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False Charges of Racism and Anti-Semitism

Given the strong social taboos attached to anything perceived as racism and anti-Semitism it is no small thing when false charges of this sort are leveled. A major difficulty lies in the fact that both "racism" and "antiSemitism" are vague and poorly-defined terms in popular usage. Eric Breindel makes this observation about racism: "The very charge of ’racism’ has already been rendered nearly meaningless by those who use it recklessly to describe everything with which they’re unhappy -- from university tuition increases to the black dropout rate to the indictment of Marion Barry to the appearance of crack in the inner city.’ David Wilson, a columnist for the Boston Globe, noted that "to be accused or racism is like being sprayed by a skunk." He continues: "Even if a wholly exculpatory response can be made, the party charged with racism remains subtly tainted, possibly because the charge itself consists in part of self-fulfilling prophecy. The accused, ordinarily unaccustomed to being insulted and lied about, is unlikely to think kindly of the accuser. Anti-Semitism is even worse It conjures up images of concentration camps, gas chambers and Nazi Stormtroopers. When Jon Carroll, a columnist for the San Francisco Examiner criticized Israel for its treatment Palestinians, he was deluged with hate mail which he characterized as "easily the most personally hostile I have ever received." He says, "I was called an anti-Semite. It’s a cheap libel because it’s so impossible to refute. Try it yourself. I’ve just called you an anti-Semite. What do you do now? I hope that you didn’t say that some of your best friends Jewish That was revealed long ago as just another euphemism for anti-Semitism. So what else? Remember, I actually praised the contributions of Jews to the 20th century culture; that was seen by more than one correspondent as proof of my sneaky tactics. You can’t even point out the unfairness of it. That’s called ’blaming the victim.’ So what do you do? You just shut up, is what you do. You can’t prove a negative. There it is, on the record: You’re an anti-Semite because someone said so." Sometimes resistance is not all futile. Here are some accounts of individuals (and in one case the U. S. Army) who fought back when they were falsely charged with racism and anti-Semitism. Cases An incident which demonstrates the credulousness of both the news media and politicians whenever "anti-Semitism" is invoked occurred when World War e II veteran David Rubitsky, 71, claimed in 1988 that he had single-handedly wiped out up to 600 Japanese soldiers in the battle for New Guinea on 1 December 1942, a transparently fantastic allegation. According to Rubitsky "[The bodies of the Japanese soldiers] were lying there, on branches, roots, piled like cordwood atop one another. Some were still alive. Some I just hit in the shoulder and couldn’t move, some in the legs. So I would just shoot them and bayonet them, shoot them and bayonet them. I was completely an insane man. To think that a human being would do that to another human being, what I did." Rubitsky, a communications sergeant at the time, said the ordeal took some 21 hours and that he used a .30 caliber heavy machine gun, a Browning automatic rifle and an M1 rifle. He also claimed that he had been denied a Congressional Medal Of Honor for his heroic feat solely because of antiSemitism. He said that Army Col. John N. Mott had told him that "Ne don’t give the medal to Jews." According to Rubitsky, this wasn’t his only brush with anti-SemitismVictimization has been a recurring theme in his life. He said his family was frequently victimized while he was growing up in Edgerton, Wisconsin: ""Two times we had crosses burned on our lawn by a political organization," he said. My father was beaten up many, many times for no reason at all. While I was in the service, my mother was being harassed." 