I was at the March 3 meeting in Reston where Rep. Moran made his comments. I am saddened and a little disgusted by the hysterical reaction of some Jewish leaders, not to mention the hypocritical "bandwagon" posturing of the White House, fellow politicians and the media, including The Post's columnist Marc Fisher.

I did not hear Rep. Moran say anything that night that, in context, could remotely be called "anti-Semitic" or should even require an apology. His off-the-cuff comments were made in response to a question from someone who was specifically expressing concerns as a Jewish person (and who was, I believe, like almost all of us, opposed to the war). It was, I think, clear to those present that Rep. Moran's meaning was simply that it was unfortunate the U.S. Jewish leadership had mostly chosen to strongly support war against Iraq and that, if those leaders were instead to exert their political influence against it, that might be one of the few things that could still prevent a war.

This probably overestimated the potential influence of U.S. Jewish leaders over an administration which has obviously decided to pursue this unnecessary and immoral war, no matter what. But it was plainly not anti-Semitic. At a Feb. 10 town hall meeting in Alexandria (which I also attended), Rep. Moran interrupted questioners who criticized Israel to emphasize his support for Israel.

Informally spoken words, when reduced to cold print, often do not "read" the way that they sounded, were meant and were clearly understood at the time of speaking. We ordinary citizens are always criticizing politicians for never having the guts to actually take a stand or speak frankly about important controversial issues. At the Reston meeting, we were all impressed by Rep. Moran's courage, forthrightness and honesty in publicly speaking out against a war that is being so ruthlessly supported by the conservative forces that run most of the media and government.

I increasingly understand, however, just why it is that most politicians never do simply speak forthrightly. It is because they invariably get pilloried by unscrupulous political enemies and media for any inartfully formed but innocent statement that can be ripped out of context and twisted into something ugly.

John E. Schwarz

Reston

I find Rep. Moran's "blame the Jews" remarks most onerous. Whether or not American Jews or any other minority support action against Saddam Hussein is not the issue. This issue is the congressman's attempt to scapegoat the Jewish community and feed the anti-Semitic canard of Jews controlling U.S. foreign policy.

America's national security policies have been debated and shaped by the Bush administration and Congress and on the merits of U.S. interests. Rep. Moran has displayed an open ignorance to our government's democratic process and insensitivity to American Jews.

Unfortunately, this is just the latest of the congressman's diatribes against Jews and Israel. His anti-Israel remarks at the 2001 national convention of the American Muslim Council and his acceptance of campaign contributions from individuals sympathetic to the Hamas terrorist organization have brought outrage from our community. This latest episode is the proverbial last straw, and the most honorable way to rectify it would be for the congressman to resign.

Mark Werfel

Senior Executive Vice President,

American Jewish Congress,

National Capital Region

Rep. Moran's comments regarding the Jewish community's rush to war have been overblown and reported without much context. Had your reportage been fair, you would have mentioned that Moran held a town meeting Feb. 10 in Alexandria, where he referred to himself as a staunch Zionist.

Andy Shallal

Annandale

I think we can congratulate Rep. Moran for being such a champion of vulgarity and poor taste. His recent remarks seem the summit of his ambition to give insult to as many minorities as he can. Just three years ago, Rep. Moran stirred up outcry from local Catholic leaders over offensive comments he made in Congress about their faith.

His recent crude comments about the Jews are one of the most splendid examples of thinly camouflaged anti-Semitism in current politics and show that he hasn't lost his knack.

John H. Riskind

Professor of Psychology,

George Mason University,

Fairfax

Has everyone gone crazy? Instead of leveling bogus claims of anti-Semitism against Rep. Moran, instead of absurdly exhorting him to resign, we should be thanking him. The man is a courageous, thoughtful leader who deserves our praise.

I heard Jim Moran speak about the war on March 9 at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Arlington, a forum similar to the one at St. Anne's Episcopal Church in Reston. I heard him say that if Jewish leaders were to speak out against war with Iraq, there would be no war. I also heard him say the same of Catholic leaders, mainline Protestant leaders and business leaders. This isn't about the Jews. It's about mainstreaming the moral opposition to this war.

If, as The Post reported, something like 60 percent of the population supports this war, then something like 40 percent opposes it.

Yet those are not the percentages we see in Congress, not the percentages we hear represented on talk shows. Instead, antiwar sentiment is being marginalized.

Rep. Moran is one of the few leaders who have displayed the courage to take a moral stand against this war -- while, by the way, offering alternate approaches -- and he is calling on other community leaders to do the same.

It may be true that Rep. Moran didn't express his full meaning with perfect clarity at St. Anne's on March 3. I wasn't there. Yet who is there alive who has never had to clarify a remark? Let's give the guy a break! In the meantime, let's give him our thanks for having the courage to speak up against the single-minded insistence on going to war against Iraq.

Diane Ullius

Arlington

As a lifelong Democrat, Rep. Moran's anti-Semitic remarks were shocking.

References to a monolithic Jewish influence at the highest levels of government reek of nothing less than the fabricated "Protocols of the Elders of Zion" and other cynical attempts throughout history to blame Jews for the problems of society. This is something right out of the playbook of the hate groups on the fringes of society.

The suggestion that there is a "Jewish view" on the war or any other issue defies credibility. There is no organization that speaks for Jews on any issue, just as no single voice can adequately express the views of all or even many of the members of any affinity group.

Finally, there is not a shred of evidence that the Bush administration's movement toward war with Iraq is the product of the influence of any group outside the administration. Mr. Moran, do the right thing and resign today. We don't need bigotry in the halls of Congress.

Steven B. Boehm

McLean

I don't care if Rep. Moran's remarks were meant to be insensitive or not -- they were.

It shouldn't matter what political party you belong to. When you hold office in this country, you must be held to a higher standard. Rep. Moran used a public forum to deliver deeply offensive remarks. He should resign or be censured.

Hypocrisy? You bet.

Linda J. Hansen

Fairfax

Rep. James P. Moran Jr. (D-Va.), left, shown here with his brother, state Del. Brian J. Moran (D-Alexandria), has drawn sharply mixed reactions with his March 3 remarks.