Catholic Media Watch: Analysis by John McGrane



Last update: 25 April 2009 12:54:03 -0700


The following are articles written about the Catholic community of Palestine by Israeli journalist, Judith Sudilovsky. After each article is a critical analysis by John McGrane, a Catholic attorney living in Arlington, Virginia.  He is also a former director of grassroots organizing at the Council for the National Interest in Washington, DC.


CNS STORY: MAGHAR-FEAR Feb-21-2005 (1040 words) With photos. xxxi. A week after violence, fear remains on faces of Maghar's Catholics By Judith Sudilovsky ... Read the article




Although this article doesn’t really belong with the others because it doesn’t deal with the relations between Palestinian Christians, in particular Catholics, and the state of Israel, I’m including it anyway because it indirectly demonstrates Ms. Sudilovsky’s strong tendency to downplay Israeli violence.  In none of her articles that follow is there any description of Israeli violence that even approaches her description in this article of Druze violence. 


In the first couple of paragraphs of this story about a Druze rampage through a Christian neighborhood, in which there was minor property damage done and no injuries or deaths, note the detail of Ms. Sudilovsky’s account.


In the village's Christian neighborhood, cars were vandalized, overturned and burned. Windows of houses and businesses were shattered; shutters were broken and hacked through with hatchets and axes; buildings were blackened from flames reaching up to the third floor; and the insides of businesses -- which were first plundered -- were destroyed and charred.

"They destroyed all the Christian businesses," said one man, as he stood outside his family's ruined pastry shop Feb. 20.

Shattered glass covered the floor of the newly renovated store; trays of Arabic sweets lay among the ruins. A chocolate cream cake was smashed on top of the cash register, which lay broken and open on the floor. Cream cakes, filled pastries and cookies were askew in the broken refrigerator. Pieces of glass pierced a red heart-shaped cake -- prepared for Valentine's Day -- inside the front counter display case.


I suggest you keep this very descriptive account in mind as you read Ms. Sudilovsky’s reports on Israel’s invasions of Lebanon and Gaza in the summer of 2006 and of Gaza again at the end of 2008.  Also keep in mind that the death and devastation meted out in those events was thousands of times greater than that in this instance.  Also keep it in mind when Ms. Sudilovsky reports on Israeli violence in the West Bank.  Actually, although there is Israeli violence in the West Bank on a daily basis, you’ll find that not only is it not adequately described by Ms. Sudilovsky; it goes virtually unreported by her.

Now, this particular incident, unlike all the others, did occur in Israel.  And thus it could be argued that only in this instance could she actually go to the site and witness the damage in person.  But I don’t buy this excuse for several reasons.  One is, with regard to the West Bank, she could quite easily have driven there and viewed events or their aftermath for herself with very little risk to her personal safety.  Two, it would have been very easy for her as well as she interviewed Palestinians in Gaza by phone, to elicit detailed descriptions from them.  They would have been only too happy to provide her with as much descriptive material as she wanted.  And three there were plenty of descriptive reports coming out of Lebanon that she could have utilized.


One last thing, note that Ms. Sudilovsky didn’t interview anyone for this article from the Druze community to perhaps explain the animosity that led to the attack.  Not a terrible oversight on her part, but you will find in contrast that in every article, without exception, that involves a discussion of Israeli violence Ms. Sudilovsky quotes Israeli government officials for their side of the story.


John McGrane


CNS STORY: BETHANY-EASTER Mar-8-2005 (870 words) With photos. xxxi For holy feasts, Palestinians face circuitous route into Jerusalem By Judith Sudilovsky Catholic News Service BETHANY, West Bank (CNS) -- Technically, ... Read the article




This article is the only one out of forty-three I found to be completely fair and objective.

John McGrane


CNS STORY: GAZA-ORANGE Jul-26-2005 (430 words) With photos. xxxi. Orange clothes languish as some Israelis try to avoid political dress. By Judith Sudilovsky  ... Read the article




The bias of this article lies in the triviality of the subject matter.  Considering all that was going on at the time Ms. Sudilovsky should have reported on something more serious.  The weekly report of the Palestinian Center for Human Rights for the week just prior to this article offered a few possibilities:


Israeli violations of international law continued in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (OPT) during the reporting period (14-20 July 2005):


Willful Killing: During the reported period, IOF [Israeli Occupation Forces] killed 14 Palestinians, eight in the West Bank and six in the Gaza Strip, including two children. 


In the West Bank, on 14 July 2005, IOF shot dead a Palestinian civilian in Nablus.  On 15 July 2005, IOF extra-judicially killed three Palestinians in Salfit village near Nablus and killed a child during the clashes that followed this attack.  On 19 July 2005, two Palestinians were killed in al-Yamoun village near Jenin when they exchanged fire with IOF.  On 20 July 2005, a Palestinian died from a wound he sustained last week during an Israeli incursion into Tulkarm. 


In the Gaza Strip, on 15 July 2005, IOF extra-judicially executed 4 Palestinians in Gaza City.  They also extra-judicially executed a 5th Palestinian in Khan Yunis on 17 July 2005.  On 18 July 2005, IOF positioned at a checkpoint in the central Gaza Strip killed a Palestinian child, when they opened fire at a number of Palestinian civilians who were waiting at the checkpoint.


Shelling: During the reported period, in addition to using aircrafts in the aforementioned extra-judicial killings, IOF launched nine aerial attacks at civilian targets in the Gaza Strip.  They fired 14 missiles at these targets, destroying them.  In addition, at least 10 Palestinian civilians, including 3 children, were injured as a result. 


Incursions: IOF conducted 47 military incursions into Palestinian areas (45 in the West Bank and two in the Gaza Strip), the widest of which was into Tulkarm.  During these incursions, IOF injured 20 Palestinian civilians.  They raided houses and arrested 79 Palestinian civilians.  In addition, IOF seized 21 houses and transformed them into military sites.  


Restrictions on Movement: IOF have continued to impose a tightened siege on the OPT, including Jerusalem.  IOF divided the Gaza Strip into three separate zones.  They have also continued to close Erez crossing for the second consecutive week.  IOF have decided to prevent Palestinian civilians aged 16-35 from traveling through Rafah International Crossing Point.  In the West Bank, IOF erected a number of military checkpoints.  They arrested six Palestinian civilians, including two children.  They also imposed curfews on a number of Palestinian communities.  In addition, a Palestinian civilian was injured by IOF near a military checkpoint.


Annexation Wall: IOF have continued to construct the Annexation Wall inside the West Bank territory.  IOF have continued to construct a section of the Wall to the northeast of East Jerusalem.  They also established a military post near Qalandya checkpoint, south of Ramallah.  During the reported period, IOF continued to raze areas of Palestinian agricultural land in Amatin village near Qalqilya to construct a section of the Wall in the area.  On 19 July 2005, IOF issued three military orders confiscating 15 donums[1] of Palestinian land near Qalqilya to establish roads that will link a number of settlements with the Wall.  In addition, IOF used force to disperse peaceful demonstrations organized by Palestinian civilians, international and Israeli solidarity activists in protest at the construction of the Wall.  Seven Palestinian civilians and an Israeli solidarity activist were wounded and three Israeli solidarity activists were arrested.


Illegal Settler Activities: Israeli settlers in breach of international humanitarian law continue to reside in the OPT and have launched a series of attacks against Palestinian civilians and property.  Three Palestinian civilians, including a child, were injured.  IOF also razed areas of Palestinian land in Shoufa village near Tulkarm for the purpose of settlement expansion.


Does Ms. Sudilovsky think we can’t handle the truth?

John McGrane


CNS STORY: WESTBANK-ABOUD (UPDATED) Nov-21-2005 (700 words) With photos. xxxi Catholic villagers join protest against Israeli separation barrier By Judith Sudilovsky  ... Read the article




This article would be relatively balanced if it were written for the secular press.  But considering this is the Catholic News Service, I don’t understand Ms. Sudilovsky’s interest in giving Israeli government officials equal time.  This is something she never fails to do in her stories when she quotes Palestinian Catholics complaining about something the Israeli government is doing to them.

John McGrane


CNS STORY: JERUSALEM-SKYLSTAD Jan-16-2006 (640 words) xxxi Palestinians concerned with unemployment, says visiting U.S. bishop. By Judith Sudilovsky Catholic News Service JERUSALEM (CNS)  ... Read the article




Although this article about unemployment among West Bank Catholics quotes the Bishop as indicating the Israeli separation barrier and checkpoints are “negative aspects of the region,” there is no detailed criticism of them; nor, strangely, is the connection made between them and the economic situation of the Catholics.  Also Ms. Sudilovsky doesn’t offer any information about the extent of the unemployment problem.  However, the article does quote the American bishop implying that Israel is partly to blame for the failure of the peace process, “[the United States] has a strong influence in Israel and so a grass-roots approach in our country calling for peace is important.”

John McGrane


CNS STORY: PALESTINE-HAMAS Jan-30-2006 (840 words) With photos. xxxi Palestinian Christians take a 'wait and see' approach to Hamas win  By Judith Sudilovsky Catholic News Service JERUSALEM (CNS)  ... Read the article




This article isn’t terribly imbalanced, but it is misleading in several key respects: one, it emphasizes, I believe unduly, Palestinian Christians’ fears of a Hamas government; and two, offers only one possible motivation for Hamas’ victory, corruption within the Fatah controlled Palestinian Authority.  Not only does this imply there were no positive reasons for Palestinians to vote for Hamas, it also implies that there were no reasons related to the Israeli occupation and Fatah’s weakness in doing something about it.   In many experts’ opinions, many Palestinians in the face of continued land confiscation, home demolitions, etc. and growing poverty in the territories caused by Israel (50% of the population was living on less than $1.60 a day) felt not only was there a need for a less corrupt government there was a need for continued resistance and felt Hamas was willing to do this, unlike Fatah which was perceived as capitulating and giving away the farm, literally.

John McGrane


CNS STORY: BETHLEHEM-MORKUS May-18-2006 (810 words) With photos. xxxi Catholic in Hamas-led Cabinet says he consulted his priest for advice By Judith Sudilovsky Catholic News Service JERUSALEM (CNS)  ... Read the article



For the most part objective, but Ms. Sudilovsky notes, “Hamas has called for the destruction of Israel..,” without also noting that Israel’s military occupation and settlement of the West Bank was preventing, perhaps precluding, the creation of a Palestinian state, besides being illegal under international law.  Also, according to a Reuters report that came out several months before this article was written, Hamas deputy political leader Moussa Abu Marzouk explained that the problem they had with recognizing Israel was that Israel’s borders were not permanently set, it was continuing to confiscate land in the West Bank, and the issue of the right of Palestinian refugees to return had still not been addressed.

John McGrane


CNS STORY: PALESTINIANS-IMPACT May-23-2006 (790 words) With photos. xxxi As countries withhold money, ordinary Palestinians feel consequences   By Judith Sudilovsky Catholic News Service JERUSALEM (CNS)  ... Read the article




This article places the onus for Palestinian Catholic poverty on an international boycott and the intifada, but fails to mention that Israel began withholding tens of millions of dollars in taxes owed to the Palestinian government in January due to Hamas’ electoral victory.  And that this action resulted in, among other things, Palestinian government employees not receiving their salaries.  It also fails to explore the devastating economic effect on the Palestinians of many other Israeli actions related to closure and the occupation, such as the checkpoints and the separation wall; or as Palestinians prefer to call it the apartheid wall.

