From 1998-2006, Jerusalem's Papal Nuncio was Pro-Israel

The late Papal Nuncio was sensitive to anti-Semitism and tried to combat it in the PA curriculum. The Vatican listened at the time, but seems to have forgotten that it can be a real force for peace.

David Bedein

OpEds David Bedein
David Bedein
credit David Michael Cohen

Archbishop Pietro Sambi, who served as the Vatican Ambassador and Papal Nuncio in Jerusalem  from 1998 until 2006, died four years ago.

Had Archbishop Sambi, still been alive today, he would have strongly objected to the current Pope's embrace of Machmud Abbas as an "angel of peace" 

I knew the Archbishop, because he opened his office at the Mount of Olives to dialogue.  Jack Padwa, who also died four years ago, serving as honorary head of the ADL in Israel, introduced me to the Archbishop. We held years of productive dialogue.

The Papal Nuncio proved to have remarkable sensitivity to anti Semitism .

Archbishop Sambi and David Bedein INN:DB ( 2006: The archbishop is shown holding pictures of Gush Katif synagogues that had been burnt. The cleric had appealed to Abbas and Sharon to save the shuls. Both ignored him.) 

Archbishop Pietro Sambi was open to reviewing information that came to his attention and was not afraid to take a stand which may make him enemies in some circles.

At the recommendation of Archbishop Sambi, the Italian government pulled its money out f the Palestinian Ministry of Education’s PA text book project.
In August 2000, our news agency purchased the new Palestinian Authority school books from the Palestinian Authority Ministry of Education. This was the first time that the PA issued their own school books. the content of the books would indicate their disposition towards peace and reconciliation with Israel.

Archbishop  Sambi asked to see the new  PA school books to him  – In his words, “the Pope wants to see them”. The Papal Nuncio remarked that ever since  Pope John Paul’s visit to the Palestinian Authority in March 2000, that he had asked to see what the Palestinian children were learning. What concerned the Pope was that he had heard up cries of virulent hatred of Jews when he visited an UNRWA school in Deheshe, near Bethlehem. The Papal Nuncio said that Pope John Paul II was concerned about anti-Semitic hatred in the nascent PA schools, because the Pope had served as a cleric in Poland during the Nazi conquest in the 1940’s and knew the consequences of anti-Semitic education..

I therefore presented the new PA books to Archbishop Sambi, who knew Arabic. As he thumbed through  the new PA books, he said right away that the books were a “new tool of indoctrination against the Jews” .  He pointed to  lessons where Palestinian children learned about taking up arms  against the Jews , and new books where children learned to revere those who murder Jews.

Archbishop Sambi brought the new Palestinian school books with him to Rome, and initiated a study of the PA textbooks. The Vatican concluded that these school books were  anti-Semitic and pro-war in nature. At the recommendation of Archbishop Sambi, the Italian government pulled its money out of the Palestinian Ministry of Education’s PA text book project.

This was not the only time that Archbishop Sambi challenged  PA anti-Semitism.

Throughout his term in office, Archbishop Sambi gave continuing talks in which he spoke out against official anti-Semitism from the PA media and PA mosques, and expressed his displeasure with Arafat and then with Abbas.

In 2003, Archbishop Sambi addressed an American congressional delegation, during which he excoriated US officials for US AID funding a  proposed Palestinian State constitution, which the Archbishop said would “create a Sharia law system modeled on Saudi Arabia which would deny juridical status to Judaism, anywhere in Palestine, which he viewed as an “outrage”..

Dr. Arnon Groiss, a journalist with Israel Radio Arabic news service who holds a PHD in Islamic Studies from Princeton, has translated the most recent  schoolbooks that contain references to Jews, Israel and to the perceived solution of the present conflict in Palestinian Authority schoolbooks currently in use.

What Archbishop Sambi warned about in August, 2000 continues to this day. Here is a sampling:

1. De-legitimization of Jewish presence the country in both past and present, claiming:

  • The Palestinians are direct descendants of the “Arab” Canaanites and Jebusites (Christian Education, Grade 2, 2010, p. 11; Our Beautiful Language, Grade 6, Part 2, 2012, p. 9; National Education, Grade 5, 2013, p. 30)
  • Jews have “greedy ambitions” [atmaa’] in the country (National Education, Grade 7, 2013, p. 20)
  • Jewish holy places (the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem, the Cave of the Patriarchs in Hevron and Rachel’s Tomb in Bethlehem) are all presented as Muslim holy places threatened by Jewish usurpation (National Education, Grade 7, 2013, pp. 21, 55)
  • Jewish cities, including Tel Aviv are replaced by Arab names in all new PA school books.

2. Demonization of Jews includes:

  • Aggression and robbery (Reading and Texts, Grade 9, Part 2, 2013, pp. 51-53)
  • Genocidal intentions towards Palestinians (National Education, Grade 7, 2013, p. 20)
  • Unfaithfulness (Islamic Education, Grade 9, Part 1, 2013, question on p. 51)
  • Enmity to Muslims (Islamic Education, Grade 9, Part 2, 2013, p. 41)
  • Enmity to Christians (Christian Education, Grade 3, 2002, p. 86)

3. Advocacy of the “Right of Return”, violent struggle, Jihad and martyrdom is ubiquitous:

  • The Right of Return (Islamic Education, Grade 6, Part 1, 2012, p. 69; Our Beautiful Language, Grade 5, Part 1, 2013, p. 91; History, Grade 5, 2012, p. 7; National Education, Grade 2, Part 1, 2007, p. 36; National Education, Grade 4, Part 1, 2013, p. 43; National Education, Grade 5, 2013, p. 35; National Education, Grade 7, 2013, p. 21)
  • The violent return of the refugees (Our Beautiful Language, Grade 5, Part 1, 2013, p. 50; Our Beautiful Language, Grade 7, Part 1, 2013, p. 28)
  • Violent struggle as the way to liberate Palestine (never specifically restricted to the territories of Judea, Samaria and Gaza alone – Our Beautiful Language, Grade 3, Part 2, 2013, p. 83; Our Beautiful Language, Grade 4, Part 2, 2012, pp. 20-21) Reading and Texts, Grade 9, Part 1, 2013, pp. 9-10, 12)
  • Exaltation of Jihad (Islamic Education, Grade 7, Part 2, 2013, p. 60; Reading and Texts, Grade 8, Part 1, 2013, p. 44)
  • Glorification and the call for martyrdom (Islamic Education, Grade 6, Part 1, 2012, p. 22, Our Beautiful Language, Grade 6, Part 1, 2013, p. 89; Our Beautiful Language, Grade 7, Part 1, 2013, p. 75; Our Beautiful Language, Grade 7, Part 2, 2013, p. 49; Linguistic Studies, Grade 8, Part 2, 2012, p. 60)