Western responds to "anti-Semitic" comments
On Wednesday, Mar. 19, The Gazette published a letter by second-year political science student Michael Mills which discussed comments made by United States Rep. Jim Moran concerning the American-Jewish population and its influence on the war against Iraq. His letter solicited numerous critical responses from within the Western community. Here are some of the responses; unfortunately, all could not be printed.
To the Editor:
With Holocaust Remembrance Day just around the corner, it is horrifying that our own student paper would print a letter that blatantly supports anti-Semitic propaganda.
Conspiracy theories about Israel and Jews backing the United States war against Iraq are frighteningly reminiscent of the Nazi propaganda spread more than 50 years ago. It is ludicrous that the leaders of the Jewish community, a tiny minority of a mere 14 million in a world of over seven billion, could somehow control the foreign policy of the U.S..
What is even more ludicrous is that Israel, a tiny county outnumbered and surrounded by hostile neighbours, within missile striking distance of Iraq, would have in its agenda a push for war. Right now, Israelis are being ordered to open their gas mask kits and keep them with them at all times. They face the reality that, at any moment, missiles may rain down on them, like they did in the 1991 Gulf war when 37 Iraqi scuds were fired at Israel.
It is true that Israel is a strong ally of the United States. It is also true that Israel deems Saddam Hussein its enemy, considering he gives money to the families of terrorists, suppresses his own people and poses a threat to the safety of the world. But this is also true of Canada, the United Nations and any democratic free country.
Criticism of Israel is not the problem; criticism is not anti-Semitism. What is anti-Semitism is using Israel and Jews as the scapegoat for a war they have not chosen and do not want. After 2,000 years of persecution, blame and hatred, it is saddening to find that little has changed and that our own Gazette would print such filth and spread such lies.
To the Editor:
One of the ideas within Mills' argument is that there is a distinction between Jews as a people, and the state of Israel. I commend him for this. However, if he believes this himself. why does he so quickly relate Rep. Jim Moran's comments on the American-Jewish population to the policies of Israel?
If he were consistent within his argument he would realize that Jews are also American, Canadian, Australian, French, German, Russian or even Albanian. Being Jewish does not necessarily mean you support the Prime Minister of Israel, Ariel Sharon. Thus, the idea of singling out the Jewish community in the U.S. as one of the driving forces behind this war is ridiculous. This insanity is underlined by the fact that Saddam Hussein made the same parallel in a speech on Mar. 20. There's credibility for you.
Mills' also readily points out that Israel is the only country (other than the U.S.) with a population that supports the war in majority. Maybe the reason for this is that the citizens of these two countries alone know the effects of terrorism first hand.
To the Editor:
The comments made by Rep. Jim Moran were anti-Semitic, plain and simple. "If it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be doing this." Little interpretation is necessary to understand his statement: there would be no war without Jewish-American influence. Laying blame on one group of people, who are discernible only by their religion, for the decisions made by an entire nation, however indirectly, is discriminatory and unjustifiable.
There is little to dispute the fact that Jim Moran's comments were inappropriate; he deserved criticism. The American-Jewish population is not to blame for the war on Iraq, nor should they be made the scapegoat.
Furthermore, publicizing these opinions accomplishes very little other than to feed a groundless "Jewish Conspiracy" theory. It is theories like these that sway public opinion and threaten the comfort of those that are accused, including Jews here at Western.
Of more concern, the author [of the letter, Michael Mills] justified Rep. Moran's accusations against American Jews by exemplifying Israel's admitted pro-war policy. There is no correlation: American Jews are not Israelis. American Jews have as much political influence in Israel as American Muslims may have in Qatar.
Israel may share the same view as many of its neighbours. If I lived in a neighbourhood where my neighbours launched scud missiles at me in 1991, I too would want to see them "removed." Kuwait is pro-war; Kuwaiti-Americans cannot be justly accused as the reason behind United States President George Bush's war.
I agree, Mr. Mills, criticism is not anti-Semitism. You might have alluded to a good point: criticism of the Israeli government is not anti-Semitism. However, accusing a minority of a wrong for which they are not responsible is discriminatory and, in this case, anti-Semitic.
Biochemical Engineering II
To the Editor:
I am deeply troubled that on a campus that strives to promote equality and eliminate stereotypes, we find our very own student newspaper doing just the opposite.
I refer to [a letter] written by Michael Mills in which Mills proliferates a notion uttered by United States Democratic Representative Jim Moran. Moran claims that if it were not for the strong support of the Jewish community for this war with Iraq, we would not be [going to war]. Moran was asked to resign for a good reason his words were in fact anti-Semitic and if it's not clear to you yet, read on.
Mr. Mills, I don't tolerate ignorance, so I'll be frank about your valid and honest beliefs: A JEW IS NOT THE SAME AS AN ISRAELI. You must understand this point if you want to even enter the debate. Moreover, many Israelis are pro-war because Saddam Hussein poses an incontrovertible threat to their security. American Jews who do not face a direct threat have a much wider range of opinion on the subject. Perhaps you should consider poll data that shows that while 62 per cent of Americans favour war, only 52 per cent of American Jews are pro-war. You should also consider that American Jews account for only one per cent of the U.S. population. You tell me if the 0.5 per cent of America's population who happen to be pro-war Jews can realistically influence the largest superpower in the world.
Back in the 19th century, a Russian Czarist forgery called The Protocols of the Elders of Zion was published, claiming that Jews had a conspiracy to take over the world. Perhaps one of the worst cases of anti-Semitic rhetoric of modern time, it resulted in vicious pogroms against European Jews. Mr. Mills, can you please tell me how your Jewish conspiracy theory is any different?
Your article is nothing more than cunning anti-Jewish propaganda. I hope you learn that just as American Muslims did not conspire against the U.S. on 9/11, American Jewry today are not conspiring to force the U.S. to invade Iraq.
Jewish Students Union President
To the Editor:
In his Mar. 19 letter to the editor, Michael Mills rehashes the familiar complaint that criticism of Israeli policy is unfairly considered anti-Semitic after quoting statements from an American politician criticizing American Jewish leaders. Mills reaches an odd conclusion considering that the American politician did not mention Israel at all in his remarks.
By reaching such a conclusion, Mr. Mills is stereotyping Jews (I am not calling him anti-Semitic) by conflating the motives of American Jews and Israelis. He seems to believe that world Jewry is a collective which has but one opinion and speaks with one voice, including on the issue of war with Iraq, whether they be American, Israeli or any other nationality.
This is, of course, a stereotype that has followed Jews for centuries, but is far from the truth, especially now that the vast majority of the world's Jews live as equal citizens in western democracies. It must be remembered that American Jews are not just Jews, but Americans. I would argue that they are also the most assimilated minority group in America.
Mr. Mills should consider that some of Israel's harshest critics are American Jews (a certain Noam comes to mind). In regards to Iraq, American Jews would have as diverse an opinion on the subject as any other group, with some being adamantly in favour of it and some leading protests against it.
President George Bush and his inner circle have been looking to attack Iraq at least since Sept. 11 and possibly even before that. To claim that Jewish leaders could "change the direction of where this is going" is absurd, especially given that slightly over half of Americans currently approve of the war.
Perhaps Mr. Mills is correct that the comments of the politician were not really that "offensive." Personally, I was not "shocked" by them at all, as it has become increasingly clear that there are a number of people who seem to believe that all of the world's Jews are involved in some sort of soft conspiracy to do whatever is necessary to advance Jewish and Israeli interests.
I would say simply that the politician's comments were untrue.