2011 Hours Against Hate is a campaign to stop bigotry and promote respect across lines of culture, religion, tradition, class, and gender. Launched by Special Representative to Muslim Communities Farah Pandith, and Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Hannah Rosenthal, the State Department is asking young people around the world to pledge their time to stop hate—to do something for someone who doesn’t look like you, pray like you, or live like you. We are asking the next generation to work together to build a stronger, more prosperous world. No one group can do it alone.
Special Representative Pandith and Special Envoy Rosenthal officially launched “2011 Hours Against Hate” at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Vienna, Austria on February 17, 2011.
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Good evening, ladies and gentlemen. I hope you’re enjoying the festivities surrounding the end of Ramadan. Eid Mubarak! When my friend Imam Syed Naqvi invited me to speak to you tonight, I was honored to have the opportunity. I commend you for your desire to engage in the political process and develop plans to move your interests forward.
Before I share with you some of the efforts of the U.S. Government to promote human rights and combat hatred of all kinds, let me talk a bit about you and me. I stand here today as a first generation American Jew, and I am speaking to the Shia leadership of the country. Most people would look at us tonight and wonder what we had in common to discuss. They would be surprised to learn how much we share.
First and foremost, we are Americans, and share the pride and love we have for this country, our Constitution, and what America stands for in the world.
Furthermore, a recent Gallup poll showed that Jews and Muslims in America share common values – whether on domestic or international issues. We share an immigrant experience. Jewish immigrants, who arrived in multiple waves of immigration, mostly visibly in the late nineteenth century, often used education as a means of gaining a foothold in America and of finding a way to contribute to our new country. And the study shows that Muslims are taking a similar approach. Muslims and Jews have the largest number of degrees of higher education among all religious groups in the U.S.
While we Jews and Muslims may have highly educated communities, we also have fears about perceptions that others hold of our traditions. According to a recent report, Muslims and Jews are more likely than adherents of any other tradition to conceal our religious identity. Sixty percent of Muslim Americans polled say they experience prejudice against Muslims. The fact that Muslims experience prejudice here in America concerns me, as an American, as a Jew, and as a U.S. government official. Later in this discussion, I will explain how I incorporate that concern in my own work.
Jews and Muslims share so many experiences in the U.S. As small religious minorities, each under two percent of the population, we experience marginalization. But because both of our communities focus on education, we have been able to develop new opportunities for our next generations. We both share a drive not only to make America our home, but to attain a prominent role and make a major contribution to this newfound homeland. We share remarkable parallels, and to move forward with collaborations will help both of our communities reach those goals.
Let me share with you some of the efforts the United States Government is making with governments, international organizations, and civil society, and encourage your engagement to help educate the US and the world about Muslims.
I am so honored to serve as the President’s Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism. I am charged with monitoring anti-Semitic incidents and combating such intolerance. But the truth is, I am in the relationship building business. I am here today because it is imperative that we work together. I stand for rights of all peoples, regardless of ethnicity or religious background. We share the same mission: to combat hate and intolerance to create a more peaceful and just world.
First, I’d like to share with you my work on combating anti-Semitism, including how I frame the issue in my discussions overseas and here in the United States and why it is important that we talk about this issue. At the same time, it is very important for me and others to talk about prejudice and anti-Muslim sentiment as well. So I will also tell you about my work in helping combat anti-Muslim sentiment, which I believe must be a part of all of our discussions about religious freedom and human rights.
Over the past year and a half, I have been tracking anti-Semitism around the world, and have witnessed its alarming presence and growth. While I am troubled by the rise of global anti-Semitism, I am also troubled by the rise of all hate and intolerance, especially hatred of Muslims. We must all join together, regardless of our backgrounds and faiths, to combat hate.
Through weekly monitoring of anti-Semitic incidents, I have observed six global trends. Traditional forms of anti-Semitism are passed from one generation to the next, sometimes updated to reflect current events. We are all familiar with ongoing hostile acts such as the defacing of property and the desecration of cemeteries with anti-Semitic graffiti. There are still accusations of blood libel, which are morphing from the centuries-old accusations by the Church that Jews killed Christian children to use their blood for rituals, to accusations that Jews kidnap children to steal their organs. Conspiracy theories continue to flourish, such as supposed Jewish control of the U.S. media and the world banking system, or that Jews were involved in executing the September 11 attacks. The centuries-old Czarist forgery called The Protocols of the Elders of Zion continues to be a bestseller throughout the world, and taught to religious students as truth. Simply put, it is the lie that won’t die. This kind of “old fashioned” anti-Semitism is alive and well today.
A second phenomenon is Holocaust denial, which is espoused by religious leaders, heads of State, such as in Iran, and academic institutions; it is a standard on hateful websites and other media outlets. Last summer, when I met Imam Naqvi, it was on a trip to combat Holocaust denial. We and seven other Muslim leaders, two of whom had been Holocaust deniers, visited the Nazi camps of Dachau and Auschwitz.
When we arrived at Dachau, Germany’s first concentration camp, the imams were overcome with the pictures they saw and immediately went to the ground in prayer at the sculpture commemorating the six million Jews exterminated. At that moment, I knew I was watching history being made. All of the passers-by, tourists, and docents stopped in their tracks to witness their spontaneous prayer. Auschwitz was overwhelming for all, and—for some—it was transformational. We walked amidst ash and bone fragments from the 1.5 million Jews exterminated there – solely because of who they were. We were facing the fact that unfettered and unanswered hatred can indeed create an Auschwitz. All the imams had their own catharsis there, and together, they produced a historic statement strongly condemning Holocaust denial and all other forms of anti-Semitism.
In this statement, Imam Naqvi and his fellow leaders stated that: “We bear witness to the absolute horror and tragedy of the Holocaust where over twelve million human souls perished, including six million Jews.
We condemn any attempts to deny this historical reality and declare such denials or any justification of this tragedy as against the Islamic code of ethics.
We condemn anti-Semitism in any form. No creation of Almighty God should face discrimination based on his or her faith or religious conviction.
We stand united as Muslim American faith and community leaders and recognize that we have a shared responsibility to continue to work together with leaders of all faiths and their communities to fight the dehumanization of all peoples based on their religion, race or ethnicity. With the disturbing rise of anti-Semitism, Islamophobia, and other forms of hatred, rhetoric and bigotry, now more than ever, people of faith must stand together for truth.”
Now, a year later, we continue to stand together for truth. These imams have been urging colleagues and schools to join their statement. Some are planning to take their youth on the same trip, to become witnesses to history, to teach the power of hatred, and the power that condemnation can have to stop hatred.
A third, disturbing trend is Holocaust glorification, which can be seen in parades honoring soldiers who fought in the Waffen SS, which glorifies Nazism under the guise of fighting the Soviets and obscures their roles in the Holocaust. There are also calls for another Holocaust to finish the job. Truly bone chilling.
A fourth concern is Holocaust relativism, where some governments, museums, academic researchers, and others conflate the Holocaust with other terrible events that entailed great human suffering, like the Dirty War, the Soviet regime, or the ethnic cleansing in the Baltic. I am not trying to diminish the many other terrible horrors human beings have inflicted on others in this past century alone. However, the danger of conflating all dark chapters of history is that we then diminish each of them, and fail to learn the lessons each one has to teach. It also allows us to avoid acknowledging the damage done to each particular group. We then don’t teach how each manifestation of hatred happened or learn from those contexts, the horrid regimes and atrocities.
The fifth trend I’ve observed is the increasing tendency of blurring the lines between opposition to the policies of the State of Israel and anti-Semitism. I want to be clear – criticism of policies of the State of Israel is not anti-Semitism. But it crosses the line when Israel is demonized and blamed for all the region’s ills; or when it is held to different standards than any other country; or when Israel is delegitimized, denying its right to exist.
While anti-Semitism thrives everywhere, I am particularly concerned about it in the Middle East. Our reports indicate that anti-Semitism increases in official state-sponsored media following developments in the Middle East peace process or in response to Israeli policy-making. Anti-Semitism is also a real problem in textbooks used in several countries in the region, which preach intolerance and hate against Jews, against Shia, and other religious minorities of the area, and are distributed around the world, in places as far off as Buenos Aires, Argentina.
The sixth trend we are seeing is the growth of nationalistic movements which target ‘the other’ – be they immigrants, or religious and ethnic minorities – in the name of protecting the identity and ‘purity’ of their nation. We have seen that movie before.
It is clear from these trends in anti-Semitism and incidents I’ve reported on in the past 18 months, coupled with reports of rising levels of anti-Muslim sentiment, that hate is destabilizing. The recent murders in Norway are another example of how unchecked intolerance and hate contribute to violence.
In an effort to combat hatred and turn it around, my colleague Farah Pandith, the Special Representative to Muslim Communities, and I launched a virtual campaign called 2011 Hours Against Hate, focusing on youth, using Facebook and twitter. We are asking young people around the world to pledge their time to volunteer with people who may look different, pray differently or live differently from them. For example, a young Jew might volunteer to read books at a Muslim pre-school, or a Russian Orthodox at a Jewish clinic, or a Muslim at a Baha’i food pantry. We want people to walk a mile in another person’s shoes. It’s about mutual respect and taking action to advance acceptance, pluralism, tolerance.
Farah and I have already met with thousands of students and young professionals in Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Spain, countries that in their histories celebrated Jews and Muslims co-existing and thriving together. Young people want to DO something, and this has given them an outlet. More recently, Farah and I met with youth and interfaith leaders in Saudi Arabia, Jordan, and Lebanon, discussing ways to increase tolerance and understanding among different religious groups. We have already surpassed our goal of 2011 hours pledged against hate, with over 12,000 hours pledged from all over the world, and stories and videos posted to the Facebook page. Check it out at 2011HoursAgainstHate, and become part of this movement.
In the Department of State, the Office of International Religious Freedom in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, monitors and reports on religious freedom issues in general, including the rising hatred of Muslims. The Department of State also actively advocates for religious freedom for people of all faiths, and for protection of religious minorities of all faiths. To this end, the U.S. Government has made Muslim engagement a priority as we have sought to engage international and national Muslim leaders and communities; strengthen tolerance education; encourage political, religious, and civil leaders to speak out against anti-Muslim sentiment; train government officials to recognize anti-Muslim rhetoric; and foster a dialogue about religious tolerance and cooperation.
As I mentioned earlier, civic engagement is a way to amplify the image of Muslims at home and abroad. Over the course of this weekend, I imagine you will discuss and brainstorm how greater Muslim engagement in the political process will help build a more just and sustainable democracy. Democracy is, of course, more than voting. Democracy is what we see here today: a plurality of ideas, voices, and individuals working to strengthen the rights of individuals. Civic engagement is essential, with advocacy to protect fundamental rights like freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom to assemble and associate with whomever you want.
In addition to engaging in politics, coalition building is, in my experience, integral to delivering and spreading one’s message. Diversity makes democracy work. In a democracy, even the most vulnerable have the opportunity to raise their voice and issues onto the national stage. Through coalition building, dialogue, and cooperation on efforts like 2011 Hours Against Hate, we can engage in national conversations that confront intolerance and hate. We need to use one voice to publicly condemn anti-Semitism and hatred of Muslims.
