“Are Critics of Israel Smeared as Anti-Semites?” trumpets a Nicholas von Hoffman column in the New York Observer. Well, yes, Nicholas old boy, they certainly are.
Actually, von Hoffman’s column was a very good one. As a liberal of long standing and a friend of Israel—he once came to my house for dinner very long ago, and I was taken by his charm and worldliness—his impeccable credentials make it easy to ask such questions. Alas, we poor traditional conservatives are not given such leeway. One wrong word, however misinterpreted by some neocon zealot, is enough for the midnight knock on the door. The whispering campaign is the worst.A couple of weeks ago, I flew to San Francisco and taped “Uncommon Knowledge,” a public television show on politics. The host of the program, Peter Robinson, an ex-speechwriter for Ronald Reagan and an old friend, let slip that someone had suggested he ask me how my family was rich in 1940 and continued to be rich in 1945. The implication was obvious: my father must have collaborated with the Germans. Robinson was outraged. “Taki was four-years-old back then.” He was twice as outraged when I told him the truth. From the main English newspaper of Greece upon my father’s death in 1989: “John Theodoracopulos was a member of the Greek Resistance and was awarded with the Order of the Phoenix and Golden Cross Resistance medals and published the then illegal newspaper Greek Blood.” He did better than that. He won the highest medal for gallantry in action during the 1940 Albanian campaign, blew up the Gestapo headquarters in Athens, and shut down his factories for the duration despite German demands to keep production going. By 1945, he was ruined, but in appreciation for his wartime activities was given a second chance by the Truman administration when he was allowed to purchase a Liberty ship. (These ships were sold at rock-bottom prices by Uncle Sam to those who had lost ships during the war. My father was the only non-ship-owner permitted to buy).Who started this whispering? I am not at liberty to say—he did, after all, whisper it à la Iago—but if any of you have read my recent columns, you will guess it rather easily. Such are the joys of modern neoconservatism.
But back to von Hoffman. “The sense of being gagged and intimidated is growing—and with it, a resentment,” he writes, and then goes on to tell us—and this is most important—“The underground dissenters (to Israel’s treatment of the Palestinians) aren’t afraid of the government; they fear informal social and economic punishment. They don’t fear being thrown in jail, but out on the street. Life-and-death issues of American foreign policy aren’t being debated and haven’t been debated, because the would-be debaters on one side fear that the personal cost of carrying on the argument would be too high.” Hear, hear! Take, for example, the Moran case. When Rep. James. P. Moran (D-Va.) suggested, “If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this,” all hell broke loose. Had Moran been photographed burning Jewish stores during Kristallnacht, the effect would have been the same. Although he managed an immediate mea culpa, he was nevertheless stripped of his position as regional minority whip, roundly denounced by rabbis and other Jewish and non-Jewish biggies, and threatened with opposition in the next primary. Some Land of the Free. (We all know, of course, about Pat Buchanan, first denounced by Abe Rosenthal as an anti-Semite for suggesting that there was an amen corner in America.) Here’s von Hoffman again, writing in a Jewish-owned, very liberal New York weekly: “The Moran case is a cautionary tale reinforcing the spreading conviction that a person risks job, career and status if he or she disagrees with the party line on American foreign policy in the Middle East.”What in heaven’s name is going on here? Who do these people think they are? It’s an easy question to answer: they are haters who are determined to destroy anyone who disagrees with the idea of Greater Israel, a Sharon dream since day one. “Not all violence is alike, and not all violence is illegal or even worthy of condemnation” according to Robert Satloff of the Washington Institute. Satloff and his backers do not agree with the road map and are suggesting that “its evenhandedness is offensive,” writes Philip Weiss in the Observer. In other words, they think an indecent parallelism between Palestinian and Jewish violence is taking place. Killing an 18-month-old Palestinian boy—as happened last week—is permissible. Killing a Jewish settler is not. And if you don’t agree with Mr. Satloff—and I don’t—you’re a dirty, rotten anti-Semite—and I’m not. Go figure, as they used to say in Brooklyn.
Well, I’ve got news for Satloff and the neocons. The Germans didn’t manage to intimidate my old man, and I doubt very much these weenies will intimidate his son. (John Podhoretz might be a frightful sight on television, especially for young children, but at my age I don’t frighten easily). And it gets worse. When Slobodan Milosevic was accused of ethnic cleansing, the free world was outraged. (That Albanian Muslims were murdering Serbs was overlooked because it was inconvenient for Richard Holbrooke’s quest for a Nobel Peace Prize.) Now Benyamin Elon, a minister in Ariel Sharon’s government, sees a “window of opportunity” for Israel to annex the occupied territories of the West Bank and Gaza Strip and push all the Palestinians into Jordan. If this isn’t ethnic cleansing, I’m Monica Lewinsky!
Just imagine a minister of a European country saying that the Jews are having problems in Israel and they should be “transferred” to another country, say Sudan. The whole world would scream anti-Semitism, and rightly so. Yet Elon gets away with it. Sharon rebuked him ever so slightly but is really whistling Dixie. He was among the first to try to push the Palestinians into Jordan when then King Hussein was battling the PLO in 1970, and has always described the present war against the Palestinians as “the second half of 1948.” During that war more than half of the 1,380,000 Palestinians were driven off their homeland by the Israeli army. Israel has always insisted that they fled and were not expelled, but it has refused to allow them to return. More than 700 Israelis and 2,000 Palestinians have been killed in this intifada. There is moral equivalence, no ifs or buts about it, and if this makes me an anti-Semite in the eyes of the haters, so be it. Palestinians have been brutalized to a point that they no longer feel they have anything to lose. As have the Israelis. Veteran correspondent Chris Hedges witnessed an Israeli unit taunting Palestinian children in Gaza to come out and throw stones, whereupon the soldiers shot them with silenced weapons. “I have never before watched soldiers entice children like mice into a trap and murder them for sport,” he wrote in Harper’s.The respected Israeli daily Ha’aretz reported the Israeli Defense Forces fired flechette shells designed to explode into thousands of razor-sharp darts at a children’s soccer field in Gaza while boys were playing. Nine were hit. Is Ha’aretz anti-Semitic? Are Israelis who abhor Sharon’s government policy of allowing extremists to make any future Palestinian state unworkable by expanding the network of colonies anti-Semitic? Are those outraged at the harsh treatment of Palestinians by the Israeli army the world over anti-Semitic? I’ll answer the question with a question. You, sirs, ready to accuse anyone who disagrees with you as anti-Semitic, have you no decency?