Jews Turn Into Pit Bulls

The suffering for John Roth is over, but the Jewish community will continue to feel the reverberations from the nastiness of the opposition to his selection for a key position at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum for some time to come. It is now evident that certain "leaders" in the Jewish community are determined to make it their life's work to destroy other people. Whether you call it McCarthyism or something else, the reality is distinctions are no longer made between friends and enemies.

Clearly, John Roth wrote some indelicate articles, but I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt given the credentials of the people vouching for him, dozens of noted scholars like Franklin Littell and Michael Berenbaum. I know that I would hate to have someone go through the hundreds of articles that I have written and speeches I have given searching for errors or indiscrete phrasing. It would be extremely upsetting to have my career destroyed because of some ill-chosen words in my past. This episode makes me more sympathetic toward politicians. When you consider how many speeches they give and interviews they grant, is it any wonder that opposition researchers have no trouble finding examples that can make anyone look bad?

Using the standard by which Roth was judged, the bullies in our community would undoubtedly try to have a large number of Israelis expelled from the Knesset for their remarks, particularly in labeling their opponents Nazis. Commentators frequently lament that the increasingly malicious nature of politics discourages good people from public service. The attacks on people serving the Jewish community will undoubtedly have a similar effect.

Obviously sensitive to being labeled McCarthyites, the Jewish attack dogs claim they are only trying to hold people accountable for their remarks. That argument might be credible if the critics were satisfied with explanations and apologies; however, these are never sufficient. The scorched earth approach these people use does not leave room for self-defense. They are satisfied with nothing short of unconditional surrender.

It is also disturbing to see how incapable of distinctions these pit bulls are. Listening to their attacks one would think there is no difference between Yasir Arafat, Thomas Friedman, James Zogby, Martin Indyk and John Roth. We may not like everything that people say or write but we should be able to distinguish between messages and messengers, opinions and ideologies. People sometimes ask how you can tell whether someone who has written something critical of Israel is an anti-Semite. It usually is not very difficult when one looks at their background and overall views. The broad brush used to tar people who disagree with the Jewish McCarthys fails to take this into account.

We see this most frequently in the attacks on the State Department. No one will accuse me of being an apologist for the striped-pants boys, but the critics who accuse the Department's key Jewish advisers — Kurtzer, Miller, Ross and Indyk — of being anti-Israel are just plain misguided.

The Roth case was complicated by the emotions associated with the Holocaust Museum and the desire to insure this hallowed institution's image is as pure as a newborn baby. The Museum will always be a focus of controversy. Issues will arise over what is included and excluded from its collections and how it should address current political events like genocide in Bosnia or Rwanda. The debate over Arafat visiting the Museum may not have been handled well, but it is the type of controversy that will inevitably arise. Neither Roth's writings nor the supposed sanctity of the position he was to hold justified the vicious nature of the attacks leveled against a man with such a distinguished record of scholarship in the field.

Not so long ago critics focused their energies on undermining the credibility of enemies of Israel, but, sadly, this is no longer the case. Now certain so-called Jewish leaders are just as likely to go after our friends. This is a worrisome development that must be addressed before the quality of debate deteriorates any further and more good men and women have their lives and careers ruined.