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January 06, 2005

Israel and the Tsunami

It appears that the Catholic World News, along with the Vatican Observer, is now claiming that its report of the Vatican paper's report of the Vatican criticizing Israel for stinginess was based on a mistranslation. I suppose in the interests of getting along, we need to politely accept both the explanation and the implied apology.

But the correction, slipped in without comment, hardly begins to match the damage caused by the initial comments. The incorrect first report will be repeated as truth throughout the Arab world (and eventually Europe) as truth for years to come. It plays into historical stereotypes about Jews, at a time when pretty much any slander of Israel is willingly accepted by most of the world. It came just as Jan Egeland was criticizing America for not giving more generously to UN bureaucrats. And by using the passive, "a mistranslation was responsible," the CWN and the Vatican both get to avoid actual blame.

Maybe they could make some token donations through Magen David Adom. The American Red Magen David of Israel is collecting necessities and money, as well. Tactfully, the only press releases posted on their site that mention Sri Lanka talk about the aid that was sent and accepted.

The PDF on the main MDA site also makes mention of the generosity of Israeli Arabs, and of the Israeli Arab business community. The ironies abound. An Israeli organization, banned from joining the ICRC out of pure anti-semitism, provides the conduit for what is probably the most generous per-capita Arab and Muslim donation to other Muslims. Only in America.

For their part, the Sri Lankans are claiming that the whole thing was a misunderstanding, anyway. Given that Sri Lanka is mostly Hindu, not Muslim, that's a believable claim. The notion that cravenness, rather than mere hatred, was responsible for the rejection probably added to the confusion and anger to the initial mininformation.

Sri Lanka and Israel have “close diplomatic relations,” according to a statement by the Sri Lanka Embassy in Washington. The Sri Lanka Embassy in Tel Aviv has been functioning since October 2000; Israel’s embassy in New Delhi, India, is also accredited to Sri Lanka.

Subasinghe noted that representatives of his country and Israel attended a ceremony at a synagogue in Washington Saturday night as a “display of solidarity between the two embassies in light of the misinformation that was spread.”

There was evidently another prayer service Sunday morning, organized by one of Washington's Orthodox synagogues.

On a personal, the spirit of competitive giving is all well and good, but should be done with a certain attitude of humility. It's important that we don't allow the victims to become the Flavor of the Month.

Posted by joshuasharf at January 6, 2005 09:34 AM | TrackBack

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