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United States Intervention for Venezuela at the UPR Working Group

12th Session of the UPR Working Group

The United States welcomes Foreign Minister Maduro and the Venezuelan delegation to the UPR Working Group. We view as positive the draft law to extend protections to all victims of human trafficking.

We remain concerned about specific actions taken by the Venezuelan government to limit freedom of expression and criminalize dissent, including using administrative pretexts to close media outlets and harassing media owners and members of the political opposition through judicial action. We note Venezuela’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to respect freedom of expression, as well as the protections in the Venezuelan constitution.

Additionally, we note the importance of an independent judiciary to representative government, and express our concern about increasing evidence that the Venezuelan judiciary lacks the independence necessary to fulfill its role in society. We further note the obligations contained in the Venezuelan constitution to respect judicial independence and permit judges to act according to the law and without fear of retaliation. In this context, we join others in the international community in urging for the release of Judge Maria Lourdes Afiuni, whose arrest and continued imprisonment demonstrate inappropriate executive involvement in judicial functions and constitute a violation of her human rights.

Finally, we are concerned by continued anti-Semitism expressed in the official media.

In light of these concerns, we recommend that Venezuela:

1. Respect the independence of the judiciary.

2. Investigate allegations of executive branch interference in judicial decision-making.

3. Direct officials to cease anti-Semitic commentary and condemn any such statements.

4. Urge the National Assembly to adopt the draft legislation on trafficking in persons.

5. Intensify its efforts to provide protection to asylum seekers and refugees, including through the timely provision of documentation as to their legal status and rights.

6. Accept visit requests from the UN Special Rapporteurs and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.

 


Anti-Semitism in Europe

For more information on the human rights situation in countries around the world, check out the human rights reports.

To create your own maps, or to find out more about mapping data, stop by DevelopmentSeed.org.

 


The 10th Anniversary of the Durban Conference

Several months ago, the United States announced that we would not participate in the 10-year commemoration of the 2001 Durban Conference. Consistent with that decision, we are not attending today’s high level event in New York.

Since its inception at the 2001 World Conference Against Racism in Durban, South Africa, the Durban process has included ugly displays of intolerance and anti-Semitism. In 2009, after working to try to achieve a positive, constructive outcome in the Durban Review Conference that would get past the deep flaws of the Durban process to date to focus on the critical issues of racism, the United States withdrew from participating because the review conference’s outcome document reaffirmed, in its entirety, the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action (DDPA) from 2001, which unfairly and unacceptably singled out Israel. The DDPA also endorsed overbroad restrictions on freedom of expression that run counter to the U.S. commitment to robust free speech.

Last December, the United States voted against the resolution establishing the commemoration because we did not want to see the hateful and anti-Semitic displays of the 2001 Durban Conference commemorated.

Over the last few months, we did not participate in negotiations on the Commemoration’s Political Declaration document and, like many other countries, we were not present when the Declaration was adopted. We are also deeply disappointed that the rules established for credentialing non-governmental organizations to participate were used by some delegations to silence voices critical of the Durban process.

The United States is profoundly committed to ending racism and racial discrimination. We remain fully and firmly committed to upholding the human rights of all people and to combating racial discrimination, xenophobia, intolerance, anti-Semitism and bigotry, including through enhanced implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. This commitment is rooted in the saddest chapters of our history and reflected in the most cherished values of our union. We will continue to work in partnership with all nations of goodwill to uphold human rights and combat racism, bigotry, and racial discrimination in all forms and all places.

 


Special Envoy Rosenthal’s Remarks to the American Leadership Initiative for Muslims

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.

 


Special Envoy Rosenthal Receives Award from the Haiti Jewish Refugee Legacy Project

Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Hannah Rosenthal was awarded the Tikkun Olam Award by the Haiti Jewish Refugee Legacy Project on August 3, 2011 for her efforts to combat all forms of hate and intolerance. In Hebrew, Tikkun Olam means “repairing the world.” This award is bestowed upon individuals or organizations which have dedicated themselves to Holocaust or World War II research.

