Between the years 1974-78 (primarily, the winter of 1976-77), José Moskovits commenced a uniquely ambitious project, to conduct a systematic, worldwide survey of attitudes towards anti-Semitism by individuals of influence. Canvassing by mail some 5,000 parties in more than 150 countries, Moskovits addressed his survey to Heads of State, Prime Ministers, Presidents and numerous other politicians; as well as scientists, journalists, authors, artists, doctors, and corporate, military and religious leaders.
Moskovits embarked on this project with the expressed objective of compiling and presenting the results of this giant investigation into a book which was to be edited by Dr. Asher Mibashan (1914-2005), the Buenos Aires bureau chief of JTA (Jewish Telegraphic Agency). The work however was never published, primarily due to the forced relocation of Moskovits from Argentina to Israel during the worst years of the "Dirty War." Moskovits and Mibashan however, did prepare the introduction for their unrealized magnum opus, and its contents shed light on their own perspective on this truly amazing endeavor:
Quoting from the likes of Jean Paul Sartre, Sigmund Freud, James Parkes, Joachim Prinz, and numerous others, Moskovits and Mibashan astutely reflect on the many facets of anti-Semitism, the psychological, the political, the sociological, the religious, and the psycho-sexual. The closing words to their introduction are perhaps the most telling and most timeless. "This terrible disease of the spirit seems to be the only example, in the entire repertoire of human psychopathology that, rather than attacking the one who contracts it, kills instead only those who are immune from it." The Questions:
The survey contained the following questions:
1) Do you think that Jew-hating (anti-Semitism) is a rational attitude or is it pathological?
2) In your opinion, has anti-Semitism objective causes? If so, are they of a theological, racial, economic, social, psychological or any other nature?
3) Do you believe that an honest inter-religious dialogue is feasible and that it could be useful for a better living together?
4) Do you agree that the Jews, because of their weakness have often been chosen as scapegoats by governments and political bodies in order to divert the attention of the masses from other, more pressing problems? In other words, that anti-Semitism practiced in any of its forms, has been used as an unholy political weapon?
5) Do you feel that the malicious and consistent association of abhorrent concepts like "apartheid" or "racism" with Zionism constitutes an anti-Semitic aggression and that we are now witnessing an offensive on a global scale against anything Jewish?
6) Could and should something be done in your view of this?
7) Do you believe that Anti-Jewish propaganda should be made a criminal offense of instigation to discrimination?
(Questions 5 and 7 were omitted from surveys sent to correspondents in Arab countries. Question 7 was omitted in questionnaires sent to Israelis).
Each survey was accompanied by a cover letter from Moskovits, which explained the motivation behind the project: "In my capacity of president of the Association of Jewish Survivors from the Nazi Persecution, I have the honor of writing you in order to obtain your opinion about anti-Semitism in its various manifestations, its causes, effects, etc. We, the survivors of Nazi persecution, having been witnesses of the holocaust, have a very particular perception for everything which openly or covertly reminds us of the blackest period of mankind. We shall therefore duly value your reply to the questions raised in the form.
Moskovits further invited each recipient to feel free to proceed beyond the limitations of the questionnaire and to openly and freely express themselves "according to your own opinion" on the issue of anti-Semitism in general, concluding with "Your viewpoint could be most useful for a correct approach to the problem." The cover letters, like the surveys themselves, were written in one of five languages: Spanish, German, French, Italian, or English. The Response:
Moskovits received nearly one thousand responses to his survey, from a remarkably diverse cross section of cultural, political, scientific and academic elites from around the globe, expressing nearly every imaginable response to his simple questionnaire. He meticulously compiled the responses in over a dozen large binders, sub-divided by profession and nationality. With each response he included the original envelope and a note containing the person's name, country and language in which he originally corresponded.
The collated answers run the gamut from brief handwritten "Yes" and "No" responses, to lengthy excurses on the history and development of anti-Semitism, to apologetics meant to assuage the inherent guilt quite obviously felt by some of the correspondents. Some, displaying a sign of the times, questioned Moskovits's motives, wondering if he had Communist affiliations, and others attempted to explain why they would not or could not answer the interrogatory.
Responses were received from countries throughout the Americas, Europe (West and East), the Middle East Asia and Africa, including such distant locales as Tonga, Rhodesia, New Zealand and the Republic of Transkei. A small selection of those that responded to Moskovits included: Birch Bayh, Sir Isaiah Berlin, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Prof. Milton Friedman, Hans Dietrich Genscher, Princess Grace of Monaco, King Hassan II of Morocco, Conrad Hilton, President Erich Honecker, President Félix Houphouët-Boigny, U.S. Vice President Hubert Humphrey, Queen Juliana of the Netherlands, Pierre Mendes France, U.S. Senator Edmund S. Muskie, President Julius Nyerere of Tanzania, King Olav V of Norway, Olof Palme, Clairborne Pell, then - Prime Ministers of Israel Shimon Peres and Yitzhak Rabin, Otto Preminger, former U.S. Vice President Nelson Rockefeller, Alan Sillitoe, Lady Margaret Thatcher, Kurt Waldheim, Hon. William Whitelaw, etc. Biography:
Yosef (José) Moskovits (1926-2014) was born in Mezöcsát, Hungary and by his early teens had already been sent to a forced labor battalion. When his parents were seized and sent to concentration camps, Moskovits was able to flee and joined the Jewish resistance in Budapest. Captured after an action in late 1944, he was held by the Hungarian Fascists of the Arrow Cross and imprisoned in the notorious Margit prison in Budapest, contemporaneously with Hannah Szenes. Moskowitz was among the 30 prisoners freed during a daring raid on the prison by members of the Zionist Hashomer Hatzair organization. After the liberation of Budapest by the Soviets in January 1945, Moskovits became a leader of Dror-Habonim and was active in the covert effort to transport Jewish survivors to British mandatory Palestine. In 1947, he was captured by the British and imprisoned in Cyprus until the end of the mandate and the declaration of the State of Israel. Upon his arrival he fought as a volunteer in the Golani Brigade during the War of Independence, until he was wounded and honorably discharged in 1949.
In 1953, Moskowitz and his wife Halina emigrated to South America, living for two years in Paraguay, before settling in Argentina. In 1958 Moskovits opened a law office in Buenos Aires to assist Holocaust survivors from all over South America with reparation claims against Germany. His maintained close contact with Simon Wiesenthal and assisted in the identification of Nazi war criminals who had fled to South America. Moskovits played a particularly important role in the capture of Adolf Eichmann, setting up safe houses for the Mossad. His law office was also used as a cover for Israeli agents searching for the infamous Josef Mengele.
From 1967 to 1976, Moskovits was the President of Sherit Hapleita, the Argentine Association of Jewish Survivors of Nazi Persecution. Raising awareness of the Holocaust in Argentina, organizing survivor reunions and commemorations, participating in international Holocaust events and conferences, and holding demonstrations in support of the State of Israel. At the height of Argentina's so-called Dirty War, from 1976 to 1984, Mr. Moskovits was forced to move to Israel from where he continued to represent his survivor clients. He maintained his position as Honorary President of Sherit Hapleita until his death in 2014.