Israeli Ambassador Accuses Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem of ‘Blood Libel’

In an interview with Crux, published Dec. 22, the ambassador, Raphael Schutz, denied that IDF soldiers targeted the women.

Israeli Ambassador to the Holy See Raphael Schutz.
Israeli Ambassador to the Holy See Raphael Schutz. (photo: Wikimedia Commons / CC BY-SA 3.0)

The Israeli ambassador to the Holy See accused the Latin Patriarch of Jerusalem of “blood libel” for saying that two Christian women in Gaza had been intentionally killed “in cold blood” by the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).

In an interview with Crux, published Dec. 22, the ambassador, Raphael Schutz, denied that IDF soldiers targeted the women.

Schutz said: “I find it very annoying that the Latin Patriarchate in Jerusalem very fast, a few hours after the incident, without an inquiry, lashed into publishing a text naming Israel as a country of murder, the IDF as murderers in ‘cold blood,’ which is basically a blood libel. Nobody in Israel does that intentionally.”

He told Crux, “It might be true technically that the women were shot by IDF forces, although this has not been 100 percent established,” Schutz said that “even if this is true, this has not been done by malice, or intentionally, it was a mistake like others during the war.”

The Jerusalem Patriarchate, which is led by Cardinal Pierbattista Pizzaballa and oversees the Catholic Church in the Holy Land, published a statement on Dec. 16, in which it said that the IDF had “murdered two Christian women inside the Holy Family Parish in Gaza, where the majority of Christian families has taken refuge since the start of the war.”

The patriarchate said that “no warning was given, no notification was provided,” and that the two women were “shot in cold blood inside the premises of the parish, where there are no belligerents.”

Pope Francis joined the patriarchate in condemning the IDF for the women’s deaths, going so far as to call it an act of “terrorism” during his Dec. 17 Angelus address

Schutz criticized the patriarchate for what he said were careless accusations.

“I don’t know why they took the liberty of using this language. It should be upon them to give this answer,” he said, adding, “I also didn’t hear any clarification, not from them, not from any other element. So, what I can only express is my anger, my dismay, my disappointment for this easygoing, superficial use of words when it comes to this incident.”

Schutz also took issue with Pope Francis’ use of the word “terrorism” to describe Israel’s actions.

“No responsible leader in the free world … have called our war of self-defense terrorism,” he said.

“There might be criticism, there might be sometimes even legitimate criticism to this or that action, but as a whole, the leaders of the free world accepted that Israel is exercising its right to self-defense, and even if there was criticism, no one called it terrorism,” he said.

Though Schutz said the IDF could have possibly killed the Christian women in Gaza, a spokesperson for the Israeli forces denied responsibility in a statement to CNA on Thursday.

The spokesperson said that a military review of the incident found that the IDF had targeted “three people in the vicinity” who were “operating as spotters” for Hamas rocket launchers and that the targets were fired upon and identified.

“While this incident occurred in the area where the two women were reportedly killed, the reports received [of IDF soldiers firing on the Christian women] do not match the conclusion of our initial review, which found that the IDF troops were targeting spotters in enemy lookouts,” the spokesperson said.

The Jerusalem Patriarchate declined CNA’s request for comment.

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