John McGrane


CNS STORY: GAZA-CONDITIONS (UPDATED) Jul-3-2006 (850 words) With photos posted June 30 and July 3. xxxi Priest says Gaza residents are used to living in difficult conditions   By Judith Sudilovsky Catholic News Service JERUSALEM (CNS)  ... Read the article




In this article Ms. Sudilovsky impliedly places the onus for the death of 20 Gaza civilians (and the violence in general) on Hamas by referring to the Israeli attacks that killed the Gazans as “retaliatory.”  And while she does give Gaza Catholics an opportunity to comment on food and fuel shortages and the damage done by Israeli bombs and to speculate about Israel’s motivations, she also gives Israeli officials a chance to explain their actions and assert that there are “ample supplies” in Gaza.  And despite the fact that there is no way Israeli officials could possibly know what level of supplies are in Gaza since they aren’t in Gaza themselves, Ms. Sudilovsky doesn’t question their assertion which flies in the face of UNRWA assessments.

John McGrane


CNS STORY: PALESTINIANS-TROUBLES Jul-12-2006 (920 words) With photos. xxxi Israeli incursions worsen life for Palestinians, say church officials    By Judith Sudilovsky Catholic News Service JERUSALEM (CNS)  ... Read the article




This article does quote several Palestinians and a Catholic Relief Services employee discussing the economic hardships facing the Palestinians, but the international community’s economic boycott is blamed.   The fact that Israel encouraged the blockade and is withholding tens of millions of dollars in taxes owed to the Palestinian government because it didn’t like the results of the Palestinian election goes unmentioned.

John McGrane


CNS STORY: MIDEAST-REACT (SECOND UPDATE) Jul-18-2006 (1,080 words) With photos posted July 14, 17 and 18 and graphic July 18. xxxi Church leaders pray for peace, dialogue as Mideast violence escalates    By Judith Sudilovsky Catholic News Service JERUSALEM (CNS)  ... Read the article




Although in this article Ms. Sudilovsky does quote several Catholic clergy, including the Pope, calling for an end to the fighting and indicating concern for the high number of civilian deaths in Lebanon, note the lack of any substantial description of the wholesale destruction and human suffering that was going on in Lebanon as the result of Israel’s invasion or of the comparatively minor damage being sustained by Israel.  About the situation in Lebanon Ms. Sudilovsky says only, “Israel blockaded Lebanese ports, repeatedly bombed the Beirut airport and hit cities it considered Hezbollah strongholds. It also bombed major roads and bridges.”  Compare that to her vivid description of the miniscule Druze attack on a Christian neighborhood in Israel (see first article.)

Also note that Ms. Sudilovsky, like the American press, refers to the capture of the Israeli soldier as a kidnapping.  Regardless of whether one accepts Israel’s claim, as Ms. Sudilovsky does and apparently Father McGarry does, that the Israeli soldier was taken in a cross-border raid, calling it a kidnapping not only biases the discussion, it’s just plain ridiculous.  Depending on whom you ask, the Israeli soldier in question was either taken right on the border or a small distance either side of it.  And he was taken in one of many skirmishes that had been going on along the border for some time.  A couple of months before this incident (5/28/06) the New York Times reported,


In a series of skirmishes across the Israeli-Lebanese border, militants fired rockets deep inside northern Israel before dawn on Sunday, and Israel delivered a sharp response, pounding militant bases in Lebanon and trading artillery fire across the frontier….Skip to next paragraph While shooting erupts along the border with some regularity, Sunday's clashes appeared to be one of the more intense encounters since Israel withdrew troops from southern Lebanon six years ago.


So although it may have been a limited, undeclared war, I think it’s clear that the Israeli soldier in question was a participant in ongoing hostilities and as such was taken prisoner, not kidnapped.


Ms. Sudilovsky quotes Father McGarry very neatly giving Israel’s justification for its bombing of Lebanon, "I think Israel has to react. They can't tolerate the taking of soldiers, the Katyushas….They have to do something in response….,” but she fails to report that Hezbollah didn’t begin firing those rockets into Israel until after Israel began a full scale bombing campaign in Lebanon.  And with regard to the “taking of soldiers,” a Cybercast News Service ( report of July 12 said: "The abduction of two Israeli soldiers by Hizbullah militants in southern Lebanon was not a terrorist attack but an act of war, Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert said Wednesday."  And Newsweek's Michael Hirsh of on July 12 said: "As a result, things are blowing up so quickly it's difficult to know where to focus any longer. After the kidnapping of two Israeli soldiers by Hizbullah in Lebanon on Wednesday, which the hard-line group linked to a similar kidnapping by Hamas the week before, the Mideast seemed to be closer to all-out war."  And on July 12 AP reporter, Joseph Panossian, wrote, "The militant group Hezbollah captured two Israeli soldiers during clashes Wednesday across the border in southern Lebanon, prompting a swift reaction from Israel, which sent ground forces into its neighbor to look for them." And although Mr. Hirsh and Mr. Panossian both suspiciously changed the location in subsequent stories, other non-Arab news services also reported the location as being inside Lebanon: AFP, Hindustan Times, Deutsch Press Agency, Asia Times, and Voltairenet.  Although one can’t fault terribly Ms. Sudilovsky, an Israeli, for accepting the Israeli version of the facts, one might fault the Catholic News Service for hiring her rather than someone from outside the region, or perhaps a Catholic.


To Ms. Sudilovsky’s credit she does mention the issue of Shebaa Farms, a piece of land that the Lebanese claim and that Israel did not withdraw from in 2000.  And she refers to Hezbollah attacks to reclaim it as “resistance,” possibly a slip of the pen.  And she also quotes an American in Lebanon pointing out the dramatic disparity between the military capabilities of the two sides.  But she finishes by quoting a couple of Palestinians neither of whom seems to be against, in principle, Israel’s invasion.  Remarkably, despite the wholesale slaughter going on in Lebanon, none of the six people quoted in this story, including four Arabs, said that Israel’s invasion was unjustified, overkill maybe, but not unjustified.  I bet I could have found someone over there that would have, in about two seconds.


John McGrane


CNS STORY: ISRAEL-EDUCATORS Jul-18-2006 (920 words) xxxi U.S. Catholic educators in Israel say rockets give them new outlook     By Judith Sudilovsky Catholic News Service JERUSALEM (CNS)  ... Read the article




This is an over-the-top propaganda piece.  It’s a completely one-sided view of the war between Israel and Hezbollah.  It quotes a group of American Catholic teachers on an ADL sponsored trip, an Israeli government official and Abe Foxman, president of the ADL, at length, defending Israel’s actions.  Professors Mearsheimer and Walt, in their book, The Israel Lobby, called Mr. Foxman, “one of Israel’s most ardent defenders.”  And they didn’t mean it in a good way.  One of the many strategies employed by the Israel lobby in the United States is offering tours like the one in this article.  Below is a story from (7/14/05) describing one such tour offered to Catholic teachers in Los Angeles.  I’ve underlined those portions that point up the political nature of the tour.  Note that the teachers passed along their “new-found bond with Israel” to their students.


As for Yugar [a teacher at Sacred Heart High School in East Los Angeles], she developed her own connection [with Israel] through a program that sends Catholic educators to Israel. The Holy Land Democracy Project is run by The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles. The goal is to combat negative perceptions of Israel.


Last year, the program was conducted as a pilot project in five Catholic high schools. This year, another seven high schools came aboard, with seven religion or social studies teachers spending March 28 to April 10 in Israel. They followed up the trip with a weeklong course for their students in May, emphasizing Israel as a Middle East democracy.


It worked for Yugar, who was in the second group of teachers in the program. When she wanted to share her new-found bond with Israel, she decided this spring to use a piece of the land -- some mud.

"They thoroughly loved it," said Yugar. "They're girls. They're totally girls."


Participating high schools include those located in poorer areas, such as Sacred Heart and Verbum Dei in South Central L.A., plus more middle-class campuses, such as Mary Star of the Sea in San Pedro, and tony Villanova Preparatory in Ojai.


Traveling to Israel was "an experience that will take a very long time to sort out," religion teacher Mary Killmond of Bishop Alemany High in Mission Hills told the audience at the Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels.


"Going there inspired me," said Jeanine Di Cesaris, a social studies teacher at the all-girls Pomona Catholic High School, who traveled to the Israel on the first trip last year. "It wasn't like going to Hawaii. Israel stayed with me. It becomes a part of you."


Two weeks after this article CNS printed an article by John Thavis saying the Vatican made it clear it considered Israel’s invasion of Lebanon a disproportionate response.  No doubt these Catholic teachers and their students disagree.

John McGrane


CNS STORY: MIDEAST-REFUGEES Jul-19-2006 (480 words) With photos. xxxi Maronite archbishop calls refugee problem in Lebanon huge, dire     By Judith Sudilovsky Catholic News Service JERUSALEM (CNS)  ... Read the article




The quotes taken from Archbishop Sayah seem almost unbelievable.  Coming from the devastation, “shock and awe,” taking place in Lebanon (145,000 homes damaged), where he says 95% of the casualties are civilians, to the relative calm and safety of Haifa (1,300 homes damaged,) it’s rather absurd that he would have implied that his people need him more there?  And, once again, the article takes what the Israeli government says at face value, that it is taking precautions not to kill civilians, and that their problem in this regard is that Hezbollah “terrorists” use the Lebanese civilian population as human shields; a clear case of blaming the victim.  The author uses the loaded term “kidnapped” as opposed to the usual “captured” re the 2 IDF held by Hezbollah.   Lastly, much of what the Archbishop is quoted as saying is very confusing to the reader, his statement that the situation is “simply dirty politics” using “unthinkable means” screams for elaboration, but none is offered.

John McGrane


CNS STORY: MIDEAST-REFUGEES MIDEAST-FRANCO Jul-21-2006 (360 words) xxxi Papal nuncio tried to secure release of kidnapped Israeli soldier     By Judith Sudilovsky Catholic News Service JERUSALEM (CNS)  ... Read the article




This article leaves much to be desired because it leaves so much out.  Ms. Sudilovsky to her credit mentions that Hamas’ stated motivation for capturing an Israeli soldier, to free Palestinian prisoners held by Israel, including minors, was backed up by human rights groups; but she leaves out several other major Israeli provocations.  According to B’Tselem, Israel killed at least 144 Gazans between their pullout and when this cross border raid took place.  And two thirds of those killed were civilians, one fourth minors.  Just two weeks before the raid an Israeli missile had killed a married couple and their three children picnicking on the beach.  Five days before the raid an Israeli missile killed three children and wounded 15 more.  And just the day before the Israelis captured two Palestinians in a cross border raid.


 Ms. Sudilovsky again refers to the capture of the Israeli soldier as a “kidnapping.”  At the very least this is misleading because it implies that the soldier in question wasn’t part of a force engaged in ongoing hostilities.  And at most, it is designed to engender sympathy for the Israeli soldier and imply criminality on the part of Hamas.  This has to be the only time in history this civilian legal term has ever been applied to the capture of a soldier by the enemy in the midst of hostilities.  In her defense she wasn’t alone in this mischaracterization.  Much of the American press picked up and propagated this bit of Israeli double-speak.


Ms. Sudilovsky’s last sentence is a smoking gun, in my opinion, in terms of revealing her bias.  After stating the number of Palestinians killed by Israel since the “kidnapping,” she adds “around half of them militants.”  Putting aside her use of the pejorative, militants, it’s very revealing that she didn’t say civilians.  That is by far the more meaningful side of this statistical coin.  It may just be that she’s a glass-half-full type of person, but civilian casualties are always the bigger story.  And the fact that she avoided stating it clearly points to an attempt not to focus the reader’s attention on it.

Lastly, getting back to her use of the term, militants, to refer to the forces of the Hamas government, it is the third time in this one article that she uses a pejorative to refer to Hamas.  She also refers to the democratically elected Hamas government as a “militant faction” and as a “radical Islamic organization.”


