[This article was published in the Columbia Spectator on March 31, 2003]
The war in Iraq has awakened a racism thought to be long-gone from this earth–a form of hatred and blame that has existed for generations now grips our very own. This specter of racism paradoxically finds fertile ground in those who claim tolerance, from the halls of our government to the hallows of our University. This disease was called the mundaneness of evil in the past. This disease set the world aflame only half a century ago.
Conspiracy theories have become commonplace, and people are leveling charges that would be damned were they about any other group. These claims of plots for world domination have had one effect, regardless of their intent: the isolation and incrimination of an entire people.
Some have assumed that because some Jews support the war in Iraq, all Jews support the war. No one assumes African Americans are behind the war because Condoleezza Rice and Colin Powell are for it–why does that change when the ethnicity in question numbers among it Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle and Douglas Feith? As M.J. Rosenberg of the Israel Policy Forum, a group formed to support Arab-Israeli negotiations, notes, “Jews have a millennia of experience disagreeing.” Some of our leaders think otherwise.
Anti-war Congressman James Moran (D-VA) charged “if it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this” on March 3. University Professor Edward Said wrote in mid-February in Al-Ahram that the administration “seem to me slaves of power perfectly embodied in the repetitive monotone of their collective spokesman Ari Fleischer (who I believe is also an Israeli citizen).” This statement, in addition to the five times that he implicates Jews and Israel as the reason for the war, is no more than a blatant lie in line with the White Aryan Resistance’s charges of the Zionist conspiracy. Ari Fleischer is certainly not Israeli, and his being Jewish should have nothing to do with his service to this country.
Former (and prospective) Democratic presidential candidate Gary Hart said “we must not let our role in the world be dictated by Americans who too often find it hard to distinguish their loyalties to their original homelands from their loyalties to America and its national interests,” as reported by the Jerusalem Post on March 24. On the public radio station WNYC, Brian Lehrer suggested during an interview with a New York City councilwoman that her and her colleagues’ being Jewish means they are pro-war and that they would put their loyalty to Israel over their duty to represent the people of New York City. He wouldn’t dare suggest Catholics would put their loyalty to the Vatican first, would he?
These ethnic-generalizers pay no attention to the fact that Israel has not put Iraq high on its threat list since 1981, and the fact that the war in Iraq will put Israel more in danger than it already is because of the threat of Iraqi missiles, proven to exist in 1991. These pundits are questioning the very existence of Jewish loyalty, singling them out as a foreign entity–as people whose allegiance is not to America but to their ethnic identity.
The effect is immediate: The Institute for Jewish and Community Research in San Francisco found that nearly one in four Americans agreed with a statement that “Jews are a threat to the moral character of the country.” These ideas have results: 56.5 percent of all hate crimes in the United States in 2002 were carried out against Jews, approximately two percent of the American population.
Ethnic-looking Jews have been attacked by anti-war protesters, many of whom have assumed the self-appointed role of Palestinian freedom fighters, preaching tolerance and peace for one people while raining terror down upon another. There are too many incidents to list, with brutal assaults in UCLA, Berkeley, and SUNY-Buffalo, among others. Only last Monday, a University of Michigan junior was beaten by a stranger at a bowling alley outside Ann Arbor for wearing a pro-Israel shirt.
Jewish students at this very University have become dejected by campus anti-war meetings after members of the organizations delivered passionate rants calling Israel a “Nazi, Racist State” while the audience kept quiet at best and applauded at worst.
It is beginning to smell like the fall of 1894, when the French scapegoated a Jewish officer named Alfred Dreyfus, saying he was, in the modern words of Pat Buchanan on Perle, “an agent of influence of a foreign power.” The citizens then chanted “Death to the Jews” as they reveled in their own progressiveness–in their Liberté, Fraternité, Egalité–minus, of course, any liberté, fraternité or egalité for the Jews. History has already shown us where that road leads.
We are not there yet, but we seem to be heading in that direction and must not allow history to repeat itself. We should remember that the greatest murderous racism has developed in those countries that had the most liberal history: ancient Persia, Spain, France, and Germany. We have to act fast: all those, especially those who are not Jewish and care about the sanctity of human life, need quickly provide the antidote of tolerance. As a community, we should at least hold one truth to be self-evident: No group, no matter its identity, should be targeted, no matter what.