The Destructive Power Of Religious Intolerance

Jun 25, 2018

After the violence along the border with Gaza, where an estimated 120 Palestinians protesting the relocation of the American Embassy to Jerusalem were killed and more than 3,800 wounded by Israeli army fire, the UN issued a strong rebuke to Israel.

US Ambassador Nikki Haley proposed an amendment recognizing that Hamas had also contributed to the violence by using the protests as cover for the attacks on the border fence, firing more than 100 rockets into Israel.

But the amendment failed and the resolution passed, leaving me once more to ponder the destructive power of a particular kind of bigotry.

I first encountered Anti-Semitism as a young man in an unexpected place – my Catholic Church – at a Good Friday service, when out of the drone of the traditional prayers I heard the stunning words “perfidious Jews” and I wondered who could have inserted such language into the liturgy and why.

Today that language is gone, but it introduced me to religious racism and something known as the “blood libel” in which the Jews were said to kill Christian children and use their blood for rituals. It persisted from the Middle Ages nearly to the present. Another discovery was the Spanish Inquisition in which the infamous Torquemada forced most of Spain’s Jews into exile if they didn’t become baptized Catholics.

In young America a document called the Protocols of the Elders of Zion warned that Jews were taking over the world. No less than Henry Ford had 500,000 copies printed and distributed.

Few people in history have been so relentlessly made the object of scorn, slander and hate, as have the Jews. The word Anti-Semitism is hardly sufficient to encompass a history that led to the Holocaust. And it was the American President Harry Truman that led in the creation of Israel, a homeland and the promised land regained, on May 16, 1947.

I sympathize with those displaced by this but Israel is only a “shard of land splintered from the Middle East.” And even the most secular of Jews admit that Israel and Jerusalem are deeply embedded in their religious faith.

I understand that Jerusalem is important to at least three of the world’s major religions, but Islam has Mecca and Catholicism Vatican City, so I’d be willing to support the Jewish people in their claim to Jerusalem.