John McGrane


CNS STORY: ISRAEL-NAZARETH Jul-26-2006 (810 words) With photos. xxxi Nazareth's streets empty as tourists retreat to safer southern Israel  By Judith Sudilovsky Catholic News Service JERUSALEM (CNS)  ... Read the article




With a war started by Israel raging just a few miles away in Southern Lebanon, the country’s infrastructure being completely gutted, 145,000 homes damaged, a third of the population uprooted, Ms. Sudilovsky chooses to write about a few Christian shopkeepers in northern Israel who are a little upset that the war is bad for business; one to the point where he doesn’t “even feel like shaving.”  Oh, the humanity!  One has to ask, why didn’t Ms. Sudilovsky write about the much bigger story?  Why didn’t she take this opportunity to describe in greater detail what was happening in Lebanon?  Why didn’t she write about the shell-shocked Christian shopkeepers there?


And not that my assertion that Israel started the war is decisive with regard to my opinion on this, regardless of who started the war Ms. Sudilovsky’s choice of topic is questionable at best.  But just for the record, there are several undisputed facts that point to Israel as being the primary aggressor.  The “kidnapping” of the IDF soldier, which the American press points to as the opening salvo of the war, was not the first cross-border skirmish instigated by either side.  Secondly, the subsequent, allegedly retaliatory Israeli invasion had been planned and prepared for for many months.  And third, Hezbollah didn’t begin firing rockets into Israel, until after the Israeli air force started a full scale bombing campaign over Lebanon.  But, again, whomever you care to blame, the story was not a couple of disgruntled Arab shopkeepers in Northern Israel.

John McGrane


CNS STORY: GAZA-RAMADAN Oct-25-2006 (590 words) With photos posted Oct. 24. xxxi CRS packages help Gaza Muslims celebrate Eid al-Fitr By Judith Sudilovsky Catholic News Service JERUSALEM (CNS)  ... Read the article




This article at least makes reference to the economic hardship caused by Israel’s closing of Gaza’s borders and Israel’s cross border attacks, “incursions,” but in both instances the author gives the Israeli government’s justifications for their actions unchallenged.  And more significantly focuses our attention on economic issues near the end of a year in which Israeli incursions resulted in the deaths of 650 Palestinians, including 120 children. 


Also, although it seems like a small thing, Ms. Sudilovsky refers to a policy of the Israeli government that is placing a significant burden on the Palestinians, “withholding of tax revenues and border closures,” without explicitly naming Israel.  She has no problem in the same sentence attributing the freezing of aid to the “international community,” but it’s too much for her to add, “by Israel” to the phrase, “withholding of taxes and border closures.”  One might argue that it’s understood and needn’t be stated, but it’s an editorial decision that Ms. Sudilovsky only seems to make, and always seems to make, when Israel is the culprit in question.  As little as the average American Catholic knows about the conflict, this reverse subliminal suggestion probably works fifty percent of the time.


John McGrane


CNS STORY: GAZA-STUDENTS (UPDATED) Nov-8-2006 (660 words) With photos posted Nov. 6. xxxi Gaza students traumatized by fighting, says parish priest By Judith Sudilovsky Catholic News Service JERUSALEM (CNS)  ... Read the article




Tells the Gazan side fairly well, but quotes Monsignor Musallam as referring to the Israeli military assault on his city as an “operation.”  There is no way in the world the Monsignor would have used that word or anything comparable to it.  Only someone on the Israeli side, more specifically someone with the Israeli military or government, would have used that term.

John McGrane


CNS STORY: ISRAEL-QUADRIPLEGIC Nov-30-2006 (850 words) With photos. xxxi Caring for the caregiver: Caritas Jerusalem helps quadriplegic's dad By Judith Sudilovsky Catholic News Service JERUSALEM (CNS)  ... Read the article




Kudos to Ms. Sudilovsky for covering this tragic story; but the fact that she failed to mention that similar IDF attacks in 2006 cost the lives of over 100 Palestinian children, 17 in the month just prior to this report, and caused serious injuries to hundreds more, makes her report incomplete.  But, then again, if she had quoted these grisly statistics, she probably couldn’t have gotten away with calling what happened in this particular instance an “accident.”


John McGrane


CNS STORY: CHRISTMAS-GAZA Dec-27-2006 (420 words) xxxi Priest says children fear Gaza Strip is too dangerous for Santa visit By Judith Sudilovsky Catholic News Service JERUSALEM (CNS)  ... Read the article




In typical fashion, Ms. Sudilovsky brings up the issue of Palestinian violence without explaining it.  She quotes the Monsignor regarding the fear of the children due to internecine fighting between Hamas and Fatah forces, but offers no context for the fighting.  Apparently, she doesn’t think American Catholics have any interest in knowing why Palestinians kill each other. 

She also manages a double deception with just one sentence.  In the fourth paragraph she conflates Israel’s decision to withhold tax revenues owed the Palestinian government with the international boycott.  And, secondly, leads readers to believe the statement is that of the Monsignor’s by sandwiching it between two of his quotes.  She writes: 


And parents were not able to buy traditional holiday gifts and clothing for their children, said Msgr. Musallam. Many are government employees who haven't been paid because of the international boycott against the Hamas-led government since January.

Other families are living only from their savings, he said. 


The underlined statement is false.  Palestinian government employees were not being paid because Israel withheld tens of millions of dollars in tax revenue not because of the international boycott.  Since she obviously knows this statement is false, it constitutes a lie.  Plus, because of the way she quotes the Monsignor without using quotation marks and puts her falsehood between the two apparent quotes, it would be very easy, very likely, for a reader to assume the statement was made by the Monsignor and not Ms. Sudilovsky.  To me this is clearly an attempt to conceal her lie.

John McGrane


CNS STORY: EASTER-PALESTINIANS Apr-9-2007 (650 words) With photos. xxxi For Palestinian family, West Bank Easter reunion offers joy, freedom  By Judith Sudilovsky Catholic News Service JERUSALEM (CNS)  ... Read the article




Planting the seed that the Muslims are more of a problem for Christians in the Holy Land than the Israelis are and that Palestinians are freer in the West Bank than in Gaza because of Hamas, Ms. Sudilovsky gives two reasons restricting the freedom of Palestinians in Gaza: internecine fighting between Hamas and Fatah militias and fear of being confronted about their western style of dress. 


Actually, it’s unclear whether the reasons given are the author’s or those of one of the Palestinian girls she interviewed because she eschews, as she has a habit of doing, the use of quotation marks.  Regardless, she makes no mention of the Israeli checkpoints that make normal living for Palestinians in the West Bank impossible.  In fact, Ms. Sudilovsky makes reference to Israeli checkpoints in only six of 43 reports and never fully describes them and their impact on the Palestinians, which is remarkable considering their significance.  Just to give you an idea of how significant, between 2000 and 2006 sixty eight Palestinian women were forced to give birth at Israeli checkpoints.  Five of the women died and 35 (more than half) miscarried. 


Also relevant to the comparative freedom of the two territories is an organization that Ms. Sudilovsky has never mentioned in any of her articles, the Ecumenical Accompaniment Program.  This program that involves Christians (including Catholics) from the United States and Europe volunteering in three month stints was begun to, among other things, walk West Bank Palestinian children to and from school in an effort to dissuade Jewish settlers from attacking them or to document the attacks at least.  Considering how desperately depressing their situation is, it’s fitting that Ms. Sudilovsky ends the story by making reference to the fact that West Bank Palestinians, as opposed to their less fortunate countrymen in Gaza, have access to alcohol.

John McGrane


CNS STORY: MAGUIRE-SHOT Apr-23-2007 (420 words) xxxi Nobel laureate treated, released after being shot in West Bank rally By Judith Sudilovsky Catholic News Service JERUSALEM (CNS)  ... Read the article 




While Ms. Sudilovsky mentions the Israeli government’s explanation for building the wall,  she offers no substantive explanation as to why the Palestinians and their international supporters are demonstrating against it, such as: the fact that the wall doesn’t follow the internationally recognized border between Israel and the Palestinian West Bank known as the Green Line, but rather is built in the West Bank and effectively takes large tracks of land from the Palestinians; the fact that the wall separates West Bank towns and villages from their farmland; and the fact that the wall when finished will completely encircle the West Bank Palestinians essentially imprisoning them in the same way that Gazans are presently imprisoned.  I find it very hard to believe that Nobel Peace Prize Laureate, Mairead Corrigan Maguire, didn’t have anything more specific to say about the wall than it’s an “insult to the human family.”  On top of that Ms. Sudilovsky doesn’t bother to delve into the question of why the IDF felt the need to use water cannons, tear-gas and rubber bullets on peaceful demonstrators.

John McGrane


CNS STORY: GAZA-ATTACK Jun-19-2007 (750 words) With photo and graphic. xxxi Gaza priest says nuns' compound was ransacked, looted during fighting  By Judith Sudilovsky Catholic News Service JERUSALEM (CNS)  ... Read the article 




Although I don’t know enough about the particular circumstances covered in this story to comment on its accuracy, the fact that Ms. Sudilovsky quotes an authority as disreputable as WorldNetDaily (WND) raises a huge red flag.  Its founder and CEO, Joseph Farah, said the following in a speech before a synagogue in October of 2002, “The truth, ladies and gentlemen, is that Palestine as we’ve come to understand it today is no more real than Never, Never Land.”  In other words, there is no such thing as a Palestinian. 


The particular WND article Ms. Sudilovsky references was written by WND’s Middle East bureau chief, Aaron Klein, who also reports from Jerusalem and pretty clearly agrees with the sentiment expressed above by his boss.  Mr. Klein has established himself as an apologist for the extreme right wing of Israeli politics.  He has written numerous articles supporting or defending the Jewish settler movement such as the one published by WND on October 2, 2008 entitled “Lawmaker: Israel demonizing West Bank Jews.”  Just to give you a taste of his alarmist approach to journalism, in addition to the article Ms. Sudilovsky references, “Christians Warned: Accept Islamic Law” (6/19/07),  Mr. Klein wrote the following WND articles: “Green Flag of Allah will fly over Vatican” (9/22/06); “Palestinian Media calls Pope ‘Stupid,’ ‘Criminal’” (9/25/06); “Pope in Crusader Conspiracy with Bush” (2/27/06); “United Nations Attacked for Spreading Christianity” (5/8/07); “Will U.S. Push Israel to Concede Biblical Heartland [West Bank]?” (11/23/08); “Carter Negotiating Israel’s Phased Destruction” (4/21/08); and “Obama Diplomacy Will Give Iran Nukes” (2/18/09).


Mr. Klein’s reputation for biased, alarmist reporting is probably the reason Ms. Sudilovsky declined to reference him by name.  The fact that she referenced his work at all brings her judgment into very serious question.

John McGrane


CNS STORY: GAZA-CHRISTIANS (UPDATED) Jun-18-2007 (550 words) xxxi Christians in Gaza Strip express concern about their future By Judith Sudilovsky Catholic News Service JERUSALEM (CNS)  ... Read the article  




In this article Ms. Sudilovsky employs a double standard of sorts.  Whenever she interviews Palestinian Christians regarding their relations with Israel, if anything of a critical nature is stated or even if the circumstance surrounding the interview could lead a reader to question a policy of Israel, Ms. Sudilovsky always quotes an Israeli official offering a rebuttal or explanation.  Here, she allows several Catholics, one just a child of 16, to speculate about how the new Hamas government may negatively impact them, but doesn’t bother to interview anyone from Hamas who might be able to shed some light on the matter or even possibly allay these individual’s fears.

John McGrane


CNS STORY: CHRISTMAS-GAZA Dec-24-2007 (830 words) xxxi For Gaza Christians, Christmas season means anxiety, uncertainty By Judith Sudilovsky Catholic News Service JERUSALEM (CNS)  ... Read the article  




In this article Ms. Sudilovsky gives readers the impression that Gaza’s Christian population is tormented more by Muslims and the repressive rule of Hamas than by Israel.  She says absolutely nothing about Israel’s total blockade of Gaza and the frequent IDF incursions.   This article was published in the last week of a year which saw the IDF kill 373 Palestinians, including 130 innocent civilians, according to the Israeli human rights group B’Tselem.  Also according to B’Tselem, life for the Palestinians was made significantly harder in 2007 by a sizeable influx of new Jewish settlers into the West Bank and an increase in the number of Palestinians held without trial in Israeli prisons. 


