With regard to Sri Lanka specifically, the irony deepens. Israel had filled a jumbo jet with 80 tons of food and $100,000 worth of medical supplies, ready to dispatch to Sri Lanka. But the Foreign Ministry of Sri Lanka told the Israelis their aid would not be welcome if several dozen military officers were part of the relief effort. So the Israelis consented, and sent only the supplies.
What did the Sri Lankans think the Israeli military would do in Colombo, set up roadblocks? Obviously they were included only because they have the necessary expertise. And just as obviously, the Sri Lankan decision to look a gift horse in the mouth is reminiscent of Iran's refusal, this time last year, to accept any aid at all from Israel following a terrible earthquake.
Remarkably, it is not Sri Lankan small-mindedness, but Israel, that L'Osservatore Romano chose to condemn. That cut about a people "too often preoccupied with making war" is particularly savage. What nation has been more warred against in the past 50 years than Israel?
And in any case, would an Italian newspaper with close ties to the Vatican ever even hint that, say, Germans were a people "too often preoccupied with making war"? Or radical Muslims? Inconceivable. Nor did the paper condemn Iran in 2003 for refusing Israel's offer of aid.
Canada's National Post put it well: "We expect such false attacks on Israel from the paranoid fever swamps of the Arab world, which, for all we know, are now reporting that 4,000 Jewish tourists failed to show up for their hotel reservations in Phuket over the weekend. But a publication like this one (L'Osservatore Romano) is held to a higher standard."
Or should be. Don't hold your breath for apologies to the United States or Israel. That's not the way the world works.