Resurgent Anti-Semitism: Global Perspectives
Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism
Congratulations on your inaugural conference and especially to Alvin Rosenfeld – mazel tov to see your visions realized.
And to all of you, thank you for your thoughtful analyses. You are doing invaluable work and services to the entire world.
I am here today to share with you the strong commitment of the United States to this cause. As a child of a Holocaust survivor, anti-Semitism is something very personal to me. My father was arrested – on Kristalnacht – and sent with many of his congregants to prison and then to Buchenwald. He was the lucky one – every other person in his family perished at Auschwitz. I have dedicated my life to eradicating anti-Semitism and intolerance with a sense of urgency and passion that only my father could give me. President Obama and Secretary Clinton have honored me with this appointment and have elevated my office and integrated it into the workings of all other parts of the State Department.
I have been on the job for just over a year now – and I have seen six significant trends in the increases of Anti-Semitism around the world:
First of all, anti-Semitism is not a history lesson. I run into people who think anti-Semitism is a disease that was cured when Hitler killed himself. But we know it is chronic illness, comprising of old and new mutations of religious hatred, racism, and political, social and cultural bigotry.
So traditional forms of anti-Semitism continue to plague societies worldwide. We are all familiar with ongoing hostile acts such as the defacing of property, desecration of cemeteries, and even accusations of blood libel, now morphing into accusation that Jews are kidnapping or killing children to steal their organs. Conspiracy theories continue to flourish, such as supposed Jewish control of the U.S. media and the world banking system, or that Jewish persons were involved in executing the September 11 attacks. The Protocols of the Elders of Zion continue to be best sellers in many, many countries, and taught to religious students as truth. The ‘old fashioned’ anti-Semitism is alive and well.
Another potent trend is the growing existence of Holocaust denials. It is coming from religious leaders in some places, by heads of State, in academic institutions in some places, and is a standard on several hateful websites and other media outlets. With the window closing on having survivors and liberators alive to tell their stories, there is urgency to promote Holocaust education, create museums and memorials, and carry the memory and lessons of the Holocaust forward.
There is also growing Holocaust glorification – which can be seen in parades honoring the Waffen SS still living, in the growth of neo-Nazi groups, and is especially virulent in Middle East media – some that is state owned and operated - calling for a new Holocaust to finish the job. Truly bonechilling.
And there is Holocaust relativism – where government agencies, museums, academic “research” and the like are grouping the lessons of the Holocaust with other repressive regimes, especially in the FSU and South America. While no one wants to get into dueling victimhoods – to combine these bad chapters of history is not only historically dishonest, it also misses opportunities to learn the different lessons. Never before or since the Holocaust has a country put its creative culture together to build effective and efficient killing factories. And while people truly suffered during the Dirty War or under Soviet rule, the Holocaust must be studied for what it was: The Holocaust teaches what is possible.
History must be accurate – it must instruct, it must warn, and it must inspire us to learn the particular and universal values as we prepare to mend this fractured world.
And what I hear from our 194 posts around the world, and from our close relationship with NGOs in the US in other nations, opposition to a policy by the State of Israel morphs into anti-Semitism easily and often. We record huge increases in anti-Semitism whenever there is activity in the Middle East. This form of anti-Semitism is more difficult for many to identify – but if all Jews are held responsible for the decisions of the sovereign State of Israel, when governments call upon and intimidate their Jewish communities to condemn Israeli actions, when academics from Israel are boycotted – this is not objecting to a policy – this is anti-Semitism. Our State Department uses Natan Sharansky’s framework for identifying when someone or a government crosses the line – when Israel is demonized, when Israel is held to different standards than the rest of the countries, and when Israel is delegitimized. These cases are not disagreements with a policy of Israel, this is anti-Semitism. I feel I must also state: sometimes people hide their anti-Semitism behind criticism of Israel’s existence – but criticism of Israel does not necessary mean someone is anti-Semitic. If so, half of Israel would be anti-Semitic.
The last trend is the growing nationalistic movements which target ‘the other’ – be they immigrants, or religious and ethnic minorities in the name of protecting the identity and ‘purity’ of their nation. When this fear or hatred of the ‘other’ occurs or when people try to find a scapegoat for the instability around them, it is never good for the Jews. And the last time we heard government officials talk about protecting a country’s purity, we know what happened.
The State Department monitors these trends and activities and report on them in all 194 countries – in two major annual reports: The International Religious Freedom report is set to go public next month, and the Human Rights report next week. The only human rights abuse that is comprehensively covered in both of those reports is Anti-Semitism. 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 is all its forms. If we don’t chronicle it, if we don’t name it, we can’t fight it.
And my title calls for both monitoring and combating anti-Semitism. Combating this ancient hatred is daunting and calls for many different strategies.
My approach to combating anti-Semitism and measuring success in fighting the oldest hatred is to have non-Jews, “unusual suspects”condemn it – government, civil society, international institutions, business leaders, labor unions, media.
The most common tool we use is Diplomacy – The United States maintains as a top priority the raising of anti-Semitism in the context of our relationships with other countries. Through bilateral meetings and activities, we encourage other governments to take steps against anti-Semitic manifestations within their own societies. We ask governments to challenge acts of anti-Semitism, to speak out against and expose the hatred. We offer help with reporting and data collections. We encourage appropriate outreach by governments to members of Jewish communities. We also encourage governments to partner with us in multi-lateral institutions such as the UN, or the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the OAS, EU and others, to those same ends.