The Haiti Jewish Refugee Legacy Project was founded in January 2010 to document and commemorate Haiti’s role in providing refuge to 100-300 Jews fleeing Nazi persecution during World War II. The project’s central database collects and memorializes personal reflections and artifacts of Holocaust survivors who sought refuge in Haiti.

The Office of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism (SEAS) advocates U.S. policy on anti-Semitism both in the U.S. and internationally, developing and implementing policies and projects to support efforts to combat anti-Semitism. The Special Envoy was created by the Global Anti-Semitism Review Act of 2004, and is a part of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. For more information about Special Envoy Hannah Rosenthal’s work, please visit www.facebook.com/SERosenthal and follow her on Twitter @HannahAtState.

 


Centropa Summer Academy Program: Special Envoy Rosenthal’s Remarks to Educators for Holocaust Education Program

Good afternoon! Ladies and Gentlemen, it is an honor to have the opportunity to talk with you today. As educators, you play a critical role to help develop the next generation of citizens, not only for each of your respective countries, but for the world.

Being in Sarajevo is important for two reasons — we can see, and feel, and hear the stories of how Jews, Muslims, Orthodox Christians, and Catholics really did get along, and we can see what happened when people let their differences get in the way of peaceful coexistence.

I have been to most of your countries – you are coming from Austria, Czech Republic, Finland, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, and the U.S.. You probably have stories of cooperation and conflict in your own communities. I am thrilled that you are participating in this Centropa program where you have had the opportunity to interact with colleagues from 14 countries and learn about the richness of Jewish life and contributions in Europe. I hope that in the past week’s workshops, you have been able to focus on the importance of memory, and how modern technologies will help keep those memories alive and meaningful. I hope the dual tools of memory and technology have helped you as teachers to share stories and project ideas with each other, and that those devices will help your students during the school year, as they collaborate in class, and well into the future.

People of different religions in this region got along for several centuries – when Jews and Muslims, and Orthodox and Catholics, all lived side by side. Did they love each other? Surely not all of them. But did they get along and depend on each other? Of course they did. While the Nazis almost completely destroyed the Sephardic Jewish world in Bosnia-Herzegovina, many surviving Jews returned to the area after the war.

The Jewish community played a significant humanitarian role during the ethnic war in the early 1990s. The story of La Benevolencija – a Jewish humanitarian organization formed 100 years ago that promotes welfare for all people irrespective of religion or nationality – is a story of civil society at its best. In the middle of an ethnic war of hate, those who refused to emphasize religious differences and wanted to work together, could do so. Where? In an old synagogue in the middle of a dying city that had been cut off from the world. Who was there to open the doors each day? A tiny band of Holocaust survivors and their children.

What was the book they used as their guide? The Sarajevo Hagaddah. This copy has supposedly survived since 1492 when Jews brought it with them fleeing the Spanish Inquisition. What does it say on the first page of every Hagaddah? “All who are hungry, let them come and eat. All those who are in need of fellowship, let them come and celebrate Passover with us.”

In other words, the Jewish community of Sarajevo used the Hagaddah as a how-to book. And we are glad they did…

A month ago, in Lithuania, I spoke to educators there about teaching the Holocaust. As I noted, the Holocaust affected Lithuania, as it affected your countries in one way or another, and it should be acknowledged. The Holocaust and World War II era is a part of your country’s historical narrative, just as the contributions of Jews to European society before the Holocaust is a part of history. What makes the Centropa program so unique is its focus on 20th century Jewish history that engages you as teachers, as well as your students, with Holocaust education in innovative ways. In teaching about the Holocaust, memory plays an invaluable role: memories from survivors, victims, witnesses and perpetrators of the Holocaust have contributed significantly to what we know and understand about the Holocaust. These memories have shaped the way we perceive history and respond to it.

We are facing an inevitable challenge to Holocaust education. What will we do when there are no longer survivors, liberators or other eyewitnesses who can recount their firsthand accounts of the Holocaust? Personal testimonies have been an effective tool in Holocaust education over the past several decades. Soon we will rely only on videos or recordings of their testimonies. In the past week, I hope that you have found some useful tools to access memories of Holocaust survivors – whether it’s having a survivor in your town able to speak in your classroom, or it’s a visit to a museum, or a film you show your class — and incorporate them into your lessons. Channeling your students’ creativity to make memory come alive will ensure your success.

