Cross on the Star of David: The Christian World in Israel's Foreign Policy, 1948-1967

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Cross on the Star of David: The Christian World in Israel's Foreign Policy, 1948-1967. By Uri Bialer. [Indiana Series in Middle East Studies.] (Bloomington: Indiana University Press. 2005. Pp. xiv, 241. $39.95.)

This book should be required reading for all Vatican diplomats, and for those who study twentieth-century Vatican diplomacy. This is not because it gets the Vatican side of the diplomacy with Israel right. It often doesn' t. Rather, it will help readers understand how the other side interprets Vatican diplomatic maneuvers, and this is a crucial test case with core values and needs at stake, both politicaEy and religiously, on both sides.

Uri Bialer, who holds the Maurice Hexler chair in International RelationsMiddle East Studies at Hebrew University, has published two previous books on Israeli diplomacy, and had available for this volume recently released archives of the Israeli government. An equivalent Catholic study of the Holy see's side of the events narrated here, of course, will have to await the release of the remainder of the Vatican's archives of the secretariat of State for the pontificates of Pius XII, John XXIII, and Paul VI.

I would estimate that roughly two-thirds of this book deals with IsraeliVatican relations, which is of interest because the large majority of Israeli Christians are not Catholic, but Orthodox, and Israel's chief international ally is the United States, a country whose world view has been dominated by Protestant Christianity.

Bailer's scholarly attention is focused on the years after the establishment of the State of Israel. For what led up to it, and for the Vatican's role in the United Nations' debate on it, he relies on the standard Jewish sources, particularly Sergio Minerbi, -who felt that the Holy see harbored an implacable theological animus against the very idea of a Jewish state in the Holy Land because of the ancient teaching of contempt which held that the Temple was destroyed and the Jews exiled from their homeland because of their alleged collective guilt for the death of Jesus.

True, this idea was commonly held among Christians before the second Vatican Council's declaration Nostra Aetate in 1965. But it was not really the motivating factor in Vatican reactions to Zionism, as Bialer, folio wing Minerbi, erroneously alleges. Bialer, for example, cites the negative response of Pope Pius X to Theodore Herzl's 1904 appeal. …