Ms. Sudilovsky also implies in this report that life in the Fatah ruled and Israeli occupied West Bank is much easier or better than it is in the Hamas ruled Gaza Strip and that West Bank Palestinians look down on Gazans.  There is no implication that the economic difference between the two territories might stem from Israel’s total blockade of Gaza.  Ms. Sudilovsky quotes Monsignor Musallam as saying that Gazans are eating strawberries because they can’t export them, but doesn’t explicitly say that this is the result of the Israeli blockade.  One might argue in Ms. Sudilovsky’s defense that this is understood, but when she is talking about Hamas everything is spelled out for the reader if it’s negative.  According to B’Tselem more than 80% of the Gaza population relies on international food aid due to Israel’s blockade.  And even this is being blocked by Israel.  On November 13, 2008 Al Arabiya News reported the following:


Israel blocked humanitarian supplies from entering the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip and the United Nations said it would be forced to suspend food distribution on Thursday.

"They have told us the crossings are closed today. At the end of today we will suspend our food distribution," said UN Relief and Works Agency spokesman Chris Gunness.

"Our warehouses are effectively empty," he told AFP.


The International Committee for the Red Cross (ICRC) said a truck it sent to the Kerem Shalom crossing was turned back.

Israel usually allows some humanitarian supplies into Gaza, but even this has stopped over the past week, leading to harsh criticism from aid agencies and human rights organizations.

"Pushing people to the brink of desperation every few months and forcing UNRWA into yet another cycle of crisis management is not in the interest of anyone who believes in peace, moderation and stability," said Gunness.

“The imposition of the blockade on Gaza by Israel with the cooperation of Egypt is a clear violation of international law and constitutes collective punishment,” Joe Stork, deputy director of Human Right Watch’s Middle East division, told


Ms. Sudilovsky ends the article with several statements by Monsignor Musallam that, juxtaposed as they are, seem to imply that only Christians in Gaza feel abandoned by the world.  I don’t believe for a second that he wasn’t including the Muslims as well. 


And, once again, Ms. Sudilovsky identifies Hamas as an Islamic militant group that “seized control in Gaza” and not as the democratically elected government of both Gaza and the West Bank.


John McGrane


CNS STORY: GAZA-POWER (SECOND UPDATE) Jan-23-2008 (1,180 words) With photos posted Jan. 21 and 23. xxxi Lack of fuel in Gaza forces teachers to adjust to help hungry pupils By Judith Sudilovsky Catholic News Service JERUSALEM (CNS)  ... Read the article  




I would say that this story is one of Ms. Sudilovsky’s more balanced efforts.  She mentions a number of hardships being experienced by Gazans and ascribes them to Israel’s blockade.   However, she doesn’t get around until nearly the end of the article to quoting someone about the fact that due to Israel’s blockade Gazans are without heat in the coldest month of the year.  And she doesn’t bother to provide a description of the suffering this gives rise to in the general population nor bother to mention the potentially fatal consequences to newborns, the sick and the elderly.   And although she quotes several Catholic institutions in the Middle East as calling for the lifting of the blockade, she for some reason feels the need to give equal time to someone in the United States, Abraham Foxman, president of the Anti-Defamation League, in defense of it.   And she continues to refer to Hamas as a militant Islamic group despite quoting an Israeli official referring to it as the “Hamas government.”

John McGrane


CNS STORY: GAZA-ELECTRICITY Feb-12-2008 (640 words) xxxi In Gaza, electricity -- or lack thereof -- powers daily activities By Judith Sudilovsky Catholic News Service JERUSALEM (CNS)  ... Read the article  




In this article Ms. Sudilovsky just begins to touch on what it means for the Gazans to be without heat, but doesn’t get far before giving the obligatory Israeli disclaimer blaming the Israeli blockade on the firing of missiles by Palestinian “extremists.”  She also mentions the lack of school and office supplies and the lack of food, but with regard to the latter doesn’t explore the level of suffering it causes other than to quote a young Palestinian saying that his little sisters dream of Coca Cola and candy, which makes the food deprivation in Gaza sound relatively benign.  Three days after this article was published the Palestinian Center for Human Rights reported the following, “According to the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, 10.7 percent of Gazan children aged under five are now suffering stunted growth due to chronic malnutrition.”

John McGrane



CNS STORY: GAZA-CHRISTIANS Feb-19-2008 (790 words) xxxi Christians say conditions in Gaza worsen for them, moderate Muslims By Judith Sudilovsky Catholic News Service JERUSALEM (CNS)  ... Read the article  




Again, Ms. Sudilovsky is painting a picture of Muslim Palestinians as intimidating and brutalizing Christian Palestinians.  She quotes several unidentified Palestinian Christian youth expressing a concern for their safety after a murder, a bombing and a physical attack on a couple in a car.  She also quotes Monsignor Musallam at length describing a number of negative changes at the parish school and in the atmosphere of the society in general since Hamas came to power.  Although I can’t say whether or not this article quotes the unidentified Christian youths and the Monsignor fully and accurately, it stands in stark contrast to the following Inter Press Service article published less than three months earlier.


MIDEAST: Christians And Muslims Coexist In Gaza
By Mohammed Omer

Monsignor Manu

Monsignor Manuel Musallam

Credit: Mohammed Omar

Credit: Mohammed Omar

GAZA CITY, Nov 27 (IPS) - As Sunday dawns in Gaza City the traditional Islamic call to prayer mingles melodically with church bells.

Side by side, mosque and church doors swing open, welcoming the faithful. Greetings are eagerly exchanged.

The October kidnapping and murder of Rami Ayyad, the manager of Gaza's only Christian bookstore, sent shudders through the Christian community.

Was this a hate crime or simply a tragic occurrence?

Monsignor Manuel Musallam, head of Gaza's Roman Catholic community, doubts the attack was religiously motivated.

"Rami was not only Christian," the Musallam told IPS. "He was Palestinian. Violent acts against Christians are not a phenomenon unique to Gaza."

Immediately upon hearing of the murder, the elected Prime Minister Ismail Hanyieh of Hamas ordered the Palestinian ministry of interior to dispatch an investigative committee to "urgently look into the matter", labeling Ayyad's death a "murderous crime".

"We are all one people who suffer together for the sake of freedom, independence and restoration of our inalienable citizenship rights," Hanyieh stated publicly. "We are waging a single struggle and refuse to allow any party to tamper with or manipulate this historical relationship, [between Muslims and Christians]."

In Gaza, approximately 3,000 Christians still call this former Egyptian territory home - with the majority of the community living within Gaza City near the three main churches: The Greek Orthodox, the Roman Catholic, and the Gaza Baptist.

Christians in Gaza have the same rights as their Muslim neighbors, rights guaranteed under the Palestinian Declaration of Independence. Within the Legislative Council, several seats have been reserved for Christian leaders.

Seventeen-year-old Christian student Ali Al Jeldah told IPS about attending a dual faith school: "My life is normal and I've never felt oppressed. Being Muslim or Christian is never an issue."

"I have many Muslim friends. We hang out and study together with no differences at all," Al Jeldah said.

Lelias Ali, a 16-year-old Muslim student at Holy Family School, concurs. "We have a unity of struggle, a unity of aim - to live under the same circumstances. This land is for both of us and being a Christian or Muslim should not separate us" she said.

"I have lots of friends. Being Muslim or Christian is not an issue," Diana Al Sadi, a 17-year-old student told IPS.

"I go to my friends' homes for happy and sad occasions," Al Sadi said, "including Christmas and Easter. They visit mine during Eid [the Muslim holiday that marks the end of Ramadan, the Islamic holy month of fasting]."

When the students were asked if Christians are being harassed by Hamas or the Palestinian police, all agreed that this was not the case.

"Every society has extremists," Lelias Ali states. "Sometimes I'm criticized for not wearing my Hijab. But that has nothing to do with being Muslim or Christian. Those people don't represent our Palestinian society."

Pausing for a moment, she considered the assertions in the international media regarding Muslims and Christians: "We should not let such ideas sneak into our minds. If we don't unite, then we lose."

Asked if Christians in Gaza feel singled out or oppressed, Musallam says, "Palestinian Christians are not a religious community set apart in some corner. They are part of the Palestinian people."

But what of Hamas, a fundamentalist Islamic political organization? Have Palestinian Christians experienced persecution or racism under their leadership, as Western papers insinuate?

"Our relationship with Hamas is as people of one nation," Musallam contends. "Hamas doesn't fight religious groups. Its fight is against the Israeli occupation.

And what of the Western media assertions that Gaza's Christians are considering emigrating because of Islamic oppression?

Sighing, Musallam corrects the misconception. "If Christians emigrate," he states resolutely, "It's not because of Muslims. It is because we suffer from Israeli siege. We seek a life of freedom. A life different from the life of the dogs we are currently forced to live."



Now, it’s possible that Ms. Sudilovsky’s article is the more accurate of the two, but I have my doubts after receiving from the Monsignor a piece he recently wrote about the situation of the Palestinians which seems to contrast glaringly with Ms. Sudilovsky’s coverage of the Monsignor’s views.  She interviewed Monsignor Musallam at least 10 times - he is quoted in at least 10 out of 43 articles including this one, far more than anyone else – and managed to elicit from him not a single direct criticism of Israel.  The closest thing to criticism comes in the form of a few statements indicating a defiance of sorts, “Our job is to study.  That is our weapon against the Israelis,” “We will fight against all hope,” “We are under siege,” and “What you see on television cannot be compared to what is happening. The word love is choking in my throat. ... We are living like animals in Gaza.”  Note that the Israelis are not mentioned by name in the last three more strongly worded statements the Monsignor supposedly made during Israel’s recent assault.  So based on Ms. Sudilovsky’s reporting one gets the impression that the Monsignor does have some issues with Israel, but outside of its violent invasion of Gaza, they’re few and fuzzy.  I find this rather notable in light of the many pointed criticisms of Israel and its occupation the Monsignor makes below. 


Fr. Manuel Musallam

Holy Family Church – Gaza


Israel, our neighbor in Gaza, has failed to manage its affairs with its neighbors.  It corrects the Palestinian people especially because it claims Palestinians resist its return to the “Promised Land.”


It is correcting us, Palestinians, with war, massacres, war crimes, and displacement:


It has destroyed our homes, our farms and our villages and established settlements on them.  It has uprooted hundreds of thousands of productive olive and orange trees, and has forbidden us from reaping the yields of our fields.


It has opened bypass roads and eroded our lands.  It has destroyed, fragmented and isolated our cities, villages and fields.  It has built and set up hundreds of checkpoints to disrupt our lives.  It has prevented us from reaching our holy places of worship in the Aqsa, the Nativity and the Holy Sepulchre.


It has built the apartheid wall around the West Bank, Jerusalem and Gaza.


It has broken our bones and forbidden treatment and medication.


It has assassinated our leaders in different ways.


We have lived in tents, and it has forbidden us the means of living and work.


It surrounds us with a siege that suspends our daily lives.


It has thrown us in a "ghetto" with no water, no electricity, no medicine or food or work.  We are dying a slow death.


Sedrot, close settlement to Gaza, became a Wailing Wall that all world leaders and tourists come to in order to see the relics left by Qassam missiles, which have killed 12 Israelis since 2002. Whereas, we do not dare build a monument that perpetuates the memory of thousands of innocent Palestinians during war crimes in Gaza, because Israel will not fail to destroy it during its construction.


In the recent barbaric war on Gaza, hundreds of innocent children, men and women and the elderly were burned in the furnaces of sophisticated bombs and missiles. And what difference is there between the furnaces in which the Jews died in Germany and Poland and the furnaces in which we died in Gaza?


