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Pope Francis: Not Recognizing Israel’s Right to Exist is Anti-Semitic

Pope Francis called the refusal to recognize the State of Israel anti-Semitic, The Times of Israel reported today. The Pope also clarified that, contrary to media reports, he had not called Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas “an angel of peace.”

In comments made to veteran Portuguese-Israeli journalist Henrique Cymerman Thursday, Francis was quoted as saying that “anyone who does not recognize the Jewish people and the State of Israel — and their right to exist — is guilty of anti-Semitism.” …

The pope recalled telling Abbas in Italian that he hopes the Palestinian chief might one day become an angel of peace in the future, according to Cymerman — although ostensibly he has not yet reached that level.

The comments were sent by the Pope in writing to Cymerman along with Argentine Rabbi Abraham Skorka, one of Francis’s close interfaith colleagues, after the duo approached him following his meeting with Abbas, Channel 2 reported.

The clarification about the Pope’s statement to Abbas earlier this month contradicts much of the early reporting on the encounter. While even the Vatican wasn’t certain what the Pope had said, the Pope’s normal protocol is to express a wish, not a praise, for his guest, Vatican spokesman Father Federico Lombardi told the Times.

Lombardi said that Francis often presents visiting leaders with the large round bronze medallion representing an angel of peace in order to encourage a commitment to peace. “When the pope presents the medal to the president or head of state, he offers a few words of explanation of the gift as well as an invitation to a commitment to peace on the part of the recipient,” Lombardi said. “Each one of us must be for others and for the world an ‘angel of peace.’” The word angel in this context, said Lombardi, means messenger.

The Pope’s statement echoes sentiments recently expressed by other world leaders, tying anti-Zionism to anti-Semitism.

Last week President Barack Obama told Jeffrey Goldberg of The Atlantic:

“Do you think that Israel has a right to exist as a homeland for the Jewish people, and are you aware of the particular circumstances of Jewish history that might prompt that need and desire?” he said, in defining the questions that he believes should be asked. “And if your answer is no, if your notion is somehow that that history doesn’t matter, then that’s a problem, in my mind. If, on the other hand, you acknowledge the justness of the Jewish homeland, you acknowledge the active presence of anti-Semitism—that it’s not just something in the past, but it is current—if you acknowledge that there are people and nations that, if convenient, would do the Jewish people harm because of a warped ideology. If you acknowledge those things, then you should be able to align yourself with Israel where its security is at stake, you should be able to align yourself with Israel when it comes to making sure that it is not held to a double standard in international fora, you should align yourself with Israel when it comes to making sure that it is not isolated.”

Likewise, in a historic speech before the Knesset last year, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper stated that attacks on Israel are a “mutation of the old disease of anti-Semitism.” French Foreign Minister Manuel Valls, then the country’s Interior Minister, said last year, “Criticism of Israel that is based on anti-Zionism — that’s anti-Semitism today, this is the refuge of those who do not accept the State of Israel.”

[Photo: IsraeliPM / YouTube ]