.- While it is “impermissible to make any connection between Nazi policies directed at Jews and the current Israeli policy towards the Palestinians,” the German bishops cannot be silent about conditions in Palestine, said Ulrich Pöner, director of the German Bishops’ Conference Department for International Church Affairs and Migration.
“It has to be fundamentally accepted, including from those who have made certain statements criticizing the bishops, that the bishops cannot be silent when it comes to conditions in Palestine,” said Pöner in an interview with DW-WORLD.DE.
“They cannot do that, should not do that and will not do that. Just as they will continue to address, particularly to the Palestinians, the state of Israel's right to existence and the threat terrorism poses to the Israelis,” he underlined.
Pöner addressed the strong comments by some German bishops who visited the Mideast recently and one comment, in particular, comparing the conditions of Palestinians in the West Bank with those of the Warsaw ghetto during World War II.
“Some of the bishops were in Bethlehem and Ramallah for the first time and came into close contact with the suffering of the Palestinians,” Pöner explained. “That led to understandably emotional statements of several sorts, from a number of bishops.”
“As a matter of principle, in my opinion, one should be allowed to make strong, critical and emotional statements when in such a particular situation,” he said. “But there are limits. And those limits are reached when a particular word loses a certain quality for both the situation as well as for others' feelings and suffering.”
Pöner said he did not believe the statements could be put into an anti-Semitic context. “They were not intended in that manner and they should not be understood in that way,” he stated.
“Still, both the Central Council of Jews in Germany and the Israeli ambassador have pointed out that they are certainly aware that criticism of the circumstances in the Palestinian areas -- and thereby criticism of the state of Israel's policies -- has to be permitted,” he noted.
He added that Cardinal Karl Lehmann’s apology to the director of the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial about certain incidents on the Israeli-Palestinian border “is suitable to set the record straight on this issue for everyone with an interest in it.”