People of good will like Archbishop Drummond Tutu and human rights organizations, lawyers, and specialists in crimes against humanity, started to come to visit us. Israel hindered the delegations from reaching us, humiliating them as they were holding them up at the borders of Jenin, Rafah, and Beit Hanoun until they got a permit of entry [after] Israel destroyed lots of marks of their war crimes.


The United States with its right to the veto defeated any solution or commitment to international law, so Israel behaved as above the law.  Now America wants to change international law so that the leaders of Israel will not be put on trial as war criminals.


Israel roams over our land, it has no borders. Every day, it engulfs a plot of land, thousands of square meters.  Is it possible that the world recognizes a state with no borders after 60 years of its establishment?  The state of Israel is the unique model of this in the world.


Israel says: "Is it conceivable that a democratic state tolerates the shelling of its cities and citizens with rockets for 10 years and has 11 people killed?"  We respond with; is it conceivable that any people accept to remain under 60 years of occupation without resisting?


The world remembers the handmade Hamas rockets but does not remember the developed phosphorous missiles from which we suffer every day.


If we resist, the world screams at us and labels us as terrorists and does not scream at those who have occupied us for six decades.  Is it not a crime against humanity for us to live under occupation and humiliating siege all this time, 60 years?


When we attack a settlement that stole our land and the trees that sustain us, the world rebukes us and labels us as killers of innocent people, but the world does not lift a finger to remove a settlement that it recognizes as illegal and is a war crime under the law.


The world puts a major condition on the part of the Palestinian people, Hamas and Islamic Jihad, to deal with for the peace [process] in the Middle East.  This condition states that Hamas and Islamic Jihad denounce violence and recognize Israel.  Today, you should put the same condition [on Israel] if you can.  You should ask all Israelis and their extremist right government, which rejects all agreements and treaties, to recognize the Palestinian people and their legitimate rights. Then, you can make your international decision, but be just and unbiased.


Why is it wrong for us to hold one prisoner named Shalit for negotiations?  And it is not wrong for Israel to hold twelve thousand Palestinian prisoners, who live in places where animals cannot live. And prisoners who leave the jail get out handicapped.


Every day Israel invades our cities and villages and unrightfully detains a number of innocents.


Why is it wrong that one family in Israel suffers or one of their children is panic-stricken, and it isn't wrong for thousands of Palestinian families to suffer and a whole nation to be panic-stricken?


After successive wars, Israel has also left behind, a whole destructed people.


• Farmers whose trees and fields were burnt by chemical   

  substances. Their farms are no longer arable.

• Workers who became unemployed and whose children’s  

  appetite is not satisfied of bread dipped in water or tea.

• Merchants whose goods get seized in Israeli ports. They have to

  sell their storehouses so they pay for their goods’ storage and   

  then they go bankrupt.

• Employees whose salaries get eaten away against an imaginary

  rise in prices. This is if the salary is reached to them after a year

  from its due date.


Disabled after being hit with advanced violent weapons that amputated their limbs – what sorrow and grief they have and those who serve them – there are no institutions for them or experienced [medical personnel] for their treatment and rehabilitation and recovery from their despair and brokenness.


Children who have been dismembered and afflicted with trauma and psychological diseases of fear, their bodies thin with malnutrition. Some have died of fear; some have been snatched by barbaric, Nazi violence as they were breastfeeding, or have died of a bullet that pierced them in their mothers' wombs.


Who cures them all?  Who compensates for their lost rights?  Who cures children who have seen their families injured and bleeding, children who have seen their parents die in their arms and have heard, for the first time, the rattle of the conflict that never occurred to them, a strange and horrible sound that will accompany them in their sleep and wakefulness as long as they live?


Who cures children who will sleep in the hands of terror, or with anxiety in their eyes, urinating on themselves and their beds, or in their school uniforms that they slept in, because their scant sleeping attire has not yet dried?  They go to school in the morning trying to conceal themselves and hide the smell of their bodies.


The child who used to cry when he sees a drop of blood on his finger, has felt himself drowning in blood; he tramples in his father's and mother's blood with bitterness and sorrow in his desperate search for someone to stop the bleeding, so that his parents will live. Who will heal this child?


On the first day of the bombing, we heard some sad and deplorable stories about the white phosphorus bombs that are internationally banned, from the Shifa hospital doctors and from satellite TV reporters.  After the doctors had provided first-aid to some of the injured and sent them home, they returned to the hospital with their bodies smoking as the phosphorus reacted again in their bodies and [reignited.]


It is no wonder then that resistance is born and multiplies until it spreads to all the people of Palestine.  It is no wonder that we all turn to Hamas, the resistance, or to fundamentalist elements in our search for deliverance from the occupation and our woes.


When will Israel understand that correcting people with war, violence and occupation is a moral mistake and a war crime; a crime against humanity?  That war does not build peace?  That it cannot occupy a people forever.


It is going too far in correcting the homes of the Palestinians, so it demolishes them even on their heads and their children, women and elders without the restraint of conscience.  It knows that the home means peace and stability and the end of dispersion.  Therefore, it demolishes the homes and shakes up its residents so that no one will rest in their homeland and among their people.


It disrespects the sanctity of a child's smile, so it orphans them; the vitality of youth, so it humiliates them and treats them with disdain; the pride and arrogance of the olive, orange, lemon and fig trees, so it destroys them with military bulldozers; it pains their eyes to see the splendor of the land that has become green after being worked by a farmer from my country, so it causes its desertification!


After all this, our resistance becomes terrorism and some of our primitive missiles threaten the security of the state of Israel, and the security of the civilized world. So the borders are closed and Gaza is declared a hostile, prohibited area, drowning in the dark, with its people parched and starving, ships of the Atlantic patrol our sea to monitor our armament and oversee the demolition of the arteries, the tunnels, which we have lived from.


With notorious hypocrisy, the butcher and the victim have been made equal.  Our cause stands out as an issue of dialogue between factions, as a conflict on a loaf of bread and a glass of water, as appeasement and opening of crossing points.  The world forgets or pretends to forget that our cause is one of emancipation of a people, land and holy sites.  The sound of the Aqsa cannot be heard because of the racket of the excavations beneath it and near it; the screams of the city of Bethlehem from the pain of gestation of the settlements and the wall winding around its neck cannot be heard because of the sound of stone saws and construction in Jabal Abu Ghneim, and the screams of Jenin’s children, Beit Hanoun, and Rafah which the Statute of Liberty does not hear.


The terrorism of the state of Israel has become the right to protect its borders and its people; but when we ask for freedom according to the heavenly and humanity laws, our resistance become destructive terrorism.


O world, you do not have the right to request peace and security for Israel, the occupier the aggressor, before giving us all our lost national rights, justice, and complete compensation for all what Palestinians have lost since the World War I.


Israel, which occupied our land 60 years ago, hasn't left a flower or even their scent in our mountains.  We are facing an enemy that has destroyed the flowers, figs, olives, oranges, lemons, cypress, palm, poplar, berries, birds, sea, land and humans.


O people, Israel is whose friend?  Is it possible to build peace with them? How can we preach of peace to our people, when they have killed the peace?  How can we preach love, when hatred, murder and terrorism towards us fill their hearts?

How can we preach hope, when it is dying in all our hearts?  Israel has strangled the words of reconciliation, love, pardon, hope and forgiveness in our hearts.


Since history began, we existed, and history can testify how fragrant our history is. Since the day the people of Zion stepped on our land with Joshua Ben-Nun, then with David Ben-Gurion, and today, Palestine is passing from tragedy to disaster, from a war crime to a crime against humanity and from massacre to genocide.


I guess the Monsignor managed to keep all these sentiments bottled up every time Ms. Sudilovsky interviewed him.  Or did he?

John McGrane




CNS STORY: SABBAH-PASTORAL Mar-10-2008 (1,320 words) xxxi Jerusalem patriarch sends strong message to Palestinian Christians By Judith Sudilovsky Catholic News Service JERUSALEM (CNS)  ... Read the article 




Although it can’t be said that Ms. Sudilovsky wasn’t careful to cover all the bases in reporting on  Patriarch, Michel Sabbah’s, pastoral letter, she continues to exhibit a tendency to leave out pertinent information regarding the problems Palestinian Christians have with Israel and to exaggerate the problems they have with Muslim extremists.  She leads off the article by going straight to the thirteenth segment of the letter (13th out of 19), that deals with issues the Palestinian Christian community has with its Muslim counterpart, playing up the differences by saying, “In the most strongly worded comment to date on growing Palestinian Muslim extremism…”  In contrast she doesn’t get around to the Israeli occupation until the ninth paragraph where she downplays its effect on Palestinian Christians by focusing exclusively on the Patriarch’s call for non-violent resistance.


The following are key passages that didn’t make Ms. Sudilovsky’s cut:


Today, the Christians are emigrating from the Holy Land and from all the countries of the Middle East.  They are not alone in emigrating.  The Muslims and the Jews are also emigrating, and the reason is the same for everyone: the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis, which causes political, economic and social instability in all the countries of the region.   In some countries, in Lebanon and Iraq, it has caused tragedies that have gone beyond the sufferings and trials in the Holy Land.


Note that the Patriarch implies a connection here between the Israeli/Palestinian conflict and the U.S. invasion of Iraq.  For an American audience that should be huge news!  But Ms. Sudilovsky leaves it out altogether.


When the Christians are mentioned in the world press, it is to say that they are squashed between two large majorities, the Jews and the Muslims, and that they are subject to Muslim persecution.  And in saying this, the media express a feeling of pity and compassion towards us, and they forget the true oppression of which we are victims because of the policies implemented in this region.  But for us, stopping the Israeli-Palestinian conflict….is what would allow us to live in peace and to remain in the country.  That is also true of Lebanon and Iraq.


Here the Patriarch talks about how the world press, which one can only assume includes the American press, overstates Palestinian Muslim persecution of Palestinian Christians and ignores how they suffer from Israeli persecution, “they forget the true oppression of which we are victims.”  And I believe he points a finger squarely at the U.S. government when he adds, “because of the policies implemented in this region.”  And again, he makes the invasion of Iraq connection.  Important for American Catholics to hear?  Not according to Ms. Sudilovsky.


She does include a statement by the Latin Patriarch regarding Christian resistance, that there won’t be peace until, “all must consider one another to be equal, with the same rights and obligations,” clearly a reference to the Israeli occupation.  But she leaves out the perhaps more poignant comment of the Patriarch that immediately follows, “No one is superior to the other, no one is inferior and submitted to the other.   Until now, that is not the vision.”


Last, but not least, Ms. Sudilovsky leaves out the Patriarch’s clearest statement regarding Christians and the Israeli occupation, “Like all the Palestinians, we are victims of the occupation. Like all the Palestinians, we have to pay the price in order to again find our political and economic freedom as well as in some ways, our religious freedom where access to the Holy Places and to Jerusalem itself is concerned.”


Note that the Patriarch here accuses Israel of denying Christians “access to the Holy Places.”  Again, Ms. Sudilovsky curiously doesn’t think American Catholics would be particularly interested in knowing this fact.

John McGrane


CNS STORY: JERUSALEM-NEIGHBORHOOD Jun-4-2008 (990 words) With photos. xxxi Recalling Six-Day war, resident says Jerusalem remains divided By Judith Sudilovsky Catholic News Service JERUSALEM (CNS)  ... Read the article  




This is one of Ms. Sudilovsky’s more curious reports.  If we assume based on the title that it’s about the continuing division between Jerusalem’s Arab and Jewish populations, she wastes an awful lot of time saying very little about it.  She mentions that the two people commemorate Israel’s conquest of the eastern side of the city quite differently; one side publicly celebrating and other side resenting it.  And she very briefly touches on the fact that Israeli settlements built after the 1967 war prevent the natural growth of the Arab neighborhoods in East Jerusalem and that the separation wall is further isolating them from the rest of the West Bank, not forgetting to give the Israeli government’s security justification for the wall.  But she leaves out so much.