As I mentioned at the beginning, joining in partnerships and coalitions is an effective way to condemn and confront all forms of hate. Your partners can be governments, civil society, international institutions, business leaders, labor unions, and the media. Building partnerships and building bridges among ethnic and religious groups helps change a culture from fear and negative stereotyping to acceptance and understanding, from narrow mindedness to an embrace of diversity, from hate to tolerance.
Also it is good to work with international organizations, such as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, which provided influential leadership to pass Resolution 16/18 at the UN Human Rights Council. This resolution, “combating intolerance, negative stereotyping and stigmatization of, and discrimination, incitement to violence, and violence against, persons based on religion or belief,” strengthens our efforts to combat hate while promoting religious diversity, tolerance, and the protection of human rights.
Another international organization, UNESCO, established a network of like-minded cities interested in fighting intolerance, racism, discrimination, and xenophobia called the “International Coalition of Cities against Racism.” UNESCO recognized the need to partner with policy-makers on a local level to implement and promote tolerance policies, creating regional coalitions around the world.
This past March, European and American politicians came together at the European Parliament to discuss racial equality and inclusion at a conference focused on the issue of political inclusion of ethnic minorities in the United States and Europe. Discussion centered on adopting an EU-US Joint Strategy on Racial and Ethnic Equality and Inclusion to combat racial discrimination as well as promote political participation and inclusion of minority groups living in Europe and the United States.
The Chair of the OSCE, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, appoints three dedicated special representatives to Muslim, one to Jewish and one to Christian communities, to ensure that the needs of our communities throughout Europe and beyond are being addressed.
These efforts by our government and others underline how hard individuals and organizations are working together globally to combat hate and promote tolerance and inclusion using virtual campaigns, conferences, developing and sharing materials, and discussing best practices. We all share in a common humanity. The things that I want for myself and my children are no different from what you want for yourself and your children: safety, good health, security, a good education, dignity, and the ability to reach our full potential. And as people of faith we want to improve the lives of the least, the last, the lost.
We must fight to achieve and maintain these human rights. We must continue to engage with elected officials and hold them accountable for ensuring our human rights, our freedom of religion, our human dignity. We must continue to educate our communities and opinion leaders about ourselves and about what it means to live in a tolerant, democratic society. We must engage in the political process to ensure that it represents a plurality of voices and individuals. This process is always hard work and sometimes even messy, but it will spread a message that says that discrimination and intolerance have no place in any society.
It is inspiring to stand here among you and to see your commitment to achieving change. I hope this conference will spark innovative and effective ways to partner with government officials and other members of civil society to make your voices heard. I look forward to working with you in the future as we all work together to repair this fractured world.
Good morning. Mazel tov on this conference – the second one of its kind – it’s encouraging to see that it has doubled in size from last year. I am pleased to be joined by members of the European Parliament, the Israeli Ambassador, leaders of Jewish communities throughout Europe, Jewish organizations and students, and, of course, media representatives.
The subject of this conference is timely as in the 21st century we are still regrettably faced with anti-Semitism. In a world that is increasingly connected, sharing ideas across borders adds to the growing global dialogue, be it constructively or intolerantly. Jewish media needs to be a part of that conversation.
People get their news from many sources these days. Studies by the Pew Research Center and Advertising Age tell us that 77% of adults use the internet – 90% of whom are 18 to 29 years old. When it comes to time spent online, Facebook tops its rivals, with a user base of 517 million people, 70% of whom live outside the U.S. Another trend is the increased use of mobile phones, because they are cheaper than the cost to access the internet in many places. In the developing world, mobile phone applications bring the news to people’s hands.
74% of U.S. adults read newspapers at least once a week in print or on-line; this tends to be an educated, affluent readership. However, despite the trend in the U.S. and Western Europe of decreasing newspaper circulation, the rest of the world is experiencing a boom in newspapers in terms of titles and circulation. But what about the others, those who are less educated and less affluent? TV dominates among the less educated, although the internet is gaining on TV as the public’s main news source. Even relatively poor populations now consider TV a necessity, especially in the developing world. All these trends point to more media consumed around the world, starting with the youth, whose time is mostly spent on social media. This next generation – our future—means that Jewish media needs to adapt to play the changing media game, not only in Europe, but across the developing world.
In my role as the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, I have been tracking the rise in anti-Semitism around the world, most notably in Europe. Let me assure you of the unwavering commitment of the Obama Administration to this cause. The President began his Administration speaking out against intolerance as a global ill. In his historic speech in Cairo, he signaled a new path that embraces a vision of a world based on mutual interest and mutual respect; a world that honors the dignity of all human beings. President Obama and Secretary Clinton have honored me with this appointment and have elevated my office and have fully integrated it into the State Department.
We are attempting — through diplomacy, public messaging and grassroots programs all over the world — to confront and combat hatred in all its ugly forms, whether it is hatred directed against people on account of their religion, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation or differences of political opinion or due to their country of origin. Anti-Semitism is one such form of hatred rooted in historical forces that go far beyond any current policy debate. If we want to change this trend, we need to stand together in our efforts to promote tolerance, acceptance and compassion. In that vein, we need to support and encourage Jewish and non-Jewish media outlets alike in their efforts to reveal the ignorance inherent in hateful ideologies like anti-Semitism.
I am here in Brussels on the tail end of a trip which began in Saudi Arabia. I have also visited Jordan, Lebanon and Lithuania. In Lithuania, I spoke to teachers in a Holocaust education program, co-sponsored by the Lithuanian and U.S. Governments. I saw first-hand the impact that social institutions, especially schools, can have on developing a sense of tolerance and responsibility in the minds of our children. These experiences remind me of the importance of the work that I have been charged with as the Special Envoy.
When this year began, I planned to focus my efforts on fighting anti-Semitism in the Arab media and Islamic textbooks. On my recent trip, I met with a range of government officials, women’s and youth groups, and interfaith and non-governmental organizations in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Lebanon. I also met members of the press and bloggers in the Middle East.
In meeting with press, I am so often inspired by the efforts of journalists, news correspondents, photographers and others in the field to bring to light the important issues we face every day. While I am encouraged by the endless opportunities offered by the media, I also feel a sense of anxiety about its potential for misuse. A phrase, image or sound bite can affect millions of people in an instant, especially where no counterweight is present. In a world of increasing anti-Semitism, it is crucial that we understand the power of the media to change the minds and hearts of those who hate. Likewise, it is crucial for us to work hand in hand with other groups in their struggle for tolerance through the media.
In many countries, restrictive laws and administrative measures constrain fundamental rights to freedom of expression. The United States recognizes that areas for improvement exist in combating religious intolerance; however, we believe that the best response to hateful speech is debate and dialogue that condemns it and fosters tolerance. Not only do we believe that particular restrictions on expression violate universal human rights, we are convinced that they are counterproductive and exacerbate the very problems they seek to address.
I firmly believe that the most effective way to counter hateful speech and forms of anti-Semitism is by raising voices and taking actions that counter it. Bringing these hateful ideas to light reveals them for what they are and allows people to speak out against them. As President Obama said in Cairo, “suppressing ideas does not make them go away.” The media acts not only as the vehicle to amplify a variety of ideas, but it can also help expose the negative aspects of discriminatory ideas and actions. It is for this reason that I make it a priority to meet with bloggers and journalists wherever I go. The Jewish community must use media to put the spotlight on anti-Semitism and other hate speech wherever and whenever it appears.
At the State Department, we use the full range of media outlets at our disposal to get our message out; we use our webpage, State.gov; our embassy webpages; our blog, DipNote; Twitter; Facebook; webchats; traveling speakers; You Tube; Flickr; and daily press briefings. We tweet in nine languages – Arabic, Chinese, Farsi, French, Hindi, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, and Urdu and have over a 100,000 followers. We have a daily press briefing with domestic and international journalists, issue press releases, place op-eds, make speeches and provide testimony to Congress, as well as post online the remarks of the Secretary of State and other Department principals. We also have briefings for foreign journalists through our Foreign Press Centers in New York and Washington, as well as in media hubs around the world, including here in Brussels. The State Department uses international media engagement to communicate our priorities. In the same way, it’s critical that Jewish media and non-Jewish media cover Jewish priorities, and work together to combat anti-Semitism and intolerance.
As the President’s Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, I am charged with both monitoring anti-Semitic incidents and combating intolerance. As a child of a Holocaust survivor, anti-Semitism is extremely personal. When I was old enough to begin to understand what my father went through as the only member of his family to survive World War II, I asked him how he handled his guilt and kept his sanity. He didn’t miss a beat and said: “I survived to have you, Hannele!” – thus taking that guilt off his shoulders and putting it squarely on mine – and, as a result, I have dedicated my life to eradicating anti-Semitism and intolerance with a sense of urgency and passion that only my dad could give me.
Our daily actions are of great import, and I hope this conference will help us create connections in partnering to combat intolerance and promote understanding in our world. In addition to the larger communications managed by the State Department’s bureau of Public Affairs and bureau of International Information Programs, one of the things I do is to compile a weekly summary of news articles from around the world – thanks to the Internet, we have access to many sources, including some of the publications represented here today. These items are subsequently posted on my Facebook page under the heading “What We Are Hearing” so that social media users are more aware of anti-Semitism around the world.
I have been on the job for over a year now – and I’ve been hearing about six significant trends in anti-Semitism around the world:
I meet people who think anti-Semitism ended when Hitler killed himself. However, anti-Semitism is not History, it is News. More than six decades after the end of the Second World War, anti-Semitism is still alive and well, and evolving into new, contemporary forms of religious hatred, racism, and political, social and cultural bigotry.
This stems from the fact that traditional forms of anti-Semitism are passed from one generation to the next, and updated to reflect current events. We are all familiar with ongoing hostile acts such as the defacing of property, and the desecration of cemeteries with anti-Semitic graffiti. There are still accusations of blood libel, which are morphing from the centuries-old accusations by the Church that Jews kill Christian children to use their blood for rituals, to accusations that Jews kidnap children to steal their organs. Conspiracy theories continue to flourish, and “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” continue to be best sellers in many countries, often being taught to religious students as truth. For example, in April, the state-run radio in Venezuela urged everyone to buy and read “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.” I asked my colleague, the Special Representative to Muslim Communities, to issue a statement condemning this action. Her voice, and those of others, helped lead to that official being fired in May.
A second phenomenon is Holocaust denial. It is being espoused by religious leaders, heads of State, such as in Iran, in academic institutions, and is a standard on hateful websites and other media outlets. As the generation of Holocaust survivors and death camp liberators reaches their eighties and nineties, the window is closing on those able to provide eyewitness accounts and thus we have a heightened sense of urgency to promote Holocaust education, create museums and memorials, and carry the memory and lessons of the Holocaust forward. I am happy to report that in Lithuania, and in other European countries, the U.S. and OSCE provide funding for teacher training in Holocaust education to battle this trend.