6 For several years Rubitsky diligently pursued the Medal of Honor issue, largely through a sympathetic and uncritical news media, and the assistance of the Anti-Defamation League. Due to pressure generated on Rubitsky’s behalf by the ADL, including a resolution signed by 92 members of congress, the Army undertook a two-year review of his claim in 1987. as Newspapers around the nation credulously bought the story. An editorial in the San Francisco Chronicle opined: "The ugly possibility that discrimination played a significant role in denying the Medal of Honor to heroic American soldiers in both world wars has been raised in the extraordinary case of a Jewish veteran credited with single-handedly killing more than 500 infantrymen." The Madison, Wisconsin, Capitol Times published an articled headlined, "WWII Soldier Started Anti-Semitism Battle Early In Life." Stories dramatizing the anti-Semitism angle appeared in publications ranging from Time magazine to the New York limes. In the meantime, it was learned that Rubitsky had signed a book contract with Warren Kozak, a reporter for National Public Radio, which had heavily publicized Rubitsky’s plight. Kozak’s sister, Milwaukee attorney Ellen Kozak, is a friend of the Rubitsky family. On 8 December 1989, following an unprecedented 23-month study of his allegations, the Army concluded that Rubitsky’s claim was unfounded. .The Army obtained evidence from forensic specialists and took statements from Rubitsky and 20 others who were at the scene. The Anti-Defamation League called the decision "unconscionable." Abraham Foxman said the ADL would urge Army Secretary Michael Stone to reverse the ruling in spite of the evidence. The Army investigation found that a photograph with a message that "six hundred fine soldiers died because of a single American soldier" was spurious and fraudulent. Japanese and American military records were an agreement that no such an attack by the Japanese had ever taken place. Even members of Rubitsky’s old World War II unit disputed his claim and called it a hoax. George Hess, a member of Rubitsky’s infantry regiment said, "It is the biggest fairy tale anybody has ever told the U. S. Army to get a medal." Claire O. Ehle said the claim was "one big hoax" and that Rubitsky was "hiding behind a smokescreen of anti-Semitism to cover up his flimsy, unsubstantiated fairy tale." On 9 February 1990, two months after the Army report, Jewish Week reported that the Anti-Defamation League had finally conceded the Army’s position. With that, the story disappeared. Undaunted, Rubitsky vowed to fight on. If false charges that an individual is anti-Semitic or racist are damaging, imagine what false charges that he is a Nazi war criminal might be like. A Chicago resident had to go through such an ordeal in 1978. The United States government eventually wound up agreeing that charges should never have been filed in the first place, and paid just over half of his attorney’s fees. Frank Nalus was born in 1922 in Germany. when he was ten years old his family moved to Poland. In September 1939 the Germans invaded that country, and five months later Nalus, who was of small stature, and a group of other Polish youths were taken to Germany to work on farms. This he continued to do throughout the War. Nalus immigrated to the United States in 1963, where he was joined by his wife and three children. He became a naturalized U. S. citizen in 1970. His nightmare began in January 1977 when he was served with papers by the U. S. Justice Department accusing him of concealing involvement in war crimes and membership in Nazi organizations when he applied for citizenship. A year later Nalus found himself in federal court, listening to testimony that implicated him in the murders of nearly two dozen civilians while acting as a German Gestapo officer during World War II. The charges were the result of an investigation begun in 1973 by controversial Nazi hunter Simon Wiesenthal. According to Wiesenthal, his own unnamed sources and Israeli police had learned of.a former Nazi Gestapo agent who was living in Chicago. That man was allegedly Frank Nalus. During his trial Nalus listened to utterly fantastic accounts from "eyewitnesses" imported from Israel. Moniek Rozanski, 58, for example, said he saw Nalus beat a Jewish man to death with an iron bar next to Gestapo headquarters in Poland in 1940. Joseph Koenigsberg, a resident of Tel Aviv, said he saw Nalus kill a lawyer the day after Yom Kippur in 1942. Meylich Rozenwald, a Tel Aviv shopkeeper, testified through a Yiddish language interpreter that he saw Nalus kill three persons in Kielce on 24 August 1942.1 Among other allegations were that Nalus shot a mother and her two daughters in Crestochowa; that he shot three Jews who were too weak to work; that he marched 10 to 15 children, ages 4 to 9, into a building in Kielce and killed all of them with his pistol. He was also accused of killing a woman who emerged from a hospital and, when her daughter bent over her body