In the same amount of space she could easily have included that since 1967 the Israeli government: has confiscated 35% of the city, three quarters of it taken from land owned by Arabs; has prevented Arabs from building homes or additions to them by denying building permits virtually without exception; has demolished hundreds of Arab homes built for want of said permits; encourages Jews to move into Jewish only housing built in East Jerusalem on confiscated Arab land; and, despite requiring Arabs to pay the same taxes as Israelis, has failed to provide Arab neighborhoods with anywhere near the same level of services. 


And as if to assure the reader that all of the above isn’t happening, Ms. Sudilovsky gives some poll statistics indicating that Israelis are willing to share control of the city. 

In a book entitled, “Separate and Unequal: the Inside Story of Israeli Rule in East Jerusalem,” the author, Amir Cheshin, an Israeli and former advisor to the former Israeli mayor of Jerusalem, Teddy Kolleck, summed up Israel’s aggressive city planning thus: 


In 1967 Israel’s leaders adopted two basic principles in their rule of East Jerusalem. The first was to rapidly increase the Jewish population in East Jerusalem. The second was to hinder growth of the Arab population and to force Arab residents to make their homes elsewhere. It is a policy that has translated into a miserable life for the majority of East Jerusalem Arabs.

John McGrane


CNS STORY: WATER-SHORTAGE Jul-30-2008 (990 words) With photos. xxxi Politics, drought contribute to Palestinian, Israeli water shortage By Judith Sudilovsky Catholic News Service JERUSALEM (CNS)  ... Read the article  




I can’t imagine a legitimate reason for Ms. Sudilovsky leaving out of this report on the water situation the following relevant and readily available information.


According to MidEast Web for Coexistence, a registered NGO in Israel, the Israeli government, which controls the water aquifers under the West Bank, annually allocates 495 million cubic meters of water to its own citizens and allocates just 80 million cubic meters (14%) to the four million Palestinians living in the territories.  Also, according to Israeli human rights organization, B’Tselem, Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza are forced by the Israeli government to survive on only 70 liters of water per capita per day, while Israelis, including settlers, luxuriate in 350 liters per capita per day.  And in times of drought the disparity increases.


Making things even worse, the Israeli government invests little in the West Bank water system leaving 20% of West Bank Palestinians (417,000 people) completely unconnected to the system.   In addition, Israeli maintenance (for Palestinians) is shoddy.  Water pipes are old and leak, and in some cases more than 50% of the water is lost.


According to the law of the occupation, Palestinian farmers are not allowed to dig wells without a permit.  And guess what, it’s impossible to get a permit.  And with regard to “the slew of square water tanks dotting the rooftops (of Palestinian homes) like little metal soldiers,” Ms. Sudilovsky refers to; she might have added that it’s a favorite recreational pastime of Israeli soldiers to shoot holes in them, the lower the hole the better.


She might also have mentioned that Israel is doing nothing about Gaza’s inadequate water supply.  And that as a result Gaza’s water is brackish and Gaza’s population suffers from a number of associated health problems: parasitic infections, diarrhea; kidney disease, kidney dysfunction, heart failure, neurological symptoms, lethargy, high blood pressure, gastritis, ulcers, kidney failure, bone fluorisis (bone fractures and crippling), and teeth fluorsis (black lines around gums and tooth decay), “blue baby” syndrome, and gastric cancer.

John McGrane


CNS STORY: WESTBANK-SCHOOLS Nov-21-2008 (1,160 words) With photos. xxxi Palestinian families juggle to keep children in Catholic schools By Judith Sudilovsky Catholic News Service JERUSALEM (CNS)  ... Read the article  




To do a story about Palestinian families in the West Bank struggling financially to continue sending their children to Catholic schools, and not even mention the economic impact of the Israeli occupation, is deceptive, pure and simple.  Ms. Sudilovsky does mention that Israeli checkpoints and the separation barrier make it more difficult for Catholic schools in Jerusalem to hire cheaper teachers from the West Bank, but she says nothing about how the over one hundred Israeli military checkpoints scattered throughout the West Bank negatively affect the ability of Palestinians to earn a living, to work and conduct business.  She also says nothing about how the grossly unfair distribution of scarce water resources by the Israeli water company negatively affects Palestinian agriculture and industry; or how the income of Palestinians is affected by the Israeli confiscation of private Palestinian land, the demolition of thousands of Palestinian homes, the destruction of thousands of Olive trees, and the existence of a Jewish only highway system that crisscrosses and divides the West Bank.  The only explanation she gives for the economic crisis in the territories is through an aside by a Palestinian hairdresser who comments that the economy has been in a slide ever since the Second Intifada began.  She apparently thought that one comment, which places the onus on the Palestinians themselves, was explanation enough.


Also in this story, Ms. Sudilovsky continues her attempt to distance Palestinian Catholics from Palestinian Muslims as she quotes one Catholic parent’s apparently very low opinion of the Muslim run public school system.

John McGrane


CNS STORY: GAZA-MUSALLAM Nov-24-2008 (860 words) xxxi Priest finally leaves Gaza to visit family, but feels 'split in two' By Judith Sudilovsky Catholic News Service JERUSALEM (CNS)  ... Read the article  




This article is interesting in that Ms. Sudilovsky does tell about a very sad circumstance that has existed in Gaza for a long time; that Israel does not allow the Palestinians living there to leave in order to visit family in Israel and the West Bank, but she never delves into or raises any questions as to the reasonableness of it.  What legitimate reason could Israel have for not allowing a priest to leave Gaza in order to attend the funeral of his mother or for not allowing a handful of nuns to enter Gaza?  She seems to accept that the Israeli government does what it does and that’s that.  It’s almost like she’s describing a force of nature; like she’s interviewing a victim of a flood or a tornado.  She quotes the Monsignor extensively talking about his predicament and that of all Gazans, but curiously not about the Israeli government policy that causes the predicament.  I find it very hard to believe he didn’t voice his opinion on that as well.


Unrelated to Ms. Sudilovsky’s coverage, this story makes me wonder why the Catholic Church allows its people to be treated like this.  Does the Church not realize that it has power as well?

John McGrane


CNS STORY: GAZA-MUSALLAM Nov-24-2008 (860 words) xxxi NAZARETH-TENSIONS Dec-23-2008 (590 words) xxxi Tension over Nazareth banner shows fragile Christian-Muslim situation By Judith Sudilovsky Catholic News Service JERUSALEM (CNS)  ... Read the article  




While everything in this story about a dispute between Christian and Muslim residents of Nazareth over the attempt to build a mosque on the same plaza where the Basilica of the Annunciation stands may be true and accurate, as Ms. Sudilovsky’s only foray into the subject of the lives of Israeli Christians (outside of Jerusalem) it’s more than a bit misleading.  Actually, it’s not the article itself that’s misleading; it’s the absence of any articles about the broader context that is misleading.  The broader context being that the Christian and Muslim residents of Nazareth are citizens of a country that severely discriminates against them.  Resident of Nazareth, British author and journalist, Jonathan Cook described the situation in an October, 2008 article entitled, Israeli Palestinians: The Unwanted Who Stayed.”


After describing the segregation of Arabs and Jews in Israel and the discrimination in terms of public services provided to both communities and in terms of government and union job opportunities (despite constituting 20% of the population, less than a dozen of the Israeli phone company’s 10,000 employees are Palestinian, only six of its electricity company’s 13,000 employees are Palestinian), Mr. Cook goes on to say the following about Israeli land policy.


Much of the land belonging to the Palestinian minority has been taken [by the Israeli government] through these twin policies of declaring large numbers of Palestinian citizens “absentees” and a significant proportion of their communities “unrecognized.” But other pretexts have been established in [Israeli] law to convert yet more land into state property: the creation of closed military zones in Palestinian areas (a policy later adopted in the occupied territories); the declaration of Palestinian land as uncultivated or “fallow” (in a Catch-22, often after it has been made a closed zone); and the use of Palestinian land for the building of national infrastructure projects or in the “national interest,” meaning in practice for the exclusive use of Jews.


Nazareth, the effective capital of the Palestinian minority, has been subjected to such schemes in an aggressive manner. In the late 1950s most of its outlying lands were confiscated [by the Israeli government] on the grounds that they were needed for the construction of government regional offices. In fact, not only were the offices built but so too was a new Jewish town. Upper Nazareth was the spearhead of a “Juda-ization” program in the Galilee that continues to this day.


Upper Nazareth, still smaller in population than Nazareth, now has three times as much land as its Palestinian neighbor. It has also been generously allocated special development grants not available to Nazareth, and has many large industrial zones, compared to a minuscule site in Nazareth. Upper Nazareth’s local council alone benefits from the business rates and property taxes levied on its industry and government offices, even though they are built on land taken from Nazareth.


At least 70 per cent of the [Palestinian] minority’s land has been confiscated since 1948. Along with the property of the Palestinian refugees in exile, these lands have been taken by the state or transferred to the Jewish National Fund, to be held in trust for the Jewish people worldwide. Today, 93 per cent of Israeli territory is “nationalized,” for the benefit of the Jewish nation, with only about 3 per cent owned privately either by individual Palestinians or by their communities.


Even much of this 3 per cent has been taken out of the control of its Palestinian owners and their elected local representatives. Outside the tightly defined limits of Palestinian communities, land in rural areas like the Galilee falls under the jurisdiction of regional councils, established to empower the hundreds of scattered and exclusively Jewish communities implanted next to Palestinian towns and villages. They ensure that Palestinian land cannot be developed for the benefit of the community or to meet the growing demand for housing….

John McGrane


CNS STORY: CHRISTMAS-BETHLEHEM (CORRECTED) Dec-29-2008 (1,020 words) With photos posted Dec. 26. xxxi Bethlehem tourism is good, but some feel Christmas spirit is missing  By Judith Sudilovsky Catholic News Service JERUSALEM (CNS)  ... Read the article  



Although CNS may have felt obliged to do a story on Christmas in the Holy Land, this story should have been pulled rather than corrected two days after Israel’s devastating bombardment of Gaza began.  How callous do you have to be to continue distributing a story about the lack of Christmas spirit in Bethlehem when only 50 miles away in Gaza 1.5 million souls, including thousands of Christians, are experiencing mortal terror?  After December 27, foremost in the minds of all Palestinians, Christian or Muslim, living in the West Bank or inside Israel, was the well-being of their Gazan sisters and brothers.


John McGrane


CNS STORY: GAZA-ATTACKS Dec-30-2008 (1,050 words) With photos. xxxi As Israel attacks Gaza Strip, residents fear it's just the beginning By Judith Sudilovsky Catholic News Service JERUSALEM (CNS)  ... Read the article  




The first time I looked at this article, I didn’t pay any attention to the title, “As Israel Attacks Gaza Strip: residents fear it’s just the beginning.”  But on second glance it struck me as sort of an odd thing to say, almost too casual or out of touch with what was happening in Gaza.  Monsignor Musallam may have expressed a belief that the Israeli bombing would persist for some time, or maybe he meant that Israel’s attack would lead to Palestinian reprisal attacks, “another intifada,” or both, but these fears most surely paled in comparison to the intense fear the Monsignor and every other person in Gaza must have been feeling at that moment, that any second could be his last.  So it seems to me that if an objective, unbiased, competent person put the word fear in the title of this story, it would have been with reference to imminent death, not to what might happen in the future.


Ms. Sudilovsky does at the beginning of the article quote the Monsignor as saying, “the buildings are shaking…they are bombarding us like the demon” (without exclamation point) and she does quote the casualty figures, at least 360 Palestinians killed, at least 51 of them civilians, but the article doesn’t reflect much effort on Ms. Sudilovsky’s part to obtain any details or descriptions of the carnage; the numbers remain just numbers.


