The support for Nazi war criminals repeatedly voiced by Patrick J. Buchanan (examples of which were offered in this space last week) is but one harsh note in the syndicated columnist’s ongoing primal scream against Jews and Israel.
Buchanan, who in his autobiography describes being brought up in a milieu of pre-Vatican II Roman Catholicism by a father whose “sympathies had been with the isolationists, with Charles Lindbergh and the America First Committee,” seems always to be spoiling for a religious war, particularly when he feels that his church has been slighted or trumped by Jews or Jewish interests.
His deep-seated resentments are perhaps best summed-up in his complaint about what he calls “the caustic, cutting cracks about my church and my popes from both Israel and its amen corner in the United States.”
The controversy that erupted in the late 1980’s over the desire of some Carmelite nuns to erect a permanent convent at Auschwitz was made to order for Buchanan. Upset with conciliatory statements made by Cardinal John O’Connor and other church leaders, he sneered:
“If U.S. Jewry takes the clucking appeasement of the Catholic cardinalate as indicative of our submission, it is mistaken. When Cardinal O’Connor of New York … declares this “is not a fight between Catholics and Jews,” he speaks for himself. Be not afraid, Your Eminence; just step aside, there are bishops and priests ready to assume the role of defender of the faith.”
In 1988, angered that The New York Times had published only a tepid critique of The Last Temptation of Christ, a movie deemed blasphemous by many Christians, Buchanan lamented “a ‘newspaper of record’ that can sniff out anti-Semitism in some guy turning down a kosher hot dog at the ballpark.”
Although he likes to say that he was, at some point in the past, an “uncritical apologist for Israel,” Buchanan was already on record as early as the mid-1970’s imploring Congress not to listen “to the counsel of the Jewish lobby” and criticizing legislation designed to counter the Arab boycott of Israel.
In 1979 Buchanan insisted that Americans were asking themselves “how long taxpayers must subsidize Israel with annual billions….[and] why the United States is siding with three million Israelis – instead of 100 million Arabs who have oil.”
In 1982, Buchanan referred to the mass killing of Palestinians by Lebanese Christians in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps as the “Rosh Hashanah massacre,” and opined that “the Israeli army is looking toward a blackening of its name to rival what happened to the French
army in the Dreyfus Affair.”
And so Buchanan already had something of a history when, shortly before the 1991 Gulf War, he declared that “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.”
Also during that period, he described the U.S. Congress as “Israeli-occupied territory,” and conspicuously neglected to include a representative Jewish name on his list of Americans who would have to do the fighting and, by extension, the dying, in the Gulf – “Kids with names
like McAllister, Murphy, Gonzales, and Leroy Brown.”
As the international affairs scholar Joshua Muravchik, addressing the question of whether Buchanan can fairly be considered an anti-Semite, wrote some years ago: Buchanan “is hostile to Israel … embraces the PLO despite being at adamant odds with its political philosophy …
implies that Jews are trying to drag America into war for the sake of Israel … sprinkles his columns with taunting remarks about things Jewish … rallies to the defense of Nazi war criminals, not only those who protest their innocence but also those who confess their guilt … [and] implies that the generally accepted interpretation of the Holocaust might be a serious exaggeration.”
When confronted with a man who does all these things, suggested Muravchik, a fair conclusion would be that his actions are indeed consistent with the succinct definition of anti-Semitism – “an embedded hatred of Jewish people, manifest in writing and conduct” – offered, in a 1990 column, by Pat Buchanan himself.
Jason Maoz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org