The Vatican’s Stance On The Violence In Gaza

Over the past 11 days, violence has once again broken out between Hamas and Israel. With ongoing bombings and over 200 Palestinian deaths and around 12 Israeli deaths, countries and international human rights organizations have a variety of comments on the conflict. Within the past week, President Erdogan of Turkey has called on the Vatican and specifically Pope Francis to continue to condemn the actions of the Israeli government and to stand strong with Palestine. 

As reported by Reuters, Pope Francis called for an end to the bombings saying, “many innocent people have died, amongst them, there are also children. This is terrible. Unacceptable. Their death is a sign that (people) don’t want to build a future, but destroy it … I wonder where hatred and revenge will lead?” This is part of a larger pro-Palestine sentiment from the Vatican. Likewise, President Erdogan of Turkey stands with Palestine saying Israel is committing “ethnic, religious and cultural cleansing.” Erdogan implores the Pope to continue to use strong pro-Palestine rhetoric as “the continued messages from Pope Francis carried great importance in mobilizing the Christian world and international community.” According to Reuters, Erdogan is looking for Pope Francis’s stance against Israel to continue in hopes of protecting regional security and putting a stop to current humanitarian crimes being committed in Gaza.

This conflict is extremely complicated and predates the current 11-day crisis by decades. But, because of the rising Palestinian death toll, it is necessary to put an end to the violence and find a resolution without displacing more Palestinians from their homes. Any conflict resolution that exists right now is inevitably a short-term solution, so it will be necessary for the Israeli government to work with Palestinians and their allies to find a long-term solution for peace in the region. Powerful countries such as the United States need to hold Israel, a strong U.S. ally, accountable for these humanitarian injustices. The Vatican’s rhetoric in favor of Palestine shows the importance of protecting displaced people and how the voice of powerful international institutions can help create momentum for change.

Tension and conflict between Palestine and Israel have existed for over a century, preceding the World Wars. But, this conflict really came to a head in 1948, the year Israel was declared a country. BBC History explains that “Israel was born from war, both the legacy of the Holocaust and more immediate conflict when the Arab armies attacked in May 1948.” The conflict in this region is long and complicated and each side views casualties and use of military force from opposing perspectives. After becoming a country, Israel continued to expand their territory in the late 1940s, resulting in many more Arab-Israeli wars in the following decades. While there have been peace deals, the most prominent being in1993, they are short-lived and do not address the root tensions within the region. Currently, there are still around 700,000 Palestinians in refugee camps in the Gaza Strip. The past 11 days of conflict have been the worst conflict in the region since 2014. This conflict is making international headlines, as powerful countries and organizations release statements on where they stand on the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. Before this current conflict, the Vatican has shown that they are pro-Palestine. According to Business Insider, there has been de facto recognition of Palestine from the Vatican since 2012 and the Vatican signed a treaty with Palestine recognizing it as a state in 2015. Overall, the Vatican agrees with the proposal of a two-state solution, a resolution Israel rejects. 

The Vatican has continued to support Palestine at the urging of Turkey. Other powerful countries have yet to have quite as harsh a sentiment towards Israel. For instance, according to the New York Times, President Biden alluded to the necessity of a ceasefire without harshly calling out Israel the way Pope Francis and President Erdogan have. That being said, a ceasefire has begun, starting in the early morning on Friday, May 21st, ending the last 11 days of the conflict. Despite this current de-escalation, it is unclear how long this ceasefire will last without systemic change in the region.