Ms. Sudilovsky, as she always or nearly always does, gives the Israeli government’s position unchallenged.  She states the Israeli government’s reason for the invasion and the high number of Palestinian casualties, the fault of Hamas, as though it was fact.  And for the umpteenth time mischaracterizes Hamas, this time as a “paramilitary organization.”


She quotes three Gazans, including the Monsignor, and all three, incredibly if you ask me, manage only one criticism of the bombardment, that it isn’t going to accomplish Israel’s stated goal of stopping rocket attacks.  That’s it.  They don’t fault Israel for the extent of the property damage its bombing campaign is causing, for the damage to key infrastructure such as power plants, water lines and water treatment facilities, or for the loss of innocent life.  And apparently none thought to question the proportionality of the Israeli bombardment versus the Palestinian rocket attacks (360 dead in two days to 14 in eight years,) or take into account the Palestinian suffering and deaths attributable to Israel’s blockade.  If we are to believe that Ms. Sudilovsky quoted them in full, these Palestinians would have to be the only ones in Gaza who never heard of disproportionate response and collective punishment.


Two of the three, the Monsignor and a Catholic Relief Services employee, mention damage to mosques and homes, respectively, but both blame this on Hamas hiding its military operations in civilian areas, the


Monsignor by implication and the CRS employee explicitly.  Again, I find this incredible.

But apparently not satisfied with having just Gazans make Israel’s case for it; Ms. Sudilovsky gives the Israeli government and an Israeli civilian almost exactly equal space (I counted the words – 271 to 289)  and, unlike the Gazans interviewed who come across as ambivalent about the morality of the bombardment, the Israelis interviewed were not.  For them it was totally justifiable self-defense.  After quoting the Israeli government’s numbers on Israeli deaths from Palestinian rocket attacks since 2005, without mentioning the far more numerous Palestinian deaths caused by Israeli attacks during the same period, she includes a three paragraph long angry tirade by an Israeli resident of southern Israel, who in contrast to the Palestinians interviewed has no moral misgivings whatsoever about his country’s actions.

She also fails to note a significant inconsistency in the Israeli government’s justification narrative.  While the official Israeli position on the incursion was always that it was necessary to stop Hamas rocket attacks, the statement from the government of Israel quoted in this story refers to Israeli deaths and injuries from “Iranian-backed terrorist groups.”  Although Israelis consider Hamas a terrorist group, even they seldom refer to it simply as that now that it is also a government. Regardless, Hamas is just one group.  Who might these “groups” be?  Might they be the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and Islamic Jihad?  If so, why did Israel only refer to Hamas in its press releases on the invasion?  These groups are not under Hamas’ control. 


If Ms. Sudilovsky had spent a minute on the internet like I just did, she would have found an AFP article dated 7/1/2008 (just six months prior) that reports that not only is it the Al-Aqsa Martyrs Brigade and Islamic Jihad firing the rockets into Israel, but that Hamas had arrested a number of members of these groups for firing or attempting to fire rockets into Israel. 


Lastly, she ends the piece with a Rodney King-like quote from the third Christian Palestinian saying that there is suffering on both sides and that both sides deserve pity.  Read, no need to point fingers.


John McGrane


CNS STORY: GAZA-STUCK (UPDATED) Dec-31-2008 (500 words) With photos posted Dec. 30. xxxi Gazan Catholics in West Bank say inability to leave is mixed blessing By Judith Sudilovsky Catholic News Service JERUSALEM (CNS)  ... Read the article  




In this article Ms. Sudilovsky starts off with her usual Israeli government disclaimer that its bombing is necessary to stop Hamas rocket attacks and her standard description of Hamas as a paramilitary organization that “runs,” not governs, Gaza.  And then she begins quoting unidentified Catholic Gazans, visiting the West Bank for Christmas who, it would seem, wholeheartedly (amazingly) support the Israeli assault on Gaza.  She quotes one unidentified gentleman as saying, “The situation [in Gaza] is very bad.  Hamas is all over the place and it is very dangerous.”  Anyone reading this who doesn’t have a full grasp of the situation could get the impression that it’s Hamas and not Israel attacking Gaza.  And in the next sentence where she paraphrases the same person explaining that the danger wasn’t coming directly from Hamas but rather from the fact that Hamas was drawing fire from the IDF/IAF, she leaves off this last part.  So the fact that it’s Israeli bombs, missiles and artillery shells that are doing the killing goes unstated. 


The next Catholic from Gaza quoted by Ms Sudilovsky apparently wanted Hamas dead, literally, because it “is always causing problems.”  I must say Ms. Sudilovsky has an uncanny knack for finding Palestinian Christians who support Israeli policy to the tee, even when it entails violence against their own people.  And the next thing out of this individual’s mouth just happens to support another of Ms. Sudilovsky’s favorite themes that Palestinians enjoy greater freedom and prosperity in the Israeli-occupied West Bank than in the Hamas run Gaza Strip.  


While it is true that Gaza is a place of extreme misery, it has little, if anything, to do with Hamas rule and everything to do with Israel’s total blockade.  Congressman Baird upon return from his recent junket to Gaza reported that a badly needed X-ray machine had been held up at the border for over a year by the Israelis.  For what possible purpose?  To punish Hamas? 


As for the West Bank, more freedom is hardly what I’d call it.  Jill Shaw, a criminal defense investigator from San Francisco and recent participant in a program to rebuild Palestinian homes demolished by Israel in and around Jerusalem, had this to say about the situation there: 


Every Palestinian I met in Jerusalem spoke of the undeniable truth as they experience it: Israel is making life economically and emotionally impossible for Palestinians in order to squeeze them out of the area. This is particularly true for Palestinians who remain in coveted Jerusalem, and might explain why 22,000 East Jerusalem [Arab] houses have outstanding [Israeli] demolition orders. This is why Jeff Halper believes that house demolitions are one of Israel's main weapons in its arsenal of occupation. Demolish the home, demolish the family, demolish the spirit, and maybe, just maybe, the people will follow.


The West Bank Palestinians will soon be ringed by a 400 mile long, thirty foot high, concrete barrier (90% of it built on Palestinian land) complete with guard towers, making the West Bank look suspiciously like a prison.

John McGrane


CNS STORY: GAZA-UMBERGER Jan-5-2009 (620 words) xxxi US couple in Israel using tub to protect kids against Hamas missiles By Judith Sudilovsky Catholic News Service JERUSALEM (CNS)  ... Read the article  




Ten days into Israel’s devastating bombing campaign in Gaza this tidy little story about a young Catholic family from America living in southern Israel, frightened but as yet untouched by Palestinian rocket fire (in the seventh largest city in Israel – population of over 185,000 - only two structures were hit causing relatively minor damage and no one was physically injured), makes Israel’s case for its invasion quite neatly.  The husband says he “can now begin to comprehend the experiences of Israelis in border communities like Sderot.”  Then, as if reading from an Israeli government script placing the onus for the invasion of Gaza on Hamas, he allegedly adds, “Hamas began shooting the rockets shortly after Israel withdrew from the Gaza Strip…”  And he finishes with a statement sure to resonate with religious readers, “It is a blessing from God that we have not experienced more devastation….”  Once again, Ms. Sudilovsky exhibits an uncanny ability to find people to interview whose statements support the Israeli government’s line to the letter and a canny inability to find anyone who disagrees with it.

John McGrane


CNS STORY: GAZA-PRAYERS Jan-5-2009 (780 words) With photos. xxxi Gaza priest's message at Mass for peace: 'We cry and nobody hears us' By Judith Sudilovsky Catholic News Service JERUSALEM (CNS)  ... Read the article  




This article starts out credibly quoting several Palestinian clergy calling Israel’s assault on Gaza a “massacre” and “genocide,” but then returns to form as Ms. Sudilovsky repeats the Israeli government’s justification for the war without rebuttal and its figure on the number of rockets fired by “terrorist groups” into Israel since the fighting began.  And she, not surprisingly, offers no corresponding figure or estimate of the number, undoubtedly orders of magnitude larger, of IDF bombs, missiles and artillery shells dropped on and fired at Gaza.  Nor did she bother to mention the disparity of destructive power between Israel’s state-of-the-art munitions and the Palestinian’s relatively primitive ones.

Then, as she has shown such an amazing talent for, she finds and quotes a Palestinian Christian who expresses as much sympathy for the Israeli mothers who were worrying about their sons in the IDF as he expresses for the Palestinian mothers in Gaza being bombed by those sons.  The final tally: 10 Israeli mothers had their hearts broken and 110 Palestinian mothers’ hearts literally stopped beating, along with those of over four hundred of their sons and daughters under the age of 16.  And getting my vote for the most generous or the dumbest person in the world, this Palestinian says he can’t understand why his people (with a predominantly agrarian economy) are fighting over “a piece of land.”  I have to ask, how many Palestinians did Ms. Sudilovsky have to interview before she finally found one that suited her purposes?

John McGrane


CNS STORY: GAZA-DEATH Jan-7-2009 (340 words) xxxi Gaza priest: Death of young parishioner is loss to whole community By Judith Sudilovsky Catholic News Service JERUSALEM (CNS)  ... Read the article  




This article about a young Palestinian from the Holy Family Parish in Gaza City killed by an Israeli missile is sort of a mixed bag.  Ms. Sudilovsky does give Palestinian casualty figures and quotes one parishioner comparing Gaza to both a prison and a cemetery, but she once again states the official Israeli government’s justification for the invasion, unchallenged.  And again refers to the democratically elected Hamas government as a “militant group.”  But to her credit she allows Monsignor Musallam to offer a rebuttal of sorts to Israel’s claim that Hamas uses civilians as shields.

John McGrane


CNS STORY: HOLYLAND-KICANAS Jan-12-2009 (910 words) With photos. xxxi US bishop in West Bank expresses solidarity with Catholics By Judith Sudilovsky Catholic News Service JERUSALEM (CNS)  ... Read the article  




Here Ms. Sudilovsky quotes the Bishop’s concern over the Israeli assault in Gaza and the destruction of the Catholic health clinic there, but then lays the blame squarely on Hamas by stating the Israeli government’s justification of Hamas rocket attacks, this time with special emphasis referring to an “eight-yearlong campaign.”  Again, she refers to Hamas as a “militant group.”   Ms. Sudilovsky also gives the reader the impression that the Palestinian Catholic community is under assault as much from Palestinian Muslims as from the Israelis. 


While mentioning two of the most onerous elements of Israel’s military occupation of the West Bank, settlements and checkpoints, she deftly manages to downplay them.  She mentions that on a drive through the West Bank Bishop Kicanas took note of Israeli settlements and Palestinians waiting at Israeli checkpoints, but she offers no comment from the Bishop regarding them.  How’s it possible that the Bishop would note, out loud presumably, these major facts on the ground in the West Bank and make no further comment on them?  He must have noted them for a reason.  Why didn’t Ms. Sudilovsky elicit it or, if she did, why didn’t she include it?  Could it be that any comment the Bishop made, or would have made if asked, would have shown Israel in a bad light?  On the other hand, while quoting a parishioner saying that Christians in the Nablus area don’t have the same opportunities as Muslims, she takes special care to include a demographic fact indicating how dramatically outnumbered Christians are.  While the fact is potentially relevant, it is also potentially prejudicial, in that it may have led readers to unconsciously assume that the Muslim majority is taking advantage of its superior numbers.  I find the inclusion of this factoid particularly suspicious because it’s such an aberration for Ms. Sudilovsky; she doesn’t volunteer background statistics.

