No one of good will, especially Catholics, wants to accuse a prominent member of his faith of being knowingly untruthful. The truth rarely is found in the Palestinian public narrative. But in case of the latest repetition of Father Fouad Twal, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem, falsely blaming Israelfor the ongoing spate of Palestinian violence against Israeli civilians, it appears certain from his consistent record of non-nuanced criticism of Israel, that he is motivated by a political bias.
Twal proclaimed that Israel's alleged "occupation" of "Arab Palestine" is the cause of the murderous violence visited on Israeli civilians by Arab attackers -- apparently "forgetting" that the Jews have lived in the region for nearly 4000 years. He was also apparently forgetting that the leaders of the Palestinian Authority (PA) have been glorifying such "acts of resistance" since the autumn of 2014. How can Twal ignore the reality that Palestinian media has been glorifying these knife attacks as "glorious feats." In Palestinian schools, in fact, the attackers are hailed as heroes.
Outright lies are also part of the PA and Hamas propaganda campaigns. Palestinian Authority leader Mahmud Abbas, for instance, has claimed that a Palestinian boy, who was hit by a car after stabbing an Israeli child, was executed by Israeli troops, when it was well known that the perpetrator was alive and being cared for in an Israeli hospital.
Twal's position is one that appears driven by ideological loyalty to a political cause, rather than that of a shepherd who attends to the spiritual needs of his flock. Even if Twal were concerned merely with the physical needs of his faithful, one would think that his focus would be on the real primary concern of his Catholic communities in the Holy Land -- which is security. Twal also "forgets" the basic reason for the accelerating departure of Christians from Palestinian areas: the principal cause for this negative pattern is Islamic intolerance of religious minorities, not the Israeli occupation of Arab Palestinian territory.
Twal will be hard pressed to find many Palestinian Christians ready to accuse Israel or the actions of Israel Defense Force (IDF) personnel as the reason for Christian emigration. Many have already have voted with their feet by settling in Israel, where they can practice their faith without restriction. Thousands of Catholics now work in Israel, where they enjoy complete religious liberty. One has only to see how difficult it is to find a seat in the crammed Catholic Churches at Sunday Masses in Tel Aviv.
The sad truth is that in the Palestinian territories, Christians are forced to live like dhimmis -- second-class citizens who survive largely by the protection-money they are required to pay to buy their daily safety. These barely-tolerated citizens exist only at the whim and pleasure of the ruling Muslim majority. Muslim Arab discrimination against non-Muslims includes economic and socially prejudicial behavior that makes it difficult or impossible for Christian Arabs to run a profitable business or for their families to be fully integrated into society. Why has not Twal, as President of the Assembly of Catholic Ordinances in the Holy Land, felt an obligation publicly to denounce this record of intolerance by political Islamic extremists? If Twal does not, it appears that he places in jeopardy his role as guardian of the rights of Catholic Christians in the Holy Land. Consequently, the Israeli government is likely to be more dismissive of his legitimate concerns such as the defacement of Church property by anti-Christian Jewish youth.
It is also appropriate for Catholics to raise with Vatican authorities the issue of Twal's continued representation of the Faith in the Holy Land. The instances involve Twal himself, which may help Catholics to discern whom Twal serves first: God or man. There was no hint of gratitude from Twal after IDF personnel rescued him from a jeering mob of Muslim Palestinians who hurled rocks at his car on the way to Bethlehem last Christmas. And there is no acknowledgement from him that the only reason these Christian holy sites are safe for pilgrims to go to and worship in is that they are protected by the State of Israel, and not by the Palestinian Authority. All we have to do is to observe how Christian holy sites are being demolished throughout the Middle East, to realize that without the Israel protecting Jerusalem's and Bethlehem's Christian holy places, there would, at some point, be no Christian holy places, period.
Father Fouad Twal, the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem (right), consistently defames Israel, whose soldiers rescued him when he was attacked by rock-throwing Muslim Palestinians on the way to Bethlehem in December 2015. Pictured at left: Muslim Palestinians in the Bethlehem area, among them men dressed in Santa Claus costumes, hurl stones at Israeli soldiers while yelling "Allahu Akbar," on Dec. 18, 2015.
There are many examples of why Christian leaders have a duty publicly to express gratitude to Israeli security personnel. For example, during the 2002 occupation of the Church of the Nativity by more than 200 armed Palestinian terrorists in the now-Muslim-dominated city of Bethlehem, Israel Defense Force (IDF) personnel conducted themselves with impressive restraint, rather than risk damaging a holy site sacred to Christians. After the 39-day occupation of this holy site, the Israeli government acceded to the Vatican's desires, permitting the occupiers safe passage out of Bethlehem. After the departure of the terrorist-occupiers from the vicinity and their hostages released, booby-trapped explosive devices were discovered in the Church. Further, altars, religious objects, and furniture were discovered fouled by urine, cigarette butts and human excrement.
Just last month, there were a series of incidents involving Palestinian terrorists just inside Jerusalem's Damascus Gate. After one such incident, on February 14, Israeli border guards killed two terrorists from Nablus who had infiltrated Jerusalem. The target of the terrorists was probably a group of affluent American Christian pilgrims enjoying "happy hour" as they milled about the lobby of the Notre Dame Pilgrim Complex, unaware of the danger just a short distance from them. These Christian pilgrims might well have been grateful to the thin line of Israelis that protected them.
How grateful are you, Father Twal?
Dr. Lawrence A. Franklin was the Iran Desk Officer for Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld. He also served on active duty with the U.S. Army and as a Colonel in the Air Force Reserve, where he was a Military Attaché at the U.S. Embassy in Israel.