Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
January 19, 2009
Gaza like a concentration camp: cardinal
Cardinal Renato Martin describes ongoing fighting in the Holy Land as a 'continual massacre'
BY CAROL GLATZ
CATHOLIC NEWS SERVICE
VATICAN CITY — The Gaza Strip increasingly is looking like “a big concentration camp” while egoism, hatred, poverty and injustice are fueling the continual slaughter in the Holy Land, said a top Vatican official.
“We are seeing a continual massacre in the Holy Land where the overwhelming majority has nothing to do with the conflict, but it is paying for the hatred of a few with their lives,” said Cardinal Renato Martino, head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace.
“Let’s look at the conditions in Gaza: It’s looking more and more like a big concentration camp,” he said in an interview published Jan. 7 in the Italian online newspaper IlSussidiario.
Israel’s ambassador to the Vatican, Mordechay Lewy, criticized the cardinal’s comments saying they were “way out of line.”
That the cardinal would make the comparison “shows he has never visited a concentration camp,” he added.
Meanwhile, Israel’s foreign ministry spokesman, Yigal Palmor, said Martino’s comments “seem to have come directly from Hamas propaganda” and did nothing “to help bring people closer to the truth and peace.”
By saying the Gaza Strip resembled a concentration camp, the cardinal was ignoring “the unspeakable crimes” committed by the Palestinian militant group Hamas, he said in a Jan. 7 interview with Agence France-Presse.
In an interview with the Italian newspaper La Repubblica Jan. 8, Martino defended his description of the Gaza Strip, saying those who criticized his remarks “can say what they want. The situation in Gaza is horrible.”
“I say, look at the conditions of the people who live there. Surrounded by a wall that is difficult to cross — in conditions (that are) contrary to human dignity. What has been happening recently there is horrifying,” he said.
He said there was nothing in his comments “that may be interpreted as anti-Israeli” and he condemned Hamas’ use of violence against Israel.
But he lamented the deaths of so many Palestinian civilians and children and the destruction of nonmilitary targets by Israel.
Such losses could have been avoided given that Israeli forces have sophisticated surveillance “technology that can let them identify an ant on the ground.”
Both Israeli and Palestinian leaders have done reproachable things, he said, but “Israel has the right to live in peace, (and) the Palestinians have the right to have their own state.”
“Israel certainly has the right to defend itself and Hamas must keep that in mind,” he added.
“I am not defending Hamas: If they want a home, if they want a Palestinian state, they have to understand that the path they have set out upon is wrong,” said the cardinal.
START PEACE TALKS
He said both Israelis and Palestinians are at fault for not doing enough to stop the fighting and start peace talks.
In the Jan. 7 interview with IlSussidiario, Martino said: “If they are unable to come to an agreement then someone else had better feel an obligation to do it for them. The world cannot sit and watch and do nothing.”
He called for an “international intervention force” to stop the fighting.
Meanwhile, Pope Benedict appealed for an immediate ceasefire in Gaza and the resumption of negotiations between Palestinians and Israelis, with the support of the international community.
“Once again I would repeat that military options are no solution and that violence, wherever it comes from and whatever form it takes, must be firmly condemned,” he said.