In the 21st century, where everything seems to be instant and high-speed, available at the click of a mouse or the touch of a button, it is important for our education systems to be up-to-date in their ability to incorporate technology in the classroom. I use old and new technologies to communicate with the public about anti-Semitism, as well as human rights, tolerance and democracy. I compile a weekly summary of news articles from around the world – thanks to the Internet, we have access to many sources. These items are subsequently posted on my Facebook page under the heading “Here’s What We’re Hearing” so that social media users are more aware of anti-Semitism around the world.

I also use Facebook and other social media, like Twitter, to connect with people – especially youth — 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. My colleague Farah Pandith, the Special Representative to Muslims Communities, and I have recently launched a virtual campaign called “2011 Hours Against Hate,” using Facebook. 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 an Orthodox at a Jewish clinic, or a Muslim at a Catholic food pantry. We want to encourage them to walk a mile in another person’s shoes. I encourage you to consider how this initiative would work in your classrooms, in your communities. With young people participating all over the world, they are redefining that the word GLOBALIZATION means.

Using social media to connect individuals is something I expect you will be doing as you move forward with this project. Technology will help connect your students from one country to another, such as in an online forum, where they can share comments and opinions as well as videos. It isn’t only about economics, but about building relationships.

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. More recently, Farah and I met with youth and interfaith leaders in Jordan and Lebanon, discussing reaching out to others and increasing tolerance and understanding among different religious groups. Really, we have just begun.

As educators, you are each others’ best resources. I am interested in learning about your sessions in Krakow and Vienna, hearing about your cooperation in producing materials that reach the most number of students. I encourage you to continue to collaborate as you return to your respective classrooms.

You, as educators, play one of the most important roles: exposing students to the history, creating a safe space in which to discuss difficult topics, and teaching the lessons of the Holocaust to today’s youth.

I discover more and more the importance of educating youth about the Holocaust – teaching lessons of history, teaching tolerance. As the President’s Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, I am charged with both monitoring anti-Semitic incidents and combating such intolerance. President Obama and Secretary Clinton have honored me with this appointment and have fully integrated my office into the State Department. In this role, I have been tracking the rise in anti-Semitism around the world, and have seen its alarming presence and growth.

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.

I have been on the job for more than a year and a half – 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.

This stems from the fact that traditional forms of anti-Semitism are passed from one generation to the next, 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 individuals that Jews killed 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 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.

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. Following a March 2011 commemoration in Latvia, a notorious neo-Nazi made blatantly anti-Semitic statements, including incitements to violence against Jews, on a television talk show. The growth of neo-Nazi groups is of special concern in Europe, and Holocaust glorification is especially virulent in Middle Eastern media – some that is state-owned and operated, which calls 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 opportunities 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 learn the particular and universal values as we prepare 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 individual Jews are effectively banned or their conferences boycotted, or are held responsible for Israeli policy – this is not objecting to a policy – this is anti-Semitism.

Natan Sharansky identified three ways that he believes crosses the line: “It is anti-Semitic when Israel is demonized, held to different standards or delegitimized.” 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 never good for the Jews, or for that matter, other traditionally discriminated against minorities. The history of Europe, with Russian pogroms, Nazism, and ethnic cleansing here in the Balkans provides sufficient evidence. 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 198 countries and territories – 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. 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.

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. I hope that through Centropa, and your classrooms, you – as members of civil society — have made solid connections that will last through more than the next school year, when you reach out to students and your communities.

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.

I congratulate you for participating in this important academy and for combating anti-Semitism and other hatreds in all their forms. I hope you will lead educational efforts to make anti-Semitism something only found in history books. We are counting on you to translate the lessons of the past to create a better and more tolerant world.

Thank you for all you are doing and will be doing.

 


What Role for the Jewish Media in a World of Growing Anti-Semitism?

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.