and cried "Mama, Mama," killing her, too. All of the eyewitnesses were absolutely certain that Nalus was the culprit. Newspapers reported that "they pointed to him seated at the defense table and hissed in Polish, "Here is the murderer," or "I will never forget that face." There was just one small problem with all of this: the Justice Department, Simon Wiesenthal and all the witnesses were wrong. In addition to producing witnesses and documents that corroborated his own account, there were several major discrepancies that should have tipped off government attorneys Among these were the fact that Nalus was only five feet two inches tall, far too short to be allowed to join the Gestapo in the first place (some witnesses claimed Halus was over six feet tall), and he would have to have been a Gestapo officer at age 19 or 20, a virtual impossibility. Nevertheless, the civil trial (with rules of evidence far more lenient than in a criminal trial), presided over by judge Julius Hoffman found Nalus guilty and ordered deportation proceedings. Later, an appeals court reversed the conviction and ordered a new trial. By this time, however, Justice Department officials were beginning to realize that would face a major embarrassment if another trial were to take place. They dismissed the case, apologized and awarded Nalus $34,000 of the estimated $60,000 he had spent on his defense. Frank Halus puzzles to this day how the U. S. Government could have been led by the nose by professional Nazi hunters and their "witnesses." He says: "Before January 26 (1977), nobody...called me in or nobody came over to see me and maybe ask me: ’Mr. Nalus, listen, we have a complaint against you... What do you want to say about this. Do you have any proof that this is not true?’" To make matters worse, when Nalus had the temerity to complain of Wiesenthal’s tactics, Wiesenthal sued him for slander, claiming that Nalus’s comments were "false and slanderous" and that they caused Wiesenthal to fall "into discredit with those persons with whom he has contact and has been held in public contempt, hatred and ridicule." Wiesenthal also charged that the newspaper that printed Nalus’ comments had "acted irresponsibly and recklessly...with a reckless disregard for the truth." The suit was eventually dismissed. Canadian teacher Luba Fedorkiw, running for to the Canadian Parliament in 1984, discovered to her utter amazement that B’nai B’rith Canada, a major Jewish "anti-defamation" organization, had circulated an internal memo which accused her of "Jew-baiting!" The allegation was repeated in the Winnipeg Sun along with the fact that she was being investigated by B’nai B’rith on suspicion of anti-Semitism. The resulting defamation cost her the election and subjected her to malicious harassment. According to Ms. Fedorkiw: "When the investigation was publicized, she received obscene and harassing telephone calls, a swastika was spraypainted on her campaign office and a number of her political supporters withdrew their support." Luba Fedorkiw sued B’nai B’rith for libel in 1987. She claimed that the defamatory statements circulated by the organization had destroyed her reputation and ruined her chances for an election victory. During her trial the court heard that she had allegedly charged that her opponent was "controlled by the Jews." The four-woman, two-man Jury found that this charge against Fedorkiw was false and that B’nai B’rith had acted out of malice in circulating the unfounded charge. The jury found for Ms. Fedorkiw and awarded her a total of $400,000 in damages on 25 November 1987. Ms. Fedorkiw said: "I feel I’ve been vindicated. I feel my name has been cleared in Winnipeg, through the Progressive Conservative Party and throughout Canada. I’d like to go on with my career as a teacher and go on with my personal life. I want to get back to my students. I miss them." The Jewish press agonized over the decision. The Jewish Post and News editorialized that the jury award was unfair and questioned Fedorkiw’s motives in filing the libel suit. The paper complained that she was negligent in not investigating her campaign staff for making allegedly anti-Semitic remarks: "Instead, she went on, after her election loss to David Orlikow, to sue the League for Human Rights (of B’nai B’rith), implicitly blaming it for her defeat. If Fedorkiw wanted to dispel the uncertainty that had arisen during her campaign about her attitude toward Jews, taking court action against a Jewish service