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March 28, 2003

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H ~ITAGE FLORIDA JEWISH NEWS, MARCH 28, 2003 rallied PAGE' 5 By Jonathan S. Tobin The label "anti-American" is not a particularly useful term. Loaded with the baggage of the McCarthy era, using it evokes a political confronta- tion that most Americans Would like to forget. It is a pejorative that clouds rather than clarifies policy debates. But as the United States goes to war in the face of op- Position from most of the chattering classes, it is hard to escape the fact that behind much of the opposition is the notion that America, and not its foes, is the focus of evil in The editor's name was the world. Norman Podhoretz, and his If this sounds familiar, it decision to change the politi- should. Listen to the voice of cal orientation of the monthly manyofthe anti-war demon- published by the American strators and "enlightened" Jewish Committee is still be- opinion coming from abroad, ing felt in the Jewish commu- and it isn't hard to evoke the nity, as well as in the hails of memories of the Vietnam era power in Washington, D.C. It and its protests, was to be one of the most Breaking ranks momentous switches in While many people ofa cer- American Jewish intellectual tain age look back to those history, as well as that of protestswith nostalgia, for the American political discourse. editor of Commentary maya- Podhoretz through his zine, the flood tide of an anti- magazine would become god- Americanmindsetcausedhim father to a new movement of to break ranks with fellow lib- political thought: erals, neoconservatism. Based in a By Joseph Aaron Chicago Jewish News CHICAGO--Echoes. That's what I've been hear- ing a lot of. Echoes. Echoes of another time. A time that I never really Understood until this time. A time that has helped me Understand this time. I am the son of Holocaust survivors. My dad was in a Nazi concentration camp, my morn m Soviet labor camp. ve spent my whole life try- ing superpower China, along with Canada and Mexico and so many other countries sim- ply turn away from the threat that Saddam is, is to see hu- man nature at its very worst, to understand how the Holo- caust happened, to see that Hitler had a keen insight into how countries behave and how people can be. Hitler did not one day start killing the Jews. There was step after step after step lead- ing up to it. And at each step, people, countries found tea- -r Ing to understand that. How son to rationalize it away, find tW young, innocentJews,who reason to avoid doing any- ever bothered anyone, never thing, giving a damn. rmed or threatened anyone, Even after he took over Aus- COuld have been subjected to tria and part of Czechoslova- the hell they were. Alongwith kia, people found reason not millions ariel m]ilions of other to worry, not to act, to try to Jews. Not all of them young, work things out. To figure out nut all of them innocent, how to paper over, live with, I frankly have had less accommodate a madman ter- r ble understanding how rorizing his own people and me Germans and the Poles otherpeoplesandhelpingoth- and the rest who ran those ers to do the same. Chamber- murdered those Jews, lain flying to Berlin to make dm.w.hat they did. Anti- nice. The United States stay- mltlsm has a long and cruel ing neutral. lstory, especially in Europe, Echoes. You can see why specially amongCatholics, what happened then hap- And so those who perse- pened, by what is happening cured Jews, I understand. It is now. those who abandoned Jews Saddam Hussein may not that I do not. be Hitler but then again this is hi have never understood ow the world could watch do nothing. How the world COuld see the systematic and .ass persecution and exter- mation of Jews in several Countries over s veral years and do absolutely nothing about it Not drop one bomb to l.ow even for one day the trains rolling into Auschwitz. . L I have never understooa the world could go about business, could live its lives doing anything, any- ,mg, to help, to save, to res- cue the Jews. a, I understand. Echoes. at has fascinated me st about the situation with the echoes. Now p!ease - that I normallyvery hesi- tant to compare anything to H locaust, to compare ! a ne to Hitler. I think the h is such a unique event the annals of human his- ry that it is a desecration of ~ie i~em ory of the six million roll it out for convenient li!!cal purpose or to score "?ucal points. And so, I saywhat I am about say hesitantly and I hope r etully. But I truly feel what h t ening now explains "aPPened then. And that -~gUldin~ " g us now. suln Watch the world, to watch n pUSedly sophisticated c-e and atoned Germany the new corn- not 1933, but rather 2003. Saddam Hussein has used chemical weapons to murder tens of thousands of his own people. He has invaded two of his neighbors, killing millions in the process. He has spent billions of dollars to develop biological, chemical and nuclearweapons. He sees him- self as the rightful leader of the entire Arab world and the Arab world as the rightful leader of the entire world. There is the time to act and then there is the time way past that time. If World War II taught us nothing else, it should have taught us that. Echoes. As a Jew, I feel them especially. It has been amazing to me how many