Ironically, we also see the antithesis of this as there is a third, disturbing, parallel trend of Holocaust glorification which can be seen in events that openly display Nazi symbols and in the growth of neo-Nazi groups. In Latvia recently, a notorious neo-Nazi made blatantly anti-Semitic statements, including incitements to violence against Jews, on a Latvian television talk show. Holocaust glorification and the growth of neo-Nazi groups is especially virulent in Middle Eastern media – some of which is state owned and operated – calling for a new Holocaust to finish the job. Truly bone-chilling.
A fourth concern is Holocaust relativism – where some governments, museums, academic research and the like are conflating the Holocaust with other terrible events that entailed great human suffering, like the Dirty War or the Soviet regime. No one, least of all myself, wants to weigh atrocities against each other, but to group these horrific chapters of history together is not only historically inaccurate, but also misses the opportunity to learn important lessons from each of these historic events, even as we reflect on universal truths about the need to defend human rights and combat hatred in all of its forms. History must be precise – it must instruct, it must warn, and it must inspire us to protect universal values as we strive to mend this fractured world.
The fifth trend is the increasing tendency of blurring the lines between opposition to the policies of the State of Israel and anti-Semitism. What I hear from our diplomatic missions, and from non-governmental organizations alike, is that this happens easily and often. I want to be clear – criticism of policies of the State of Israel is not anti-Semitism. But we record huge increases in anti-Semitism whenever there are hostilities 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 like Venezuela call upon and intimidate their Jewish communities to condemn Israeli actions – this is not objecting to a policy – this is anti-Semitism. When all academics and experts from Israel are effectively banned or their conferences boycotted, or individual Jews are held responsible for Israeli policy – this is not objecting to a policy – this is anti-Semitism.
Natan Sharansky identified the “three Ds” that cross the line: “It is anti-Semitic when Israel is demonized, held to different standards or delegitimized.” This is more readily illustrated by the fact that the U.S. is often the only “no” vote in international bodies where countries seem to have an obsession with singling out Israel for disproportionate condemnation.
The sixth trend is the growing nationalistic movements which target ‘the other’ – be they immigrants, or religious and ethnic minorities — in the name of protecting the identity and ‘purity’ of their nation. When this fear or hatred of the ‘other’ occurs or when people try to find a scapegoat for the instability around them, it is rarely good for the Jews, or for that matter, other traditionally discriminated against minorities. The history of Europe, with Russian pogroms, Nazism and ethnic cleansing in the Balkans provides sufficient evidence. When government officials talk about protecting a country’s purity, we’ve seen that movie before. This is a good opportunity for Jewish media to reach out to other faith-based media to educate its counterparts on the problems we face and encourage them to report on these issues. We, in turn, should be prepared to reciprocate.
The State Department monitors these trends and activities and reports on them in all 194 countries in two major annual reports: The International Religious Freedom Report and the Human Rights Report. They are posted on the State Department website and on HumanRights.gov. I am now involved in developing a major training initiative for State Department employees so they can better monitor what is happening in the countries where they serve, and sensitize them to the various forms of anti-Semitism. This will make our annual reports more comprehensive, and allow us to do an even better job of monitoring and confronting anti-Semitism in all its forms. These reports tell us that many countries are pushing hard to advance human rights and fight discrimination. It also tells us that there is so much more work to do. If we don’t chronicle it, if we don’t name it, we can’t fight it.
My approach to combating anti-Semitism is not just to preach to the choir, so to speak, but to join in partnership with non-Jews in condemning it – partnerships with governments, civil society, international institutions, business leaders, labor unions, and media.
And I would encourage all of us here to reach out to our counterparts in non-Jewish media, be it secular or faith-based. Sometimes, the messenger is as important as the message. If the non-Jewish media speaks out against anti-Semitism, people will take notice.
Last summer, Secretary Clinton launched an initiative to strengthen civil society across the globe and she instructed the State Department, including all overseas posts, to treat civil society as strategic partners because such relationships help us to build bridges among ethnic and religious groups and to change a culture – from one steeped in fear and negative stereotyping to one of acceptance and understanding; from narrow mindedness to celebrated diversity; from hate to tolerance.
I have an official website on State.gov and I am using Facebook and other social media to connect with all people – especially youth — globally, and to encourage them to go beyond words, speeches, or even lectures by providing a vehicle for them to DO something tangible to promote tolerance and practice mutual respect. In February, my colleague Farah Pandith, the Special Representative to Muslims Communities, and I launched a virtual campaign called 2011 Hours Against Hate. We are asking young people around the world to pledge an unspecified number of hours to volunteer to help or serve a population different than their own. We have a Facebook page for this initiative, as well as a page for it on State.gov. We ask them to work with people who may look different, or pray differently or live differently. For example, a young Jew might volunteer time to read books at a Muslim pre-school, or a Russian Orthodox at a Jewish clinic, or a Muslim at a Baha’i food pantry. We want to encourage them to walk a mile in another person’s shoes.
Farah and I began meeting with hundreds of young people earlier this year – students and young professionals – in Azerbaijan, Spain and Turkey – countries that in their histories celebrated Jews and Muslims co-existing and thriving together. They want to DO something. They expressed strong interest in the campaign – and we have already surpassed our goal of 2011 hours pledged against hate. Really, we have just begun. Last week, Farah and I met with youth and interfaith leaders in Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Lebanon.
These are just some examples of how I and the Department of State use media daily. Anti-Semitism has been around since the beginning of Judaism, but since then, too, good people of all faiths and backgrounds have striven to combat it. The Jewish tradition tells us that “you are not required to complete the task, but neither are you free to desist from it.” Let’s all work together – let us, the Jewish, other faith and secular media representatives here today, use all forms of media at our disposal in our fight against anti-Semitism.
2011 Hours Against Hate is a campaign to stop bigotry and promote respect across lines of culture, religion, tradition, class, and gender. Launched by Special Representative to Muslim Communities Farah Pandith, and Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Hannah Rosenthal, the State Department is asking young people around the world to pledge their time to stop hate—to do something for someone who doesn’t look like you, pray like you, or live like you. We are asking the next generation to work together to build a stronger, more prosperous world. No one group can do it alone. Special Representative Pandith and Special Envoy Rosenthal officially launched “2011 Hours Against Hate” at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Vienna, Austria on February 17, 2011.
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2011 Hours Against Hate Campaign Q&A at the Foreign Press Center
MODERATOR: Welcome to the Washington Foreign Press Center. Thank you so much for joining us today. We’re very pleased to have with us today Hannah Rosenthal, who is the special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism, and Farah Pandith, who is the special representative to the Muslim communities. Both are with the Department of State. They are going to provide us with a readout of their recent travel to Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Spain for the 2011 Hours Against Hate Campaign. They’ll make some opening comments and then take your questions.
So without further ado, I will turn it over to Ms. Pandith.
MS. PANDITH: Thank you very much, and good morning to all of you. Thank you for taking the time to talk with us about our wonderful trip. We really had a great time. I think what would be helpful is if we tell you a little bit about the origin of the campaign, 2011 Hours Against Hate. And for those of you who are – who don’t have the fact sheet in front of you, it’s a campaign that is clearly – it’s on Facebook. So if you go to Facebook and you go to 2011 Hours Against Hate, you will see how you sign up, what the campaign’s about.
But Hannah and I met each other in a very peculiar way, I would say, in a moment at the State Department where I wasn’t expecting to meet her. Clearly, a lot of people are doing many different things at the State Department. Hannah’s portfolio is very different than mine. I had known about her and had read about her appointment with appreciation and energy. But I got an urgent call from Hannah around the time when the Times Square terror plot had been foiled, and she said that she wanted to come see me. And I, of course, said, “Please do come to the office.”
And she came in and she said, “Farah, I know that this is going to be a very difficult time for Muslims, not just here in the United States, but around the world. And I can already begin to see some movement in the media and in the press falsely talking about the religion of Islam being connected to this, not separating the idea that terrorists did this.” And she basically said to me, “What can I do to help?” She said, “The messenger is different if it comes from – the message is different. I’m a different messenger. How can I be helpful to you?”
And that is how Hannah and I met each other. And it was a moment where I actually saw the kind of woman she was, but I also understood that she was a doer and an action-oriented kind of person. And a few months later, we collaborated in Kazakhstan, and maybe you could talk about that.
MS. ROSENTHAL: The Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe, the OSCE, as you know, is a regional organization that takes its human dimension very seriously. And they have held, over the years, many conferences that have focused on intolerance. So last summer in Kazakhstan – Kazakhstan was the chair of OSCE at the time – had a conference on tolerance. And it was organized this way: The first session was on Islamophobia, the second session was on anti-Semitism, the third on Christophobia, and the fourth on everything else.
And we traveled all the way to Kazakhstan, and part of our job is to prepare the official statement by our government, and as you know from living here and covering stuff, that when you sit around a table in these conferences, there’s one person sitting in the chair of the country. So we – I had written this statement condemning anti-Semitism, and Farah had written this statement condemning hatred of Muslims, and the night before, we decided to swap speeches.
And so at the opening in the first session that was called Islamophobia, they call on the United States, and I’m sitting in the U.S. chair, and I push the button, and I introduce myself as Hannah Rosenthal, the special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism, and I want to condemn in the strongest words possible all forms of hatred against Muslims, and the room went quiet. Again, if you have never been to these, that is an unusual thing. These are talking heads who make statements, and everybody makes their statement that’s been cleared by their country, and they listened.
And following, the next session, which was on anti-Semitism, Farah was in the U.S. chair, and they call on the United States, and Farah does the exact same thing, introducing herself as special representative to Muslim communities and condemning anti-Semitism in the strongest words possible. When we decided to swap speeches, we also ended both speeches with the exact same words, basically saying hate is hate. Jews can’t fight anti-Semitism alone. Muslims cannot fight Islamophobia or hatred of Muslims alone. Roma can’t fight Roma – and the list goes on and on – that we have to work on this together.
And I will say that in addition to our swapping speeches, we held a side event in Kazakhstan where we had brought six different nongovernmental organizations that were focused on youth, and were – and these organizations all were multiethnic, multi-religious focused, and they got it immediately that we had swapped speeches to have a higher impact on what we were saying. But they came up to us afterwards and basically said that’s very nice to see statements and talking heads, but we really need to be doing more.
MS. PANDITH: So in terms of doing more, we wanted to build an action-oriented campaign, and we really embraced both what the President and the Secretary of State has talked about in the last couple of years – one, the importance of civil society and grassroots. The Secretary of State has talked a lot about citizen diplomacy – P2P, as we would call it – and has talked about the importance of the American Government doing more than we ever could before and understanding what’s happening at the grassroots. The President, of course, has talked very carefully and very strongly about the importance of doing things with mutual respect. And so that concept was very important, along with the concept of volunteerism.
But we also understood how important it was to use 21st century statecraft to move into a place where we’re making it accessible for the next generation. The Secretary of State has talked a lot about the importance of youth and the youth demographic worldwide. And certainly in the work that I’m doing and the work that Hannah does around the world, we are looking at a youth generation because they’re the pivot points. They’re the pieces of the puzzle that will make a new world for all of us.
