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Jewish groups ask Pope Francis to clarify Israel ‘terrorism’ comments

(JTA) — Jewish groups are criticizing Pope Francis for appearing to accuse both Israel and Hamas of “terrorism” in their ongoing war that started Oct. 7.

“This is what wars do,” the pope said at his general audience in St. Peter’s Square on Wednesday. “But here we have gone beyond wars. This is not war. This is terrorism.”

Francis’ comments followed separate meetings with Jewish relatives of hostages held by Hamas and Palestinians with family in Gaza on Wednesday. His remarks come a month after he called on Hamas to free the hostages being held in Gaza, and weeks after calling for a ceasefire and for more Palestinian aid.

Noemi Di Segni, the president of the Union of Jewish Communities in Italy, issued a statement Wednesday saying that she would have preferred Francis had issued a clear condemnation of Oct. 7.

“Certainly we cannot equate the responsibilities of those who have a design of extermination and terror versus those who are defending themselves and defending an entire country and a community that includes both Muslims and Palestinians,” Di Segni said.

In a statement published on the official website of the Jewish community of Milan, the Council of the Assembly of Italian Rabbis (ARI) charged the Pope with “publicly accusing both sides of terrorism.”

In a post on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, the American Jewish Committee expressed gratitude for the Pope’s meeting with families of the hostages and calling for their release, while also criticizing his other remarks.

“Hamas’ butchering and kidnapping of civilians is terrorism. Israel’s self-defense is not,” the AJC wrote. “Vatican, please clarify.”

Cardinal Matteo Zuppi, archbishop of Bologna, defended Francis on Thursday.

“The Pope is careful,” Zuppi told reporters. “And look, this does not mean putting everyone on the same level.”

“It is not that he does not understand the motivations of the Israeli government,” Zuppi added.

Following Francis’ meeting with 10 Palestinians on Wednesday, a dispute also arose as to whether he used the word “genocide” to describe the situation in Gaza, Reuters reported. Palestinian participants in the news conference say they heard him use the word, while a statement sent by Vatican spokesperson Matteo Bruni said he did not.

The post Jewish groups ask Pope Francis to clarify Israel ‘terrorism’ comments appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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Hamas Turns Down Hostage Deal, Demands Israel Release More Terrorists

Families of hostages and supporters protest to call for the release of hostages kidnapped on the deadly October 7 attack by Palestinian Islamist group Hamas, in Tel Aviv, Israel, January 6, 2024. Photo: REUTERS/Alexandre Meneghini

i24 NewsHamas on Sunday said it rejected the proposed hostage deal formulated in Paris, demanding that Israel release more Palestinian terrorists locked up in Israeli jails, according to a Saudi outlet.

There are 136 hostages held in Gaza by Hamas and other Palestinian jihadists, abducted during the October 7 incursion and massacre.

The statement comes hours after Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has reiterated Israel had “red lines” which could not be crossed.

Thus, the leader said, Israel will not end the war until all its goals are met, namely “the eradication of Hamas, the rescue of all our hostages, and ensuring that Gaza will never again pose a threat to Israel.”

“We will not agree to every deal, and not at any price,” he said, adding reports in the local media whereby Israel agreed to freeing large numbers of terrorists were not true.

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Dennis Ross Is Blaming Israel Again

Former Clinton adviser and US Mideast envoy Dennis Ross. Photo: Wikimedia Commons.

JNS.orgFormer U.S. Middle East envoy Dennis Ross just can’t stop blaming Israel.

Speaking via Zoom for the Institute for the Study of Global Antisemitism & Policy on Jan. 31, Ross offered some expected, perfunctory criticism of Hamas, Iran and Hezbollah. But again and again, he managed to bring in one-sided and unfair criticism of Israel.

Referring to Israel’s counter-terrorism actions in Judea and Samaria, Ross said: “West Bank violence [by Arabs] is not disconnected from Israel’s policies in the West Bank.”

That’s just absurd. The terrorists are not responding to Israeli policies. They were murdering Jews long before there were any settlements or so-called occupied territories. They oppose Israel’s existence, not its borders. It’s these terrorists who are the aggressors, and Israelis must respond to them.

Regarding Gaza, Ross said: “The Israelis haven’t done everything they could to spare civilians in Gaza.” Is he kidding? The Israelis have refrained from striking terrorist targets where there are civilians. They have personally warned civilians to evacuate, again and again, through leaflets and phone calls and public announcements. They have risked the lives of their own soldiers by going house to house, instead of just bombing from the air. What else can they possibly do?

Ross also commented on the recent ruling by the International Court of Justice—the ruling that failed to condemn Hamas and demanded that Israel give more aid to Palestinians in Gaza. He said the ruling was “not irresponsible” and that it was provoked by “extreme statements by Israeli politicians.” That’s simply nonsense. The statement that the court cited most prominently was made by Israel’s left-leaning president, Isaac Herzog, who said that many ordinary Gazans supported the Hamas massacre, which was a perfectly reasonable statement of fact.

The practice of saying a few perfunctory crucial words about terrorists and then “balancing” it with criticism of Israel is typical of the grotesque “even-handedness” that Ross and his colleagues pushed during his many years at the U.S. State Department.

That approach was wrong then, and it’s wrong now. There can be no “balance” between good and evil. Israel and the Palestinian Authority are not on the same moral level. Israel is America’s loyal, reliable, democratic ally. The P.A. is a terror-sponsoring, hate-mongering dictatorship.

In recent months, Ross has been saying that Israel should allow the Hamas leadership to leave Gaza in exchange for the release of the remaining hostages. He points to Israel’s decision in 1982, under U.S. pressure, to allow PLO chief Yasser Arafat and thousands of PLO terrorists to leave besieged Beirut.

But Ross never mentions what happened after Arafat left. He didn’t retire. He set up PLO terrorist headquarters in Tunisia, and then 20 additional years of terrorism followed—suicide bombings, intifadas, mass shootings, stabbings. Ross’s new plan would have the same result.

This is the same Dennis Ross who has acknowledged—on the op-ed page of The Washington Post in 2014—that he pressured Israel to allow Hamas to import concrete. Ross wrote that the Israelis opposed his demand because they feared that Hamas would use the cement to build terror tunnels. Ross insisted the concrete would be used to build houses, and because of his pressure, the Israelis gave in. We all know the result.

In his Zoom talk this week, Ross had the chutzpah to mention that Hamas used imported cement to build tunnels instead of homes, though never mentioned that he was the one who helped them to get that cement into Gaza in the first place.

Ross is frequently quoted in The New York Times and invited to appear on television shows and webinars. He’s treated as if his past involvement in Mideast diplomacy makes him an expert on how to make peace today. Yet every one of those diplomatic efforts failed. He has never facilitated real peace because he continues to pretend that both sides are to blame for the absence of peace.

The Jewish world is full of talented speakers, thinkers and writers. Surely, our institutions should be able to find more thoughtful lecturers than those same tired, old critics of Israel with their familiar and disastrous proposals.

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Israeli Jets Hit Hezbollah Posts as Rocket Barrages Continue to Threaten Upper Galilee

Lebanese Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah addresses his supporters via a screen during a rally commemorating late Hezbollah commander Mustafa Badreddine, who was killed in an attack in Syria, in the Beirut suburbs, Lebanon on May 20, 2022. REUTERS/Aziz Taher

i24 NewsThe IDF said that earlier today its fighter jets struck a Hezbollah launching post where operatives were seen as well as an observation post. In addition, a tank hit a terrorist cell in the Bleida area.

Israeli forces also responded to the rocket attacks in the past hour, hitting the source of the fire.

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