Vatican: Gaza is ‘a big concentration camp’
The Cardinal is President of the Vatican's Council for Justice and Peace, and is described as a ‘senior aide’ to Pope Benedict XVI. As far as the media is therefore concerned, the Vatican has spoken. The perception is unavoidable. It is precisely the same as an opinion expressed by one Labour minister becoming the policy of Government, or an attack by one shadow minister upon any group (no matter how justifiable) being perceived as the official position of the Conservative Party.
The term ‘concentration camp’ is so irrevocably fused with ‘Nazi’ that the mention of one evokes the spectre of the other. Both terms are thereby subject to Godwin’s Law. The Nazis were not the embodiment of an ultimate evil which can never be manifest again: there is nothing wrong with comparing people to Nazis if they act like Nazis. The irony is that the ‘Nazi’ label could be more legitimately applied to Hezbollah, Hamas or the government of Iran.
The Cardinal could not say that Israel is behaving like the Nazis, but the inference is clear: Ehud Olmert’s Israel is behaving like Adolf Hitler’s Germany: the IDF are Nazis.
And the Pope cannot be best pleased with this. As one who has visited concentration camps, and, as a member of Hitler Youth, had first-hand experience of life under the Nazis, he would know that the comparisons are fatuous.
But the damage has been done.
Israel's foreign ministry has accused the Vatican of ‘using the propaganda language of the militant Islamic Hamas’. Israel's ambassador to the Vatican, Mordechai Lewy, has his work cut out. He has said that Cardinal Martino 'clearly has never been in a concentration camp'.
But he has met a Nazi. And he ought therefore to know that they are not all the same.