When great leaders visit Australia, and in particular engage in diplomatic formalities with the Jewish community, care is taken to ensure that protocal and sensitivities are not disturbed. It is important that the Jewish community engages in its Civic responsibilities and that the reputation of the community is upheld.
This week two great leaders, who have the true ability to influence the direction of world events and attitudes, will visit Australia. The Pope, who has already been here, was greeted by Rabbi Jeremy Lawrence of the Great Synagogue in Sydney. His speech, which can be read here, is an outstanding reflection of the Australian Jewish community and a great kiddush hashem.
Also in Australia this week, and coming to Perth, is US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice. She will meet Foriegn Minister, Stephen Smith, and no doubt discuss matters of international significance, including the Middle East.
Whilst international leaders are sheltered from the views on the street, the political realities of diplomacy often mean that opportunities are missed to raise real matters of strategic importance. It is naive to think that Australia, or even more so any of its citizens, can truely influence Vatican City or the USA. Yet the attitudes of these two administrations on Israel and the Jewish people is history in the making, and some home truths are conveniently overlooked in the way events are currently unfolding. If only we could be a little “impolitic” in order to communicate this.
It is true to say that both the Vatican and the Bush Government are friends of Israel. This has been well evidenced. However, in a bid to be politically impartial between Israeli’s and Palestinians, both administrations have sacrificed their own values on the alter of political correctness. Striving for peace and coexistance is a laudable objective. Force reconciling this through a process of appeasement and one sided compromise, rewarding non-compliance of agreements, and tolerating hatred is only having the reverse effect.
The USA has legally recognised Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel, including Israeli soverienty over Har Habayit. Yet it refuses to honour its pledge to shift is embassy, and Secretary Rice continuously refers to Palestinian leader Abbas as a “moderate” and a peace partner. If there was one thing I could discuss with Secretary Rice it would be just how much the Jewish historical experience demonstrates that consensus building and compromise with hate-mongering people who do not want peace will only create bigger and larger problems. I would do all I could to make Secretary Rice realise that the difference between a “radical” and a “moderate” in accordance with her current selected peace makers is that a “radical” openly calls for the end of Israel as a Jewish State through violence, and a “moderate” openly calls for the end of Israel as a Jewish State through peaceful means. Either way, until such time as a leader of the Palestinians will accept and promote the idea that Israel has the right to exist as a Jewish State, there is noone to make peace with. The role of the USA or any other external party has to be able to shift this culture within the Arab world if true peace is ever going to be obtainable.
If I was able to shmooze with the Pope, I would also talk about the Catholic Church’s track record in recent years when it comes to recognising Jewish soveriengty over Israel. Whilst the Church has expressed remorse for centuries of violent anti-Semitism, it too needs to better recognise the Jewish religion as the creator of monothesim and the universal role of Jewish thought in our world of diminishing barriers. If only the Jewish treasures of texts and vestments mooted to be stored by the Vatican could be restored to Jewish heritage. If only the Church would peacefully advocate for the restoration of Jerusalem as the home and Sanctuary of the people to whom G-d gave his Covenant and universal law. If only the Noachide standards that define civil society could be the basis of all societies and Countries, our world would rapidly become a better place.
Our politic world does not allow such real and underlying matters to be the agenda of international leaders. We seem to manage our relations in such a way that a certain level of intolerance, moral indenceny and political myopia needs to be accorded in order not to offend. It is true that the freedom of expression and freedom of religious choice for the Jewish people has never been better than it is in today’s world. Sadly however, there are still matters of inequity in the treatment of the Jewish people, predominently expressed today in the form double standards in attitudes towards Israel.
Today is 17 Tammuz. It is the commencement of a three week period of mourning, and the day on which the walls of Jerusalem were twice breached. Our exile has not ended. We still live in a world where many people and societies deny the Jewish people their right to a homeland and to the expression of Jewish ideals through a process of nation building.
It is not beyond the Pope, the US Government or any other superpower to change the political climate to assert Jewish soveriengty over Israel. However we do not have the luxury of a breach of diplomatic protocol, otherwise known as chutzpah, to be able to deliver the real message.
If you had an audience with the Pope or the USA Secretary of State, what would you say?