Cardinal Discounts "Tension" Over Gaza Comment

Affirms That War Zone Is Contrary to Human Dignity

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ROME, JAN. 9, 2009 ( Cardinal Renato Martino says his comment Wednesday that compared the Gaza Strip to a «big concentration camp» cannot be interpreted as anti-Israeli, after certain Jewish leaders protested the reference.

Some media reports said the cardinal, president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, and his comparison could have compromised Benedict XVI’s trip to the Holy Land planned for May. Commentators agree, however, that that trip is perhaps already on shaky ground, considering the continuing bloodshed in the area.

But Cardinal Martino told the Italian daily «La Repubblica,» which first reported the comparison, that the situation in the Gaza Strip is indeed «horrible,» and «contrary to human dignity.»

He said to journalist Marco Politi, «I say that the conditions people are living in there should be looked at: surrounded by a wall that is difficult to cross, in conditions contrary to human dignity. What is happening during these days is horrible. But when I speak, may people take into account the whole of what I say.»

The cardinal affirmed that both sides are «guilty» and that it is «necessary to separate them, like two fighting siblings are separated,» and make them «sit down to negotiate.»

«Hamas missiles are not confetti,» he continued. «I condemn them. Israel certainly has the right to defend itself and Hamas should take that into account. But what can be said when so many children are killed, when U.N. schools are bombed, while possessing the technology that allows one to make out an ant on the ground?»

«If Israel wants to live in peace, it needs to make peace with the rest,» Cardinal Martino contended. On the other hand, «Hamas does not represent all the Palestinians. I do not defend Hamas: If they want a house, if they want a Palestinian state, they should understand that the path they’ve begun is wrong.»

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