The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America, the nation’s largest mainstream Orthodox Jewish organization, today expressed its outrage at the anti-Semitic remarks made by President Bashar Assad of Syria during the Pope’s visit. The vicious accusations proclaiming that Jews are responsible for the death of Jesus and for the attempt to kill Mohammed completely undermine the spirit of reconciliation in which this visit by Pope John Paul II was made. President Assad’s repugnant remarks are more than just rhetoric, they unfortunately foment hatred of Israel and the Jewish people and destroy any hopes for peacemaking or for the harmony and reconciliation that the Pope described.
The fact that these insidious comments were made in front of a leading religious leader and the world media indicate that Bashar Assad has no interest at all in making peace with Israel and that he is not above using time-worn anti-Semitic canards to communicate his intentions. The Orthodox Union believes that it is crucial that Pope John Paul II and all other world and religious leaders respond to Assad’s remarks and denounce them as undermining the goals of peace and cooperation that so many have worked for. This must be done in support of the tremendous efforts invested by so many towards the goal of Middle East peace and in the interest of fighting hatred and bigotry.