Having thoroughly pissed off the Muslim community, Benedict proceeded to make it clear he doesn’t like Jews, either.
Yet minutes after saying he was “deeply sorry” about the reaction to his earlier remarks, he cited a passage from the New Testament highlighting the gulf between Christian and Jewish attitudes to Jesus’ crucifixion.
The pontiff appeared to risk causing fresh controversy during his speech on Sunday when he cited a passage from St Paul that risked being interpreted as hostile — not by Muslims, but by Jews. It described the crucifixion of Jesus as a “scandal for the Jews”.
It’s easy for people whose knowledge of turn-of-the-first-millennium-BCE Judea comes from the New Testament to think that Jesus brought a message of love in a society that only really cared about behavioral quirks like dieting and was full of hate.
In reality, the Pharisees were a fairly liberal and populist group, compared with the more dogmatic Saducees. And even if Jesus existed, which he probably didn’t, he was nothing more than a run-of-the-mill reformer. The modern equivalent of what happened would be if Marxism triumphed in the world, and two thousand years from now everyone believes that the main enemy of yore was the liberals, the group most directly responsible to the oppression of the working class.
Media fawning such as “risked being interpreted as hostile” aside, Ratzinger really is hostile. Just like Bush, he can’t grasp the concept of making alliances. To be perfectly honest, saying things like that Jewish Holocaust victims were “themselves bit players – bystanders at their own extermination. The true victim was a metaphysical one” fills me with schadenfreude more than outrage.
One of the very few useful concepts to come out of ethnic studies is this of the capacity to oppress. In short, it’s not that white Americans are more prejudiced against black Americans than the other way around; it’s that since those in power are white, white racism has the capacity to oppress black people, whereas black racism has no capacity to oppress whites.
Benedict doesn’t have the capacity to oppress a single Jew. Enough religious fanatics in Europe like him that he can oppress Muslims, but there’s nothing he can do to impoverish Jews, promote greater intolerance of Jews, or encourage anti-Semitic legislation. The European extreme right is pretending to like Jews since they’re potential allies against Muslims, the American extreme right is too Protestant to give a damn about what the Pope says, and the Middle Eastern extreme right generally hates Christians and Jews equally.