 


Seminar on the Teaching of the Holocaust

Good afternoon! Ladies and gentlemen, I am glad to have this opportunity to visit Kaunas, Lithuania’s second largest city and its former capital. As an American; as a Jew; as the daughter of a Holocaust survivor; and as the United States’ Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, it is profoundly moving for me to visit Lithuania again, and in particular, to talk with educators about teaching the Holocaust. I thank you for the invitation to speak with you today.

Yesterday I attended two memorial dedications, one at the Snipiskes cemetery and the other at Paneriai. The Snipiskes cemetery in Vilnius, a pre-war cemetery in which 50,000 Lithuanian Jews are buried, was mostly destroyed and covered by a sports arena during the Soviet regime. After several years of protests against renewed building on the cemetery, Vilnius Municipality has demarcated borders for the cemetery in order to restore its dignity. The Paneriai Memorial, about 10 kilometers from Vilnius, is on the site of the largest mass murder of Jews in Lithuania during World War II. I paid my respects to the 100,000 people who were killed there, of whom 70,000 were Jews. Your government is to be commended for establishing this government-protected memorial. These events remind me of the importance of the work I have been charged with as the Special Envoy.

In our hurried 21st century world, where everything seems to be instant and high-speed and available at the click of a mouse or the touch of a button, it is important to pause – to take time out of our busy lives to remember the past, honor its victims, and pledge to do all we can to prevent future acts of violence and hatred. However, it is not enough to merely use sterling words to try to show the world that we care. We also need concrete actions. To quote Nobel laureate and Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, we must “create sparks in our hearts out of the ashes.”

As the President’s Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, I am charged with both monitoring anti-Semitic incidents and combating such intolerance, with creating sparks in our hearts out of the ashes.

As a child of a Holocaust survivor, anti-Semitism is something very personal to me. When I was old enough to somewhat understand what my father went through as the only member of his family to survive, 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!” – so took that guilt off his shoulders and put it squarely on mine – and I have dedicated my life to eradicating anti-Semitism and intolerance with a sense of urgency and passion that only Dad could give me.

That path led me on January 27 to walk — voluntarily — through the gates of Auschwitz – under the infamous ‘Arbeit Macht Frei’ sign (deceiving the people entering Auschwitz that work will make you free). I went to Auschwitz as a member of the official U.S. delegation to mark the 65th anniversary of the Liberation of Auschwitz.

As President Obama said in his televised remarks at the commemoration, the survivors of Auschwitz “are living memorials. Living memorials to the spirit we must strive to uphold in our time—not simply to bear witness, but to bear a burden. The burden of seeing our common humanity; of resisting anti-Semitism and ignorance in all its forms; of refusing to become bystanders to evil, whenever and wherever it rears its ugly face.”

At Auschwitz, as I traveled on the soil stained with the blood of the Jewish people, I wondered what it all means. The Holocaust was not only the greatest genocide in world history, but also the greatest theft of people’s entire possessions, their cultural and religious heritage. The Nazi’s didn’t just steal people’s lives, they attempted to obliterate an entire culture. We cannot bring back the dead. But we can recommit ourselves to remember them, to do justice to their heirs, and to educate future generations about the Holocaust.

As I left Auschwitz to news of more anti-Semitic statements by religious leaders and anti-Semitic vandalism elsewhere in the world, I couldn’t help but ask, “Did we learn anything?”

I have been on the job for over 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 eyewitness accounts. There is 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 events that openly display Nazi symbols, 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. And in Latvia, a notorious neo-Nazi made blatantly anti-Semitic statements, including incitements to violence against Jews, on a television talk show. 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, and from our close relationship with non-governmental organizations in the U.S. and around the world, 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 call upon and intimidate their Jewish communities to condemn Israeli actions, 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.” 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 never good for the Jews. The history of Europe, with Russian pogroms and Nazism, provides sufficient evidence. And when government officials talk about protecting a country’s purity, we’ve seen that movie before.

It is easy to feel discouraged that this issue continues to plague our societies, but it underscores the importance of the need to work even harder. Our job will not be finished until anti-Semitism is a distant memory. And yet the memory itself has profound value as it continues to teach us. Of course, it isn’t enough to study and monitor these deeply troubling trends. It is critical that we act to reverse them.

