The Pope calls Abbas (to be) an Angel of Peace

There was a bit of commotion over the weekend over reports that Pope Francis had called Palestine president Mahmoud Abbas — whose nom de guerre is Abu Mazen — an “angel of peace.” The reports, it turned out, didn’t quite get it right. In Italian, the pope was actually speaking in the hortatory rather than declaratory mode — calling on Abbas to be an angel of peace, not saying he was one.

The right-wing media has naturally jumped on the mistranslation as evidence of mainstream media bias. “Of course,” writes Ellen Carmichael over at National Review Online, “this reveals the eagerness of some in the media to paint His Holiness as some valiant advocate for the progressive cause, and thus, an ally of Palestine over Israel.”

But of course that image of the pope is shared by many right-wingers, which explains why Commentary’s Jonathan Tobin jumped on the New York Times version of the story with “Sorry, Your Holiness, But Abbas is No Angel.” Tobin connected the remark to last week’s report that the Vatican had recognized the State of Palestine by announcing a forthcoming treaty between the two entities. That was also pretty much a non-story. As was pointed out by John Allen over at the Crux, the Vatican recognized Palestine as a state two-and-a-half years ago. But most of the media were unaware of that.

My guess is that what created the weekend’s non-story was precisely the connection drawn by Tobin: Recognition + Angel = Tilt Toward Palestine. The real story is that Francis was using his canonization of a couple of 19th-century Palestinian nuns to continue the push for peace between Israel and Palestine, which began with his visit to the Holy Land and continued with the visit of Abbas and former Israeli President Shimon Peres to the Vatican.

In other words: Trip + Visit + Treaty + Saints + Angel = Vatican Peace Initiative. Here’s hoping.

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