US 'antisemitism ambassador' is critical of pro-Israel right

By Paul Berger, New York, November 26, 2009
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The US State Department has appointed a new special envoy to monitor and combat global antisemitism.

Hannah Rosenthal, 58, a former director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, will assume the post, which was created by Congress in 2004.

Ms Rosenthal’s appointment has already been met with some scepticism by conservative Jews because of her past criticism of the “narrow, ultra-conservative views” that dominate American pro-Israel groups.

She also served on the advisory board of J Street, a fledgling, liberal pro-Israel group that has clashed with Aipac and the Anti-Defamation League over its criticism of Israel, particularly concerning Operation Cast Lead.

The Israeli ambassador declined an invitation last month to the group’s first convention.

Nevertheless, Ms Rosenthal said there was ample room for a spectrum of views regarding Israeli security.

“The status quo in the Middle East is unacceptable,” she said. “And we need a variety of people around the table to talk about how to change the status quo and to bring peace.

“Some criticism of Israel is clearly motivated by antisemitism, but not all of it.

“The more Israel feels isolated and the more the international community isolates Israel, the more you have to look and say, to what extent is this antisemitism? Navigating that will continue to be a difficult but important thing to do.”

Ms Rosenthal served as director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs for five years.

During her time there, she said that she worked with almost all of the major US Jewish organisations and she expects to continue to work closely with them in her new role.

“We have had, at times, different opinions on tactics and strategy,” she said. “But basically we are in agreement that antisemitism must be confronted when it rears its head.”

Abraham Foxman, of the Anti-Defamation League, who has criticised Rosenthal in the past, welcomed her appointment.

Her predecessor at the State Department, Gregg Rickman, told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that he hoped Rosenthal would prioritise keeping up pressure on Arab countries and the UN Human Rights Council.

“The Human Rights Council will be very high on our agenda,” said Ms Rosenthal. “I don’t understand intolerance and people demonising Israel. But most institutions have a stripe of intolerance in them, even the good ones.”

Nazi hunter warns of hate danger in baltic states

European anti-semites are pushing a new line “more pernicious than Holocaust denial” to denigrate the murder of six million Jews, warned Nazi hunter Efraim Zuroff.

Particularly in the Baltic states of Latvia, Lithuania and Estonia, prominent politicians are trying to persuade the EU parliament to formally equate Nazi and Communist crimes as equally horrendous genocides.

The not-so-subtle subtext of this proposal is to point to persecutions by “Jewish Communists” of the patriotic citizens of the three countries during the post-war Soviet domination of the Baltic and East European countries.

A major goal of this campaign is to minimise or rationalise the police and militias’ active collaboration with the Nazis in the killing of Jews, Mr Zuroff said.

Mr Zuroff, who has been tracking down Nazis for 30 years for the Simon Wiesenthal Centre, was talking at the Museum of Tolerance in LA.

During the last two months, four men on his list of the top 10 living men accused of Nazi war crimes have been extradited or readied for trial.

They are John Demjanjuk; Hungarian Sandor Kepiro, accused of participation in the Novi Sad massacre of 4,000 Serbs, Jews and Romas; Hungarian Charles Zentai, who allegedly beat an 18-year-old to death for not wearing a yellow star; and Heinrich Boere, a leader of a Dutch SS death squad.

“I expect to continue my work for another three or four years, by which time the last of the war criminals will be gone,” he said.

Tom Tugend, Los Angeles

    Last updated: 1:51pm, February 23 2010