Committed to standing up for fair treatment for the State of Israel, the United States of America today spoke out against intolerance and anti-semitism as global ill.
In his remarks Jewish Council for Public Affairs Plenum 2013 at Washington DC, Acting Special Envoy Michael G. Kozak for combating anti-semitism says the popular rejection of the old regimes presents the United States with both an opportunity and a challenge.
“We can and must support efforts to combat hate and promote tolerance in our world.” – Mr. Kozak
He says as President Obama put it in January this year, “peace in our time requires the constant advance of those principles that our common creed describes: tolerance and opportunity; human dignity and justice.”
Even new Secretary of State John Kerry, echoed these values during his overseas trip to visit leaders in Europe and the Middle East, when he spoke of the “urgent need to promote a spirit of tolerance,” he added.
The US is attempting through diplomacy, public messaging and programs all over the world to advance those principles.
“But while our goals are clear, so are the obstacles. It will take patience and persistence to achieve the ends we seek.” – Mr. Kozak
The US is attempting through diplomacy, public messaging and programs all over the world to advance those principles.
According to Mr. Kozak, US strategy is to confront and combat hatred in all its ugly forms – whether it is hatred directed against people on account of their religion, ethnicity, race, sexual orientation or differences of political opinion or due to their country of origin.
Anti-Semitism is a widespread form of such hatred, Mr. Kozak said.
To counter these trends, the world needs to stand together in its efforts to promote tolerance, acceptance and compassion.
Anti-Semitism is not history – it is news!
According to Mr. Kozak, more than six decades after the end of the Second World War, anti-Semitism is alive and well.
He says centuries-old stereotypes and myths are conflated with current events to inject new life into the stale prejudices of the past.
In many cases, he notes myths and misinformation about Israel were indoctrinated into the minds of people by authoritarian regimes desperately seeking a pretext to remain in power.
The myths and misinformation have outlived the regimes that propagated them, he added.
“Undoing the damage that has been done doubtless will be the work of generations.” – Mr. Kozak
However, Mr. Kozak underscores the enormity of the task only underscores its urgency.
Anti-semitism: The trends are deeply troubling
According to Mr. Kozak, “old fashioned” anti-Semitism is instilling fear where there should be freedom and draining Jewish communities of resources they can ill afford.
He says the world is all too familiar with ongoing hostile acts such as the defacing of property and the desecration of cemeteries with anti-Semitic graffiti.
He cites old slanders are recycled, such as when a Hungarian Member of Parliament from the Jobbik party recently made reference to a long-discredited accusation of blood libel from 1882.
In addition, Venezuela’s late President Hugo Chavez during his last campaign used government-sponsored media outlets to publish anti-Semitic articles as a means of attacking his opponent’s Jewish ancestry.
Violence against Jews on the rise
According to Mr. Kozak, in France, the Jewish Community Security Service has called 2012 “a year of unprecedented violence against Jews.”
In the United Kingdom, the Community Security Trust reported 2012 to be “the third worst year on record.”
In the US, almost two-thirds of hate crimes committed each year on the basis of religion or belief are committed against Jews.
In addition, Mr. Kozak notes even the smallest Jewish communities, such as the 1000 Jews of Melilla – a Spanish enclave on the North African coast – are forced to spend a disproportionate amount of their budgets on maintaining their members’ physical security.
“Those communities cannot but believe their fear is justified when they go to their parliament and see their representatives reading aloud “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion”- as a Golden Dawn Member of Parliament did in Greece last year.” – Mr. Kozak
Holocaust denial also widespread
According to Mr. Kozak, hollocaust denial has been espoused not just by Iranian President Ahmadinejad, but also by religious leaders, such as discredited Catholic Bishop Richard Williamson.
He says some extremists go so far as to engage in Holocaust glorification, such as when a member of Greece’s Golden Dawn party said of immigrants, “We are ready to reheat the ovens” and “make lamps from their skin.”
Similarly, a troubling trend is the persistent tendency of blurring the lines between opposition to the policies of the State of Israel and anti-Semitism, Mr. Kozak emphasized.
“This happens easily and often, especially in Europe, where people are genuinely concerned about the plight of the Palestinians.” – Mr. Kozak
He indicates criticism of policies of the State of Israel is not anti-Semitism.
Mr. Kozak notes bodies like the UN Human Rights Council perpetuate an approach that devotes an entire agenda item to human rights violations allegedly committed by Israel while every other country in the world is lumped together in a single item.
“It is impossible to divine a legitimate premise for such action.” – Mr. Kozak
Mr. Kozak points out that this kind of rhetoric is not without consequence.
The US recorded increases in anti-Semitic violence whenever there are hostilities in the Middle East.
He adds the State Department is monitoring these trends daily and activities, and making sure that the U.S. will be there to step forward when needed.
US reports on those trends, in all 199 countries and territories, in two major annual reports: The International Religious Freedom Report and the Human Rights Report.
US Takes actions to counter the trends of anti-semitism
According to Mr. Kozak, in Washington DC, US State Department informs and educates State Department employees working on a wide variety of issues and who are engaging with leaders from every one of those countries.
The State Department regularly delivers training modules on anti-Semitism at the Foreign Service Institute.