references there have been to Jews and to Israel in virtually every story about the war with Iraq. Over and over, we are mentioned, cited, named. Whether it's because there are some Jews in high- level positions in the Bush administration or because of Israel's expertise in fighting terrorism or because the Pal- estinian-Israeli conflict some- how seems tied to the Iraq situation. Some have even tried to make it seem that it's all about us. A member of the U.S. Con- gress said exactly that. Dis- miss him as an anti-Semite if you want, but what he said reverberated with many. After all, there's Paul Woifowitz and Dov Zackheim and Douglas Feith and Richard Perle at the Pentagon, Jews all, and all among Don Rumsfeld's top advisors. To say Jews are the cause of this war seems so absurd as to be easily dismissable. But yet it's not. Indeed, Secretary of State Colin Powell, testifying before Congress, felt he had to address the issue. Echoes. My body literally shook when I read the New York Times and saw the head- line, "Jews aren't instigators, Poweli says." That he-needed to say it, that the New York Times needed to report it, ech- oed too much the Nazis' "The Jews are our misfortune." Ech- oes. Echoes can be good. The trauma of the Holocaust led Jews to see to it that, just three years later, there would be the rebirth of the State of Israel. An amazing accomplish- ment, all the more amazing in hindsight. In 1945, we were a decimated people, had just lost six million of our men, women and children, had our entire European infrastructure de- stroyed, were abandoned, trau- matized. And yet how did we react, what did we do with all that? Set our selves the task of giv- ing.birth to the Jewish state. Emerging from darkness to light, from destruction to new life. We took our trauma and used it to do good; I see the war with Iraq in the same way. Sept. 11 was a trauma for this country just as the Holocaust was for Jews. Men, women and children, completely innocent, threat- ening no one, harming no one, were murdered just for being who they were. In the Holo- caust, it was Jews; on Sept. 11, it was Americans. Sept. 11 is a trauma still very fresh for this country, one that effects each of us in so many ways, most of which we aren't even aware of. And how are we reacting to that trauma, what are we doing with it? Seeing to it it doesn't happen again to anyone, anywhere. Never again. Echoes. The war with Iraq is about taking darkness and turning it into light, taking destruction and bringing forth new life. We are taking what happened on Sept. 11 and saying no one, no country, no people should be faced in one year or five years or ten yearswith Saddam Hussein and his nuclear weap- ons. That all countries, all people, including the people of Iraq, should live in free- dom, live free from fear. See "Aaron" on page 19 bedrock belief that opposition to communism was the first duty of the intellectual, neoconservatives represented American Jews who under- stood that liberalism had lost touch with this essential truth. It was no coincidence that the rise of neoconservatism coincided with the increasing attacks upon the State of Is- rael. In the aftermath of the Yore Kippur War, it became apparent that the leftwas aban- doning Israel just as it had abandoned the anti-commu- nist cause that it had once led. The realization that anti- Semitism and anti-Zionism were now more at home on the left than on the right was also a powerful force in mold- ing the neoconservatives. Thus a serious study of the influence of the magazine is particularly timely. Filling that void was a conference on "Commentary, the American Jewish Community and American Culture," held in New York last week, that was co-sponsored by the Myer and Rosaline Feinstein Center for American Jewish History of Temple University and the City University of New York's Graduate Center. Commentary was more than a place where leading Jewish literary lights found a home. It was, for more than one generation of American Jewish students and writers, a sort of correspondence gradu- ate school where they were introduced to an exciting world of thoughtful political analysis, history, literary, mu- sic and art criticism, and new fiction. Commentary was founded in 1945 under the leadership of Podhoretz's predecessor Elliot Cohen as a liberal anti- Communist journal. In the 1960s, Podhoretz and Com- mentary had drifted to the left. But under his leadership, Commentary, and the grow- ing coterie of intellectual voices such as writer Irving Kristol, soon began the long march to the right in defense of the freedoms that their fel- low liberals had forsaken. Founding a movement This was a difficult transi- tion for a group that had grown up speaking the language of the left. But, by the time Podhoretz and Commentary found themselves backing Ronald Reagan, something had changed. They were no longer dissident liberals, but rather a new and important branch of American conserva- tism. The ideas that percolated in its pages found expression in some of the Reagan administration's foreign and domestic policies. Just as the founding of William F. Buckley's National Review helped jump-start American conservatism in the 1950s, so too can Commentary lay claim to the transformation of that same movement decades later. As Podhoretz has himself written following his