WELL, there goes the B'nai B'rith Man of the Year Award.
Friday last, after a morning drive home from a good night at the speakers forum in Petersburg, Va., last redoubt of Lee's Army, I was handed a copy of a column by A.M. Rosenthal of the New York Times. Bearing the portentous title, "Forgive them not," the column was 700 words of sustained venom, charging me with "anti-Semitism" and a "blood libel" against the Jews.
Abe pinned the scarlet letter on me, the Big "A."
"The man reaches millions," Rosenthal wrote, "Abroad, he gets attention as a possible presidential candidate." But, beware! When these types attain "power, political or intellectual, they make life hell for any non-Jews they dislike -- for color, religion or sexual and political tastes."
For years, Abe said, he has been "silently contemptuous" of me, and, apologized unctuously for "not confronting the ugliness sooner," but, now, he had been compelled to speak out.
Why? Because of the "infamous statement" I had made on "The McLaughlin Report" (sic), to wit: "There are only two groups that are beating the drums for war in the Middle East, the Israeli Defense Ministry and its amen corner in the United States."
Where to begin. Well, first, Abe's column reeks of fakery. The "amen corner" crack is not "infamous," I never even saw it in print. Second, how could it have caused Abe's eruption, when it was made three weeks to the day before Abe exploded?
No, what we have here, friends, is a contract hit, done, my guess, in collusion with the same folks who used to feed me all that good stuff on Jesse Jackson when I was considered more reliable. For, the one character who has been howling about the "amen corner" is Mr. Abe Foxman of the Anti-Defamation League.
Time to get it all out in the open, folks, for, as Al Smith used to say, "nothing un-American can live in the sunlight."
The truth is Israel has been beating the war drums for weeks. Every major newspaper, including Abe's own, reported it. And Rosenthal, whom the liberal Nation calls one of "Israel's personal messengers to the New York Times," has been leading the war cry. And, what I implied was nothing more than what Richard Cohen said flat-out: "The problem . . . with those who argue for a quick military strike is that they seem to be arguing from an Israeli perspective."
It's only the truth that hurts, Abe.
Now, about this charge, anti-Semitism. The word has several meanings. One is an imbedded hatred of Jewish people, manifest in writing and conduct. As such, it is a grave sin, a disease of the heart, a variant of racism. But, were I expressing such views, or doing such things, I wouldn't have lasted 10 minutes in a profession where I have reveled, on and off, for 30 years. The newspapers that carry the Buchanan column don't print hate literature.
Which brings us to a second definition of anti-Semitism. And, that is a word to describe the branding iron wielded by a tiny clique, to burn horribly heretics from their agreed-upon political orthodoxy. It is used to frighten, intimidate, censor, and silence; to cut off debate; to so smear men's reputations that no one will listen to them again; to scar men so indelibly, that no one will ever look at them again without saying, "Say, isn't he an anti-Semite?"
To its credit, American journalism, Jew and Gentile alike, is waking up to this contemptible attempt to stifle debate, especially on the issue of America's relations with Israel. Regrettably, we did not do so, before decent and honorable men, left as well as right, had careers damaged and reputations seared.
Confession time. From June of '67, when I was in Israel with Nixon after the Six Day War, until I went back in the White House in 1985, I was an uncritical apologist of Israel, a Begin man all the way, defending everything from the attack on the Iraqi reactor to the invasion of Lebanon. I thought they were terrific friends.
And, yes, a change has taken place. For many reasons. Among them: The manipulation of the traitor Jonathan Pollard to systematically loot the secrets of the most generous friend Israel will ever have. The gratuitous brutality against Palestinian old men, women, teen-agers and children. The Good Friday land grab at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem. The shipment of cluster bombs to the Stalinist Mengistu regime in Ethiopia. The caustic, cutting cracks about my church and popes from both Israel and its amen corner in the United States. Finally, the hate mail and hate columns, every damn time some new fight breaks out.
Comes now a report that Mossad knew in advance terrorists were building that Mercedes truck bomb used to massacre our Marines in the Beirut barracks -- and they deliberately didn't warn us. It is but one measure of the diminished regard in which Israel's regime is held in this city, that not one person I have spoken to has said he feels Mossad incapable of such an act. And, if that charge, made in a new book by an ex-Mossad agent, is true, and if they did sit back and watch those Marine kids die like that, Congress ought to turn all these rocks over before the Israeli government gets another dime.
The late Arthur Koestler, a Jew, wrote that "one should either write ruthlessly what one believes to be the truth, or shut up."
A good motto, Abe. So, why don't you and Brother Foxman get your scissors and tweezers and paste pot, excise any phrase you want out of the above, and run with it. We're movin' on.
Patrick J. Buchanan is a nationally syndicated columnist.