In addition, US embassies around the world have a standing tasking to make sure we’re informed about anti-Semitic incidents as they happen.
“They also are charged with knowing who to engage to promote tolerance.” – Mr. Kozak
US embassies’ mission is to ensure that a trend against discrimination and violence does not gain momentum.
In Washington DC, the State Department delivers parallel messages to foreign diplomats and use our religious engagement to reinforce the message.
“Our effort is not to simply criticize, though we are not shy about doing so when warranted. Rather, our job is to make a difference.” – Mr. Kozak
According to Mr. Kozak, Special Envoy Hannah Rosenthal personally travelled to over 30 countries during her tenure as Special Envoy.
Ms. Rosenthal had significant success in getting senior officials to speak out and condemn the Holocaust – in changing the way educational systems incorporate lessons about the Holocaust into curriculum – and, most importantly, in helping empower local actors to prevent, combat and prosecute hate crimes and promote tolerance and respect.
And it is not all talk
According to Mr. Kozak, Hannah and the Special Representative to Muslim Communities, Farah Pandith, put in place a program called “Hours Against Hate.”
The program encouraged young people to work together across the lines of religion and tradition on projects that benefitted both Jewish and non-Jewish communities.
Mr. Kozak says the program became an official tolerance campaign for the 2012 Olympic and Paralympic Games.
The US governmet currently has made roughly $300,000 available in grants solely for programs addressing tolerance and anti-Semitism.
“This assures that places where anti-Semitism is at its most virulent can have access to programs that promote tolerance and mutual understanding over hate.” – Mr. Kozak
Countries denouncing anti-semitism too
In 2012, the Norwegian government publicly apologized for the role of Norwegian authorities in deporting Jews during World War II.
Mr. Kozak cites the Belgian Senate also passed a resolution in January recognizing the role of Belgian authorities in the Holocaust and indicating a desire to include Holocaust education in Belgium’s curricula.
In October 2012, Ukraine celebrated the opening of the Menorah Jewish Community Center and Holocaust Museum.
In addition, at the Department of State, it has hosted multiple events, including commemorating the survivors of the MS St. Louis.
Earlier this year, US International Holocaust Memorial Day program paid tribute to victims of the “Holocaust by Bullets,” which took place in Eastern Europe during World War II.
And even the United Nations has seen some progress, Mr. Kozak added.
“Thanks to the efforts of our Ambassador to the UN, Susan Rice, and our Ambassador to the Human Rights Council in Geneva, Eileen Donahoe, as well as other senior Administration figures, the number of annual anti-Israel resolutions in the General Assembly dropped from 24 in 2007 to 8 in 2012.” – Mr. Kozak
In promoting tolerance
According to Mr. Kozak, since the beginning of humankind, hate has been around.
However, he points out that since then too, good people of all faiths and backgrounds have striven to combat it.
“It is our mission to confront those who practice hate and to engage and strengthen those who promote tolerance.” – Mr. Kozak
Where there is hatred born of ignorance, they must teach and inspire, he added.
“Where there is hatred born of blindness, we must expose people to a larger world of ideas.” – Mr. Kozak
The world must reach out, especially to youth, so they can see beyond their immediate circumstances, he underscored.
Where there is hatred whipped up by irresponsible leaders, the world must call them out and answer as strongly as it can and make their message totally unacceptable to all people of conscience.
Jewish communities feeling unsafe?
With Jewish communities feeling so unsafe and threatened on the rise, anti-semitism is still thriving in today’s world.
Special Envoy Hannah Rosenthal said the world did not learned the lessons of the Holocaust nor has it absorbed the message of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
US says there are countries where government-sponsored anti-Semitism abounds and there are corners of the globe where the old Tsarist forgery “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” is still being taught in schools as fact.
US asserts the world can not eliminate anti-Semitism alone without addressing intolerance in all its forms.
In the case of anti-Semitism, it is the fear that Jews are different and therefore inherently evil and threatening, she indicated.
Over the centuries, hysterics have preached accusations of blood libel, warning children to stay away from Jews based on accusations by the Church that Jews killed Christian children to use their blood for rituals.
The U.S. Government attaches great importance to identifying these problems and brainstorming about how to solve them, Ms. Rosenthal noted.
President Obama and Secretary Clinton made history when they explained on the international stage that protecting LGBT rights is part and parcel of US international human rights agenda.
The United States is working with all of those who are committed to a world free of anti-Semitism and all other forms of ethnic or religious intolerance.
Of the nine million Jews who had resided in Europe before the Holocaust, approximately two-thirds perished. In particular, over one million Jewish children were killed in the Holocaust, as were approximately two million Jewish women and three million Jewish men.
Jews and others frequently use the term Shoah, Hebrew for “catastrophe,” to refer to the Holocaust. After the start of World War II, German Chancellor Adolf Hitler created forced-labor and death camps throughout Europe to execute the “final solution of the Jewish question.” The Nazis persecuted other groups they deemed racially ‘inferior,’ including Gypsies, the physically and mentally disabled, gays and lesbians, Soviet prisoners of war, Poles, communists and numerous minority groups. The Nazi regime initially constructed forced-labor camps to imprison Jews, but as early as 1941 built extermination camps designed solely for the quick and efficient mass murder of Jews and others