Blame Saddam, Not Jews

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

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

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

Rabbi Marvin Hier is the founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.