- The Washington Times - Friday, June 1, 2001

The obituary for anti-Semitism as an institution in America was written in November of the year 2000. It died somewhere along the way between the voting booths and the television miscounts. A Jew received more votes than his opponent in the presidential election and all during the campaign not a peep of anti-Semitic murmurings were heard. Even the KKK acted like their sheets had not yet come back from the laundry. People complained that Joe Lieberman was too pious, talked too slow, needed a haircut, or his face was too wrinkled, but nobody complained about his religion, although he mentioned it enough times to cause people to want to take back their circumcisions. They even liked the fact that he was smart enough not to resign from the Senate, making him the only one of his bunch left with a paying job after the last vote was counted, stolen or "de-chadded."
There was a time in the not too distant past that you could not get a hotel room in certain parts of the country if you were Jewish. If a Jew were lucky enough to get a room in a decent hotel, it probably had a sink with running water in it, and he had to like white tile walls and not mind if men came in every few minutes to relieve themselves. The only way a Jew could check into a hotel was if he owned it, and even then if he was a fancy Jew he would only let other Jews check in whose wives were named Tiffany.
Jews bore the brunt of blood libel the belief that they killed Christ. But notwithstanding their innocence, until very recently they suffered for centuries, mistreated by a Gentile world that believed Jews murdered their Lord. It did not matter that Christ himself was a Jew until the day he died, that St. Paul also was a Jew until the day he died and preached respect for Israels religion, or that Christianity itself did not emerge as a religion until more than a century after Pauls death.
If one person, more than any other could be credited with being responsible for this remarkable recent reversal of bigoted thinking, it is Pope John Paul II. He was the first pope to visit a synagogue although he had been wearing a yarmulka (skull cap) for years. The pope also helped Jews economically. Immediately after the popes visit, Jewish garment manufacturers all over the world started making and selling white designer yarmulkas.
The pope established diplomatic relations with Israel, visited the Holocaust memorial in Jerusalem and apologized for the churchs sins against Jews throughout history. The only thing he didnt do was to get Bar Mitzvahed. And yet there are now rumbles of concern in some Jewish quarters about the popes sincerity on the subject of anti-Semitism.
Both Hillary Clinton and the pope were mugged on the road to Damascus, but Hillary Clinton acted like a duplicitous politician and she was elected senator, while the pope acted like a pope, and he was criticized.
In 1999 Hillary Clinton shared a stage with Yasser Arafats wife, listened to her spew nonsense about the Israelis killing Palestinian children with poison gas, and then gave her a kiss. Mrs. Clinton later realized that locking lips with Mrs. Arafat was not going to go over too well back in New York where she was running for the Senate. After thinking it over for a couple of hours, and speaking with her advisers, she decided she would criticize Mrs. Arafats remarks, undoubtedly on the theory that more Jews than Palestinians would vote in the coming election.
Recently the pope made a visit to Damascus to repair wounds going back to 1204 when Constantinople, then the seat of the Orthodox Byzantine Empire, was sacked by Roman Catholic crusaders. In his welcoming remarks to the pope, Syrias new president, Bashar al-Assad, used this as an opportunity for a venomous anti-Semitic tirade, including the old lie of blood libel. The pope in turn, ignored Mr. Assads remarks and instead spoke in general terms of the need for peace in the Middle East and accommodation among the worlds religions. In short, the pope again acted like a pope, and the anti-Semite acted like an anti-Semite. Suddenly, Jews all over the world were ready to give back their white yarmulkas and say, "I told you so." The sense of things with certain Jews was that the pope should have immediately put Mr. Assad down, and because he did not do so, his silence indicated his, and the Catholic Churchs agreement with the remarks.
The pope had no such obligation. He has stated his feelings on the subject many times and reaffirmed them by his actions.
The pope is 81 years old and in obviously frail health. He is not running for public office, nor does he need to be on the "Larry King Show," not to mention "Jay Leno" or "Oprah." The pope, by word and deed, has done more to eradicate anti-Semitism than perhaps any other single individual in our time. Our advice to fellow Jews: Chill out.

Jackie Mason is a comedian and Raoul Felder is an attorney.


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