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The EditorsJanuary 19, 2009

After Gaza

Gaza has been Israel’s tar-pit, a quagmire from which it extracts itself only to be pulled back in. It never seems to learn. In 1993, under the Oslo Accords with the Palestine Liberation Organization, Gaza and Jericho were the first territories handed over to Palestinian control. Following the Al Aqsa intifada in 2000, Israel re-occupied Gaza and then in 2005 withdrew unilaterally. After each of its departures, it obstructed economic development and even emergency relief. Now, once again, the Israeli military is back, following a bruising air assault on the Gaza Strip. The objective of Israel’s latest effort is to end terrorizing rocket attacks on the cities of southern Israel, like Sderot, Ashkelon and Beersheva. To do so, however, requires “breaking the will” of Hamas (the Islamic Resistance Movement). Most experts believe that Hamas will not be broken. As the Washington Post columnist David Ignatius has written, “If there is one lesson in this conflict, it’s that efforts to ‘break the will’ of the other side almost always fail.” Instead, the long-term results will be a revival of support for Hamas among Palestinians and greater hostility to Israel across the Arab world. How will Israel escape the quagmire? How will it break out of the violent illogic of war, repression and resistance?

A fresh beginning requires that Israel acknowledge that in any negotiation it holds most of the cards and therefore must make most of the concessions. Palestinian resistance continues because Israel has repeatedly refused to allow its whip-hand to go slack. In every cycle of peacemaking, it has retained control of commerce, of security, of tax receipts, of water. Resistance—and with it Hamas—will wither only when Israel is ready to make a peace that relinquishes the upper hand over Palestinian life.

Kony’s Ravages Continue

The self-styled messianic rebel leader in Uganda, Joseph Kony, head of the brutal Lord’s Resistance Army, continues to wreak death and destruction through a wide swath of territory in central Africa. Having escaped a multinational military offensive that targeted his jungle hideout in the Democratic Republic of Congo, most of his armed followers fled in late December to the D.R.C.’s northeastern corner. There, according to the United Nations, they massacred over 200 people and kidnapped at least 20 children from villages over a three-day period.

The L.R.A.’s two decades of violence have caused the displacement of an estimated two million people in Northern Uganda and the deaths of tens of thousands. The L.R.A. has abducted an estimated 20,000 children, forcing boys to fight as soldiers and girls to serve as sex-slave “wives.” In 2005 the International Criminal Court issued arrest warrants for Kony and his top leaders, charging them with crimes against humanity. On Nov. 29 he was to have signed a peace agreement that had been reached last April in Juba, Sudan. The agreement included disarmament of his army and reintegration of troops into civilian life. The U.N. special envoy, Joaquim Chissano (former president of Mozambique), waited for him at the border between Sudan and the D.R.C., but Kony never appeared. Now, with Kony having eluded the military operation, carried out by combined Uganda, Congo, southern Sudan and U.N. forces, the eventual outcome remains unclear. The L.R.A.’s violence continues as part of one of Africa’s longest-running wars. The combined multinational forces must find and capture Kony, so that he and his followers may be held accountable for the deadly havoc for which they bear primary responsibility.

Lives of Gays and Lesbians

On Dec. 19, the U.N. General Assembly voted on a nonbinding resolution aimed at “decriminalizing” homosexuality. The measure was directed at countries where homosexuals can be executed for sexual relations. As Human Rights Watch notes, “over 85 countries criminalize consensual homosexual conduct.” In some countries, including Afghanistan, Iran, Saudi Arabia, Sudan and Yemen, it is punishable by death.

The Holy See condemned “all forms of violence against homosexual persons” and urged countries to “put an end to all forms of criminal penalties against them.” Nonethe-less, along with 68 other countries, it rejected the resolution, preferring to hold out for a more clearly worded document. The Holy See feared “uncertainty in the law,” which might lead to the marginalization of heterosexual marriages. Cardinal Renato Martino, head of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, also feared that this resolution could limit the freedom of the church to teach that homosexual acts are immoral.

Though the Holy See last year endorsed a similar but more carefully worded document, these distinctions may provide little comfort to those who pray for the church’s support in places where violence against gays and lesbians still occurs. Last year, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, hate crimes in this country against gays and lesbians rose by 6 percent, while crimes against almost every other group fell. Stronger public steps are necessary to oppose the execution and murder of gays and lesbians.

