Why was Pope Francis ‘greatly saddened’ by the deaths of eight terrorists? – analysis

The pope applies moral equivalence to the IDF and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.

By Hugh Fitzgerald, FrontPage Magazine

As is well known, big-hearted Pope Francis doesn’t take sides in the Israel-Palestinian conflict. As far as he is concerned, both sides are equally guilty of unleashing violence against the other; both deserve to be chastised and their respective acts of violence equally deplored.

But of course there is no moral equivalence between Palestinian terror groups, that plot to stab, shoot, and blow up with rockets innocent civilians, and the IDF, that seeks to defend the people of Israel by punishing and preventing such attacks. More on Pope Francis’ call for Israel and the Palestinians to stop what he calls their “spiral of death,” can be found here: “Pope calls for Israel, Palestinians to halt ‘spiral of death,’” Reuters, January 29, 2023:

Pope Francis on Sunday called on Israel and the Palestinians to engage in dialogue in pursuit of peace, deploring the recent violence in the region.

Speaking after the Angelus prayer in Rome, the Pope said he had been greatly saddened by the news of the Palestinians killed during Israeli counter-terrorism operations, as well as by the deaths of Israeli Jews in a synagogue terror attack on Friday.

Here’s the full report in the Vatican News on what the Pope said: “Pope prays for Holy Land as ‘death spiral’ widens in Jerusalem,” by Devin Watkins and Nathan Morley, Vatican News, January 29, 2023:

Pope Francis expressed his sorrow for the recent flareup in violence in the Holy Land on Sunday in his greetings following the noon-day Angelus prayer.

Since the beginning of the year, dozens of Palestinians have been killed in firefights with the Israeli army,” he said.

The Pope recalled the death of 10 Palestinians, including a woman, during an “Israeli military anti-terrorist raid in Palestine.”

He also lamented the deaths of 7 Israeli Jews who were killed, and three others who were injured, by a Palestinian as they were leaving a synagogue on Friday.

Note the order of things. The Pope first expressed his sorrow about the “dozens of Palestinians” who had been killed in firefights with the IDF since the beginning of 2023. Then he mentioned the death of 10 Palestinians, most of them members of the terror group Palestinian Islamic Jihad, killed in Jenin. And only then did he see fit to mention the seven Israeli Jews who were killed in Jerusalem, when he “also lamented” their deaths.

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Why was Pope Francis “greatly saddened” by the deaths of eight terrorists who were in the final stages of planning a major attack? Was he “greatly saddened” by the death of Osama bin Laden? Was he “greatly saddened” by the death of ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi? Was he greatly saddened by the death of Qassem Soleimani, the leader of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps? It’s an intolerable remark, bespeaking moral myopia.

How dare the Pope compare the deliberate murders of seven Israeli civilians, including a 14-year-old boy, with the killing of PIJ terrorists who had opened fire on the IDF soldiers who had arrived at their hideout to arrest them?

“I appeal to the two governments and the international community, and I ask them to find immediately, without wasting any time, other paths which include dialogue and the sincere search for peace.”

The Palestinians have rejected every Israeli offer for a peace settlement – in 2000, 2001, and 2008 – and the Palestinian Authority will only agree to talk if Israel commits itself in advance to being squeezed back within the 1949 armistice lines, which Abba Eban once described as “the lines of Auschwitz,” and which would leave Israel with a nine-mile-wide waist from Qalqilya to the sea.

With such borders, the country could be cut in two by an invader from the East within an hour. As for that “search for peace,” Pope Francis ought to be directing his remarks to the unyielding and corrupt rais in Ramallah.

Which ‘two governments’?

The Pope appeals to “the two governments.” But “Palestine” is not a state, and the Palestinian Authority is something much less than a government. The Pope ought to have made his appeal to “both sides.”

“It is with great pain that I hear of the news coming from the Holy Land.The spiral of death which is growing every day does nothing but kill the little trust that there is between these two peoples,” he said.

