The Buchanan Controversy

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The attempts by some of the rightist groups who opposed the war to penetrate the progressive antiwar movement came during a period of significant realignment among U.S. right-wing and conservative political groups. In some rightist groups, long hidden racialist theories are being dusted off and recirculated, which has caused further splits. One of the most significant historical divisions on the American political right is between those groups that espouse racialist (race-based) theories--generally anti-Jewish and white supremacist--and those that do not.

The issue of anti-Jewish rhetoric over the Gulf crisis first surfaced in September, 1990 as part of this long simmering feud within the political right in the United States. Reactionary columnist Pat Buchanan fired the first salvo to reach the mainstream media when he declared on the McLaughlin Group roundtable television program that the two groups most favoring war in the Middle East were "the Israeli Defense Ministry and its amen chorus in the United States." New York Times columnist A.M. Rosenthal charged that Buchanan's comments reflected anti-Semitism, to which Buchanan retorted that Rosenthal had made a "contract hit" on him in collusion with the Anti-Defamation League of B'nai B'rith (ADL).

To unravel the background of the dispute takes a political scorecard. Buchanan is allied with reactionary and hard-line rightist forces in the U.S. The more moderate of these hard-right forces sometimes are called paleo-conservatives or "Paleocons" due to their ties to the "Old Right" in the United States. The farthest fringe of this circle is populated by persons who reflect a neo-fascist viewpoint. Buchanan networks across the spectrum of the hard-right, from Paleocon to neo-Fascist. Racism and anti-Jewish bigotry were common themes in some (although not all) Old Right groups.

The Anti-Defamation League is a Jewish human rights group often allied with the "Neocons," the neo-conservative movement in the United States. ADL leaders frequently are ardent and uncritical supporters of hardline Israeli government policies, as are many Neocons. ADL has produced some excellent material on bigotry and prejudice, but its leaders have labeled as anti-Semitic statements which are solely political criticisms of Israel or Zionism. Since there are some high-profile Jews in the intellectual leadership of the neo-conservative movement, some persons have concluded that neo-conservatism is a Jewish ideology. This is as prejudiced an assertion as the claim that communism is a Jewish ideology because of the role played in it by some Jewish intellectuals.

Buchanan's statement in and of itself was not necessarily anti-Jewish, but in the context of Buchanan's long record of insensitivity when writing about Jews, the contention that Buchanan is an anti-Semite is not without foundation. Buchanan has not only defended those who say the Holocaust was a hoax, but implied their views have some merit. Buchanan endorsed the work of the Rockford Institute after other conservatives criticized it for its tolerance of apparently anti-Jewish sentiments. In his January 25, 1990 newsletter, Buchanan penned what was in essence an ode to fascism which celebrated the efficiency of autocracy, and concluded with the line, "If the people are corrupt, the more democracy, the worse the government." The column also echoed historically racialist themes.

Actually, the Neocons for ten years quietly have tolerated more than a little anti-democratic authoritarianism, anti-Jewish bigotry, and racism from their tactical allies on the Paleocon right. Their alliance was based on shared support for militant anti-communism, celebration of unfettered free enterprise, calls for high levels of U.S. spending on the U.S. military, and support for a militarily strong Israel dominated by hard-line ultra-conservative political parties that would stand as a bulwark against communism in the Middle East.

Author Sara Diamond (who covered the Buchanan/Rosenthal feud in Z Magazine) notes "the Buchanan forces explicitly rejected coalition with the left on the issue of opposing intervention in the Gulf."

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