retire- ment, the term neoconservative is itself now an anachronism. Those who are now labeled neocons are actually either former liberals who are today conservatives of long standing or young con- servatives who were never lib- erals. Commentary and Podhoretz have their critics.Far-right paleoconservatives such as Pat Buchanan lament the fact that the neoconservatives have eclipsed their influence In- deed, for these paleos, neoconservative is virtually synonymous with "Jew," and their opposition to neo-con policies is more a function of anti-Semitism than anything else. P odhoretz and Commentary won the intellectual arguments of the 1970s and 1980s. But the magazine's voice, today raised against the terrorist threat of Islamist fascism, is needed more than ever. Fortunately, that message is heard not only in Commentary, but in publi- cations such as The Weekly Standard (led by Irving Kristol's son William), and in the thinkingofprominent Bush administration figures such as Elliot Abrams (Podhoretz's son-in-law) and others. The proof of the enduring importance of this slim monthly whose pages boast no pictures cannot be measured solely in the resumes of its writ- ers but in the power of its ideas. Those ideas, rooted in a rejec- tion of anti-American leftism, have found expression in the rhetoric of the current Bush administration, and helped to revive the spirit of a principled foreign policy implacably op- posed to totalitarians. In the past, Commentary rallied intellectuals and gen- eral readers to the defense of American democratic values. Today, the growing chorus of vituperative anti-American critics should remind us that this fight is not over. Such ideas matter. Whether they fully understand it or not, all those who speak up for these principles are the children of Commentary. Jonathan S. Tobin is execu- tive editor of the Jewish Expo- nent in Philadelphia. He can be reached via e-mail at Rabbinical Thoughts Arab and Jew before the lntifada By Rabbi R. J. Adler more urgent item was placed on the agenda. Both individuals and orga- David Shipler in his book, nizations have attempted to Arab and Jew, wisely hold that foster better relations between two people will not be able to Jews and Arabs prior to the have peace until they look in lastlntidada'Jewsrealizedthat each other's eyes. I agree. we would pass each other on There are so many differences the street but seldom talked to between us and so little trust each other and Arabs were that there are only two ways wonderingwhenwillwegetto open, a wall of separation or a know the Jews among whom hand of friendship. Both re- we are living, quire time and patience, wis- The truth has been that we dom and skill, a good heart know little about each other's and faith in God. Moreover, it culture, religion, language, takes both sides to accept and customs, levels of education, work on peace for a long time let alone life's goals and am- to come. What makes our task bitions or what makes us even more difficult is the hct happy or sad. I am including that we have old and new an- here only the one million Is- tagonism, real and imagined, raeli Arab citizens who live serious, hurtful; and funda- in close proximity and are mental. Let me mention a few the least hostile. There has problems which have caused been a real effort by the Jew- misunderstandingsinthe past. ish community to assist the 1.Whoselandisit?TheBible two different peoples to learn as Jewish history and Arab- to exist together in peace and Moslem reality? to be open to Arab criticism 2. Zionism and Jewish na- and grievances. In my opin- tionalism versus Arab-Pales- ion so little progress has been tinian Nationalism. made because of the previ- 3. The Refugee camps as ous wars, hostilities, refu- breeding grounds for Pales- gees, Arab nations round tinianterrorism. about, lack of capable leader- 4. Religious absolutism of ship on both sides, and be- both Arab and Jews, extrem- cause each time we got ready ism on both sides. for this ble task another 5. and misunderstanding; Arabs do not known Judaism and Jews know very little about the Koran. 6. Most images and stereo- types Jews and Arabs have of each other are negative. 7. Few Arabs know about the Holocaust except that it created the State oflsrael, they are not responsible and there- fore should not pay the price, they claim. 8. Rabbi Hartman, speak- ing to a Jewish group in Jerusa- lem, was asked, Why do you not speak to Arab groups? They do not invite me; there is no dialogue. People of good will on both sides and throughout the world, have put forth the ef- fort to create an atmosphere of friendship a mongArabs and Jews and they will continue to write novels, textbooks, offer summer camps, seminars, and other means to train teachers and leaders to improve the present situation. I am cau- tiously optimistic that even- tually the tide will turn in our favor. There is an Arab custom to serve guests two cups of strong Coffee, one very bitter and the second one very sweet; we taste it but we do not have to finish it. Hospitality goes all the way back to our common ances- tor, Abraham of the Bible, who united people and wanted them to get along. There is also a custom that before you leave you must invite your host to your home to continue the friendship. That, no doubt, would improve Arab-Jewish relationship also.