Robert Novak, the conservative newspaper columnist and television commentator who died Tuesday after a year-long battle with brain cancer, often drew the ire of the Jewish community for his frequent criticism of Israel.
Mr. Novak, who was 78, wrote the syndicated “Inside Report” column for 30 years with the late Rowland Evans, often depicting the pro-Israel lobby as excessively influential in Washington. Novak later wrote that the United States’ “unjustified” war in Iraq was launched largely for Israeli interests, and that the 9-11 attacks on this country were the result of the terrorists’ “hatred of Israel.” He also praised former President Jimmy Carter for calling Israel’s treatment of Palestinians “apartheid,” and suggested that the Republican Party could make common cause with Minister Louis Farrakhan of the Nation of Islam.
“He was not a friend of Israel and the Jewish people,” said Abraham Foxman, national director of the Anti-Defamation League. “He was a curmudgeon who did not miss an opportunity to express his bias against Israel.” The influence of Evans and Novak’s reporting diminished over the years, Foxman said, as they were “unable to show any balance in any of their views [about Israel].”
Raised in a secular Jewish family in Joliet, Ill., and a member of a Jewish fraternity in college, Mr. Novak flirted with Christianity early in his life, converting to Catholicism in 1998. “I was not drawn to Judaism at all,” he told the Washingtonian magazine in 2003. “I found the same thing in Judaism as a young boy as I did later in the Unitarian church and then at the Episcopal church. They seemed very ungodly. The clergyman seemed very secular.”
Mr. Novak called his baptism into the Catholic Church “an exhilarating experience … one of the great moments of my life. I thought I was in a different dimension.”
Author of a 2007 memoir, “The Prince of Darkness,” his longtime nickname, he was best known in recent years for publicly identifying CIA operative Valerie Plame in 2003 reporting about distorted intelligence reports.