group was a strange way to do it. Equally disturbing was the sheer vindictiveness of the Jury in last week’s defamation trial. It is possible that some of them had pre-conceptions about Jews - that, at a subconscious level, they saw last week’s trial as a battle for justice by a non-Jewish victim, wronged by the wealthy evil Jews characterized in anti-Semitic folklore." B’nai B’rith appealed the decision as promised, but when they saw that the original decision was receiving a sympathetic hearing from the Manitoba Court of Appeal, they dropped it and settled with Luba Fedorkiw for an undisclosed sum. Luba Fedorkiw said, "The money was secondary. The apology was what I wanted. If B’nai B’rith had apologized in the beginning, we could have avoided a costly court case. I am happy thg matter has been laid to rest and I can get on with my life. In February, 1989, after the matter was finally settled, the Canadian Jewish News editorialized: "In battling the enemies of Judaism, however, some segments of the Jewish community have permitted an understandable zeal to triumph over common sense -- forgetting that they must be careful to distinguish between legitimate debate and overt expressions of bigotry..." In Bay Harbor, Florida, Arthur Green had dinner at the La Belle Epoque Restaurant in September 1982. Green, former vice president of Temple Israel of Greater Miami, and an active member of the Greater Miami Jewish Federation, had been sitting at a nearby table and witnessed a complaint by another customer over a veal chop. He wrote owner Dennis Rety about the incident. Rety, who speaks with a heavy French accent, telephoned Green in response to the letter and a heated exchange ensued. Green claimed that Rety called him "a dirty Jew..." and a kike, and that "all Jews are alike, you’re all out to get something for nothing." Rety denies this. Green then wrote a letter accusing Rety of anti-Semitism and threatened to put him out of business. Green never sent the letter to Rety, but posted it on bulletin boards in Jewish condominiums and circulated it to several prominent Jews. Rety’s business was soon the subject of a boycott. He was admonished by the South Florida Hotel and Motel Association and lost his Chamber of Commerce membership. He went bankrupt within a year and moved to New Orleans. Rety sued for libel, and in February 1986 a Miami Circuit Court jury of five women and one man awarded him $22.5 million for defamation. Green appealed the verdict, and in February 1989 the Third District Court of Appeals in Miami awarded Rety $5.5 million. The court said that Denis Rety was "entitled to an unprecedented compensatory and punitive damage award so as to fit the vicious arrogance of the defendant’s conduct." The court ruling said the evidence indicated that the alleged antiSemitic statements attributed to Denis Rety by Arthur Green were "completely fabricated. Often, a false charge of anti-Semitism or racism is made because of values, opinions or beliefs expressed in a public forum. In the case of Thomas Speers of Waterbury, Connecticut, however, his expression of free speech landed him in court -- and at the behest of the very host of the radio talk show he appeared on. Speers was arrested in January 1986 after radio talk show host Jay Clark, who is Jewish, filed a complaint with police. Clark accused Speers of "Jew baiting" because he frequently criticized Israel. Clark also admitted that he frequently made personal attacks against Speers on the air. Speers contended that he was not anti-Semitic and that he was merely anti-Zionist and anti-Israel. In ordering the acquittal of Speers Superior Court Judge Anthony V. DeMayo, said, "His choice of language might be unpleasant, but I heard nothing that might be obscene or that could be categorized as fighting words. All of it falls under the category of political speech. What upsets me most about the state’s position is that the reason we are prosecuting this defendant is that his views differ so vehemently from those of the talk show host." In 1965, a fire killed 12 people at the Yonkers Jewish Community Center. 