Panel One: Dealing with Old and New Forms of Anti-Semitism

Hannah Rosenthal
Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism 
Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism
December 16, 2009

I’m so thrilled to be back here in Israel. I lived here for a year, and I return every chance I get. I love this country. I’m also glad to see so many familiar faces in the room.

Opening Anecdote
Personal Bio

  • As a child of a Holocaust survivor, anti-Semitism is something very personal to me.
  • Story of getting rejected by private school because they had “filled their Jewish quota.” My goal is that no Jewish child, or child of any minority background, would ever experience the humiliation of this type of experience.

Importance of Combating Anti-Semitism for the Obama Administration

  • The goal of fighting anti-Semitism is a high priority for the Obama administration. I am honored and humbled to serve as the United States' new Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism. The word “combat” strongly underscores the United States’ commitment to fight anti-Semitism wherever it is found.
  • We will also work proactively to prevent it. These efforts have strong bipartisan backing in our Congress. Indeed, my position as Special Envoy was created by an act of Congress in 2004.
  • My office has an increasingly visible role.
  • My office is now on the same floor as Secretary of State Clinton, and I work closely with the Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, Michael Posner.
  • In combating anti-Semitism whenever we see it, we will do the following:
    • Monitor: We will maintain vigilance in monitoring anti-Semitic acts and discourse. I will work with all Regional Bureaus within the State Department, with the Bureau that manages our efforts at the UN and other international organizations, and with our diplomatic missions abroad to ensure timely and accurate reporting. I will also forge partnerships with key offices across the U.S. government. And I will welcome insights, information and ideas from non-governmental groups that are active against anti-Semitism and other forms of intolerance.
    • Diplomacy: We will maintain as a top priority the raising of any anti-Semitism in the context of our bilateral relationships. We will encourage other governments to condemn anti-Semitism and take steps against anti-Semitic manifestations within their own societies. We will also encourage them to partner with us in international institutions such as the UN and the OSCE to those same ends. Governments can be part of the problem or part of the solution. We are ready to work with governments that want to be part of the solution.
    • Advancing civil discourse: We will especially promote public discussion on the nature of new forms of anti-Semitism – how to recognize it and ways to combat it.

Anti-Semitism: Changing face, More Insidious and Subtle

  • Traditional forms of anti-Semitism continue to plague societies across the globe. We are all familiar with ongoing hostile acts such as defacing of property, desecration of cemeteries, and even physical assaults. Conspiracy theories continue to flourish, such as supposed Jewish control of the U.S. media and the world banking system, or that Jewish persons were involved in the September 11th attacks.
  • We also see troubling new trends in anti-Semitic rhetoric.
  •  "Jews' lives are ruled by materialism and usury consumes them."
    • "Jews are vainglorious and consider themselves better than others. They allege that they are the chosen people of God even though God Almighty refuted their claim. God made them disgraced and miserable. He led them astray and made them monkeys and pigs."
    • The horror of the Holocaust is even used and abused. We are all familiar with Iranian President Ahmedinajad’s statements denying the Holocaust. But some are now taking it to a shocking new level, by celebrating the Holocaust and even promoting a new Holocaust against Jews. MEMRI (the Middle East Media Research Institute) recently translated two[WAC2] bone-chilling video clips of radical clerics on major international television networks earlier this year, lauding the Holocaust. One shows footage of the victims in their suffering and stages of death, while repeatedly approving what he called “their humiliation.” They went on to conclude: “Allah willing, the next time it will be at the hand of the believers.”
    • The Pew Global Attitudes Project released some survey results last year on Unfavorable Views of Jews and Muslims.

To Promote Tolerance, we will:

  • Make available information about the level of anti-Semitism. Opinion leaders and policy makers around the world need to see the evidence that anti-Semitism continues, is becoming more widespread, and is working its way insidiously into mainstream media and public settings. Anti-Semitism can be subtle and take on multiple forms.
  • Building strong relationships across ethnic lines with persons of other faith traditions. As with any form of prejudice, anti-Semitism is often based on ignorance and fear. It is easy to criticize and even demonize people you’ve never met. Building relationships among different ethnic and religious communities is central to tearing down walls of hostility. With dialogue there is less room for stereotypes to grow and flourish.
  • Example: Through my government's International Visitor Leadership Program, we have seen imams whose attitudes changed from a negative stereotype of Jews to a positive view as American Jewish families hosted them on their visit.
  • The goal of fighting anti-Semitism is a high priority for the Obama administration, and my office has an increasingly visible role.
    o My office is now on the same floor as Secretary of State Clinton, and I work closely with Assistant Secretary for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Michael Posner to harmonize our priorities and our messages in a way that reflects our commitment to combating anti-Semitism and promoting tolerance.
    o President Obama consistently affirms the unbreakable bond of friendship between the United States and Israel, as well as the importance of combating anti-Semitism. He is especially troubled by Holocaust denial, which he has called “baseless,” “ignorant,” “hateful,” and “deeply wrong.” (Cairo speech, June 4, 2009)

Conclusion: The Administration’s Commitment through S/E

  • We will continue to fight anti-Semitism on all fronts. This is a multi-tiered struggle that needs multiple methods—from reporting, to education, to public engagement.
  • We will challenge public figures who spread misinformation about the Jewish people. When acts of violence occur, we will call upon local authorities to investigate promptly (from A/S Posner Hill testimony talking points).
  • We will continue to expose in detail anti-Semitic behavior in our annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices and International Religious Freedom reports.
  • And we’ll work harder than ever at outreach across ethnic and religious lines, building our coalition of partners who will join us in this cause.

[WAC1]This material is from an Article published by the news agency WashingtonTV, for which Avi Davidi is Senior Advisor.
[WAC2]Egyptian Cleric Amin Al-Ansari on Al-Rahma TV (Egypt) January 26, 2009
Sheik Yousuf Al-Qaradhawi on Al-Jazeera January 30, 2009.