The Nazi effort to exterminate all Jews was well known – Mein Kampf was a best seller in 1933. So people knew what Hitler wanted to do. Never before or after the Holocaust has any country built death factories, and the success of their efforts has no equivalency anywhere in history. In Vilnius, Jews were almost 30% of the population in 1931. Out of 60,000 local Jews, 57,000 were murdered, by Nazis, unfortunately in collaboration with some Lithuanian military units, auxiliary police, and countrymen. Of the country’s 250,000 Jewish citizens and residents, only 6,000 survived. Lithuania had the highest percentage of its Jewish population murdered, higher than anywhere else in Europe.

There are several stories of brave and honorable Lithuanians who assisted, sheltered and saved Jews during this organized killing spree. Many of them were killed for doing so – and 780 are honored as “righteous among us” at Israel’s Yad Vashem memorial to the 6 million Jews lost during the Holocaust.

How much of this history do the people of Lithuania know? They need to know the terrible stories of the extermination of Lithuania Jews, but they should also know the importance of Jews to Lithuanian culture and history.

After Grand Duke Gediminas personally invited them to Vilnius in the 14th century, the Jews flourished, along with other ethnic groups. They built enormous educational systems, and the city became known as “The Northern Jerusalem”. Beautiful Jewish artwork was part of the Lithuanian culture. Jewish scholars and poets and authors lived in Lithuania. And had their families not left Lithuania due to persecution, Nobel Laureate in Chemistry Aaron Klug, and musicians Bob Dylan and Leonard Cohen, and even John Stewart could have been from Lithuania!!

In this connection, I want to say that I know that living under Soviet oppression for so many years was beyond terrible, and I understand the severity of your suffering. Everyone’s intense pain is unique and needs to be acknowledged.

There is a famous saying that “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” That is our challenge now – to learn from the past and prepare for the future.

The goal of fighting anti-Semitism is a high priority for the Obama Administration. We focus on what is going on in the world, regularly reporting on incidents of anti-Semitism and other human rights violations and abuses. I work with American Embassies, as well as non-governmental organizations, academic institutions, and watchdog groups around the world to gather information on 194 countries, including Lithuania. Each year we produce two major reports – the Country Reports on Human Rights Practices and the International Religious Freedom Report. Both are on-line and can be easily accessed by any of you who are interested how your country and others are doing in protecting human rights and fighting anti-Semitism.

These reports tell us that many countries are pushing hard to advance human rights and fighting discrimination. It also tells us that there is so much more work to do.

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 work, 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.

Education is a vital tool we use to combat anti-Semitism.

Your role as teachers is essential to our efforts. I can work to make change with leaders of communities and groups of individuals, but you work directly with youth on a day-to-day basis. You have the ability to affect significant change too.

As educators, you play an integral role in laying the foundation to promote tolerance and to understand the dangers of hatred. As with any form of prejudice, anti-Semitism is often based in ignorance and fear. Therefore, it is necessary to have well trained teachers who can appropriately and effectively discuss the lessons of the Holocaust. Your presence at this training exemplifies your commitment to educating Lithuania’s youth.

The Lithuanian government has taken significant steps to recognize the Holocaust as a part of Lithuania’s history, in particular, and Europe’s history, in general. By declaring 2011 “the Year of Remembrance of Lithuanian citizens – Holocaust Victims,” the Government of Lithuania is emphasizing the centrality of the Holocaust to your particular history. Lithuania’s grant from the Task Force for International Cooperation on Holocaust Education, Remembrance and Research underlines your government’s commitment to incorporate the Holocaust into schools and other institutions. By broadening your knowledge of the unique character of the Holocaust and its role in European history, as well as its repercussions that deeply influence human rights education, policies and practices in today’s world, you will be better able to transmit invaluable lessons to your students.

The approach to Holocaust education is two-fold. The Holocaust was a significant part of your country’s history. It is important to learn about this within the context of your own history and World War II. It is equally important to teach the Holocaust in the greater context of universal values of human rights, including tolerance and combating hatred.