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13 years 8 months ago
I doubt whether many lesbian, gay, bi or trans people even bother praying anymore for a change in the Roman Catholic Church's attitude to any aspect of their lives. This action by the Vatican State in the United Nations is all of a piece with the Pope's declarations a couple of days before Christmas and other statements by senior RC churchmen comparing same-sex relationships to incest, paedophilia (from this church that's a bit rich!) and relations with animals. Let's face it, this church and this pope have a real fixation about us, perhaps a classic psychological one of repression and consequent guilt but, all the same, one that no amount of education is likely to solve. So why even try? I've given up. I need nothing from this church, it isn't worthy of me. I'm still able to love the bigot but condemn the bigotry, with ever-greater difficulty.
13 years 8 months ago
The operative word here is "feared." Fear, rather than conviction of the rightness of its moral stance, is the position taken by the Vatican. Humanly speaking, this fear is justified because the world at large can see how hollow is the reasoning and how far from human decency is the Vatican's failure to make a simple gesture of justice and compassion. Spiritually, this refusal to protect human life makes a mockery of Vatican concern for the unborn. If all life is worthy of protection then why not these lives so endangered by human cruelty?
13 years 8 months ago
AMERICA says it all in its own mistake: "nonethe-less," too little, unworthy 9f Christiantitt.
13 years 8 months ago
Some significant percentage of priests are gay. Some have written, anonymously, to Commonweal and perhaps this magazine. You'd think the church would have more understanding of gays and lesbians and how better to welcome them into the fold.
Leonard Villa
13 years 8 months ago
There is no "fixation" on the part of the Church in her teaching on homosexuality. There is fidelity to sound morality, psychology,(the removal of homosexuality from the DSM was not based on any science) and natural law which involves marriage between a man and a woman as the building block of Church and society. These are not arbitrary categories as the pop culture/political ideology tries to make them. There's an inherent procreative and unitive/complimentarity to sexuality that gives meaning to male and female. All departure from that departs from an inherent ontological order and this works against the human person. The love which belongs to friendship can be same-sex but when this love attempts to morph and become genital it is injurious to the human person. Genital expression has a particular order, complimentarity, and purpose going beyond individual pleasure. This has nothing to do with bigotry. Moreover while violence against homosexuals is wrong, because they are human persons,equally wrong is violence perpetrated by homosexuals against those who do not agree with their activity and agenda. Consider the recent violence against proponents of Proposition 8 in California.
13 years 8 months ago
"Consider the recent violence against proponents of Proposition 8 in California." I have not heard about the murder of proponents of Proposition 8 in California...
James Lindsay
13 years 8 months ago
Lucius, the Church is based on the Resurrection of Jesus Christ and upon doing the work of charity. Given the degree to which the church talks about sex, however, you would think that is all that Jesus ever talked about.
13 years 8 months ago
I am a gay catholic, and while I strongly disagree with the churches stance on the U.N. plea for an end to the persecution of homosexuals in many troubled areas throughout the world, I also have to say that there are three articles in this section. It is sickening the way people can focus on the persecution of one group of people while ignoring the persecution of many others. It is evident that all three of these issues must be addressed, because there is a great deal of harm being done to a great deal of people specifically in Africa and the Middle East. Homosexuals are not the only harmed by violence and persecution.
13 years 8 months ago
The editorial is good if rather tepid. If the Holy See really fears that heterosexual marriage may be marginalized any time in the next millennium then they must be residing on another planet.
13 years 8 months ago
People should not be shock becuase Catholic's church seem to view women as second class people. So why would third class people even count ? The Bible and the churches in general have always been against the pratice. The Roman Catholic church will never change and people need to get over it. But, it must be said many gay men at least do not act moral, they go out sleep with countless men. Then act, as if this is right or propert. Many so called stright people do not even pratice a mortal life style, but churches look other way.
13 years 8 months ago
"Lucius" (above) is making a number of dogmatic-sounding claims. He appears to "know it" regarding homosexuality, the church's teaching on that topic, and much more. I would like to suggest the following to him: "Lucius", get to know a number of your average gays and lesbians (like "Jane" above) and LISTEN (i.e. NOT argue or "preach") to them: how they deal with their sexual orientation, with their lives as gays or lesbians, with their relationships, etc. I'm sure that you (and the institutional church for that matter) can learn lots from them. But listen, listen,listen...... I have a lesbian daughter who is in a lesbian relationship. She is a wonderful young woman of whom I am very proud. She is loved by God for who she is, and for the beautiful life she is leading. Henk Gal
Robert Koch
13 years 8 months ago
First. God bless Israel,and give her strength. Second. To Henk Galon (above) I have a gay son. We get along on a personal level, but he well knows well of my stanch disapproval, and personal disgust of the gay lifestyle. It is wrong to overlook immorality just because of family blood lines. Third. Reading many of these editorials I find the Jesuits are certainly are far to the left of the Franciscans.

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