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.
To require a report on acts of anti-Semitism around the world.
Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America in Congress assembled,
SECTION 1. SHORT TITLE.
This Act may be cited as the `Global Anti -Semitism Review Act of 2004′.
SEC. 2. FINDINGS.
Congress makes the following findings:
(1) Acts of anti -Semitism in countries throughout the world, including some of the world’s strongest democracies, have increased significantly in frequency and scope over the last several years.
(2) During the last 3 months of 2003 and the first 3 months of 2004, there were numerous instances of anti -Semitic violence around the world, including the following incidents:
A) In Putrajaya, Malaysia, on October 16, 2003, former Prime Minister Mahatir Mohammad told the 57 national leaders assembled for the Organization of the Islamic Conference that Jews `rule the world by proxy’, and called for a `final victory’ by the world’s 1.3 billion Muslims, who, he said, `cannot be defeated by a few million Jews.’.
(B) In Istanbul, Turkey, on November 15, 2003, simultaneous car bombs exploded outside two synagogues filled with worshippers, killing 24 people and wounding more than 250 people.
(C) In Australia on January 5, 2004, poison was used to ignite, and burn anti -Semitic slogans into, the lawns of the Parliament House in the state of Tasmania.
(D) In St. Petersburg, Russia, on February 15, 2004, vandals desecrated approximately 50 gravestones in a Jewish cemetery, painting the stones with swastikas and anti -Semitic graffiti.
(E) In Toronto, Canada, over the weekend of March 19 through March 21, 2004, vandals attacked a Jewish school, a Jewish cemetery, and area synagogues, painting swastikas and anti -Semitic slogans on the walls of a synagogue and on residential property in a nearby, predominantly Jewish, neighborhood.
(F) In Toulon, France, on March 23, 2004, a Jewish synagogue and community center were set on fire.
(3) Anti -Semitism in old and new forms is also increasingly emanating from the Arab and Muslim world on a sustained basis, including through books published by government-owned publishing houses in Egypt and other Arab countries.
(4) In November 2002, state-run television in Egypt broadcast the anti -Semitic series entitled `Horseman Without a Horse’, which is based upon the fictitious conspiracy theory known as the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. The Protocols have been used throughout the last century by despots such as Adolf Hitler to justify violence against Jews.
(5) In November 2003, Arab television featured an anti -Semitic series, entitled `Ash-Shatat’ (or `The Diaspora’), which depicts Jewish people hatching a plot for Jewish control of the world.
(6) The sharp rise in anti -Semitic violence has caused international organizations such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) to elevate, and bring renewed focus to, the issue, including the convening by the OSCE in June 2003 of a conference in Vienna dedicated solely to the issue of anti -Semitism .
(7) The OSCE convened a conference again on April 28-29, 2004, in Berlin, to address the problem of anti -Semitism with the United States delegation led by former Mayor of New York City, Ed Koch.
(8) The United States Government has strongly supported efforts to address anti -Semitism through bilateral relationships and interaction with international organizations such as the OSCE, the European Union, and the United Nations.
(9) Congress has consistently supported efforts to address the rise in anti -Semitic violence. During the 107th Congress, both the Senate and the House of Representatives passed resolutions expressing strong concern with the sharp escalation of anti -Semitic violence in Europe and calling on the Department of State to thoroughly document the phenomenon.
(10) Anti -Semitism has at times taken the form of vilification of Zionism, the Jewish national movement, and incitement against Israel.
SEC. 3. SENSE OF CONGRESS.
It is the sense of Congress that–
(1) the United States Government should continue to strongly support efforts to combat anti -Semitism worldwide through bilateral relationships and interaction with international organizations such as the OSCE, the European Union, and the United Nations; and
(2) the Department of State should thoroughly document acts of anti -Semitism that occur around the world.
SEC. 4. REPORTS.
Not later than November 15, 2004, the Secretary of State shall submit to the Committee on Foreign Relations of the Senate and the Committee on International Relations of the House of Representatives a one-time report on acts of anti -Semitism around the world, including a description of–
(1) acts of physical violence against, or harassment of, Jewish people, and acts of violence against, or vandalism of, Jewish community institutions, such as schools, synagogues, or cemeteries, that occurred in each country;
(2) the responses of the governments of those countries to such actions;
(3) the actions taken by such governments to enact and enforce laws relating to the protection of the right to religious freedom of Jewish people;
(4) the efforts by such governments to promote anti -bias and tolerance education; and
(5) instances of propaganda in government and nongovernment media that attempt to justify or promote racial hatred or incite acts of violence against Jewish people.
SEC. 5. AUTHORIZATION FOR ESTABLISHMENT OF OFFICE TO MONITOR AND COMBAT ANTI -SEMITISM .
The State Department Basic Authorities Act of 1956 is amended by adding after section 58 (22 U.S.C. 2730) the following new section:
`SEC. 59. MONITORING AND COMBATING ANTI -SEMITISM .
`(a) Office to Monitor and Combat Anti -Semitism -
`(1) ESTABLISHMENT OF OFFICE- The Secretary shall establish within the Department of State an Office to Monitor and Combat anti -Semitism (in this section referred to as the `Office’) .