The Holocaust forces us to question and discuss basic moral issues. It is a basis for understanding the foundations and consequences of prejudice, racism and stereotyping. It provides a context to study the nature of discrimination and the effects of extremist governments. Discrimination is not just state-sponsored prejudices – it can start as bullying in schools, or cyber bullying, or hate speech.

In the Lithuanian Ministry of Education mandated curriculum, the Holocaust is being integrated into an accepted national history. It is commendable that the Government of Lithuania has recognized the Holocaust as a defining part of its history. Discussions about the various groups – including perpetrators, collaborators, victims, and bystanders – allows for open dialogue and analyses of the complex issues of the Holocaust. Keep in mind – the Holocaust is an extremely complex event. It is important to recognize that there are many unknowns, much research still needs to be conducted. However, there is so much to learn from the research and firsthand accounts available today.

In education, it is important to stimulate intellectual curiosity among students, get them to ask questions, challenge ideas, analyze situations. The Holocaust does exactly this. We want them to ask questions – how did this happen? Why didn’t people stop it? Why did they target the Jews and other minorities? In this forum, we can approach the topics of prejudice, stereotypes, human rights violations and ramifications of each of these. We can discuss the use and abuse of power, repercussions of staying silent, the value of diversity, the need for tolerance. We want to educate our youth to recognize the warning signs for intolerance and halt it in its tracks.

We are facing an inevitable challenge to Holocaust education – what will we do when there are no longer survivors, liberators or other eyewitnesses who can recount their firsthand accounts of the Holocaust? Personal testimonies have been an effective tool in Holocaust education over the past several decades. Soon we will rely primarily on videos or recordings of their testimonies. Since the Holocaust took place on your soil, you have many physical markers – 202 memorial sites across the country. This is a useful educational tool to help students bear witness to the events that took place in Lithuania. Take advantage of your location and incorporate these places in your efforts.

You, as educators, play one of the most important roles: exposing students to the history, creating a safe space in which to discuss difficult topics, and teaching the lessons of the Holocaust to the youth of Lithuania.

We should remain committed to confronting and combating hate in all its forms. Reinforcing Holocaust education, promoting acceptance, respect and tolerance – 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.

In teaching the Holocaust, there is a tension between the universal and the particular. While the Jewish story is a unique one and anti-Semitism has unique aspects – and both are stories that must be told – hate and intolerance are too common. Nothing justifies intolerance – not economic instability, not international events. We condemn intolerance against any and all religious and ethnic groups. We must all work with each other to condemn anti-Semitism and all forms of hatred. It is the right thing to do, it has great impact, and it meets the needs of enlightened self-interest. For when hatred for one is extinguished, life is better for all.

I congratulate you for participating in this important course and for combating anti-Semitism and other hatreds in all their forms. You represent the future; you will lead educational efforts to make anti-Semitism something only found in history books. We are counting on you to translate the lessons of the past to create a better and more tolerant world.

Thank you for all you are doing and will be doing.

 


Special Envoy Rosenthal on Anti-Semitism in the Former Soviet Union

Ladies and gentlemen, distinguished guests, NCSJ Board of Governors and members – I thank you for the invitation to speak here today about anti-Semitism in the former Soviet Union.

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.

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.

This stems from the fact that traditional forms of anti-Semitism are passed from one generation to the next, 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. For example, in May of this year, a synagogue in Barnaul, Russia was defaced with the phrases, “the Holocaust is a myth,” “Adolf was right,” and “Death to the Jews.” And in December 2010, neo-Nazi youths painted swastikas on 89 gravestones in the main Jewish cemetery in Riga, Latvia.

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 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.

This past year, the Russian Duma roundtable “On the Question of Recognizing the Genocide of the Russian People” issued a declaration which exemplifies the continued presence of traditional forms of anti-Semitism in Russia. The declaration blamed the “international Zionist financial mafia for genocide against the Russian people.”

In Belarus, President Lukashenka and other Belarusian government officials are known for making anti-Semitic statements. The government does not provide tolerance education and acts of vandalism go unpunished, while the state press and other government agencies continue to publish anti-Semitic literature.

