Every time we seem to turn a corner in the battle against anti-Semitism, a new strain of the virus emerges. The latest strain is to blame America's war against Iraq on the Jews.
Last week, it was Democratic Rep. James Moran of Virginia who said, "If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this. The leaders of the Jewish community are influential enough that they could change the direction of where this is going."
However, this week, it is the ultra-conservative columnist Pat Buchanan who writes in the American Conservative, "We charge that a cabal of polemicists and public officials seek to ensnare our country in a series of wars that are not in America's interests. We charge them with colluding with Israel to ignite those wars and destroy the Oslo accords. We charge them with deliberately damaging U.S. relations with every state in the Arab world that defies Israel or supports the Palestinian peoples' right to a homeland of their own."
He goes on to say, "They charge us with anti-Semitism - i.e., a hatred of Jews for their faith, heritage or ancestry. False. The truth is, those hurling charges harbor a passionate attachment to a nation not our own that causes them to subordinate the interests of their own country and to act on an assumption that, somehow, what's good for Israel is good for America."
These are dangerous times. The war against Iraq is on everyone's mind. It is one of the most important issues confronting the world. The Security Council is bitterly divided. France and Germany, who owe their very existence to having been liberated by the United States, are today at odds with her over Iraq. Who is to blame for all this? Who caused this split?Â
Don't you know, admonish Moran and Buchanan. It is Israel, a country smaller than the State of New Jersey, and American Jewry who are so powerful that they direct and influence the foreign policy of the world's only superpower. Even Julius Streicher, the editor of the infamous Nazi newspaper, Die Stuermer, would have to tip his hat to these new purveyors of hate.
No matter what the issue, Buchanan has always managed to draw a straight line directly to the Jews. In his view, America should not have saved the world from Nazism by confronting Hitler because that too was a Jewish cabal even though 6 million Jews were slaughtered in the death camps. Nazi war criminals like John Demjanjuk were mere victims, not perpetrators. Pope Pius XII was a great moral leader, even though he led by silence while millions were gassed.
Yet it is the Jews and Israel, not Saddam Hussein and his 12 years of defying U.N. resolutions, who have caused this crisis. If truth mattered to Moran and Buchanan, they would know very well that Israelis and Jews, like Catholics and Protestants, have different opinions on the war in Iraq. While I may favor it, others may be opposed. As we all know, there is no single Jewish view on Iraq or practically any other issue for that matter.
The best interpretation of hate and anti-Semitism is offered by the biblical scholar, Rashi, who explains in the Book of Genesis why the representative of hate refuses to identify himself when asked by Jacob: "You can't recognize me by name. We change our names in accordance with the circumstances of our mission."
Sometimes we appear as dictators, sometimes as congressmen and sometimes we try to explain ourselves away as writers just doing our job. So this Purim, let no one ask if Amalek and Haman still live amongst us, rather gather up those dusty groggers and sound the clarion call that freedom still has a lot more work to do.Â Â
Rabbi Marvin Hier is the founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.