And so as we thought about an action-oriented campaign and we listened to the reaction from our colleagues in Kazakhstan and civil society around the world after this event at the OSCE, they said, “What can you do to go beyond words and statements of the U.S. Government?” And we developed this campaign, 2011 Hours Against Hate, to answer their ask of us, which is: Can you build something in which you can catalyze the next generation to do more and to answer the call that they all see important, which is to build a stronger world out there, one that does not have the burdens of the past, one that is forward-thinking?
This campaign, as I said, is something that can be found with a click of your mouse, and it is something that has allowed people accessibility around the world. It is not something in which you have to interface with a government to be part of. But regular citizens who like the idea of this campaign, the nuances that will be different between a Spain or an Azerbaijan or a Turkey will depend on how the organizations out there decide to use this campaign. Perhaps you could tell us a little bit more about the campaign of deeds.
MS. ROSENTHAL: And it is clearly action-oriented. But when we’re focusing on young people who, in five minutes, are going to be the majority population on the globe, we not only need to focus on how they communicate with each other in 21st century statecraft, but young people mostly do not have the resources to write a check to an organization, they may not have developed an expertise yet that they can offer to a community. But what they do have is time. And so the focus of the campaign is asking young people to pledge an hour, two hours, five hours, whatever, and asking them basically to walk in other people’s shoes so that a young Muslim might say, “I pledge two hours to work in a Jewish clinic,” or a Catholic youth may say, “I’m going to pledge a few hours in a Baha’i food pantry.”
And it isn’t just about religion. Unfortunately, there are all forms of hatred. And so we also find other vulnerable populations very excited about this because it not only gives them an opportunity to be an activist and to do something, but how do you volunteer for another organization? You do it through relationship building. And so it is giving people something to do that will have much longer life, and the ripple effects will be hopefully even more profound. And that’s how we designed this, using what they have – communications expertise that I don’t completely understand how they communicate, but they certainly do, and their excitement about being able to actually do something, a campaign of deeds rather than just talking heads and words, and reinforcing the fact that it’s all about relationships.
That’s what we do at the State Department. State Department’s all about building relationships so we don’t have to, hopefully, drop bombs. And this is a way of getting young people to recognize the power they have, the power they have through their communication, and they’re actually doing something to be with people who look differently than they do, who pray differently, or live differently than them.
MS. PANDITH: So what we did this year in February – the third week of February, we went to Vienna, we went back to the OSCE, and we launched the campaign. And we launched the campaign at the OSCE because we, as you heard, began the concept – the kernel of this idea, “The messenger matters,” way back at the OSCE in June of 2010. So we went and we gave a presentation. We got incredible enthusiasm by the ambassadors of the OSCE from many different countries across the board, all parts of Europe that said, “What can we do to help?” And what we did – what we decided to do was not just, obviously, launch it publicly into a media campaign, but we went to three countries that we thought had really good examples of communities of different shapes and sizes living with each other over history.
So we went to Azerbaijan, so we went to Turkey, so we went to Spain, and we talked with grassroots, and we also talked with government. We talked with folks who would be interested in hearing more, and the reaction on the ground was quite profound. I mean, I have to tell you I knew it was going to be positive because it’s a great message, but it was really – what really hit home for me was the impact it had on a young kid who said, “Here’s something I can actually do,” as Hannah said. “I mean, I may not have $10,000 or a million dollars to give towards something, but I do have hours. I do have time on the table.” You also talked to student groups who said – multi-faith student groups or multi-religious – I mean, excuse me, multi-ethnic student groups who – it’s not just about being Jewish or Muslim or Christian or Baha’i. It’s about being – a man doing something for a woman. It is about a young person doing something for somebody who is older. It’s about walking in somebody else’s shoes, building more cohesive communities.
So for example, I mean, when we were in Spain, the city of Cordoba took this campaign and really just blew it out. I mean, the mayor of Cordoba said this is really important because not only is this the European Year of Volunteerism – which the EU has this year, and it’s an important synergy that goes together – but in fact, our city has a very – a lot of universities here, we have a lot of young people who are looking – who are forward-thinking, and we too have a history of – at a moment in time, Cordoba has that legacy.
Similarly, I mean, you were just talking about a great experience we had in Turkey with a group of young people – yeah.
MS. ROSENTHAL: Oh, we went to a university, and the young people there – it was a school of theology. And some of the quotes that came out of this, it was like –
QUESTION: That’s in Turkey?
MS. PANDITH: Yes.
MS. ROSENTHAL: In Turkey. This was in Ankara.
QUESTION: Ankara University (inaudible)?
MS. ROSENTHAL: Yes.
MS. ROSENTHAL: And we met – there were professors and there were students. And the students, unsolicited, would say – they would remark to me that anti-Semitism is a national shame. And they wanted me to know that they were aware of that. And then they talked about Jihad should be done through pens, not guns. And unsolicited – we could just sit back and let them talk because they were given a forum to talk about combating hatred. And frankly, it wasn’t about any specific hatred.
MS. PANDITH: And it was fun because not only – I mean, that reaction in Turkey pretty much paralleled the reaction in Spain and Azerbaijan. When we were in Azerbaijan, we met with a group of about 50 young kids, all of whom right then and there asked to be videotaped so they could say, “Hi my name is so-and-so, and I’m volunteering X amount of hours online.” So if you go to Facebook, you can see these kids speaking their –
MS. ROSENTHAL: Various languages.
MS. PANDITH: Yeah. Various languages –
MS. ROSENTHAL: We have no idea what they said.
MS. PANDITH: — talking about what they’re doing and where they’re pledging. You saw the Peace Corps in Azerbaijan take this on because they were like, “We want to make this ours. We want to turn this campaign.” So the logo has been turned from English into Turkish into Spanish. We had an organization in Madrid that was sort of the mother volunteer organization of many different NGOs who have volunteers that – in very many different sectors, say, “We want to make this ours,” and if you go on Facebook, you can see them talk about the fact that it’s almost – I think almost several hundred thousand volunteers combined of young people who say, “We want to do more.” So we were really excited about this, and we were very happy to hear that it wasn’t just one slice of young people. It was – you saw musicians talking, you saw entrepreneurs talking, you saw kids who were just sort of grassroots organizers and activists. So it isn’t just one type of person that’s been affected by this. It’s many.
And I want to just sort of stress one last thing before we open it up to Q&A. You’ll see that this logo on here, 2011 Hours Against Hate, is not a State Department logo. It is a logo so that anyone can take it. This was meant to catalyze. It’s meant for people to take it and make it theirs. We are building hours to push back against societies in which mutual respect is not something that they want to live with, but – I mean, that they want to live with, but I’m really interested by the innovation of a young person who says, “This is how we want to do it in our community. We can take this concept and we can change it. We can do a rally or we can do a virtual campaign or we can do something in our schools or we can do something in a new way.” And the State Department is not sitting there saying, “You can do this, and you can’t do that.”
MS. ROSENTHAL: Not at all.
MS. PANDITH: It is simply saying, “Here’s the concept. How do you want to run with it and make it yours?” And that’s what we’re hoping to do this year, and that’s why the Secretary has been so vocal about this campaign. In fact, I’m sure you heard her speech in Berlin a couple of weeks ago in which she talked about this campaign as well, and we’re hoping to see more action on the ground. As it is already, we have already surpassed the 2,011 hours. And we’re seeing more and more momentum worldwide.
MS. ROSENTHAL: Yeah. We were hoping that at the end of the day, we’d have people pledging 2,011 hours – get it, the year and all – and it happened immediately. And we’re onto the third iteration of that.
And I will tell you, as clever and as profound as I thought the campaign would be for people because the young people asked us to put something together that would do something, I have been amazed at the reaction. And I’ll be interested in your questions. But with young people, they didn’t have questions on why are you doing this. They got it. They don’t like the direction – now, Farah mentioned that we were going to countries where Jews, Muslims, and Christians have a good history, at some point in their history, and not so much now. And the young people were unanimous, and they don’t like the direction it’s going; “Thank you for giving us something.” And we’re very excited to see the immediate response of young people.
Now, it’s easy for us – we in the United States, we have schools that require service learning. We – I’m sure you know that in our culture here, we volunteer. Something happens – the community – in a community, people volunteer. That is not the case almost everywhere we’ve gone. And separately, we’ve gone to many other countries. The notion of volunteering or hooking arms with people different than you is not something that comes naturally to them. While they get the campaign, the question often is: So we’re not going to get paid for this? That’s right. Well, then how do we do it? How do we find out where there is a shelter for victims of domestic abuse? How do we find that out? Well, then it becomes an amazing learning experience about their communities, and not just their communities, but communities that they don’t walk in a lot.
So it’s been a profound experience for us to get to travel on behalf of the State Department on this, but this is not a State Department-only thing. And when we got to Cordoba, there were signs all over with this logo in Spanish. There’s no State Department or anything on it. They took it, they owned it, and so it is going. We really hope you’ll go on Facebook and see it all.
So we’re eager to answer any of your questions.
MODERATOR: Excellent. Thank you. Just a reminder, when you ask your question, please state your name and your media organization.
QUESTION: May I start?
QUESTION: Yildiz Yazicioglu, CNN Turk, Turkish correspondent. I would like ask firstly, Ms. Rosenthal, how do you react – how do you get your reaction into Turkey, especially after (inaudible) case, and Turkey-Israel relationship now really look (inaudible) – if you get any reaction from students or in your meeting about Israel relationship between Turkey?
MS. ROSENTHAL: Well, first of all, I just want to be clear. I am the special representative to monitor and combat anti-Semitism. George Mitchell is the special envoy on Middle East peace. So I often do not even entertain what’s going on between Israel and Palestine and the whole area.
But I will say we heard from young people that they understood that their Jewish neighbors had nothing to do with the policy of the sovereign State of Israel. They were able to separate it, even as some of the people who were older in their communities were not. They separate – the young people separate their identification of identity on a set of values – not on politics – and we heard that loud and clear. And actually, all three of the countries, people – the young people actually remarked to be Azerbaijani is not an ethnicity, it is not a religion, it is about our values. I mean, we heard it loud and clear. And we heard it in Turkey that the young people understood. They were able to separate concern about a policy of Israel and their Jewish neighbors. And that’s a very good thing, because –
MS. PANDITH: Can I say something, too? One of the things that was remarkable – and in the traveling that I do as special representative to Muslim communities – I’ve been all over the world – one of the things that has struck me about this generation is how proud they are of their culture and their history. And many of them are going back to different points in their history to say, “Look at who we were,” and “What do we want to become?”
And they’re taking the narrative and they are reshaping it. They’re making it theirs. I call what’s happening in the world right now with the generation under the age of 30 a youthquake. And I call it a youthquake because they’re moving things, they’re shaking them up in a way that our generation sitting at this table is actually very surprised that they’re lighting things on fire. They’re using technology to spread ideas. Part of those ideas are history as well.
