Hannah Rosenthal, a former special envoy to the US State Department, condemned anti-Semitism and other types of hate at the March 19th Herschel Lecture. Rosenthal’s statements revealed that objecting to a policy to the state of Israel isn’t hateful. However, if there are signs saying, “Jews back to the gas chambers,” that is.
After serving for years as the head of the Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism under the Obama administration, Rosenthal has come to realize most people aren’t born with an innate need to hate. Instead, “hatred starts at the dinner table.”
She confirms that this type of hate is also a part of institutions.
“There’s Holocaust relativism and revisionism,” said Rosenthal, the daughter of a Holocaust survivor and rabbi. “Where governments, education curriculums, memorials, and museums are being changed so that the message of the Holocaust is different.”
While in Budapest, she recalled a moment where government officials came to take down a picture of General Horthy, a Hungarian admiral who had made a deal to send 800,000 Jews to their death with the help of Adolf Eichmann, one the main architects of the Holocaust.
Rosenthal’s travels to combat the complexities of anti-Semitism and hate have taken her around the world, but the task hasn’t always been easy and proved to be much harder than anticipated.
“I learned that people didn’t know what anti-Semitism was,” she said. “There were people that believed that anti-Semitism ended when Adolf Hitler killed himself.”
The realization that were people oblivious to anti-Semitism gave Rosenthal a new perspective on the propagation of hate—that those in power have the ability make people believe certain things.
“There are college professors that are assigning their students with topics to research and write about if the Holocaust really happened,” explained Rosenthal.
Rosenthal further broke down the facets of anti-Semitism.
“The old-fashioned bit of anti-Semitism which is handed down from generation to generation, is also seen in conspiracy theories,” she said. “In Cairo, Egypt a professor had asked me to be honest, how did the Jews pull off the 9/11 attacks.”
Rosenthal believes anti-Semitism and prejudice also exists on grander scales as well like at the United Nations through the Human Rights Council’s Agenda Item Seven, which was brought by the council due to harsh policies the Israeli government has put on Palestinian residents.
While she agrees it is within people’s right to criticize the Israeli government’s policies, Rosenthal said Israel is put on a higher standard than other countries when it comes to human rights violations.
“Never does someone say, therefore that country shouldn’t exist,” explained Rosenthal.
Despite the conspiracies and disregard Rosenthal has been met with, she’s seen her fair share of successes with her efforts to teach others how hate originates and to increase tolerance.
“We came up with an initiative called Hours Against Hate,” she said about the movement that was also adopted in the 2012 London summer games tolerance campaign. “It’s to give one hour of their time to work with, study with, eat with someone who doesn’t look, pray, live, or love like them.”