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Rebuilding Iraq

Peace activists express concern about anti-semites in movement

Gulf conflict's emphasis on aircraft brings war home to New Englanders

By Ross Gelbspan, Globe Staff, 01/22/1991

s the national peace movement gains increasing visibility, growing numbers of political organizers around the country are expressing concern about the presence of anti-Semitic groups in the movement.

Some movement activists say several of those groups, including the Lyndon LaRouche organization, Dr. Louis Farrakhan's Nation of Islam and the Liberty Lobby, have been promoting anti-Semitic theories that attribute the gulf war to Jewish conspiracies. A recent local example of the attraction of extremist "hate" leaders to the movement involves Josef Mlot-Mroz of Salem, a perennial anti-Jewish crusader. Mlot-Mroz has been visible at recent protest rallies at City Hall Plaza, according to Philip Bloom, director of the Boston Synagogue in Charles River Park. Mlot-Mroz has been denounced by Boston Jewish and Roman Catholic Archdiocesan officials as anti-Semitic for his assertion that Jews created communism to wipe out Christianity and an alleged statement that Jews must be destroyed "like cockroaches."

A number of organizations on the far right have come to adopt some positions that resemble those of left-wing and liberal groups. But in most cases, the motivations of the two types of organizations are said to be very different.

"While most progressives oppose the war because of a desire for peace and social justice, the antiwar posture of many groups on the far right stems from their attraction to isolationism following the collapse of the communist system," said Roger Hurwitz, a national officer of New Jewish Agenda.

"But when that isolationism became thwarted by America's involvement in the gulf, they blamed Israel for it. In short order, the blame for Israel evoked all kinds of anti-Semitism, which has traditionally marked extremist right-wing political groups," he added.

The issue is complicated by the fact that many people of left-wing and liberal persuasion, including some who are Jewish, have long opposed Israeli government policies. Many war protesters have charged the Israeli government with obstructing Middle East peace initiatives and implementing racist policies toward Palestinians.

But those protesters have drawn a line between criticism of the Israeli government and anti-Semitism.

"Many people in the antiwar movement, Jews included, certainly have the right to criticize Israel," said Leonard Zakim, director of the Boston office of the Anti-Defamation League. "But others who have joined the movement are motivated by traditional anti-Jewish attitudes, such as the Liberty Lobby, the most prolific anti-Semitic organization in the country; the Nation of Islam, whose leaders have attacked Judaism as a religion; and LaRouche, who was found in court to be anti-Semitic and who questions the reality of the Holocaust.

"The people in the peace movement should be united by their goal of seeking peace. But in welcoming groups like these, they are opening themselves up to exploitation by the haters and are risking the corruption of the movement."

The issue is causing deep divisions within the peace movement and playing havoc with traditional antiwar organizers who, on the one hand, want to exclude racist groups from their coalitions but, on the other hand, take pride in the peace movement's tradition of openness and inclusion.

Discussing a recent alliance between followers of LaRouche and Farrakhan, one organizer in the Midwest said: "Those groups have in common an attempt to further anti-Semitism. They represent an extremist element that wants the liquidation of the state of Israel." The organizer, like several others interviewed for this article, asked not to be named for fear of being seen as publicly undermining the peace movement.

A major problem, the organizer added, is that young people who are just coming into the peace movement do not understand the agendas of groups like LaRouche's. "They see they are against the US war in the gulf, and that's all they understand. Along the way, they are being fed some heavy anti-Semitic material."

Chip Berlet, who monitors extremist groups for the Cambridge-based Political Research Associates, noted that several right-wing antiwar groups blame the gulf war on the kind of "traditional Jewish conspiracy theories -- Jewish bankers, media lords and the like" -- that have long been the hallmark of anti-Jewish prejudice.

Last month, Berlet circulated a memo to 100 peace groups warning them of the attempted infiltration of the movement.

Some of Berlet's examples:

- In last month's issue of the LaRouche newspaper, one writer referred to the Jewish "Warburg and Rothschild families, the most important international bankers . . . who financed Hitler and are financing Russia, the environmentalist movement and everything else that will bring on a totalitarian government."

An editor of the LaRouche paper wrote of an alleged conspiracy between Jewish financiers and members of the British royal family.

- Last week's issue of Spotlight, the journal of Liberty Lobby, asserted that "thousands of volunteers are flooding into" Iraq to fight the United States and Israel. The paper glowingly compared the phenomenon to the "building of Waffen SS legions in Europe during World War II."

- Last month, at an antiwar conference in Chicago held by the LaRouche organization, a featured speaker was the editor of Final Call, the newspaper of the Nation of Islam whose leader, Farrakhan, has been condemned for anti- Semitic comments, including his reference to Judaism as a "dirty" religion. The same conference featured an address by the Iraqi cultural affairs attache.

Many activists question the judgment of Ramsey Clark, former US attorney general, who heads the Coalition to Stop US Intervention in the Middle East. The coalition, which sponsored a rally in Washington Saturday, has not condemned Saddam Hussein's invasion of Kuwait and has opposed economic sanctions against Iraq.

A second major peace group, The National Campaign for Peace in the Middle East, which is headed by veteran organizer Leslie Cagan, includes more traditional progressive antiwar groups, many that can be traced to the days of the Vietnam War. The campaign, in contrast to Clark's coalition, has condemned the Iraqi invasion and has not taken a position on economic sanctions. The campaign's Washington rally is scheduled for next Saturday.

According to a number of organizers, several right-wing groups became associated with Clark's coalition through their alliances with the LaRouche group. Clark is representing LaRouche in an appeal from his recent conviction for loan fraud.

Clark could not be reached on Friday. A spokesman for the national LaRouche group did not return a phone call.

But a spokesman for Clark's coalition, Paul Wilcox, said the LaRouche group has no formal relationship to the coalition. He added, however, that the coalition "is open to any and all people who want to be active against the war. We don't exclude anyone."

Clark was quoted recently as saying he felt the US government had "demonized" both Saddam Hussein and LaRouche.

Berlet, Zakim and others have called on Clark to disassociate himself from LaRouche and other extremist groups.

"Ramsey Clark is supposed to be a man of great principle. No one has accused him of anti-Semitism. But to willingly be a vehicle for the racist views of his clients, under the guise of seeking peace, is one of the worst examples of irresponsible advocacy," Zakim said last week.

"One of most frustrating aspects of some antiwar groups is their failure to comment on Saddam Hussein's grotesque human rights violations. The man murdered 50,000 Iranians with chemical warfare, and gassed to death another 500 Kurds in his own country," Zakim said. "Why are some activists crying only for the forces of Saddam Hussein?"

Jon Hillson, a coordinator of a Cleveland peace group, said in a recent interview: "The LaRouche people are a big problem. They are anti-Semitic, home-grown facists. They use traditional epithets, like Zionist bankers, media overlords, to deride Jews."

Another organizer, noting that the appearance of right-wing organizations in the peace movement is confounding many mainstream activists, said: "The big challenge with groups like LaRouche is how to handle them without polarizing the peace movement. That discussion has already begun among a number of groups."

Lois Levine, a St. Louis peace activist, said, "I tell people that it is legitimate to criticize Israeli policy, just as we can criticize the policy of any government. But when people talk of Israel as intrinsically evil or illegitimate, that is anti-Semitic."

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