So when we went to a place like Turkey that has such a rich and extraordinary culture, you talk to young people who are proud of the many different chapters of Turkish history in which pluralism is a key component, as you said, in terms of the idea and the values that are put forward. Bilateral issues shift and change in time, but the values of people and what a culture means and who they are was very important. Even in Azerbaijan, when we went to the synagogue and we looked at what was happening with a minority – Jews are a minority in Azerbaijan – and how proud they were of being able to live side by side because Azerbaijan had that history.
MS. ROSENTHAL: They’ve been continuously – the Jewish community has continuously been active in Azerbaijan for 2,600 years. And the people we met with that weren’t the Mountain Jews – we were the first two officials to go into the new synagogue of the Mountain Jews – but when we met with young people, they’re very proud of that history, very proud of it. And we’re actually hearing that from a lot of the youth. In Spain, since 1492, the Jews and the Muslims were expelled. Well, they’re interested in finding out a little more about that and who was left behind that really might be Jewish and might be Muslim, but –
MS. PANDITH: And it’s the –
MS. ROSENTHAL: — it was secret.
MS. PANDITH: Yeah, and it’s the long view. I mean, I really want to hit that hard because I think if you look at things in the short-term perspective and you react to everything that’s happening on the planet, you aren’t taking the long view of the generation, Generation Y and Generation V, that are the people who are going to redefine.
This is a – these are generations that are digital natives. This is a – these are generations that are learning from each other and sharing ideas around the world. So the young kid in Ankara who has a profound sense of what it means to be Turkish and what they want to do will, in fact, impact that young kid in Azerbaijan. This campaign is actually a way, too, for young people to come together on things that they find in common, which is we may have differences vis-à-vis foreign policy, bilateral issues, but human values over the long term is how are we defining the next generation and what is it that we want to become.
And that’s why I go back to this issue of – sorry –
MS. ROSENTHAL: No, no, no.
MS. PANDITH: — of mutual respect and building a world that they want to see.
MS. ROSENTHAL: They view global – the globalization of the world very differently. I’m much older than Farah, but I won’t tell you how old. (Laughter.) I remember when the word “globalization” was first out. It was an economic term. It became a political term. To them, it’s a life term. They can get on their little phones and tweet to – or talk to people in another part of the world like they were sitting next to them, and it’s natural for them. So their vision of a world where people are all trying to improve the world, and their vision of tomorrow is not the vision that – I’ll tell you – that I was raised with. We were much more compartmentalized. They are not.
While we were traveling, Farah, who knows this technology, and Sarah, our travel mate, taught me how to tweet. Now, if you tweet, then you know what this is about, but I sure didn’t. And so she taught me to tweet, and my handle is Hannah@State – (laughter) – @ — Hannah@State. And I tweeted something and then we went into a program, and I came back and a hundred people were following me. I have no idea how they found me. I don’t know any of them. They write me – I get their tweets all the time. Their names are not familiar to me. They are clearly, from the names, from all over the world. This is how the young people are relating to the world. I’m, like, laughing at all these strangers finding me. To them, it’s second nature. It’s a pretty exciting time. It’s a pretty exciting time.
And I want to just say we started this campaign before the Arab Spring, so that was not a surprise to us, that through those kind of communications people were going to be able to organize and become activists, because we were seeing it already.
MODERATOR: Go ahead.
QUESTION: Tolga Tanis from Hurriyet. Actually, I am confused a little bit, because a few months ago, the State Department has released the latest report about human rights, world Human Rights Report, according to (inaudible) from embassies. And maybe you are too optimistic about the case in Turkey because, according to the report, anti-Semitism is increasing in Turkey.
MS. PANDITH: Increasing all over the world, and that is a really important fact to put on the table. The fact of the matter is we made this ours because in our own jobs, we were seeing an increase of hate speech around the world.
QUESTION: So who did organize your trip in Turkey?
MS. ROSENTHAL: Excuse me?
MS. PANDITH: We do.
QUESTION: Government people, or NGOs – what?
MS. PANDITH: Well, several things happened. When we went to the OSCE, the ambassador there was very excited about Turkey. When we talked to NGOs around the world, Turkey clearly has a history.
I want to be very clear, though, this isn’t about which country is doing it best. Please be clear. What we were doing was highlighting moments in time and global history where there are places on this planet in which humans have lived side by side and have done things to – and made prosperous communities. Turkey is one such wonderful example; Spain is another; Azerbaijan is another; Albania is another. We could go on and on with many countries around the world. We could spend our jobs all day, every day, going to different parts of the world highlighting different things.
The point is the global narrative is not one in which we push forward pluralism or we push forward a positive image of the world. The narrative that’s out there is a narrative defined by others – first of all, youth are not getting enough attention, and that’s something that’s very important. The second thing is, in my job and I know in Hannah’s, when you go around the world and you see that it is okay to say something hateful about somebody that isn’t like you, you begin to step back and say, “What’s happening globally?”
The fact that in Europe three are swastikas being spray-painted on things; the fact that in Europe, it’s becoming okay to say unbelievably horrifying things about Jews and Muslims and others; in our country, in America, the increase of hate speeches increase. Believe me, it’s not just us and them; it is all over the planet, whether we’re in – whether I have gone to Africa or I’ve gone to Southeast Asia or I have gone to Europe or I’ve gone to South America, I have seen that increase.
So you’re absolutely correct, sir, when you say that there is – there’s highlighting in the Human Rights Report of many countries around the world in which hate speak – speech has been highlighted. But it doesn’t mean you missed that moment to say, what does a young person want to build for themselves. Just because something bad is happening doesn’t mean that there isn’t an opportunity to work towards a more positive future.
QUESTION: So you think that hate speech is not really for the right young people in countries?
MS. ROSENTHAL: Well, I’m sure there are –
MS. PANDITH: Of course there is.
MS. ROSENTHAL: – some young people that are – who are very troubled by the rise of neo-Nazi parties who hate all immigrants or anybody who looks different than them, and that’s, in fact, happening throughout much of Europe. Yes, we see it. And I’m very active in the Human Rights Report. Seventy-five countries had increases in anti-Semitism, and it’s awful. And we, at a government level, talk to the government about it, and we say this is not okay. And in our relationships, we consider hate speech and – hate speech and incidents of hatred, hate crimes, as human rights abuses, fundamental human rights abuses. You can read them in the Human Rights Report.
QUESTION: Have there been any bad experience in – bad experiences in your trips to the three countries?
MS. PANDITH: What do you mean by a bad experience?
QUESTION: With young people?
MS. PANDITH: Look, we were in Cordoba, and a young man – we were in an auditorium of about 300 people, I’d say, at the University of Cordoba. It was a really great – it’s actually online if you’re interested in seeing, verifying. But he got up there and we’re talking a very positive story here, and I do believe in the future of this generation because I think that there’s a lot that they can do that generations before could not, okay? I mean –
MS. ROSENTHAL: We have to. We owe them that.
MS. PANDITH: But there’s skepticism out there. Of course there is. People say, “What do you know? Is this a gimmick? What are you guys trying to do over here?” And we said, “We are reacting to this because we’re seeing the increase.”
So this young kid gets up there and he raises his hand and he’s called on by the ambassador, Ambassador Alan Solomont, who was the moderator of the panel and he’s our Ambassador in Spain and doing a terrific job on pushing forward this campaign all across Spain. And as the young man said, “Look, I think it’s real — ” I’m paraphrasing – basically said, “While you guys are all talking about a great story out there, I don’t really believe that we can look at the data around the world and see positive. There’s a lot of negative that’s out there. What are you – what is the United States trying to do here? What is really – what’s the real deal? What are you trying to do?”
And so to quote you, you said a bad experience – I don’t call that a bad experience. I call that a great experience because you want to be able to talk to a person who says, “I’m skeptical about this,” and I say, “Fine, be skeptical, but let me show you the reaction of many out there.” There will be people who say nothing can be done, but I don’t believe that. I believe that every person has the ability to make change, and I know that for a fact. I don’t just believe it.
And I’ve seen communities change, and when you see the kind of momentum that we have with young people who, even in their small way, in their small neighborhood, are taking this on and making it theirs, my goodness, how will that spread and how will that change the way in which they think about somebody who’s different than them?
QUESTION: May I –
MODERATOR: Please go ahead.
QUESTION: The gentlemen –
MODERATOR: We’ll go to you and then we’ll go to you. I want to make sure we give everyone a chance.
QUESTION: Okay. This is Ali Akel with Yeni Safak (inaudible) television. So is the – one part, I mean, we talk about Turkey, Azerbaijan and Spain. So you have some observations. What is the responsibility of Israel? Are you going to share some of your findings with them? Are you going to take some concrete steps for solution? What are you going to do at end of this campaign?
MS. ROSENTHAL: At the end of the campaign, what are we going to do?
MS. ROSENTHAL: Hopefully have a big celebration and take what we have – what people are giving to the Facebook page and put it together to share with the world so they can see and be inspired like we have been on what we’re hearing.
Will we solve hate by the end of 2011? No. But will we feel that we’ve energized a network of young people around the world – helped energize – they’ve got other things that are energizing them as well – and I – seeing how fast it’s gone and caught on, I’m quite sure we’ll have a great celebration at the end of 2011. We thought at the end of 2011, we’d – “Ding, ding, ding, ding, we hit 2011 hours,” that people – now, we’ve long past that. But we are going to have wonderful stories to tell.
QUESTION: On Israel? I mean, are you going to say something to them or not?
MS. PANDITH: Let me be really very clear with you. This is a campaign that is a global campaign – I want to go back to what I said to begin – this is not us talking about bilateral issues. This is not solving the issues between one country or another. This is a grassroots movement in which we’re trying to answer the call that civil society gave to us after we spoke in Kazakhstan where civil society said, “Can you, Hannnah, and can you, Farah, use your platform at the Department of State to do more than just give a U.S. statement,” which was really important at that time, “but can you do more?”
And I want to give this campaign back to the people. This is not us trying to chide one country against another and what – this is for us to all look internally and say, “How are communities building pluralism as a structural component of who they are? How are communities thinking about the values of mutual respect?” And most importantly, what we can be doing as governments – any government in the world, whether you’re the Government of the U.K. or you’re the Government of India or the Government of Malaysia or the Government of Jordan – if young people within your country want to do this campaign and are reaching out to say, “Can you join us in this campaign,” I would hope that governments all over the world would be in support of working with their civil society on doing as much as they can, whether that’s curriculum development, whether or not that’s viral campaigns within their country, whether that’s a day of volunteerism – whatever it happens to be, to take the example, by the way, of the mayor of Cordoba who said, “These are values that my city is about, and I’m going to make this real.”
Or, by the way, one of the mayors that we met in Istanbul, who is a absolute rock star – this guy is all about people and all about teaching young people who makes up his communities. He has a program, by the way, where young kids come to the mayor’s office every single day, and he gives them a fake passport, and he says, “Now go to the mosque, now go to the church, now go to the synagogue and get it stamped so that you can see – you can go visit the place and see the people who make up your community.” This kind of innovative thinking –
QUESTION: Who is that?