Last week, the OSCE held a conference on “Anti-Semitism in Public Discourse.” Representatives from 56 countries shard information on how their governments are addressing hate speech and incitement to violence. The leaders expressed shame and embarrassment that we still need to discuss this in 2011.
The US is ready to work with governments that want to be part of the solution, and call out those that don’t.
Last month Secretary Clinton launched an initiative to strengthening Civil Society - the Secretary’s vision and instructions to all of us in the State Department is to treat civil society as strategic partners on the same level as we do foreign governments.
As I travel, I promote public discussion on the nature of new forms of anti- Semitism – how to recognize it and ways to combat it, working with NGOs and human rights and interfaith and inter-ethnic groups to foster thoughtful and problem-solving discussions.
We do not just confront intolerance, we actively promote tolerance. We have begun the ART Initiative – ART standing for Acceptance, Respect and Tolerance – in which we identify and highlight interfaith and interethnic groups that focus on advancing acceptance, respect and tolerance with youth. As with everything, really, building strong relationships with civil society, with governments, with opinion leaders, is the way to change a culture – from fear and stereotypes to acceptance and understanding, from narrow-mindedness to pluralism, from hate to tolerance.
We also support education and awareness . Educating our young is a priority - they are our future and will shape our world as we face the future. No government should produce materials that are intolerant of members of any religious, racial, or ethnic group, or teach such intolerance as part of its educational curriculum. The Department of State continues to focus on this important issue and express our concern to the governments using such hateful lessons and textbooks, calling Jews the children of apes and pigs or promoting the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. We sponsor teacher training on the Holocaust – its particular uniqueness and its universal lessons. We help train law enforcement officials on how to identify, report and hold accountable individuals and institutions that engage in anti-Semitic activities. We use old and new technologies to communicate with the public about human rights, tolerance and democracy. We work hard to ensure internet freedom, learn how to condemn on-line hate, and stop its incitement to violence. We are also enhancing our cultural and educational exchanges to showcase our civil society organizations and engagement, and to learn from the successes of other countries.
Some examples of these diplomatic tools and strategies we use to combat anti-Semitism include:
To confront traditional forms of anti-Semitism, we raise the issues of blood libel accusations with prime ministers and foreign ministers, as well as religious leaders – urging all to make public statements condemning the rhetoric or activities identified.
To combat Holocaust denial, we went to Dachau and Auschwitz with 8 leading imams, two of which had denied the Holocaust, and urged them to make a public statement condemning Holocaust denial and all forms of anti-Semitism. Which they did and condemned all forms of anti-Semitism in the strongest words possible.
To combat Holocaust glorification, we are monitoring media coverage and have reported examples of calls for a new Holocaust to ‘finish the job’, to the highest level of governments and media outlets, predominantly in the Middle East.
To confront Holocaust relativism, we have requested changes in museums, memorials, and have met with academics to discuss historical honesty and accuracy.
To combat the demonization and delegitimization of Israel and holding Israel to different standards than all other nations in the world, we consistently vote NO and offer explanations of our vote to international bodies as well as institutions obsessing on Israel. We are often the only NO vote in UN bodies, and use our veto power in the Security Council to stop the delegitimization of Israel.
We have held roundtables connecting editors, cartoonists and columnists with leaders of the Jewish community to educate and sensitize them to how their messages are affecting the Jews and other vulnerable populations.
To confront hatred of ‘others’ and ultra-nationalistic movements that marginalize minorities, we help communities build coalitions and partnerships to help minority populations move from isolation to having a voice.
My colleague, Farah Pandith, the Special Representative to Muslim Communities, and I have just launched a virtual campaign called 2011 Hours Against Hate. We are asking young people around the world to pledge a number of hours to volunteer to help or serve a population different than their own. We ask them to work with people who may look differently, pray differently, live differently. For example, a young Jew would volunteer time to read at a Muslim pre-school, or a Russian Orthodox at a Jewish clinic, or a man at a women’s shelter, etc. We are using facebook (the third largest country in the world) and other social media to connect the youth globally, and to engage them to go beyond words, speeches or even lectures – providing a vehicle to “do” something to promote pluralism and mutual respect.
The EU just declared 2011 as a Year of Volunteerism and this 2011 Hours against Hate global campaign is a platform for the entire region – and beyond.
We began meeting with hundreds of young people – students and young professionals – in Turkey, Azerbaijan and Spain – countries that in their history celebrated Jews and Muslims co-existing and thriving together. These countries are seeing a different culture these days. And the youth we met with do not like the direction their countries are going in right now. They embraced the campaign – and we have already reached our hypothetical goal of 2011 Hours pledged Against Hate. And we really have just begun.
I am not a scholar, I’m not an academic, not a historian, a professor or author – like all of you. You have such important work to do, to make sense of this transforming world and to be sure that young people learn the particular and universal lessons of the history of anti-Semitism, as well as how to respond and prevent new forms.
Thank you for all you are doing and I look forward to learning from you. I wish this conference much success – we’re all counting on you!