A leading Palestinian cleric commandeered an evening devoted to interfaith dialogue with Pope Benedict XVI on Monday to rant against Israel for "killing Gaza's children," "bulldozing Palestinian homes" and "destroying mosques."The Pope was present--and how did he respond to the accusations that Israel was "killing Gaza's children," "bulldozing Palestinian homes" and "destroying mosques"?
In an impromptu speech, delivered in Arabic at the Notre Dame Pontifical Institute in Jerusalem, Sheikh Tayseer Tamimi, chief Islamic judge in the Palestinian Authority, launched a 10-minute tirade against the State of Israel for confiscating Palestinians' land and carrying out war crimes against the residents of Gaza.
He also called for the immediate return of all Palestinian refugees, and called on Christians and Muslims to unite against Israel.
Tamimi invoked the name of Saladin, the Muslim sultan who recaptured Jerusalem from the Crusaders in 1187. Tamimi said that unlike Israel, Saladin upheld the religious freedoms of all faiths.
He walked out after the Sheikh finished speaking, but before the meeting was finished--good for him.
But: "he shook Tamimi's hand before walking out".
That is reminiscent of November 1999, when Hillary Clinton listened as Suha Arafat claim that Israel used poisoned gas, and then kissed her after the 'speech'. At least later, Clinton did turn around and criticize Suha Arafat--after all, there was an election to think of.
The things people do--and put up with--in the name of being civil.
UPDATE: Jennifer Rubin draws a different parallel, comparing the Pope's response to Obama:
The handshake was ill-advised, but the walk-out was appropriate and indeed required. Unlike Obama, who sat mutely through Daniel Ortega’s diatribe, the Pope had it right: a prominent figure on the world stage should not by his presence extend legitimacy to those who peddle hate and lies. There is no “dialogue” to be had under such circumstances.Rubin is less critical of the Pope than I am.
Its important to remember that rogue states and hate mongers crave legitimacy that can only be bestowed upon them by responsible world leaders. Denying them that legitimacy is one of the few diplomatic tools that can be easily utilized at low “cost.” That reality seems to have eluded the Obama team.
Personally, I am not so sure that Pope Benedict did not in fact bestow that very legitimacy with that handshake--the walkout will be interpreted as a sop to Israel, while the handshake will be pointed to as an indication of where the Pope's real feelings lie.