The Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization have protested to the Vatican over Pope Francis’ agreement to meet with the president of Bar-Ilan University, Prof. Daniel Hershkowitz, and receive an award from the university.
Senior officials in the PA told Haaretz that PA Foreign Minister Riyad al-Maliki had informed the Vatican of the PA’s opposition to the meeting, which is scheduled for today. PLO Executive Committee member Hana Amira told Haaretz: “Bar-Ilan University is known for its right-wing positions and its support for settlers and settlements and it would be better for the pope and the Holy See not to agree to accept an award at this particular time, in which the Palestinians are fighting for their right to a state, and because the settlements are against international law.”
According to Amira, the university is taking advantage of the pope for its political purposes and the pope should remain outside this political debate.
The Palestinians said they regard Pope Francis as a close friend and noted his recent visit to Bethlehem, when he stood in prayer next to the separation fence.
It is unclear at this point to what extent the pope’s acceptance of the award will affect relations between the PA and the Vatican. However, sources in the PA said they could not let the meeting go by without responding.
Bar-Ilan explained in a statement the university was giving the award to the pope for his work in building bridges between peoples, promoting peace and brotherhood and protecting human rights. The statement said the award was meant to express the university’s great appreciation to the leader of the Christian world for his contribution to creating understanding and tolerance between Christians and Jews and the great warmth he shows toward the State of Israel, particularly during his visit to this country.