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Mr. Nader's Baiting

Saturday, August 14, 2004; Page A20

"The days when the chief Israeli puppeteer comes to the United States and meets with the puppet in the White House and then proceeds to Capitol Hill, where he meets with hundreds of other puppets, should be replaced."

"Bush also repeated the catch-phrase . . . 'committed to the security of Israel as a Jewish state,' which is repeated almost word-for-word again and again by Israel's sycophants and Capitol Hill puppets."

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QUICK QUIZ: Which of the above quotations is lifted from the Web site of the white supremacist National Alliance and which was uttered this summer by independent presidential candidate Ralph Nader? It's a tough one. After all, both play on the age-old anti-Semitic stereotype of powerful Jews dominating politics and manipulating hapless non-Jewish puppets for their own ends. Yet if Mr. Nader is at all disquieted by the company he is keeping by using such metaphors, he sure isn't showing it. In a letter this week to the Anti-Defamation League, which had complained to him about his rhetoric, he responded with breezy indifference and more rhetoric that only compounds concerns.

Mr. Nader complains in his letter that the debate in Israel over Israeli policies is far more robust than the American debate over the Palestinian-Israeli conflict. In an interview last month on the "Democracy Now!" radio show he explained, "The U.S. government never connects with the deep and broad Israeli peace movement" -- a claim he elaborates on in the letter. And Mr. Nader has a point. Israel's shriller defenders often cry foul at even the mildest and most constructive criticism of the state. The problem with Mr. Nader's words are not that he criticizes either Israel's policies or American support for those policies. The problem, rather, is the language he deploys in doing so. In the radio interview he called John Kerry a "puppet politician who does not think in the best interests of the American people and the Israeli and Palestinian people." And in his letter he writes, referring to the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, a pro-Israel lobbying group, of "AIPAC's ditto machine on Capitol Hill" and the awed members of Congress "who, against their private judgment, resign themselves to sign on the dotted line."

This is poisonous stuff. And if Mr. Nader doesn't understand what such words actually mean, the less savory elements of American society certainly know how to read such code. But Mr. Nader, as always, is not backing down: "As for the metaphors -- puppeteer and puppets -- the Romans had a phrase for the obvious -- res ipsa loquitor," which means the thing speaks for itself. Indeed it does.

Quiz answer: The first quotation was Mr. Nader's.

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