Commentary Magazine


Left-Wing Catholics Find Common Ground With Right-Wingers: Hatred of Israel

One of the most encouraging developments in Jewish life over the course of the last century is the way the Catholic Church has evolved from a position of open hostility toward Jews to one that repudiated anti-Semitism and recognized the legitimacy of Zionism and the state of Israel. The work of the Second Vatican Council and popes such as John XXIII and John Paul II have largely erased a lamentable legacy of hate and replaced it with one that is based on mutual respect. But as is the case with the secular left, some precincts of the Catholic left remain infected with the virus of anti-Zionism.

A prime example of this sort of thinking is found at Commonweal, a liberal Catholic publication where Margaret O’Brien Steinfels blogs. Steinfels has been waging a steady campaign against Israel at the dotCommonweal blog whose central theme as been to oppose pressure on Iran to stop its nuclear program as well as support for the efforts of rabid anti-Zionist extremists like Mondoweiss editor Phillip Weiss and turncoat Israel critic M.J. Rosenberg. While Stenfels mocks those who consider Weiss’ absurd rants as well as her own jibes to be anti-Semitic, any time spent perusing her posts makes it clear that despite Commonweal’s supposed liberalism, what is produced on their blog sounds a lot more like the work of a latter day Father Charles Coughlin than any of the recent popes.

While Steinfels is a knee-jerk Israel-hater (her idea of a joke is to suggest that Republicans move the capital of the United States to Jerusalem), her main interest these days is similar to other foes of Israel: stopping Israel or, more to the point, pro-Israel Americans from taking action to prevent Iran from getting a nuclear weapon. She even wrote with approval of the statement of support for Iran nukes of the 120-member Non-Aligned Movement that held its recent meeting in Tehran. She also wrote with sympathy about Iran’s historical grievances against the United States and the deaths of Iranian scientists who are working on creating a bomb that could make good on the regime’s threats to wipe Israel off the map.

Some of Steinfels’ recent work is merely all-purpose Israel bashing such as a post highlighting the 1982 Sabra and Shatilla massacre of Palestinians. The massacre was a failure on Israel’s part, but nowhere in her piece titled “Our Closest Ally,” does she mention that the militiamen who killed the Palestinians were actually Catholics. Her mention of it in this matter brings to mind the belief on the part of many Israelis at the time that this lamentable episode from the Lebanese Civil War (which was, alas, a case of the Catholics revenging themselves on the Palestinians for past massacres) was a blood libel against Jews. Indeed, what motive other than delegitimizing Jewish contemporary self-defense could there be in resurrecting an incident from a war that was prompted by Lebanon allowing terrorists to use its southern region to be a base for attacks on Israelis?

Commonweal’s liberal agenda on domestic issues is well known. So is its edgy attitude toward the Vatican. One isn’t surprised to find anyone on the left lacking enthusiasm or even sympathy for Israel’s struggle for survival. But I find the willingness of this prominent liberal Catholic publication to get into bed with apologists for the Iranian regime and rabid anti-Zionists is, to say the least, curious. Yet when left-wing Catholics become indistinguishable from right-wing Catholics like Pat Buchanan, you know there is only one explanation: Jew-hatred has a way of bringing all sorts of nasty people together.