MS. PANDITH: I can give you the name of the mayor.
MS. ROSENTHAL: That was in Istanbul.
MS. PANDITH: It was in Istanbul and –
MS. ROSENTHAL: One of the communities in Istanbul.
MS. PANDITH: He was terrific, and people like him were – are our gemstones, really, because they are able to activate it in a way that makes sense for their own culture and to take it on. So a government, whether it is on a bilateral level with another country or it is a very small interaction that’s taking place neighborhood to neighborhood, a mayor or a governor of a state, a senator, an MP, anything can make a positive change.
MS. ROSENTHAL: But to try and get at what you’re asking at also, we are in the process of planning a trip to the Middle East –
MS. PANDITH: Oh yes, of course.
MS. ROSENTHAL: – where we will meet with young people throughout the Middle East.
QUESTION: I would like to follow up on that. It’s not going to be just about the religious faith, right?
MS. ROSENTHAL: Correct.
QUESTION: In the Middle East – because a big part of the problem is the sectarian or the ethnic hatred.
MS. PANDITH: So again, it’s not regional in terms of what we are saying –
MS. PANDITH: — across the world –
MS. ROSENTHAL: Yes.
MS. PANDITH: – the different kinds of communities, whether it is religious or it’s racial or it’s – I mean, if somebody who doesn’t look like you, pray like you, live like you, like that.
MODERATOR: We’ll go here, and then we’ll go here.
QUESTION: Thank you. I am Haykaram Nahapetyan with Armenian TV. So I understand you are mainly focused on anti-Semitism, but you also –
MS. ROSENTHAL: No, no, no.
MS. PANDITH: No, no, no. That’s not –
MS. ROSENTHAL: Well, my job is that – in fact, we have other jobs. We’re just doing this because of our history together.
QUESTION: (Inaudible ) –
MS. ROSENTHAL: Yes.
QUESTION: — (inaudible), that hate is hate no matter who is doing things. So I’d like to ask about the sentiment and feelings of Turkish and others (inaudible) with regard to Armenian society. I don’t know if you were in Turkey during April 24 when they had the commemoration of the Armenian genocide in Istanbul, which was a completely new happening, new development. So there is some dynamics in Turkey toward the Armenian people, liberals or human rights activists try to embrace the Armenian people and the genocide tragedy, and also some more nationalistic and (inaudible) forces that are still there.
So I would like to ask about Turkey and also about Azerbaijan, what impression do you get from Baku?
MS. PANDITH: We had a great meeting with the imam in Azerbaijan, who was really very enthusiastic about this campaign. And he – and because we spent so much time both with the Jewish community and with the Muslim community, we heard a lot about the history in Azerbaijan, and it was a very positive trip, I thought.
MS. ROSENTHAL: Absolutely. And I would say, from the young people we met with both in Turkey and Azerbaijan, we heard the hope that the unresolved issues between Turkey and the Armenians and also in Azerbaijan, that it will be resolved. Because they’re not holding grudges, they’re not accepting the narrative that tells them that they have to hate the other.
The nationalism that is sweeping Europe right now is not missing these countries. There is a lot of nationalism that is – I will tell you personally – scary for me when I hear some of political parties actually running on hatred of others. And that is really disconcerting, considering Europe’s history. But when we talk to young people – as depressing as it is to see political parties and leaders of political parties spewing hatred, when we talk to young people, they’re rejecting it. They’re not happy with this nationalism “do or die” for their national identity at the expense of others.
QUESTION: Like this almost constant threats of Azerbaijani Government restart the military or still (inaudible) Nagorno-Karabakh and fight against Armenia – you didn’t feel the impact of this on the (inaudible) society or the army in Azerbaijan?
MS. PANDITH: Do you know, in every country we went into, there are definitely issues that are on the table in a foreign policy dimension, absolutely. And I want you to understand that we’re not living in a Pollyanna world over here where we don’t think that people don’t get what’s happening in real time; of course we do.
But what Hannah is saying is while there are some very difficult and challenging issues on the table, whether it is in Azerbaijan or it is in Turkey, or it’s in any other country we will go to, kids are also saying while people are working on these hard-end issues, we can, at the same time, talk about what’s happening peer to peer around the world and how we want to think about others. And I think that that nuance and that piece is very important for all of us to think about, because I think if you get structured into this place where you say, “Because X issue is taking place, that means we never can be friends with anybody else,” you’re failing to see, and failing, by the way, to listen to what this generation is talking about, which is to say, “What more can we do going forward, what are the positive steps we need to take going forward and not be anchored into the hate of the past.”
QUESTION: Well, that’s very nice. I mean, I don’t reject that, but how would you explain that it’s almost impossible to – not to see Azeri media, for example, this kind of positive or peaceful –
MS. PANDITH: You’ll have to talk to the Azeri media yourself. You’re a member of the Azeri media. I mean, I can’t speak for the Azeri media. I would hope that in everything that is taking place with young people on this campaign or any other issue that’s happening (inaudible), that media take a chance to actually do the hard work of taking the time to listen to what’s happening at the grassroots and not put everybody in a pigeonhole and assume everybody is the same, which is what has been happening for a long time.
MS. ROSENTHAL: There were cameras at –
MS. PANDITH: Yes.
MS. ROSENTHAL: — almost everything we did in Azerbaijan.
MS. PANDITH: Yeah.
MS. ROSENTHAL: There were cameras, television cameras, covering us. I don’t know what the outcome was, what was shown, because we went on and travelled. But there were – there was media interest on every step, every leg of our trip.
MODERATOR: Okay. Let’s go over here.
QUESTION: My name is Marco Bassets. I’m from the Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia. I was wondering, why did you choose these three country? You explained that these countries share history a history of communities living side-by-side, but are you also worried that – specifically about these three countries in respect to anti-Semitism, or in the case of Spain, Islamophobia, which is an issue in the public debate and politically?
MS. ROSENTHAL: We did not pick it because there are special problems. We took – we picked the countries because they had done something right. Maybe not yesterday; maybe it was in their history.
But we talked about the part of the culture where coexistence occurred and diverse communities thrived because of that diversity. Cordoba – you know the President mentioned Cordoba by name in his landmark speech in Cairo. And Azerbaijan, as I mentioned, 2,600 years of Jews living there. There weren’t Muslims when they were there. But when the Muslims and the Orthodox and other Christians came, they lived very well together. And the same with Turkey. Turkey was – I think that some of the tension, if there is any in Turkey, it’s between secular and non-secular during this time of transition. But when they look at their culture and how they’ve behaved and what they teach, they’ve done something right. It’s not perfect.
We left Azerbaijan – we had a wonderful meeting with human rights groups and we left Azerbaijan, and the next week, those organizations were closed down because of other things happening in Azerbaijan. We’re very aware. We’re not trying to be Pollyanna and everything’s wonderful and don’t believe the bad stuff you hear. But in Cordoba, for me, as a Jew, I’ve got to tell you I’m walking down the street in Cordoba and it’s Maimonides Street. I don’t know of anywhere else in the world where a Jew, a Jewish philosopher and doctor and historian, is honored with a street next to an incredible mosque.
They’re doing something right. And we picked them because of their history of doing something right, not because they’re special cases of doing something.
QUESTION: Well, something – you start this from the easy part?
MS. ROSENTHAL: Well, we started – when we rolled this out at the OSCE in February, many countries came to us and asked us, please come to our country, and these countries were some of the countries that asked us. We –
MS. PANDITH: And we will, over the course of the next few months as this year goes out, visit some other countries. You have to start somewhere. There’s always a first couple of countries that you go to, but believe me when I tell you the response at the OSCE really was tremendous, and we had many countries in Europe asking us to come because they were very proud, as I said earlier, of their history and of moments in time that they wanted to, quote-un-quote, sort of remember or show off to the rest of the world.
I think we all have to take a step back, I think all of us, and think about what it is that’s at the essence of this. And when you think about America, when you think about different parts of the world, there have been challenges that are on the table in 2011 that did not exist two years ago. And we are trying to do our best to be proactive and forward-thinking and harness the energy of these young people who are looking at their communities around them going, “Wow,” and you – I don’t know – if you go to the Facebook page, you’ll see the video that Hannah and I did. We talk about Albania because it has an incredible story to tell. But we could – and yes –
MS. ROSENTHAL: And Muslims don’t know the story –
MS. PANDITH: Right.
MS. ROSENTHAL: — that Albania saved – is the only Muslim-majority country during World War II – they saved every Jew, every single one. At the end of World War II, there were 10 times as many Jews in Albania than before. Nowhere else did that exist. When I share that with my friends that are Muslims, they’re shocked to hear this. There are these positive stories to tell and they’re coming out of the woodwork in this campaign.
MODERATOR: We’re almost out of time so let’s go to someone who hasn’t had a chance to ask.
QUESTION: Kasim Cindemir, Haberturk Daily. So do I understand it correctly that this whole thing is focused on young people?
MS. PANDITH: Yes.
MS. ROSENTHAL: Correct.
QUESTION: So when you went to Turkey, did you talk to young Jews or young Christians?
MS. PANDITH: Yes.
QUESTION: What did they say?
MS. ROSENTHAL: And Muslims. Yes.
QUESTION: I got that.
MS. ROSENTHAL: Yeah, you got that. (Laughter.) They were open, excited, wanting to work together, wanting to speak out on each other’s behalf. I’m sure I’m missing some of the sentiment, but it was all proactive. I look forward to being – I’d like to – one kid said, “I will pledge 2011 hours,” and we went, “Okay, we’re done,” “because I want to work on getting different faith and ethnic communities working together.”
MS. PANDITH: Look, if you go to the Facebook page and you look up what’s written on the wall, you see kids saying things like – young people, NGOs, whoever – “Why wasn’t this done earlier? Why can’t we live in a — ” I mean, that sounds very glossy and very sweet. We know that there are complex issues that are happening in the world. But who are we not to give a 20-year-old the opportunity to build a world that they want to live in? It is our responsibility as government to be the convener and the facilitator and the intellectual partner with the ideas that we hear on the ground. And this – going back to where we started, this is something that Secretary Clinton has asked us to do – to listen, to engage civil society, to be proactive in ways that we haven’t thought about before, to think out of the box.
And when the President of the United States starts his Administration by saying mutual respect is something that he puts forward, this is a campaign that does everything. It is one tool in a very large toolbox. It is not going to solve the world’s problems tomorrow, but it is one thing that we can do to move it forward.
And I would like to end there, on a positive note, to say while there are challenges – certainly, sir, no question about it – the vast majority of young people of any race, of any religion that we talk to, were very eager to do more on this aspect of volunteerism. As Hannah said earlier, many of these cultures don’t have a history of volunteerism. And two, which is the other piece that you talked about earlier, is coalition-building, that not one group can do anything alone, that you can work on an issue in a more magnified way if you’re working together. And who doesn’t want to work on the issue of building strong communities?
MODERATOR: Thank you.
MS. PANDITH: Thank you very much.
MS. ROSENTHAL: Thank you.
MS. PANDITH: Thank you.