John McGrane


CNS STORY: MIDEAST-BISHOPS Jan-15-2009 (1,070 words) xxxi Bishops from Europe, North America call for end to violence in Gaza By Judith Sudilovsky Catholic News Service JERUSALEM (CNS)  ... Read the article  




Here, I’m sorry to say, Ms. Sudilovsky doesn’t have to do a thing.  The American and European Bishops do it for her.  Their message, which is essentially that both sides are to blame equally so there is no need to point fingers, plays perfectly into the hands of the stronger party, Israel.  It can continue imposing its will on the Palestinians and annexing the West Bank, Jewish settlement by Jewish settlement, without concern that the leaders of the Catholic Church are going to stand in its way.

John McGrane


CNS STORY: ISRAEL-PROPORTIONATE (UPDATED) Jan-20-2009 (990 words) Backgrounder. xxxi Israeli offensive in Gaza: Was it a proportionate response? By Judith Sudilovsky Catholic News Service JERUSALEM (CNS)  ... Read the article  




This is probably the most obvious example of Ms. Sudilovsky’s role as apologist for Israel.   She starts out the discussion of the proportionality of Israel’s attack on Gaza by giving the Israeli government’s stated grounds for the attack, “to eliminate Hamas gunmen who had been lobbing missiles into southern Israel for eight years.”  First off, calling them “gunmen” as opposed to soldiers delegitimizes Hamas as a government, which it is, even by Western standards.  Secondly, the rockets were not fired by Hamas people in the first place, but rather by members of Islamic Jihad and the Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade.  Third, there is plenty of expert disagreement over whether the rockets were Israel’s real motivation for the attack.  The Palestinians had abided by a truce for six months before Israel broke it by entering Gaza and killing six people.  Aside from which Israel never really abided by the terms of the truce because it promised to ease its blockade but never did.

Further with regard to Israel’s motivation for the attack, which most experts agree had been planned over many months, some experts believe it had nothing to do with the rockets at all.  Paul Craig Roberts, 1992 winner of the Warren Brookes Award for Excellence in Journalism, wrote at the time of the attack:


…the real purpose for the Israeli attack is to destroy Hamas.

In 2006 the US insisted that the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank hold free elections.  When free elections were held, Hamas won.  This was unacceptable to the Americans and Israelis.  In the West Bank, the Americans and Israelis imposed a puppet government, but Hamas held on in Gaza.  After unheeded warnings to the Gazans to rid themselves of Hamas and accept a puppet government, Israel has decided to destroy the freely elected government with violence.”


Jonathan Cook, an author and journalist living in Nazareth wrote:


Israel has justified its assault on Gaza as entirely defensive, intended only to stop Hamas firing rockets on Israel’s southern communities. Although that line has been repeated unwaveringly by officials since Israel launched its attack on 27 December, it bears no basis to reality. Rather, this is a war against the Palestinians of Gaza, and less directly those in the West Bank, designed primarily to crush their political rights and their hopes of statehood.

The most glaring evidence contradicting the Israeli casus belli is the six-month ceasefire between Hamas and Israel that preceded the invasion. True, Hamas began firing its rockets as soon as the truce came to an end on 19 December, but Israel had offered plenty of provocation. Not least it broke the ceasefire by staging a raid into Gaza on 4 November that killed six Hamas members. Even more significantly, it maintained and tightened a blockade during the ceasefire period that was starving Gaza’s 1.5 million inhabitants of food, medicine and fuel. Hamas had expected the blockade lifted in return for an end to the rockets.


Jennifer Loewenstein, Associate Director of the Middle East Studies Program at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and a Jew, wrote during the attack:


The destruction of Gaza has nothing to do with Hamas. Israel will accept no authority in the Palestinian territories that it does not ultimately control. Any individual, leader, faction or movement that fails to accede to Israel’s demands or that seeks genuine sovereignty and the equality of all nations in the region; any government or popular movement that demands the applicability of international humanitarian law and of the universal declaration of human rights for its own people will be unacceptable for the Jewish State.


Michael Mandel, a professor of international law at York University in Toronto wrote:


These are not justifications for violence on this or any scale. Indeed, they point to the most plausible reason Israel is fighting Hamas (and the PLO before it): self-defense, if you will, not against rockets and mortars, but against having to make peace with the Palestinians on the basis of the pre-1967 borders as required by international law.


Ms. Sudilovsky next offers as proof that there has been substantial violence against Israelis (though still not nearly as many injuries and deaths as occurred in Gaza) which needs to be taken into account in judging the proportionality of Israel’s attack, the following, “Since 2001, some 1,000 Israelis have been injured in the attacks and almost 30 -- including several children -- have been killed.”  Actually the exact number killed was 14, not even half of 30.  While I, personally, don’t think even her numbers weigh in Israel’s favor, 30 Israeli dead over eight years versus over 1,400 Palestinian dead in three weeks, several Israeli children killed (she couldn’t find the exact number?) versus over 400 Palestinian children killed, it’s clear to me that she was trying to use them to strengthen Israel’s case for proportionality.  Otherwise, why would she neglect, as she did, to mention the number of Palestinians killed by Israel over the same eight year time period.  When you look at those numbers it’s clear that the disproportionate killing of Palestinians by Israel didn’t start with the present attack.  The following is a graph put together by the Israeli human rights organization, B’Tselem, showing a side by side comparison of the number of deaths on both sides.




In briefly quoting a Catholic priest’s argument against the proportionality of Israel’s attack on Gaza, she cleverly, in my opinion, makes his last statement on the matter the observation that “the high number of civilian Palestinian casualties will only serve to strengthen Hamas' stronghold in Gaza.”  This statement, I assume her paraphrase of what the priest said because it isn’t in quotes, due to her use of the emotionally charged negative term “stronghold,” (would you say the Democrats have a stronghold on the United States?) leaves readers with the distinct impression that the priest doesn’t much care for Hamas.  The fact is he may not have used that term.

The last priest quoted in the article, Father McGarry, if quoted accurately and fully, takes a curiously detached almost academic approach to the subject and while he merely “questions the justice” of Israel’s killing of over 1,400 Palestinians, he calls Hamas’ actions in defense of Gaza, “terrible.”  And the last statement Ms. Sudilovsky quotes from him, that ends the article, is rather hard to decipher but could easily be misinterpreted as making the case that there is no point in even questioning the proportionality of Israel’s attack.  "Short of an A-bomb, what kind of proportional weapons can one use and which amount of collateral damage can one inflict before it becomes disproportionate?" he asked. "Is 926 disproportionate when 920 is within reason? Where do you draw the line?"

In defense of proportionality Ms. Sudilovsky quotes an Israeli philosophy professor, giving him more than twice the space she gave anyone else.  He argues, as only a philosophy professor could, that looked at in the proper context Israel wasn’t really fighting the weak Palestinians but rather the far stronger Iran.  "It is horrible and tragic when children are killed and civilians are killed, but that is part of ... the de-contextualization of the situation. But as viewed from the Israeli perspective, both Hamas and (Lebanon's militant Islamic group) Hezbollah are not a small power, but are fueled by a larger power called Iran and more extreme Islamic powers in the region (who advocate the destruction of Israel). This is the larger issue."

Aside from the fact that the professor doesn’t make any sense here, it is clearly an attempt at a red herring argument.  If Iran was “fueling” Hamas, whatever that’s supposed to mean, why didn’t Hamas have better weapons with which to defend Gaza?  Hamas only managed to kill a total of 9 Israelis in the 23 day war.  Compare that number to the over 1,400 Gazans killed and you have an Israeli kill ratio of over 155 to one!   Perhaps Ms. Sudilovsky should have interviewed a math professor.


Lastly, Ms. Sudilovsky’s analysis of proportionality completely ignores property damage.  While Palestinian rockets caused damage, not total destruction, to hundreds of homes, businesses and cars in the Israeli towns of Sderot and Ashkelon, the property damage caused to Gaza by the IDF/IAF ran into the billions.  One hundred thousand Gazans were made homeless.  Also in terms of infrastructure, while Gazan rockets blew holes in a few roads, Israel targeted and destroyed virtually Gaza’s entire infrastructure.  Jonathan Cook, a journalist living in Nazareth, ran down the list, “That included mosques, universities, most government buildings, the courts, 25 schools, 20 ambulances and several hospitals, as well as bridges, roads, 10 electricity generating stations, sewage lines, and 1,500 factories, workshops and shops.”

John McGrane


CNS STORY: MIDEAST-BISHOPS Jan-15-2009 (1,070 words) xxxi GAZA-HAMAS Jan-21-2009 (620 words) xxxi After war, Christians in Gaza express fear of emboldened Hamas By Judith Sudilovsky Catholic News Service JERUSALEM (CNS)  ... Read the article  




In this article Ms. Sudilovsky revisits her favorite theme that Christians are being intimidated and driven out of Palestine by their intolerant Muslim neighbors.  She quotes several anonymous Christians who express fear of Hamas and a desire to emigrate.  But unlike whenever Israel’s actions are brought into question, she makes no effort to balance the report by providing a counter viewpoint from either other Christians or Hamas officials. 


If she had interviewed Dr. Bernard Sabella, from Bethlehem University, a Catholic and well known Christian emigration expert, he would have offered another point of view.  In a lecture at Georgetown University in April, 2008 he said the following:


True, there are changes, there are differences taking place in our environment.  Islam has become a political ideology and therefore it has colored and impacted the relations between the Muslim majority and the Christian minority.  But religion as such and the sensitivities here and there as such are not a reason to leave.  Again and again in various surveys I have conducted myself we have come to the conclusion, not I but the people who have been asked, Christian Palestinians, have said it was really the political and economic situation that gets them to thinking about emigration.  And it is not religious fanaticism as such.  In the latest survey I had eight percent of the respondents saying religious fanaticism could be a reason.  While about 50% were saying political and a high percentage saying economic.


Corroborating Dr. Sabella’s findings, a Holy Land Ecumenical Foundation report released four months later stated, speaking more plainly:


The principal reason for the dramatic rise in Christian emigration has been the continuing Israeli military occupation and the denial of the sovereignty of a Palestinian state wherein Christian Arabs could feel at home economically, politically, culturally and spiritually.


Just in case some of Ms. Sudilovsky’s American Catholic readership hasn’t gotten the point yet that Hamas is the heavy in this tragedy, she offers this description of the organization, “[Hamas is] an Islamic fundamentalist militia and political party that states as its goals the destruction of the Jewish state of Israel and the creation of an Islamic state in all of historical Palestine.”  I wonder how the average Catholic Palestinian living in Bethlehem, a city that is now ringed by a thirty foot concrete barrier, would describe the government of Israel.  With Ms. Sudilovsky reporting I’m sure we’ll never know.


Final comment:


The book Propaganda and Persuasion defines propaganda as "the deliberate, systematic attempt to shape perceptions, manipulate cognitions, and direct behavior to achieve a response that furthers the desired intent of the propagandist."  I think Ms. Sudilovsky’s body of work qualifies.  Although it’s very difficult to prove intent, it is possible to infer it from behavior.  The fact that Ms. Sudilovsky’s many errors and omissions always seem to be in Israel’s favor I think shows that they were intentional and designed to insure the continued support of American Catholics for the state of Israel regardless of its mistreatment of the Palestinians.


Although one might disagree with one or more of my specific assessments above, I submit that that should not let Ms. Sudilovsky off the hook.  Propaganda is a process over time.  Its existence or nonexistence is not determined by a single word, sentence, paragraph or even entire article.  It’s found in repeated, often small, subtle aberrations from the truth, in turns of phrases, in choices of adjectives and labels, in repeated failures to include relevant information and in what information is either emphasized or deemphasized over many, many articles.  And in Ms. Sudilovsky’s case, I believe the devil was sometimes in whom she chose to quote and in which quotes she chose to use or not use.


It’s my opinion that Ms. Sudilovsky body of work taken as a whole constitutes propaganda.  And not even particularly competent (subtle) propaganda.  But given that Americans have already been softened up for decades by a heavily pro-Israel and anti-Palestinian mass media, Ms. Sudilovsky has undoubtedly managed to cause significant damage to both the Palestinians and the American Catholic community.


John McGrane



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