I get used to being disagreed with. It's the natural lot of a columnist who discusses and tries to reach conclusions on, controversial subjects.
But even after a lot of years in the business, I still can't quite get used to being deliberately misconstrued. It's especially disturbing when those doing the twisting are in positions of responsible community leadership.
Rabbi Joseph P. Weinberg, of the Washington Hebrew Congregation, must know by now that I'm talking about him.
A few weeks ago, I wrote that the April 7 attack by Palestinian terrorists on an Israeli kibbutz had been the first such attack in a long time.
I read the lull in murderousness as evidence that Palestine liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat may actually have been trying to keep his commitment, given last fall to Jesse Jackson, to get out of the terrorism business and try more conventional ways to build world support for a Palestinian homeland.
Even the April 7 attack, I pointed out, had been the work of an Iraqi-supported splinter of the PLO, not Arafat's Al Fatah faction.
Was Arafat going against the more radical elements of the PLO, trying to move the organization away from its violence? "It's hard to overestimate the importance of this shift -- if indeed that is what is happening," I said.
That's what I said. Here is what Rabbi Weinberg said I said:
"Raspberry wrote in favor of the PLO terrorist attack on Kibbutz Misgav Am. According to Raspberry, this act of treachery and murder is to be understood as a noble act of moderation.
"The columnist's twisted logic suggests that we are to praise and congratulate the PLO for only killing three individuals . . . ."
Weinberg couldn't have skewed my remarks more viciously if he had tried. And there is no doubt in my mind that he did try.
I am struck by the fact that in the whole of his diatribe in the Washington Hebrew congregation newsletter of April 30, in which he also did a number on my colleague Richard Cohen, Weinberg studiously avoided quoting a single word from either of us. Instead, he offers his own distorted paraphrase.
If the word "rabbi" means teacher, it is fair to wonder what this teacher is trying to teach us.
As I said at the beginning, it does not bother me that Rabbi Weinberg -- or anyone else -- would disagree with me. Indeed, I am starting to have my own doubts about Arafat's new image, thanks to last week's renewed PLO terrorism.
A number of readers, most of them Jewish, observed at the time of the earlier column that I was misreading the evidence, or at any rate making too much of it. Many of their letters fairly crackled with rage and indignation. But nearly all of them took issue with what I said, not with some distorted version of what they secretly supposed I must have meant.
Not Rabbi Weinberg, who told his congregation that I "wrote in praise of the PLO terrorist attack." He urged -- by implication, at least -- that those over whom he has influence "should rise up in condemnation of a supposedly responsible journalist who has the gall to praise acts of murder in the public press."
Why would the good rabbi resort to such deliberate distortion? Isn't the cause he supports strong enough to stand on its own? Is he afraid to have people think about the situation in the Middle East, for fear they will reach heretical conclusions?
Weinberg may have supplied a part of the answer to these questions.
He notes, accurately, that the U.S. government "remains Israel's single most powerful and dependable ally" and notes, also accurately, that "the shape of public opinion in our land is crucial to the continuation of that course."
But does he suppose that the only way to sway public opinion is through deliberate misrepresentation?
"What a twisted, ugly distortion of the truth!" Weinberg wrote in the April 30 bulletin.
His characterization was 100 percent correct, but his target was off by approximately 180 degrees.