In every part of the world, men and women are persecuted and attacked because of who they are or whom they love. Homophobia, transphobia and the brutal hostility associated with them are often rooted in a lack of understanding of what it actually means to be lesbian, gay, bisexual, or transgender (LGBT). So to combat this terrible scourge and break the cycle of fear and violence, we must work together to improve education and support those who stand up against laws that criminalize love and promote hate. As we mark the International Day Against Homophobia and Transphobia this May 17, let us resolve to redouble our efforts.
On behalf of President Obama and the people of the United States, I am proud to reaffirm our support for LGBT communities at home and abroad, and to call for an end to discrimination and mistreatment of LGBT persons wherever it occurs. Whether by supporting LGBT advocates marching in Belgrade, leading the effort at the United Nations to affirm the human rights of LGBT persons, or condemning a vile law under consideration in Uganda, we are committed to our friends and allies in every region of the world who are fighting for equality and justice. These are not Western concepts; these are universal human rights.
Despite these gains and hard work, there is more to do to turn the tide of inequality and discrimination against the LGBT community. If you are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender, know that the United States stands with you and we are unwavering in our commitment to ending this cycle of hate.
Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests and representatives of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum– I thank you for the invitation to speak here today. Thank you to Chairwomen Perlman and Saxton for putting together this important luncheon, entitled ‘Global Trends in Anti-Semitism.’ And thank you to our moderator, Jim Sackett.
A year ago, on January 27, I was honored to be part of President Obama’s delegation to commemorate the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz – and there I also had the pleasure of seeing Sara Bloomfield and the Museum honored by the international group assembled. So now on the 66th anniversary, almost on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, I am am honored to be here to honor you and the critically important work you do.
As the US Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, I have some incredible tools at my fingertips. However, one of my most precious resources is my access to the wonderful staff and researchers at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in DC, just a few minutes away from my office at the State Department. President Obama and Secretary Clinton have honored me with this appointment, and have elevated my office and integrated it into the workings of all other parts of the State Department. I have been on the job a little over a year – and I have witnessed six significant trends in the increases of Anti-Semitism around the world:
Traditional forms of anti-Semitism continue to plague societies worldwide. We are all familiar with ongoing hostile acts such as the defacing of property, desecration of cemeteries, and even accusations of blood libel which lately has morphed from accusations that Jews kill Christian children to sue their blood to bake matzah to Jews kidnap children to steal their organs. 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 executing the September 11 attacks. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion continue to be best sellers in many, many countries, and taught to religious students as truth. The ‘old fashioned’ anti-Semitism is alive and well.
Another potent trend is the growing Holocaust denial. It is coming from religious leaders in some places, by heads of State, in academic institutions in some places, and is a standard on several hateful websites and other media outlets. With the passing of time, we have fewer survivors and liberators alive to tell their stories, there is urgency to promote Holocaust education, create museums and memorials, and carry the memory and lessons of the Holocaust forward.
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 calling for a new Holocaust to finish the job. Truly bonechilling.
And there is Holocaust relativism or revisionism – where government agencies, museums, academic research and the like are grouping the lessons of the Holocaust with other repressive regimes, especially in the FSU. While no one wants to get into dueling victimhoods – to combine these bad chapters of history is not only historically dishonest, it also misses opportunities to learn the different lessons. History must be accurate – it must instruct, it must warn, and it must inspire us to learn the particular and universal values as we prepare to mend this fractured world. No one balances these imperatives better than the museum we honor here today.
And what I hear from our 194 posts around the world, and from our close relationship with NGOs in the US and 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. Unfortunately, the world does not understand, or chooses not to understand these distinctions. The US is often the only “no” vote in international bodies who seem to have an obsession with condemning Israel.
The last trend in growing anti-Semitism is the growing nationalistic movements which target ‘the other’ – be they immigrants, or religious and ethnic minorities in the name of protecting the identity and ‘purity’ of their nation. When this fear or hatred of the ‘other’ occurs or when people try to find a scapegoat for the instability around them, it is never good for the Jews. The last time government officials spoke of the purity of a nation, we know what happened.
The State Department monitors these trends and activities and report on them in all 194 countries – in two major annual reports: The International Religious Freedom report and the Human Rights report. I am now involved in a major training initiative for State Department employees and have initiated a trip for all interns and new Foreign Service Officers at State to visit the Museum, so they can better monitor what is happening in their countries, and sensitize them to the various forms of anti-Semitism – this will make our annual reports more comprehensive, and allow us to do an even better job of monitoring and confronting anti-Semitism is all its forms. If we don’t chronicle or name it, we can’t educate about it or fight it.
And my title calls for both monitoring and combating anti-Semitism. Combating this ancient hatred is daunting and calls for many different strategies. My approach to combating anti-Semitism is a community relations approach – to have non-Jews condemn it – government, civil society, international institutions, business leaders, labor unions, media. It is not headline news that someone named Hannah Rosenthal condemns anti-Semitism, but it is if someone named Rashad Hussain does.
Through bilateral meetings and activities, we encourage other governments to take steps against anti-Semitic manifestations within their own societies. We ask governments to challenge acts of anti-Semitism, to speak out against and expose the hatred. We offer help with reporting and data collections. We encourage appropriate outreach by governments to members of Jewish communities. We also encourage governments to partner with us in multi-lateral institutions such as the UN, or the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the OAS, EU And others, to those same ends. We are ready to work with governments that want to be part of the solution, and call out those that don’t.
A priority of the State Department is strengthening Civil Society – We promote public discussion on the nature of new forms of anti- Semitism – how to recognize it and ways to combat it, working with NGOs and human rights and interfaith groups to foster thoughtful and problem-solving discussions. We do not just confront intolerance, we actively promote tolerance. We participate in sustained dialogues with opinion leaders and policy makers about increasing levels of anti-Semitism and how it is insidiously entering mainstream media and public settings globally. We have begun the ART Initiative – ART standing for Acceptance, Respect and Tolerance – in which we identify and highlight interfaith and interethnic groups that focus on advancing acceptance, respect and tolerance with youth. As with everything, really, building strong relationships with civil society, with governments, with opinion leaders, is the way to change a culture – from fear and stereotypes to acceptance and understanding, from narrow-mindedness to pluralism, from hate to tolerance.
We focus heavily on education and awareness. Educating our young is a priority – they are our future and will shape our world as we face the future. No government should produce materials that are intolerant of members of any religious, racial, or ethnic group, or teach such intolerance as part of its educational curriculum. The Department of State continues to focus on this important issue and express our concern to the governments using such hateful lessons and textbooks, calling Jews the children of apes and pigs or promoting the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. We sponsor teacher training on the Holocaust – its particular uniqueness and its universal lessons. We help train law enforcement officials on how to identify, report and hold accountable individuals and institutions that engage in anti-Semitic activities. We use old and new technologies to communicate with the public about human rights, tolerance and democracy. We work hard to ensure internet freedom, learn how to condemn on-line hate, and stop its incitement to violence. We are also enhancing our cultural and educational exchanges to showcase our civil society organizations and engagement, and to learn from the successes of other countries.
Some examples of these diplomatic tools we use to combat anti-Semitism include:
To confront traditional forms of anti-Semitism, we raise the issues of blood libel accusations with prime ministers and foreign ministers, as well as religious leaders – urging all to make public statements condemning the rhetoric or activities identified.
To combat Holocaust glorification, we have involved media coverage and have reported examples to the highest level of governments, including the glorification of the Holocaust as a fundamental human rights issue.
To confront Holocaust relativism, we have requested changes in museums, memorials, and have met with academics to discuss historical honesty and accuracy.
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. He are actively trying to reform the Human Rights Council, to remove the only country specific agenda item, which of course is the vehicle to continually condemn Israel as the country who most abuses human rights.
To confront hatred of ‘others’ and ultra-nationalistic movements that marginalize minorities, we help communities build coalitions and partnerships to help vulnerable populations move from isolation to having a voice. We stand in solidarity with other vulnerable minority communities and ask them to do the same for us.
And to combat Holocaust denial, we went to Dachau and Auschwitz with 8 leading imams, two of which had denied the Holocaust, and urged them as Muslim leaders to make a public statement condemning Holocaust denial. This was an historic trip. As soon as the imams decided to pray by the Dachau sculpture commemorating the 6 million Jewish lives exterminated, I knew history was being made. When they prostrated to the ground in prayer, every tourist, every passer-by, stopped in their tracks to witness the moment. And each had their own catharsis at Birkenau – and then unanimously wrote a strong statement condemning Holocaust denial and all forms of anti-Semitism.
To continue this important effort, I took the Imams to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. We viewed the important exhibit there of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the 19th century forgery that claims the Jews are conspiring to take over the world. At the museum’s exhibition, several of the imams recognized that they had been taught the protocols as truth, even in their children’s books.
After seeing this incredible exhibit and meeting with survivors, it became clear to that travelling group that combating Holocaust denial is not just a matter of defending historical truth, but a demand of conscience and an urgent necessity. We all know too well that both the survivors and liberators will not be with us forever.
And the US Holocaust Memorial Museum is working tirelessly to ensure that the Holocaust is never forgotten. The outstanding exhibits and archives have enabled families to reconnect, others to find out information on what happened to their loved ones, and newer generations to finally conceptualize what really happened. For others, the museum is a powerful force for truth and human rights everywhere. Just like the Museum, I do not limit myself to combating traditional anti-Semitism. In our world today, my job requires me to reach outside the box to groups ranging from imams to youth in order to work towards the elimination of hatred everywhere.
The museum has welcomed more than 30 million visitors since opening in 1993 and has become the world leader in Holocaust education, impacting the way this history is taught in schools and making it accessible to millions more around the globe through its multilingual Web site. With anti-Semitism on the rise, our work together could not be more urgent.
I want to express to you all my appreciation of the incredible work of the US Holocaust Memorial Museum. I consider the Museum a partner in government and private efforts to understand the Holocaust and its particular and universal lessons. You truly make a difference in monitoring and combating not just anti-Semitism, but hatred everywhere. As Elie Weisel said, ” “I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
I want to end with a personal story. As a child, I was aware of the Holocaust not because of a wonderful museum but because it was a household word, it was part of my identity, it was in my DNA. My lens of understanding was through the life of my father, Franz Rosenthal. Other families had large gatherings filled with aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents. My family reunions could fit at one of your tables with chairs left over. 72 years ago, my father, many of his congregants, were arrested on Kristalnacht and sent to Buchenwald. My father was the lucky one- every other person in his family perished in Auschwitz. We did not even know the dates of their deaths, so to mourn them my father would lead us in saying Kaddish on their birthdays.
Recently, my daughter Shira wrote her college thesis on my dad, and spent several weeks at the Archives in the Museum. She was able to find the actual deportation orders for my family members. I now know that my grandparents Mitzie and Heinrich Rosenthal died on May 28, 1942. And now I can say kaddish appropriately on their yahrzeit.
