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Rosenthal spent ‘most time’ on anti-Semitic attacks on Israel
August 1st, 2012
Before her appointment as Milwaukee Jewish Federation chief executive officer/president was approved, Hannah Rosenthal was in Milwaukee this past May to speak to the Cream City Foundation — whose executive director, Paul R. Fairchild, is one of her friends and colleagues — and to attend the wedding of one of her two daughters.
Prior to her talk to the foundation on May 29, Rosenthal met with The Chronicle to discuss what her three years as U.S. State Department’s Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism has taught her about the state of anti-Semitism in the world. She said six trends exist:
• The trend on which she said she spent most of her time is “where legitimate criticism of Israeli policy crosses over into anti-Semitism,” she said. “This happens often and easily.”
In fact, Rosenthal said, she had to train people in the State Department about this issue because she depended on them to report anti-Semitism; “and if they don’t know what it is, how can they report it?”
Rosenthal said she uses the “3-D” guidelines articulated by Natan Sharansky, chair of the Jewish Agency for Israel and former Soviet Prisoner of Conscience.
That is, criticism of Israel becomes anti-Semitism if it involves demonization of Israelis or Jews, double standards for Israel as opposed to other countries, and delegitimization of Israel’s right to exist, she said.
• Meanwhile, “Traditional anti-Semitism is alive and well,” manifesting in blood libel accusations, stereotyping, conspiracy theories, and the like, she said. Moreover, one can find these manifestations even in countries like Spain that have tiny or no Jewish communities.
• “There is an increase in Holocaust denial” in many places, she said. Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may be the most famous Holocaust denier politician, but he is not the only one, she said.
• “On the flip side of that, we’re seeing Holocaust glorification,” she said. She mentioned specifically Muslim theologian Yusuf Abdullah al-Qaradawi, “one of the leading mentors of the Muslim Brotherhood” and host of a TV program broadcast by Al-Jazeera to some 60 million viewers.
Rosenthal referred to a speech Qaradawi gave, aired on Al-Jazeera, in January 2009, in which he praised Hitler for putting Jews “in their place. This was divine punishment for them. Allah willing, next time will be at the hand of the believers [in Islam].”
• There is a growth of “Holocaust relativism,” which Rosenthal said is “a kind of a hybrid” of denial and glorification. This involves minimizing the Holocaust or trying to group it with other but non-comparable atrocities.
For example, Rosenthal was in Winnipeg this past May. There, Jewish philanthropist Israel Asper had wanted to help set up a Holocaust museum.
However, it became the Canadian Museum for Human Rights because of demands primarily from the Ukrainian Canadian Congress. This group insisted that the museum include the Holodomor, the Soviet Union-induced famine in Ukraine in the early 1930s, which killed an uncertain number of millions.
And when the Holocaust was given more space in the museum than the Holodomor or other atrocities, some UCC members circulated a postcard with images of pigs saying, “All galleries are equal, but some galleries are more equal than others” — a play on George Orwell’s allegory-satire novel “Animal Farm” (1945), but also “extremely offensive” to Jews. “I can’t make this stuff up,” Rosenthal said.
• Finally, Rosenthal said she is seeing a growth of radical nationalism in some European countries that “is very troublesome” and that often turns against Jews. This trend manifests itself in the growth of radical nationalist and often anti-immigrant political parties in places like Hungary and Greece.
“Some of it, I’m told, is because of the economic downturn,” she said. “People are looking inward and rejecting otherness,” and that tendency “is never good for Jews and not good for society in general and for all other vulnerable groups.”