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Combating Anti-Semitism

Combating Anti-Semitism

New U.S. anti-Semitism envoy facing formidable task.


WASHINGTON (JTA) -- Hannah Rosenthal, President Obama's nominee for the post of special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism, certainly has her work cut out for her. According to the latest report from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, hate crimes remain "a serious problem" in the OSCE's 56 member states.  Yet, incredibly, only eight of the 56 governments provided the OSCE with data on recent anti-Semitic incidents in their countries. Clearly there are regimes that hope to preserve their country's image by whitewashing local anti-Semitism. Confronting them will be one of Ms. Rosenthal's many challenges.

There can be no doubt that anti-Semitism continues to manifest itself across the globe, and in a wide range of forms. In Sweden, a prominent newspaper recently accused Israelis of kidnapping Arabs in order to harvest their organs. In Honduras, political figures and pundits are blaming Jews for the country's political crisis. In Hungary and Austria, far-right extremists are exploiting the democratic system to significantly increase their representation in parliament. And here at home, in Edison, N.J., a yeshiva student was assaulted by anti-Semitic thugs on Rosh Hashanah and a synagogue was daubed with swastikas on Yom Kippur.

The position of U.S. envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism was established in 2004 in response to the frightening proliferation of anti-Jewish hatred around the world. The late Rep. Tom Lantos (D-Calif.), later joined by Sen. George Voinovich (R-Ohio) and Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.), initiated the legislation that created the position. Lantos, a Holocaust survivor, saw echoes of a dark past in our own era, both in the spread of anti-Semitism worldwide and the failure of Western democracies to speak out against it.

Obviously there are vast differences between the Hitler period and our own era. At the same time, it is important to recognize today's serious dangers.

When Iranian leaders threaten to annihilate Israel -- and actively try to develop the weapons that would enable them to do that -- they should be taken as seriously as anti-Semitic leaders in the 1930s should have been taken.

When Arab regimes teach their schoolchildren to hate Jews while glorifying violence and denying the Holocaust ever took place, they must be challenged -- especially when the United States is in a position to use its aid and influence with those regimes as leverage.

When Holocaust deniers claim that the Nazis' slaughter of 6 million Jews is a myth circulated by an international Jewish propaganda machine -- that, too, must be recognized as anti-Semitism. When extremists cynically manipulate United Nations forums to blame Israel and "Zionists" for all the ills of the world, they must be denounced.

When fanatics in any country try to mask their anti-Semitism as opposition to Israel or Zionism, they must be exposed. The U.S. position on this question, as articulated in last year's report by the State Department's Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, is that "the demonization of Israel or vilification of Israeli leaders, sometimes through comparisons with Nazi leaders, and through the use of Nazi symbols to caricature them, indicates an anti-Semitic bias rather than a valid criticism of policy concerning a controversial issue."

Some of the governments that Ms. Rosenthal investigates surely will lean on her to go easy on them in her reports. She may find herself under pressure from U.S. government officials who believe that having friendly relations with a particular regime is more important than speaking out against anti-Semitism in that country.

We hope she resists these pressures and stands up for those who were denied such help during the darkest of period in human history, the Holocaust. If she does, she will have served her office well and upheld our nation's noble humanitarian legacy.

Related article: Toxic Classroom. Click here to read.

December 12, 2009

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Visitor Comments: 18

(17) Anonymous, December 21, 2009 6:23 AM

I Saw Buried in the Sand on DVD

It includes the barbaric beheading of Daniel Pearl. I'm still trying to shake the horrific imagery and sound from my mind. I am forever changed and saddened by the inhumanity, which has gone on seemingly forever, only now it is caught on tape and broadcast online to be relived in its brutality. I wish I never saw it, but am thankful to be alive in this fleeting, fragile world, especially in the U.S. I don't know why the Israeli's are still at war with their neighboring cousins in Palestine, but I pray not only for peace, but harmony between the two sides. In this world, there really is great evil and anti-semitism is a big part of it.

Beverly Margolis-Kurtin, September 27, 2014 10:31 PM

That is why...

I never watched the more recent beheadings by ISIS. Once one sees something as traumatic as that, it will forever remain in one's memory.
Many years ago I saw a man hit by a car, I can revisit that memory at will.

(16) JV, December 19, 2009 4:20 AM

Cannot Rely on Governments

The stolen sign at Auschwitz, Menorah attack in Moldova, BNP legitimised in the UK, the usual garbage in France and the Baltics and ongoing bias at the UN demonstrates that governmental bodies cannot be relied on to fight anti-Semitism. It is time ti consider an International network to physically guard Jewish historic and remembrance sites outside of Israel. If governments cannot protect history and places of honor we must do it ourselves.

(15) Anonymous, December 17, 2009 9:53 PM

"Out of the heart the mouth speaks"

The important thing to consider now is "where is your heart now on the issue of antisemitism?" Our heart is the place now where we will make descisions in our reactions of tomorrow. When history repeats its self (and it will) there will be no gray areas; you will either be for or against. And history and heaven will record it.

(14) Rebecca, December 16, 2009 6:20 PM

People need to wake up.

The problem with this sort of thing is the fact that whenever something happens to a Jew, people just are not interested in hearing it and they pull the 'well, you're so oversensitive' card. I agree with the comment that spoke about how despicable the 'kick a Jew' day was and how that should not even be tolerated, but when I present it to people, they tell me that there was a 'kick a Ginger' day as well, so 'see? it's not anti-antisemitism! It's just kids!" This is both ridiculous and dangerous as well! We need to open our eyes! Also, in regards to people masking antisemitism as anti-Israel bias or Zionism, I see this daily and it makes me sick to my stomach! There was a great opinion piece on the Jews who do this to their own people, it is called the Great Betrayal and is absolutely a must read. (from a website called VirtualJerusalem.) We must know how to combat these uneducated people intellectually! I wish Hannah Rosenthal much success in this role, but forgive me for not having the highest of expectations.

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