Wednesday, November 17, 2010

The Challenge Of Speaking Out Against Anti-Semitism (Updated: How About Anti-Semitism In The West Bank?)

Hannah Rosenthal, appointed last year by Obama as head of Office To Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism in the Obama Administration, spoke last week at the 2010 Conference on Combating Anti-Semitism. Here is some of what she said:
There is also growing Holocaust glorification – which can be seen in parades honoring the Waffen SS still living, in the growth of neo-Nazi groups, and is especially virulent in Middle East media – some that is state owned and operated - calling for a new Holocaust to finish the job. Truly bonechilling.

...And what I hear from our 194 posts around the world, and from our close relationship with NGOs in the US in other nations, opposition to a policy by the State of Israel morphs into anti-Semitism easily and often.
We record huge increases in anti-Semitism whenever there is activity in the Middle East. This form of anti-Semitism is more difficult for many to identify – but if all Jews are held responsible for the decisions of the sovereign State of Israel, when governments call upon and intimidate their Jewish communities to condemn Israeli actions, when academics from Israel are boycotted – this is not objecting to a policy – this is anti-Semitism. Our State Department uses Natan Sharansky’s framework for identifying when someone or a government crosses the line – when Israel is demonized, when Israel is held to different standards than the rest of the countries, and when Israel is delegitimized. These cases are not disagreements with a policy of Israel, this is anti-Semitism. The US is often the only “no” vote in international bodies who seem to have an obsession with condemning Israel.

...To combat the demonization, delegitimization of Israel and holding Israel to different standards than all other nations in the world, we consistently vote NO and offer explanations of our vote to international bodies as well as institutions obsessing on Israel.
This, and the rest of what Rosenthal said, is fine as far as it goes. But if she is to be a real spokesperson against Antisemitism--and not just a sop to the Jewish community--then she will have to speak out regularly and often about anti-Semitism, and not just at conferences where she gets to preach to the choir.

For starters, Rosenthal needs to speak out not only against Anti-semitism, but also speak out about what anti-Semitism actually is.

Here, from the European Forum on Antisemitism, is a working definition of what Antisemitism is:

The purpose of this document is to provide a practical guide for identifying incidents, collecting data, and supporting the implementation and enforcement of legislation dealing with antisemitism.

Working definition: “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

In addition, such manifestations could also target the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity. Antisemitism frequently charges Jews with conspiring to harm humanity, and it is often used to blame Jews for “why things go wrong.” It is expressed in speech, writing, visual forms and action, and employs sinister stereotypes and negative character traits.
Contemporary examples of antisemitism in public life, the media, schools, the workplace, and in the religious sphere could, taking into account the overall context, include, but are not limited to:
  • Calling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion.
  • Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as collective — such as, especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.
  • Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.
  • Denying the fact, scope, mechanisms (e.g. gas chambers) or intentionality of the genocide of the Jewish people at the hands of National Socialist Germany and its supporters and accomplices during World War II (the Holocaust).
  • Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.
  • Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interests of their own nations.
Examples of the ways in which antisemitism manifests itself with regard to the State of Israel taking into account the overall context could include:
  • Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.
  • Applying double standards by requiring of it a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.
  • Using the symbols and images associated with classic antisemitism (e.g., claims of Jews killing Jesus or blood libel) to characterize Israel or Israelis.
  • Drawing comparisons of contemporary Israeli policy to that of the Nazis.
  • Holding Jews collectively responsible for actions of the state of Israel.
However, criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.

Antisemitic acts are criminal when they are so defined by law (for example, denial of the Holocaust or distribution of antisemitic materials in some countries).
Criminal acts are antisemitic when the targets of attacks, whether they are people or property – such as buildings, schools, places of worship and cemeteries – are selected because they are, or are perceived to be, Jewish or linked to Jews.
Antisemitic discrimination is the denial to Jews of opportunities or services available to others and is illegal in many countries.
Rosenthal has her work cut out for her.

UPDATE: Reader NormanF notes:
The US government is not even serious about pressuring the PA to halt cultural anti-Semitic and anti-Israel propaganda.

And I say in front of you, Mr. President, that we have nothing to do with incitement against Israel, and we’re not doing that. What we care about is to live in coexistence with Israel, in order to bring about the independent Palestinian state that will live side by side with Israel in peace and stability.
That was not true--in fact, incitement in the West Bank against Israel is very much alive:

  • In May, Palestine Media Watch came out with a report on Palestinian incitement.
  • In June, Palestine Media Watch came out with another report.
  • And now, Palestine Media Watch recently came out with a report for July and August

Maybe Rosenthal is not allowed to speak out about Anti-Semitism in those areas where she might actually make a difference.

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NormanF said...

And what's being done to stop it?

The US government is not even serious about pressuring the PA to halt cultural anti-Semitic and anti-Israel propaganda.

You have to wonder if Hannah Rosenthal has been paying attention to what her job demands.

Empress Trudy said...

Dear Hannah Rosenthal;

Obama is your boss, not mine. Take your pretend outrage back to him where he can pretend to give a damn.

Charles said...

Virtually every History PhD in the free world will stake his or her career on known Holocaust facts. Despite this, Holocaust deniers ply their mendacious poison everywhere, especially with young people on the Internet. We must tell the true story of the perpetrators of genocide, revealing the terror, humiliation and degradation resulting from such blind loathing and prejudice. We must disclose the cruelty and horror of genocide to combat the deniers’ virulent and inaccurate historical revision. By doing this, we protect vulnerable future generations from making the same mistakes.

Whenever we stand up to those who deny or minimize genocide we send a critical message to the world. As we continue to live in an age of genocide and ethnic cleansing, we must repel the broken ethics of our ancestors, or risk a dreadful repeat of past transgressions. A world that continues to allow genocide requires ethical remediation. We must show the world that religious, racial, ethnic and gender persecution is wrong; and that tolerance is our progeny's only hope. Only through such efforts can we reveal the true horror of genocide and promote the triumphant spirit of humankind.

Charles Weinblatt
Author, Jacob’s Courage

Daled Amos said...

We must disclose the cruelty and horror of genocide to combat the deniers’ virulent and inaccurate historical revision.

But isn't that what we are doing now? What do we need to do now that we are not already doing?