The Pope’s phrase “spiral of death” suggests that other deceptive phrase that has often been used about the Israel-Palestinian conflict. We are told that an attack by one side or the other is part of a “cycle of violence” for which both sides must be equally blamed.

But the violence proceeds thus: it begins with a terror attack by the Palestinians, involving the kidnapping or murder of several Israeli Jews, or the launching of rockets from Gaza into southern Israel; this leads to an Israeli attack to punish the terrorists responsible, or to inflict sufficient pain on the Palestinians generally that the terror group or groups involved then decide to stop – for a while — their attacks.

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Israel has had to fight four wars against Hamas in Gaza, each time in order to discourage Hamas from killing Israelis, or from launching rocket and missile attacks on civilians in such southern cities as Ashkelon and Ashdod. Israel, in fact, is not continuing a “cycle of violence,” but rather, trying to end, through punishing attacks, that “cycle of violence” everyone deplores but which few understand has been the fault solely of the Palestinians, for it has always been they who begin the violence.

Pope Francis, deploring the “spiral of death,” has refrained from passing any moral judgment on the two parties. Can he really think that there is no difference between Israel, only trying to protect its people, and the Palestinians who wish to destroy the Jewish state?

Since 1948, when the armies of five Arab states tried to snuff out the young life of the nascent state of Israel, the Jewish state had to fight two more wars for its very survival, in 1967 and 1973. Furthermore, Israel has had to fight many smaller wars against the Palestinian terror groups – the PLO, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the PFLP, the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade – that have launched thousands of attacks on the Jews of Israel.

Does the Pope fully grasp this history?

In these attacks, which Pope Francis claims are part of a “spiral of violence” which he deplores, but about which he withholds judgment as to which side is more to blame, it has always been the Palestinians who have begun the violence, or more exactly, have never stopped their violence, and Israel strikes back not in every case, but mainly when a series of attacks have been particularly deadly, or when an Israeli attack will, in the opinion of the IDF, prevent a major attack from happening.

The IDF’s entry into Jenin was undertaken to arrest those PIJ members plotting an imminent terrorist attack, as the Shin Bet had warned. It had no other purpose than to prevent that attack from taking place. This worry about terror attacks in Israel has recently become especially acute because, since last spring, there has been an upsurge in those attacks, and the IDF has, as a consequence, become more aggressive in raiding terrorist dens in Jenin and Nablus, currently the two centers of terrorist activity. The IDF went into Jenin not to kill, but to arrest the terrorists. But the soldiers were met with gunfire, and a three-hour gun battle ensued. When it was over, eight terrorists lay dead.

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Was the IDF fighting back in Jenin part of a “spiral of death,” or was it the justified reaction of those who had first been fired on? And wasn’t the mission itself, to prevent a terror attack on civilians, also justified? One would like Pope Francis to answer those questions.

The Pope seems to think that the murders in Jerusalem of seven Israelis by a 21-year-old Palestinian was in response to the gun battle in Jenin. But the Palestinian murderer had been planning for months to become a “martyr,” as his postings on social media make clear. The battle in Jenin did not prompt his violence in Jerusalem.

The Pope wants to believe that we must blame this “spiral of death” on Israel, as one side – it doesn’t matter whether it is Israel or the Palestinians, since both in his view are equally culpable – attacks the other; that other side then retaliates with its own attack, and again, the first side then responds, and there is no end to this. There is no room in Pope Francis’ understanding for moral judgements to be made on either side; it’s simply a case of two parties fighting each other for no good reason.

The Pope is not about to suggest that the Palestinians’ reason for fighting is to bring about the destruction of the Jewish state, and Israel’s reason for fighting is to make sure that doesn’t happen. As the Pope sees it, every Palestinian who dies is just as much to be mourned as every Israeli; the “two peoples” (the Pope does not know that the “Palestinian people” were invented in the mid-1960s, at the suggestion of the KGB) must be helped by those who, like the Pope himself, will not presume to judge matters of morality, but will only work to end their “cycle of violence.”

In July, Pope Francis spoke of the possibility of retiring. That’s the best idea he’s had in a very long time.