Thank you all, and thank you to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Congratulations on this conference. I am intrigued by hate studies as a discipline – something that didn’t exist when I was in school. Thank you for all your thoughtful analyses, research and explanations. What you are doing is important and I hope to partner with you as together we work to combat hate and promote tolerance in our world.
I am here today to share with you the strong commitment of the Obama Administration to this cause. The President began his Administration speaking out against intolerance as a global ill. In his historic speech in Cairo, he talked about a new beginning and a vision of a world based on mutual interest and mutual respect, a world that honors the dignity of all human beings.
We are attempting through diplomacy, public messaging and on-the-ground programs all over the world to confront and combat hatred in all its ugly forms — whether it’s hatred directed against people on account of their religion, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation or differences of political opinion or due to their country of origin. Anti-Semitism is one such form of hatred. As a child of a Holocaust survivor, anti-Semitism is something very personal to me. My father was arrested – on Kristalnacht, the unofficial pogrom that many think started the Holocaust – and sent with many of his congregants to prison and then to Buchenwald. He was the lucky one – every other person in his family perished at Auschwitz. I have dedicated my life to eradicating anti-Semitism and intolerance with a sense of urgency and passion that only my father could give me.
President Obama and Secretary Clinton have honored me with this appointment and have elevated my office and integrated it into the workings of all other parts of the State Department. While my mandate is to monitor and combat anti-Semitism, I share your conviction that hate is hate, and it must be resisted and rejected in all of its manifestations. Time and again, the horrors of history have shown that where there is anti-Semitism, there also is likely hatred of others as well.
I have been on the job for almost a year now – and I have seen six significant trends in anti-Semitism around the world:
First of all, anti-Semitism is not History it is News. I run into people who think anti-Semitism ended when Hitler killed himself. More than six decades after the end of the Second World War, anti-Semitism is still alive and well, and evolving into new, contemporary forms of religious hatred, racism, and political, social and cultural bigotry.
Traditional forms of anti-Semitism persist in societies worldwide, passed from one generation to the next, and updated to reflect current events. We are all familiar with ongoing hostile acts such as the defacing of property, desecration of cemeteries, and even accusations of blood libel, which are morphing from the centuries old Church accusations that Jews killed Christian children to use their blood for rituals to accusations that Jews kidnap children to steal their organs. Conspiracy theories continue to flourish, such as supposed Jewish control of the U.S. media and the world banking system, or that Jews were involved in executing the September 11 attacks. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion continue to be best sellers in many, many countries, and taught to religious students as truth. The ‘old fashioned’ anti-Semitism is alive and well.
A second phenomenon is Holocaust denial. It is coming from religious leaders in some places, including some heads of State, such as in Iran, in academic institutions in some places, and is a standard on hateful websites and other media outlets. As the generation of Holocaust survivors and death camp liberators reaches their eighties and nineties, the window is closing on those able to provide live, eyewitness accounts and a heightened urgency to promote Holocaust education, create museums and memorials, and carry the memory and lessons of the Holocaust forward.
A third, disturbing trend is Holocaust glorification – which can be seen in parades honoring the Waffen SS, 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 bone-chilling.
A fourth concern is Holocaust relativism – where some governments, museums, academic research and the like are conflating the Holocaust with other terrible events that entailed great human suffering. No one wants to get into dueling atrocities. But to lump together these horrific chapters of history is not only historically inaccurate, it also misses opportunities to learn important lessons from each historic event even as we reflect on universal truths about the need to defend human rights and combat hatred in all of its forms. History must be precise – it must instruct, it must warn, and it must inspire us to learn the particular and universal values as we prepare to mend this fractured world.
The fifth trend is the increasing tendency of opposition to the policies of the State of Israel to cross the line into anti-Semitism. What I hear from our diplomatic missions around the world, and from our close relationship with NGOs in the US and in other nations, is that this happens easily and often. We record huge increases in anti-Semitism whenever there are hostilities 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 “Three Ds” test for identifying when someone or a government crosses the line from criticizing Israeli policies into anti-Semitism – when Israel is demonized, when Israel is held to different standards than the rest of the countries, and when Israel is delegitimized. The US is often the only “no” vote in international bodies where countries seem to have an obsession with singling out Israel for disproportionate condemnation.
The sixth trend is the growing nationalistic movements which target ‘the other’ – be they immigrants, or religious and ethnic minorities in the name of protecting the identity and ‘purity’ of their nation. When this fear or hatred of the ‘other’ occurs or when people try to find a scapegoat for the instability around them, it is never good for the Jews. And when government officials talk about protecting a country’s purity, we’ve seen that movie before.
The State Department monitors these trends and activities and reports on them in all 194 countries – in two major annual reports: The International Religious Freedom report and the Human Rights report. I am now involved in developing a major training initiative for State Department employees so they can better monitor what is happening in their countries, and sensitize them to the various forms of anti-Semitism – this will make our annual reports more comprehensive, and allow us to do an even better job of monitoring and confronting anti-Semitism in all its forms. If we don’t chronicle it, if we don’t name it, we can’t fight it.
Of course, it isn’t enough to study and monitor these deeply troubling trends. It is critical that we act to reverse them,
My approach to combating anti-Semitism is not just to preach to the choir, so to speak, but to join in partnership with non-Jews in condemning it – government, civil society, international institutions, business leaders, labor unions, and media.
Last summer, Secretary Clinton launched an initiative to strengthen civil society across the globe and she instructed all of us in the State Department and all our overseas posts to treat civil society as strategic partners. Partnering with opinion leaders from civil society as well as government — as well as building bridges among ethnic and religious groups, is the way to change a culture – from fear and negative stereotyping to acceptance and understanding, from narrow mindedness to an embrace of diversity, from hate to tolerance.
Educating our young is a priority – they are our future and your interdisciplinary work in hate studies is critical to our efforts.
No government should produce materials that are intolerant of members of any religious, racial, or ethnic group, or teach such intolerance as part of its educational curriculum. The Department of State continues to focus on this important issue and express our concern to the governments using such hateful lessons and textbooks, calling Jews the children of apes and pigs or promoting the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. We sponsor teacher training on the Holocaust – its particular uniqueness and its universal lessons.
We help train law enforcement officials on how to identify, report and hold accountable individuals and institutions that commit hate crimes against Jews and others. We use old and new technologies to communicate with the public about human rights, tolerance and democracy. We strongly support the freedoms for all people to express their views, even distasteful ones, both offline and online – but we also work to promote tolerance and to eradicate ignorance. We are also enhancing our cultural and educational exchanges to showcase our civil society organizations, and to learn from the successes of other countries in confronting and combating hate in all of its forms.
I want to mention two examples of efforts I am engaged in to combat certain forms of anti-Semitism I have mentioned.
To combat the Holocaust denial, I went with 8 leading imams, two of which had been deniers, to Dachau and Auschwitz. My goal was to have them issue a statement condemning Holocaust denial.
When we arrived at Dachau, Germany’s first concentration camp, the imams were overcome with the pictures they saw and immediately went to the ground in prayer, at the sculpture commemorating the 6 million Jews exterminated. At that moment I knew I was watching history being made. All passers-by, tourists, docents, stopped in their tracks to witness this spontaneous prayer of these leading imams. And when we got to Auschwitz, it was overwhelming for them, and for some transformational. We were walking amidst ash and bone fragments from the 1.5 million Jews exterminated there – solely because of who they were. We were facing the fact that unfettered and unanswered hatred can indeed create an Auschwitz. All the imams had their own catharsis there, and together they produced a statement strongly condemning Holocaust denial and all other forms of anti-Semitism.
They are now urging colleagues and schools to join their statement. Some are planning to take their youth on the same trip, to become witness to history, to teach the power of hatred, and the power that condemnation can have to stop the hatred.
Also – my colleague Farah Pandith, the Special Representative to Muslims Communities, and I have just launched a virtual campaign called “2011 Hours Against Hate”. We are asking young people around the world to pledge a number of hours to volunteer to help or serve a population different than their own. We ask them to work with people who may look different, or pray differently or live differently. For example, a young Jew might volunteer time to read books at a Muslim pre-school, or a Russian Orthodox at a Jewish clinic, or a Muslim at a Baha’i food pantry. To walk in another person’s shoes.
We are using facebook (the third largest country in the world) and other social media to connect the youth globally, and to engage them to go beyond words, speeches, or even lectures – providing a vehicle to DO something to promote tolerance and practice mutual respect.
The EU just declared 2011 as a year of Volunteerism and the 2011 Hours Against Hate global campaign is a platform for the entire region – and beyond.
We began meeting with hundreds of young people – students and young professionals – in Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Spain – countries that in their histories celebrated Jews and Muslims co-existing and thriving together. These countries are seeing a different culture these days and the youth we met with don’t like the direction that things are going. They want to DO something. They embraced the campaign – and we have already reached our goal of 2011 hours pledged against hate. And we really have just begun.
So while I fight anti-Semitism, I am also aware that hate is hate. Nothing justifies it – not economic instability, not international events, not an isolated pastor burning a Koran.
This week we remembered the murder of Martin Luther King – and I always remember that he said “Like an unchecked cancer, hate corrodes the personality and eats away its vital unity. Hate destroys a man’s sense of values and his objectivity. It causes him to describe the beautiful as ugly and the ugly as beautiful, and to confuse the true with the false and the false with the true.”
I am not a scholar, I’m not an academic, not a historian, professor or author like all of you. I honor the important work you do to make sense of this transforming world and help students learn the particular and universal lessons of hate, as well as how to try to identify and reject the new forms it takes.
Together, we must confront and combat the many forms of hatred in our world today. Where there is hatred born of ignorance, we must teach and inspire. Where there is hatred born of blindness, we must expose people to a larger world of ideas and reach out, especially to youth, so they can see beyond their immediate circumstances. Where there is hatred whipped up by irresponsible leaders, we must call them out and answer as strongly as we can – and make their message totally unacceptable to all people of conscience.
When history records this chapter I hope it will reflect our efforts to build a peaceful, fair, just, free world where people defend universal human rights and dignity. This is not a vision to be dismissed as kumbaya or naïve idealism – it is a real goal that should never be far from our thoughts.
Since the beginning of humankind, hate has been around, but since then too, good people of all faiths and backgrounds have striven to combat it.
My tradition tells us that “you are not required to complete the task, but neither are you free to desist from it.”
Thank you for all you are doing and I look forward to working with you. I wish this conference much success – we’re all counting on you!
2011 Hours Against Hate is a campaign to stop bigotry and promote respect across lines of culture, religion, tradition, class, and gender. Launched by Special Representative to Muslim Communities Farah Pandith, and Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Hannah Rosenthal, the State Department is asking young people around the world to pledge their time to stop hate—to do something for someone who doesn’t look like you, pray like you, or live like you. We are asking the next generation to work together to build a stronger, more prosperous world. No one group can do it alone.
Special Representative Pandith and Special Envoy Rosenthal officially launched “2011 Hours Against Hate” at the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) in Vienna, Austria on February 17, 2011.
Stand Up and Speak Out.
Hate is Hate, No Matter Who the Target Is.
Join the Campaign!
For more information, check out these links: