Tag-teaming bias at the OSCE


The Obama administration introduced a novel tactic at this week’s Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe conference on intolerance, taking place in Kazakhstan.

(The conference, which takes place more or less biannually, grew out of anti-Semitism conferences in launched at the behest of the Bush administration in the mid-2000s.)

Hannah Rosenthal, Obama’s top anti-Semitism monitor, delivered the speech on anti-Muslim bias; Farah Anwar Pandith, the State Department’s emissary to Muslim communities, chronicled last year’s spike in anti-Semitism in Europe.

Here’s Pandith:

In her seven months in this position, Special Envoy Rosenthal has traveled widely in the United States and internationally. On these trips, she regularly meets with government officials, NGO representatives, and academic leaders, as well as with local Jewish communities and interfaith groups. The issue she hears raised again and again is that 2009 saw a dramatic increase in anti-Semitism internationally. This has been documented in the Department of State’s Human Rights Reports.

In addition to an increased number of violent attacks against Jews and synagogues in Europe and elsewhere, 2009 saw growing incidents of harassment of Jewish children in their schools; desecration of Jewish institutions; and increasingly violent and virulent rhetoric in graffiti, as well as in various media. In recent weeks, we have seen legitimate criticism of Israeli government policies cross the line into anti-Semitism. Natan Sharansky teaches us that anti-Israel sentiment crosses the line into anti-Semitism if Israel is demonized, delegitimized or held to a different standard than any other country.

And here’s Rosenthal:

The U.S. government works continuously to ensure that person of all faiths, including Muslims, can freely enjoy the fundamental freedom of religion. We raise these concerns with our Allies, partners, and others – both within the OSCE and without. The U.S. Government’s Annual Report on International Religious Freedom addresses these concerns in detail within the OSCE region and around the world.

In the OSCE region, for example, the free practice of Islam is severely constrained in different ways – from overt prejudices to non-support for structures that allow religious observance. In some participating States, Muslim communities have great difficulty operating mosques not controlled or sanctioned by the state, sometimes resulting in problematic penalties for this activity. In some states, in fact, one can’t even build a mosque. In some states, registration systems often disproportionately burden small Muslim religious communities, and some countries’ legal systems ban personal religious expression—restrictions which inevitably limit freedoms we all hold dear.

And they conclude with the same words:

Jews cannot fight anti-Semitism alone. Muslims cannot fight Islamophobia alone. Roma cannot fight – alone. The LGBT community cannot fight – alone. And the list goes on. Hate is hate, but we can overcome it together.

Thisn is consistent with Rosenthal’s strategy, outlined not long ago at the annual meeting of her former employer, the JCPA, to incorporate the battle against anti-Semitism into the broader defense of human rights. (Her Bush administration predecessor, Gregg Rickman, issued a report separate from the human rights report.)

I wonder: Does anyone pay attention to the OSCE? Who missed this symbolism — a Jew defending Muslims, a Muslim defending Jews — who might have benefited from it?

Which is to say: Shouldn’t Rosenthal and Pandith take this show on the road?

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