They like us, they really like us, part II


 Hannah Rosenthal, the State Department’s envoy and monitor on anti-Semitism likes to say she’s "in the building" — that is, her office is in the central State Department building, and not off-campus.

It’s key to understanding her strategy of incorporating the battle against anti-Semitism into the State Department’s apparatus (which begs the broader question: was it absent before her predecessor, Gregg Rickman, was the first to assume the role? And if it was, why?).

Anyway, last week, she not only was in the building, she was on its lovely, vaulted eight floor with the breathtaking views of the national mall and the Potomac, celebrating her appointment (albeit eight months after she was installed).

The State Department has posted the speech by her boss, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and we made a news item out of Clinton’s appeal to the Jewish community to more aggressively take up the case of Alan Gross, the State Department contractor who was arrested after a visit to Cuba to bring the internet to the islands’s Jews and who has not been released, although he has not been charged. (The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations has taken up Clinton’s call.)

Clinton’s appearance, the classy surroundings, the full dress military quartet, and Clinton’s generous remarks inevitably will be seen as part of the "charm offensive" to the Jewish community post Obama-Netanyahu tensions.  Maybe. Jewish officials tell me this was in the works for months, before the tensions erupted in March.

State has yet to post Hannah’s speech, which is a pity, because it’s a cogent outline of how she sees modern anti-Semitism manifested (her remarks are included in the video, linked here).

Here are the six areas, from my notes:

— The perpetuation of the ancient canards in modern forms. (The blood libel, for instance, manifested in libels about Israel harvesting and dealing in organs);

— Holocaust denial;

— Holocaust relativism (where everything is compared and equated to what the Nazis did to the Jews).

— Holocaust glorification — where the genocide is not denied, but celebrated (by extreme right groups).

— Natan Scharansky’s three "Ds" of how Israel criticism crosses over into anti-Semitism (demonization, delegitimization and holding Israel to a different standard)

— Finally, the broader climate of hate, generated in part by the economic downturn, and that affects not just Jews in Europe, but Muslims, Roma and other minorities. Call this the "universal" component to anti-Semitism.

Gregg, Hannah’s predecessor, scored her in this piece on the Cutting Edge. He says she’s not doing her job, based on an analysis that appears to characterize  her approach as based on only the final point in her speech — that there is a universal component to anti-Semtism.

This is unfair — Gregg wrote his piece before Hannah’s speech, but she’s made the same speech elsewhere, and before she gets to the "universal" component, she identifies the five "particularist" components outlined above.

As for doing her job: This would be hard to quantify. It would be unfair to assess Gregg or Hannah by tracking the growth or decrease of anti-Semitism. I’ll leave it to another day to compare the academic quality of their reports.

How, then?

Speaking to me afterwards, Rabbi Abraham Cooper of the Simon Wiesenthal Center — who attended the event — gave the Bush and Obama administrations (and by implication, Hannah and Gregg) equal marks. Both deserved credit by sending a high-profile signal that anti-Semitism is a priority, he said. 

"The administrations sent a signal that they’re giving the job and the issue greater attention," he said.  Moreover, he said, he liked Hannah’s approach of bringing other communities into the fight against anti-Semitism. "You’re not going to win the war on anti-Semitism if its just the Jews fighting, you need friends and allies."

However, Cooper said that neither administration imposed penalties — just warnings — on governments that tolerated anti-Semitism. ""There has top be a price to pay for Jew hatred, and there isn’t," he said.

So perhaps we can set the mark at "Incomplete, has potential."

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