Remarks At a Reception Hosted for the Jewish Community

Hannah Rosenthal
Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism 
Washington, DC
July 13, 2010

Good afternoon! Thank you so much for coming today, and thank you, Secretary Clinton. Not only are you such an outstanding leader for our country - but you have been a caring friend. When I was facing the scariest moments of my life having been diagnosed with cancer, you called me and were the last phone call I got before surgery and I know that's why I'm perfectly fine now. We Jews have a name for this. You, Madame Secretary, are a Mensch.

I also had the honor and luck to recently spend some time with you in Poland at the Community of Democracies. All the countries there look to you with such promise and admiration - they hung on your words, they all watched you talk, I think they were hoping some of your talent would rub off on them. I got to watch leadership as it is executed and exuded. How lucky was I that I got to spend that time with you?

I love my job. I have always been lucky to have the opportunity, the platforms, the support, the energy to be part of making a difference in people's lives. The opportunity you have given me, Madame Secretary and President Obama, has me working with courageous non-profits around the world, learning from them what their needs are and strategizing with them on how to meet those needs. And being the Special Envoy provides me the opportunity to meet with and build relationships with Prime Ministers, with Foreign Ministers, with Chancellors and Ambassadors. And working in the State Department gives me the opportunity to work with dedicated and impressive people who have traveled all over the world and they work hard to find better ways to advance human rights, democracy, and world peace. American influence around the world stands up for, and fights for, the voiceless and the persecuted. We get to use diplomacy, relationship building, funding, and promoting democracy and human rights to all corners of the world. How lucky are we?

But in the little over six months that I have had the opportunity and honor to work for you, Madame Secretary, I have seen some disturbing trends. Trends that have led to dramatic increases in acts, attitudes, and expressions of anti-Semitism. These trends fall into six major categories:

Anti-Semitism can be seen in age-old canards and accusations - from Jews controlling the media or the banks, or plotting to control the world, or ancient blood libel in new forms, outrageously accusing Jews of killing people to steal their organs.

In addition to those bad old-fashioned forms of anti-Semitism, we see newer forms. Holocaust denial is spewed by heads of state and religious leaders. This is especially poignant since you and I just got back from Schindler's Factory where Schindler was able to save the lives of so many right outside of Auschwitz-Birkenau - that incredibly efficient mass killing factory.

We also see Holocaust relativism, diminishing the Holocaust's unique stories and lessons and conflating it with other repressive regimes. Holocaust relativism not only distorts history, it diminishes the accountability, the understanding, the lessons of how cultured people could become willing executioners hoping to annihilate an entire people.

We are even seeing Holocaust glorification where there are calls to 'finish the job' - on major television shows, in sermons, in written blogs.

While criticism of policies of any government is appropriate, especially among strong democracies, anti-Israel sentiment crosses over into anti-Semitism all too often. The famous human rights fighter Nathan Sharansky gives us guidelines to use to know when anti-Israel activities move over into anti-Semitism. He calls it the three D's: when Israel is demonized, when Israel is delegitimized, or when Israel is held to a different standard than all other countries - that is when we feel the increase in anti-Semitism. Why is it that when there is activity in the Middle East we know to expect increases in anti-Semitism? Why is that normal? Why is that expected in our embassies and consulates around the world? Why is this happening? It is not OK, it is not acceptable.

The sixth trend that is impacting anti-Semitism comes from the fear people all over the world from many different backgrounds are feeling - fear due to financial pressures, fear due to lack of acceptance of diversity and change, fear due to the sense that the world is out of control, fear of the 'other'.

But while Jews remain a despised people in some quarters, we are not alone. Our cousins, the Muslims, are also feeling the hatred, born of fear and ignorance. Christians are being expelled from some countries. Roma face incredible discrimination and abuse. Baha’is hide their faith in many countries. And the list goes on and on. Hate is hate and we have to work together to confront it, to combat it, and to eradicate it.

So what will success look like for this job of monitoring and combating anti-Semitism? Our monitoring has been integrated into the very fabric of the State Department - we highlight it in the annual Human Rights and International Religious Freedom Report. So people all over the Department focus on anti-Semitism as an integral part of our annual reports.

But how to define success in combating anti-Semitism is much harder. How to change age-old religious, racial and political hatred of Jews? Success for me will be measured by how many other people condemn anti-Semitism. It is not a Jewish problem - it is a problem for all of humanity. Success will be building coalitions, it will engage interfaith and inter-ethnic groups, especially young people - to recognize anti-Semitism, to call it out to condemn it, to demand that governments, non-governmental organizations, media, religious leaders and everyone condemn it.

Success is finding and highlighting groups working around the world who every day work to advance acceptance, respect and tolerance. Like the Three Faiths Forum - an NGO in the United Kingdom- where Jews and Muslims and Christians work in teams to visit every single high school. Like the Interfaith Youth Core, that is centered in Chicago but has programs around the world. They train interfaith teams of people to be future leaders for our world. Or Civitas of Bosnia, which helps interethnic groups co-exist and become media literate for their advocacy. Like the Ukrainian tolerance camps and tolerance clubs for teenagers, which bring together Jews, Muslims, Greek and Russian Orthodox, and many different ethnic groups to learn from each other and how to advocate on behalf of each other. And the list of best practices, thankfully, goes on and on.

Success is never overnight, especially for this age-old hatred, but we must use every single day to move the needle, confront the hatred and expand the table of discussion and conversation. That is my priority as your Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism.

So I have this wonderful platform to do just that. I work with so many of you out there representing Jewish, interfaith, and inter-ethnic organizations. I work with you United States government employees in advancing acceptance, respect and tolerance. And I work with this Administration's leaders - so committed to making the world a better place for our having served.

How lucky am I?

I'll tell you how lucky. As lucky as I am to work with Mike Posner, who is the Assistant Secretary of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor, and the rest of the DRL gang, my biggest and most wondrous contribution and achievement has been my incredible, beautiful, brilliant and extremely fun daughters, Shira and Francie, here with their loves, JP and Josh. How lucky I am to have my sister here? She would turn herself inside out if it would in some way alleviate pain for me. By my Aunt Sy and Cousin Joanie who represent my mother's side of the family. And dad is here in memory only, in our hearts. Since he was the only survivor of his family from the Holocaust my family is quite small. Oh, how I wish my parents could be here today to help us all celebrate all this world mending we are doing together.

The Jewish tradition tells us that we are not required to finish repairing the world, but neither are we allowed to desist from doing our part. We have a lot of world fixing to do - and with all of the energy in this room, and with the leadership of President Obama and Secretary Clinton, we will get this done.

Thank you for this honor, for the trust you have in me, for the vision of what our world could be, for your caring. Thank you.