`(2) HEAD OF OFFICE-
`(A) SPECIAL ENVOY FOR MONITORING AND COMBATING ANTI -SEMITISM – The head of the Office shall be the Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating anti -Semitism (in this section referred to as the `Special Envoy’).
`(B) APPOINTMENT OF HEAD OF OFFICE- The Secretary shall appoint the Special Envoy. If the Secretary determines that such is appropriate, the Secretary may appoint the Special Envoy from among officers and employees of the Department. The Secretary may allow such officer or employee to retain the position (and the responsibilities associated with such position) held by such officer or employee prior to the appointment of such officer or employee to the position of Special Envoy under this paragraph.
`(b) Purpose of Office- Upon establishment, the Office shall assume the primary responsibility for–
`(1) monitoring and combatting acts of anti -Semitism and anti -Semitic incitement that occur in foreign countries;
`(2) coordinating and assisting in the preparation of that portion of the report required by sections 116(d)(7) and 502B(b) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (22 U.S.C. 2151n(d)(7) and 2304(b)) relating to an assessment and description of the nature and extent of acts of anti -Semitism and anti -Semitic incitement for inclusion in the annual Country Reports on Human Rights Practices; and
`(3) coordinating and assisting in the preparation of that portion of the report required by section 102(b)(1)(A)(iv) of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (22 U.S.C. 6412(b)(1)(A)(iv)) relating to an assessment and description of the nature and extent of acts of anti -Semitism and anti -Semitic incitement for inclusion in the Annual Report on International Religious Freedom.
`(c) Consultations- The Special Envoy shall consult with domestic and international nongovernmental organizations and multilateral organizations and institutions, as the Special Envoy considers appropriate to fulfill the purposes of this section.’
SEC. 6. INCLUSION IN DEPARTMENT OF STATE ANNUAL REPORTS OF INFORMATION CONCERNING ACTS OF ANTI -SEMITISM IN FOREIGN COUNTRIES.
(a) Inclusion in Country Reports on Human Rights Practices- The Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (22 U.S.C. 2151 et seq.) is amended–
(1) in section 116(d) (22 U.S.C. 2151n(d))–
(A) by redesignating paragraphs (8), (9), and (10), as paragraphs (9), (10), and (11), respectively; and
(B) by inserting after paragraph (7) the following new paragraph:
`(8) wherever applicable, a description of the nature and extent of acts of anti -Semitism and anti -Semitic incitement that occur during the preceding year, including descriptions of–
`(A) acts of physical violence against, or harassment of Jewish people, and acts of violence against, or vandalism of Jewish community institutions, including schools, synagogues, and cemeteries;
`(B) instances of propaganda in government and nongovernment media that attempt to justify or promote racial hatred or incite acts of violence against Jewish people;
`(C) the actions, if any, taken by the government of the country to respond to such violence and attacks or to eliminate such propaganda or incitement;
`(D) the actions taken by such government to enact and enforce laws relating to the protection of the right to religious freedom of Jewish people; and
`(E) the efforts of such government to promote anti -bias and tolerance education;’; and
(2) after the fourth sentence of section 502B(b) (22 U.S.C. 2304(b)), by inserting the following new sentence: `Wherever applicable, a description of the nature and extent of acts of anti -Semitism and anti -Semitic incitement that occur, including the descriptions of such acts required under section 116(d)(8).’.
(b) Inclusion in Annual Report on International Religious Freedom- Section 102(b)(1)(A) of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (22 U.S.C. 6412(b)(1)(A)) is amended–
(1) in clause (ii), by striking `and’ at the end;
(2) in clause (iii), by striking the period at the end and inserting `; and’; and
(3) by adding after clause (iii) the following new clause:
`(iv) wherever applicable, an assessment and description of the nature and extent of acts of anti -Semitism and anti -Semitic incitement that occur in that country during the preceding year, including–
`(I) acts of physical violence against, or harassment of, Jewish people, acts of violence against, or vandalism of, Jewish community institutions, and instances of propaganda in government and nongovernment media that incite such acts; and
`(II) the actions taken by the government of that country to respond to such violence and attacks or to eliminate such propaganda or incitement, to enact and enforce laws relating to the protection of the right to religious freedom of Jewish people, and to promote anti -bias and tolerance education.’.
(c) Effective Date of Inclusions- The amendments made by subsections (a) and (b) shall apply beginning with the first report under sections 116(d) and 502B(b) of the Foreign Assistance Act of 1961 (22 U.S.C. 2151n(d) and 2304(b)) and section 102(b) of the International Religious Freedom Act of 1998 (22 U.S.C. 6312(b)) submitted more than 180 days after the date of the enactment of this Act.
Passed the Senate October 10, 2004.
The Global Anti-Semitism Review Act of 2004 begins by acknowledging an increase in acts of anti-Semitism, even in established democracies, and rearticulates the USG’s commitment to combating anti-Semitism worldwide. The legislation calls for a Report on Global Anti-Semitism, reviewing acts of anti-Semitism and actions taken by governments to respond to those acts. The Global Anti-Semitism Review Act also establishes the Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism at the State Department, headed by the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism. In addition to monitoring and combating anti-Semitism, the Special Envoy is responsible for coordinating anti-Semitism reporting in the annual Human Rights Reports and the International Religious Freedom Report.