonism against Christians and Jews, the Vatican’s move could incite it, as it is more a move of appeasement than of peace. Please, Your Holiness, exhort both sides to a bilateral negotiation, and the Palestinians to stop their anti-Semitic vilification. This would actually help the cause of peace.

Respectfully yours,

Fiamma Nirenstein

This article originally appeared in slightly different form in Italian in Il Giornale (May 13, 2015)

About the Author
Fiamma Nirenstein is a journalist, author, former Deputy President of the Committee on Foreign Affairs of the Italian Chamber of Deputies, and member of the Italian delegation at the Council of Europe.