18-year-old Thomas Ruppert, although innocent, was convicted of the crime. After serving five years of 24 life sentences and a sentence of 10 to 25 years for arson, Mr. Ruppert was ordered released. The New York State Court of Appeals ruled that he had been coerced into making a confession. The fire, thought to be motivated by anti-Semitism, I produced enormous pressure on police to produce a suspect. Ruppert happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. He steadfastly maintained his innocence.. Although released from prison, his life was horribly damaged by the event. Ruppert died in 1984, at the age of 34, of liver disease and other ailments. Illinois Congressman Paul Findley, a 22-year veteran in the U. S. House Of Representatives, was defeated in his last election bid following an intense and inflammatory campaign against him by various pro-Israel groups. They regarded Findley as highly critical of Israel’s policies. Two of Findley’s fellow Illinois politicians were also defeated for re-election on the same grounds: Senators Charles Percy and Adlai Stevenson III. Incensed by the power of the forces arrayed against him, Findley wrote a definitive expose’ of the Israeli lobby entitled, They Dare To Speak Out The book is in no way hateful or even remotely anti-Semitic, and is considered a definitive study of interest group politics. This, however, did not keep the Anti-Defamation League, through its Nebraska regional director Robert Wolfson, from defaming the book and it’s author. A local activist had mailed out several thousand copies to Nebraska professionals, such as "secondary-school teachers, university professors and attorneys." In a statement, the ADL’s Wolfson said that Findley’s book "is a work of Holocaust revisionism seeking to spread the claim that the Nazi slaughter of Jews was a hoax." Frederick Cassman, chairman of the Omaha ADL chapter, said 9Although purporting to criticize the ’sIrael Lobby,’ they are actually distributing plainly anti-Semitic material." They Dare Io Speak Out makes absolutely no such claim. Findley does not support, nor does he even mention any form of "holocaust revisionism" in his book. The ADL claim was an absolute lie, but it certainly produced the desired adverse publicity against the book. Suffolk County Assistant District Attorney Robert Caccese found himself charged with referring to defense attorney Robert Gottiieb as "a little Jew bastard" in October 1990. The conversation in which he was alleged to have made the remark was with attorney Mauro in a Riverside, New York, restaurant. Gottlieb had been his adversary in a highly publicized murder case. So great was the outcry against Caccese that his superior, Suffolk County District Attorney James Catterson, conducted a year-Tong investigation of the affair. The claim against Caccese apparently proved to be a fabrication. According to Catterson, "I find not one of many allegations concerning improper remarks or be substantiated...I am unable to substantiate one instance of anti-Semitic comment or behavior on the part of Assistant District Attorney Caccese." The charge of Nazi sympathies is so devastating that it is a convenient device to defame political candidates. In 1986 a campaign flyer circulated to Costa Mesa, California, residents claimed that Doug A. Yates, a two-time City Council candidate, was a member of a secret underground Nazi party. The two-page typewritten flyer, written on the stationery of Mesa Action, a local political action committee, attacked Yates, claiming he was a member of "an underground Nazi party now operating in the Western hemisphere." The flyer advised anyone seeing Yates to contact "Rabbi Stinovitz" at the Jewish Defense League office in Los Angeles. JDL Leader Irv Rubin said he had never heard of Rabbi Stinovitz. Mesa Action board members deny having anything to do with the flyer. Doug Yates, the target of the apparent defamation, said "I don’t know why I’m singled out for this kind of activity. Maybe there are people who think I have a good chance of winning." Another case of bogus anti-Semitic literature occurred in Yorba Linda, Caiifornia in 1990. On March 25th residents found hundreds of flyers exhorting them to "Kill Every Jew" and stating that they were "distributed by the Methodist Fellowship." Rev. Kenneth Criswell, pastor at the local United Methodist Church, sent a letter to the community stating that the literature was "falsely and fraudulently" attributed to the Methodist church. The Orange County Register reported "One side of the flier pictures Jesus Christ, quotes from the New Testament’s gospel of Luke and says, ’Kill Every Jew.’ The other side lists supposed reasons not to trust Jews". The literature was apparently an attempt to link a Christian denomination with hatred of Jews. A similar incident had occurred a few months earlier in Fullerton, California, where bogus publications were also placed in mailboxes and on doorsteps. Oklahoma Department of Human Services Director Benjamin Demps, Jr., might have thought he was being harassed by the Ku Klux Klan when he saw a memo referring to him as a "Flying Coon" and pledging a continuation of the "good old boy ways" in the department. Most puzzling is that the February 1990 memo was supposedly signed by a top DHS official. Investigators soon determined that the signature was taken from another document sent by the official to an outside group. The memo was not written. in the manner of bona fide DHS memos, and everyone involved with it has denied knowledge of it. Affirmative Action Officer Kim ones-Shelton said the department did not intend to pursue the investigation. Another faked memo, containing a variety of racial and other epithets, made a similar stir in California. Huston T. Carlyle, Jr., a member of the Public Employment Relations Board, has asked for an investigation after the memo was sent to state union leaders over his signature. According to Carlyle "Someone is really sick and attempting to discredit me. They xeroxed my signature from another memo and pasted it on this one." The fake memo, dated 10 December 1991, was written on an official letterhead and mailed through a state postal meter. Carlyle is quoted as referring to his critics in racist, sexist, anti-homosexual and anti-Jewish terms. L Eric Breindel, "Public Truth and Racial Politics," New York Post (5 July 1900). 2 David B. Wilson, "When One Is Accused of Racism," Boston Globe (10 February 1990). 3 Jon Carroll, "On Being Called An Anti-Semite," San Francisco Chronicle (2 October 1991). 4 "Jewish Hero May Finally Get His Medal," San Francisco Chronicle, 6 November 1989. 5 Rogers Worthington, "Jewish WW II Veteran Seeks Medal He Says Was Denied Him," Chicago Tribune (12 November 1989). 6 Elizabeth McGowan, "Jew Pursues WWII Medal," Janesville Gazette (27 April 1988). 7 "Medal Deserved," San Francisco Chronicle (7 November 1989). 8 "Rubitsky Won’t Give Up Fight For Medal," The Sunday Gazette (17 December 1989). 9 Richard Halloran, "Army Panel Rejects Claim for Medal of Honor," New York Times (8 December 1989). 10 Ibid. 11 John Patrick Hunter, "Three WWII Veterans Call Rubitsky’s Hero Claim a Hoax," Madison Capital Times (21 November l989). 12 "ADL Retreats From Battle to Get Jewish Vet a Medal," Jewish Week (9 February 1990). l3 Bill Grady, "Frank Walus Opened Door and Life Was Never Same," Chicago Tribune (17 April 1978). l4 Bob Olmstead, "Now Nazi-Hunter Helped Find Nalus," Chicago Sun-Times (1 April 1978). 15 Dennis D. Fisher, "Two Testify Seeing Nalus Kill 4 In Wartime Poland," Chicago Sun-Times (23 March 1978); "I Saw Nalus Kill A Man: Witness," Chicago Sun-Times (24 March 1978). 16 Bob Olmstead, "Is Nalus A Perpetrator of Nightmares -- Or Victim?" Chicago Sun Times (17 April 1978). 17 Dick Chapman, "A Life Ruined by Nazi Hunt," Toronto Star (10 April 1983). 18 Bill Grady, Chicago Tribune (17 April 1978). l9 James Warren, "Nazi-Hunter Sues Cleared Chicagoan for Slander" Chicago Sun-Times (14 October 1981). 20 Geoffrey York, "B’nai B’rith Won’t Change Despite Judgement," The Globe and Mail (27 November 1987). 21 Mary Jane MacLennan, "Fedorkiw Wins $400,000 for Slurs," The Winnipeg Sun (26 November 1987). 22 Editorial Comment, "We May Be More Alone Here Than We Think," Jewish Post and News (2 December 1987). 23 Myron Love, "B’nai B’rith Settles Libel Case," Canadian Jewish News (3 November 1988). 24 "Be Careful," Canadian Jewish News (23 February 1989). 25 United Press International, "Restauranteur Wins Defamation Suit," (22 February 1986). 26 Associated Press, "False Claim of Anti-Semitism Brings a Ruling of $5.5 million," New York Times (20 February 1989). 27Ibid. Y 28 "Caller is Acquitted of Harassing Talk Show," Associated 0 gross (8 April 1987). 29 "Thomas Ruppert, 35, Cleared of Yonkers Fire," Obituary, New York Times (26 November 1984). 30 "They Dare to Falsify," Associated Press (2 December 1988). 31 "Assistant Never Made Slur: Suffolk DA," Jewish Week (1 November 1991). 32 Mark Higgins, "Fraudulent Flier Claims Costa Mesa Candidate Is Member of Nazi Group," Orange County Register (26 September 1986). 33 Amy Mednick, "Anti-Semitic Fliers Scattered in Yorba Linda," Orange County Register (26 March 1990). 34 "Racist Memo Declared A Fake," Tulsa World (26 February 1990). 35 "Faked Memo Furor: Signature Pasted Onto Racial Slurs," San Jose Mercury Negs (14 December 1991).