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.

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 a variety of 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.

For example, in December of last year, Foreign Ministers from Lithuania, Latvia, Bulgaria, Hungary, Romania and the Czech Republic issued the Prague Declaration, calling on the European Commission to introduce a so-called double genocide law. This law would associate Nazi crimes with Soviet ones and would criminalize the denial of Soviet crimes in the same way as Holocaust denial. The European Commission rejected the proposal, recognizing that a double genocide law would trivialize the Holocaust.

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 opportunities 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.

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 individual Jews, such as academics or experts from Israel are effectively banned or their conferences boycotted, or are held responsible for Israeli policy – this is not objecting to a policy – this is anti-Semitism.

Here are three easy ways to decide if it’s anti-Israel or anti-Semitism: “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. Over the past two decades, anti-Semitism has continued to form the ideological basis of many right-wing ultra-nationalist organizations in the former Soviet Union. These racist “skinhead” groups promote anti-Semitic propaganda, use anti-Semitic rhetoric, and incite racial violence, as they did during an illegal rally in December 2010 in Moscow. According to the Russian Interior Ministry’s All-Russian Research Institute, racially and religiously intolerant groups are on the rise. Indeed, more than 150 radical neo-fascist groups are currently operating in Russia.

In Ukraine, nationalist organizations have spread hate through extremist and anti-Semitic statements, and in Belarus, neo-Nazi groups continue to import and distribute anti-Semitic and ultranationalist Russian newspapers, literature, and digital media.

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, 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.

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. 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.

Even though the news is grim, we have seen some improvement throughout the former Soviet Union.

Russia is moving in a positive direction. Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin has publicly criticized anti-Semitism and helped establish the Museum of Tolerance by the Federation of Jewish Communities of Russia.

Hate-motivated and anti-Semitic vandalism is generally decreasing in Russia. In 2010, neo-Nazi and racially motivated violence was at a six year low in Russia.

Prosecution of hate-crimes and vandalism is on the rise, though it remains inconsistent. While law enforcement agencies are pursuing these acts more aggressively and the court system increasingly acknowledges the racist motive behind these attacks, impunity remains common and many perpetrators receive suspended sentences. In Latvia, for example, the City of Riga responded quickly and appropriately to acts of vandalism and desecration which occurred last December.

Ukraine’s performance has also improved over the past five years. The number of anti-Semitic acts of vandalism has decreased by more than half in 2010. Moreover, due to joint pressure exerted by the Ukrainian government, NGOs and the Jewish community on the Interregional Academy of Human Resources, we have witnessed a sharp decline in the publication of anti-Semitic articles, proving that we can succeed if we work together.

Next year, Ukraine’s ability to combat anti-Semitism and extremism will be displayed for all to see when it co-hosts with Poland the UEFA European Football Championship, also known as the Euro 2012. To combat the anti-Semitism and racism prevalent in European football, the NEVER AGAIN Association helped launch a new program, Football Against Racism in Europe, or FARE, in June of this year.

As you can see, there is some good news throughout the former Soviet Union. More will come if we remain vigilant and continue to apply pressure and promote religious freedom there.

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.

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.

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.

 


Ambassador Donahoe’s Statement on Special Rapporteur Falk

Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe

Ambassador Eileen Chamberlain Donahoe

I am repulsed by the recent cartoon posting to the personal blog written by Richard Falk, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on “the situation of human rights in the Palestinian territories occupied since 1967.”

Mr. Falk’s continued comments and postings to his personal blog are deeply offensive, and I condemn them in the strongest terms. I am registering a strong protest with the UN on behalf of the United States. The United States has often been critical of Mr. Falk’s approach to his mandate, including his one-sided and politicized view of situation in Israel and the Palestinian Territories. We hope that he will resign, recognizing that his continued status as a UN mandate holder is a blight on the UN system.

The United States is deeply committed to the cause of human rights. Mr. Falk’s continued offensive postings and biased reporting does nothing to further the human rights of Palestinians or Israelis, nor anything to advance peace in the region.

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Check out 2011 Hours Against Hate!

 
 

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