Palestinian Archbishop Condemned for ‘Blood Libel’ After Accusing Israel of Poisoning Him
A Palestinian cleric who has vocally supported terrorist violence against Israelis was denounced by a prominent Jewish interfaith organization on Monday for his recent claim that he had been deliberately “poisoned” by the Israeli authorities.
The International Jewish Committee for Interreligious Consultations (IJCIC) said in a statement that there was “no evidence” that Archbishop Atallah Hanna — who heads the Sebastia Diocese of the Greek Orthodox Church in Jerusalem — had been exposed to a “chemical substance” after Israeli forces allegedly fired a tear gas canister into his church in an incident on Dec. 19.
Furthermore, the IJCIC statement strongly criticized the World Council of Churches (WCC) for endorsing Hanna’s version of events in a message of support it issued on Jan 2.
IJCIC said it was “deeply disappointed that the World Council of Churches (WCC) has supported Archbishop Atallah Hanna’s recent baseless accusations against the State of Israel.”
The statement continued: “There is no evidence that Israel tried to poison him, as he alleges, or that there was any ‘violence’ done against him, as WCC seems to assume. In light of the disputed accounts of the source of his illness, it would have been appropriate to urge Israeli law enforcement agencies to vigorously investigate the matter and ensure full protection for all.”
Appointed to his position on 2005, Hanna has made several statements supporting Palestinian terrorism against Israel and has compared Israeli residents of the West Bank to ISIS members.
Accusing Israel of engaging in a “plot” against the Orthodox Church last June, the Archbishop stated that “our enemies have created ISIS and similar terror organizations in order to harm the Christian presence in the Arab world.”
After last month’s incident, Hanna claimed in an interview with Jordanian television that Israeli forces were attempting to silence him.
“What happened could be an assassination attempt, or an attempt to keep me sick throughout my life,” Hanna said in the Jan. 2 interview. “I cannot be certain that Israel is behind this incident, but indications show that it is behind it.”
These allegations brought a robust response from the Israeli Foreign Ministry, whose spokesperson charged Hanna with promoting a classic antisemitic canard.
“The accusations are redolent of the blood libel,” said the ministry’s spokesman, Lior Haiat.
Archbishop Hanna was simply continuing his “despicable defamation campaign against Israel,” Haiat noted.
IJCIC also criticized the WCC for playing down Hanna’s extremist views.
“Archbishop Hanna is not merely ‘a strong critic’ of Israel, as the WCC stated,” the group said. “He has called for the creation of a Palestinian state ‘from the river to the sea.’ The archbishop has declared that ‘Zionism is a racist, terrorist movement,’ and referred to the Israeli government as ‘money changers in the Temple.'”
Said IJCIC: “An individual like Hanna who espouses these views should not automatically be believed when he makes accusations against Israel without evidence.”