Jerry Gordon and Laurie Gross [Connecticut Post, Letters, April 7] accuse me of being a "vicious anti-Semite" and endeavor to prove this through an egregious misrepresentation of statements I made at a recent teach-in on the war against Iraq at Fairfield University I never said that "the Jews" are responsible for the present war in Iraq." I never "alluded" to "The Protocols of the Elders of Zion" (this red herring was mentioned by a colleague in the question-and answer period who said that I was speaking as if the myth of an international Jewish conspiracy were true).
I did argue that pro-Israeli sentiment had been one of the factors pushing the United States toward war and that such sentiment had been mediated through the following elements: strong support for the war by the Israeli government, by influential Zionist lobbies such as AIPAC, by the neoconservative allies of these lobbys within the administration, including Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, Douglas Feith and John Bolton, who view Israeli and American hegemony as synonymous, and by a fervently Republican and pro-Israeli Christian right.
To be sure, and as I also pointed out, American Jews have been divided about the war and prominent Jewish intellectuals such as Rabbi Michael Lerner have been outspoken in their opposition. Moreover, some polls have indicated that Jews as a whole have been less supportive than Americans as a whole. Nevertheless, opposition among Jews of diverse political orientations does not mean that the pro-Israeli/pro-war elements have not played an important role. Many sources could be cited in support of my views and 1 cited some of them at the teach-in. There is, for example, the March 14 editorial of The Forward, the venerable New York weekly specializing in Jewish affairs, which pointed out that "Israel's anti-Iraq faction is ascendant, "that the "most audible voices" of the "top leaders and donors" of major American Jewish organizations are "pro-war," that "they're making themselves heard - on op ed pages, in phone calls to lawmakers and across the Internet," and that "the views of the [organized Jewish] community carries some weight in this country"
As I pointed out above, the pro-Israeli sentiment has been only one factor pushing the United States toward war. I dealt with seven other factors, during the teach-in and gave most emphasis to the United States' desire to control Iraqi oil and to exploit this control in inter imperial rivalries.
I will end with a reference to my alleged rudeness to a member of the audience who, Gordon and Ms. Gross say, merely asked me a "few questions" about my background. After the panel ended, I was approached by a man (Mr. Gordon?) who did not identify himself and who asked me in rapid succession if 1 were Lebanese or Syrian, if I were a Christian, if I were a Maronite, if I knew what MESA (the Middle East Studies Association) was and if I were a member.
When I asked why he was asking such questions, which amounted to a kind of vigilante harassment, he answered, "You have an agenda."
I became angry and answered that I didn't give a s- if he wished to report me to Daniel Pipes. Pipes set up a Website last year to monitor academics o who were not sufficiently hostile to the religious and political cultures of Arabs and Muslims, an exercise in McCarthyism for which he has earned the condemnation of scores of scholars both within and outside of Middle Eastern studies. I am not surprised that Gordon and Gross refer to Pipes as "a leading Middle East commentator. "They, too, seem desperate to squelch the expression of views that they dislike and they have stooped to calumny in pursuit of their goal.
Ralph M. Coury
Professor of History