- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 11, 2001

Anti-Semitism is erupting in Romania, for the first time since the fall of communism.

On Feb. 22, the prestigious German newspaper Sueddeutsche Zeitung devoted a long feature story to the ugly business, and 20 days earlier, the Anti-Defamation League, B'nai B'rith International and The American Jewish Committee asked the new Romanian president, Ion Iliescu, to stop rehabilitating Nazi-era leaders.

It was an unusually tough letter: Statues as well as plaques and street-namings in honor (of the infamous anti-Semite Marshal Ion Antonescu), represent official homage to one of the darkest periods in Romania's past. Permit us to add that it would be wholly inconsistent with Romania's chairmanship of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) for it to be the only country in Europe to honor the memory of a World War II fascist leader.

The new anti-Semites are none other than the old communists, once again in the majority in Parliament, and who are using rabid nationalism and vicious anti-Semitism to distract attention from their own past and from the ongoing social and political crisis of the country. To be sure, there is nothing new about communists embracing nationalism, and anti-Semitism was cynically used by Nicolae Ceausescu, as by so many other dictators before him.

These old traditions have been reinforced by the suffering of the people: Since 1990, the Romanians have tried to cope with state-controlled capitalism run by old communist bureaucrats, and now they fear a Western-style market economy would make their lives even more miserable. The nationalists are perceived as the last barrier against the rapacity of the new capitalists and Romania's economically expanding neighbours.

One of the communist parliamentarians who rechristened themselves as nationalists is Tudor Corneliu Vadim, once a court poet to the Ceausescu family. Mr. Vadim leads Romania's most anti-Semitic party, Romania Mare, which in November became the second-largest in the country's Parliament.

The vice-president of the Senate, Gheorghe Buzatu, is another: A former communist historian, he is now flooding the country with writings aimed at reviving the Iron Guard, Romania's wartime fascist party, and at rehabilitating its bloody leaders.

Constantin Florescu, one of the authors of Ceausescu's mini-cultural revolution, has recycled himself as an anti-Semitic and anti-Hungarian activist and is now another leading member of the Parliament.

These old Ceausescu loyalists are working hard to place the country's most important legislative and executive positions in the hands of former officers of the dreaded communist Securitate (the Romanian KGB), and to resurrect their control over society.

Two of these efforts are especially telling. Ristea Priboi, who worked for communist Romania's espionage service when I was at its helm, has become chairman of the committee responsible for supervising the country's foreign intelligence operations.

On Feb. 7, Mr. Priboi solemnly swore he had never been connected with former communist intelligence organizations, but the media revealed that in the 1970s he served as a spy under diplomatic cover in England, and that in the 1980s he was deputy chief of the foreign intelligence department in charge of operations against Radio Free Europe.

If the last revelation is correct, Mr. Priboi must have played a role in the bloody terrorist operations carried out by this department against Radio Free Europe after I defected: the 1981 terrorist attack against its Munich headquarters carried out with help from Carlos the Jackal, in which eight people were wounded; the assassination attempt on Emil Georgescu, one of the station's political editors, who was stabbed 22 times in that attack; and the assassination attempt in Paris against the internationally known dissident writer Paul Goma, which was so vicious that French President Francois Mitterrand postponed an official visit to Bucharest and called the Romanian espionage service a band of murderers.

The appointment of retired Gen. Tudor Tanase to head Romania's electronic monitoring system is another very bad sign. He was also at one time my subordinate in communist Romania's espionage service. According to his just published official biography, after I broke with communism, Gen. Tanase was transferred to the Securitate's electronic monitoring department, where he rose to the position of deputy chief, and he was sent to the reserves in 1987, when Romania's crypto-communist government was ousted from power.

In 1990, I suggested that Romania's post-Ceausescu leaders open the enormous electronic monitoring and mail censorship centers to the public, as they had done with Ceausescu's palaces, and that they transform them into museums of freedom. This was not done, and it seems instead that they are again being used for spying on the general population.

These communists now dressed in chauvinist clothes could make life miserable for Romania's population, but what might happen in that small country could hardly threaten world peace.

On the other hand, Romania occupies a geographically strategic position, and its pre-World War II democratic traditions do provide reason to believe it could be brought back into the Western world.

It will take some doing, both in Washington and Romania. Last December, former President Clinton, who went out of his way to help the Romanian communists return to power, sent them a letter promising full support from the United States. It was a terrible thing to do: Such people should not be supported in any way.

Nevertheless, I truly believe President Bush should help the Romanians see how ugly their government looks to civilized men and women. There is plenty of evidence people can change, if they see the truth.

Under communism, I held governmental positions that were just as high as those held at that same time by President Iliescu, and I did change. The prime minister of Romania, Adrian Nastase, belongs to the same generation as my daughter, who is much more interested in the future than in the past.

President Bush seems to have a magical talent for changing the American people's minds. He should try his hand abroad as well.

Ion Mihai Pacepa, the highest-ranking intelligence officer to defect to the West during the Cold War, was the chief of the Romanian Intelligence Service. He is the author of "Red Horizons."

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