Witch hunt: Right wing now falsely claiming Hannah Rosenthal is an "anti-Israel lobbyist"

››› ››› JEREMY SCHULMAN

In the latest smear in the right-wing media's witch hunt against Obama administration "czars," WorldNetDaily falsely claimed that State Department anti-Semitism envoy Hannah Rosenthal -- who has a long history of pro-Israel advocacy -- is an "anti-Israel lobbyist," apparently because of her affiliation with J Street. WorldNetDaily also falsely claimed that in a statement she reportedly made more than seven years ago, Rosenthal "seemed to imply Israeli policies were to blame for anti-Semitism."

J Street is a pro-Israel organization praised by Israeli president and opposition leader

Citing J Street role, WND falsely claimed Rosenthal is an "anti-Israel lobbyist." Apparently referring to Rosenthal's role as one of more than 160 members of J Street's advisory council, WorldNetDaily ran its November 26 attack article -- written by Aaron Klein -- under the following headline:

Obama appoints anti-Israel lobbyist to anti-Semitism post

J Street pick hints Jewish state to blame for hatred against its people

J Street is "pro-Israel, pro-peace." J Street is not, as WorldNetDaily suggested, an "anti-Israel" lobbying organization. Rather, J Street refers to itself as "the political arm of the pro-Israel, pro-peace movement" and states that it "represents Americans, primarily but not exclusively Jewish, who support Israel and its desire for security as the Jewish homeland, as well as the right of the Palestinians to a sovereign state of their own - two states living side-by-side in peace and security." According to its website, "J Street advocates for American policies that, in our view, advance the national interests of the United States, as well as the long-term interests and security of the state of Israel."

Israeli president Peres praised J Street. WorldNetDaily wrote: "Even the Israeli government has been distancing itself from J Street, with its ambassador to Washington, Michael Oren, refusing to attend its annual dinner last month. Israeli Embassy spokesman Yoni Peled told the Jerusalem Post his government has some 'concern over certain [J Street] policies that could impair Israel's interests.' " WorldNetDaily did not note, however, that, as reported by Haaretz, Israeli president and former prime minister Shimon Peres sent J Street "a letter of congratulations on its activities." According to Haaretz:

In his letter to J Street's executive director, Jeremy Ben-Ami, in response to an invitation to Peres to attend the gathering, the Israeli president wrote "While I am fully aware of the importance of your first national conference, regrettably my commitments prevent me from attending. However, I wish to congratulate you on your initiative to form a pro-Israeli-Palestinian and pro-Israeli-Arab peace organization, and the support you have garnered on behalf of this mission in the American political and Jewish communities arena is indeed impressive."

[...]

In his letter, Peres also noted: "The Israel that stretches out its hand in peace is not only an Israel that addresses a geo-political reality and discharges its strategic interests: it is an Israel that acts according to the commands of the conscience and values of the Jewish People." He concluded his letter by writing, "I wish the organizers and participants of this conference a successful and fruitful event."

Kadima leader Livni praised J Street. The Jerusalem Post reported on October 23:

Two days after Israel's ambassador to the US declined an invitation to attend the dovish J Street's inaugural national conference, opposition leader Tzipi Livni sent a letter to the head of the organization on Wednesday, congratulating him on the event but saying that "unfortunately, my schedule does not allow me to take part in this event."

At the same time, she wrote that Kadima would be well represented at the conference by senior members of the party - a reference to MKs [members of the Knesset] Meir Sheetrit and Shlomo Molla, as well as former MK Haim Ramon, who are scheduled to attend.

"I would like to congratulate you on your inaugural national conference," Livni wrote to the group's executive director, Jeremy Ben-Ami, distancing herself from the cold shoulder the group has received from the government.

[...]

"I believe most American Jews support Israel and want to see it thrive as a Jewish and democratic state," Livni wrote. "Like you, I believe ending the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by realizing the vision of two nation-states, living side by side in peace and security, is in the best interest of Israel, the United States, the Palestinians and the region as a whole."

Livni said "the discussion within the pro-Israel community of what best advances Israel's cause should be inclusive and broad enough to encompass a variety of views, provided it is conducted in a respectful and legitimate manner."

Along the way, Livni said, "we may not agree on everything, but I do believe that we must ensure that what unites us as Jews who are committed to Israel's future as a secure, Jewish and democratic state is far greater than what separates us."

Rosenthal has long history of pro-Israel advocacy

As head of Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Rosenthal "was a tireless advocate for Israel." Rosenthal served as executive director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA) from 2000 to 2005. In a November 23 statement "applaud[ing]" Rosenthal's appointment, current JCPA president and CEO Rabbi Steve Gutow, said: "During her tenure at JCPA, Hannah was a tireless advocate for Israel and social issues important to the Jewish community." The Forward reported on November 12, 2004, that "Rosenthal has adapted her organization to focus more on local communities, helping them to coordinate their Israel advocacy and other programs."

Jewish Week: Rosenthal "presided over a strong, well-organized response to ... Durban conference." In a November 24 editorial supporting Rosenthal's appointment, The Jewish Week wrote, "At JCPA, she presided over a strong, well-organized response to the 2001 United Nations Durban conference on racism and xenophobia that turned into a festival of outright anti-Semitism. She has a solid understanding of a Jewish world divided over many political and Middle East policy issues but united about the importance of Israel and the need to root out the scourge of anti-Semitism wherever it erupts." Indeed, in a July 18, 2001, action alert, Rosenthal wrote that JCPA was "playing a coordinating role facilitating the work of national and local member agencies" in confronting "ongoing efforts by Arab and Muslim states to use the United Nations World Conference Against Racism ... as a forum to attack Israel and to revive the old canard equating Zionism with racism." Rosenthal asked readers to urge members of congress to sign a letter to then-Secretary of State Colin Powell and then-United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan "expressing serious concern about the divisive and hate-filled tone emerging in preparations for the" conference. In an August 27, 2001, press release, JCPA "praised President Bush and Secretary of State Colin Powell for ruling out high-level U.S. participation at" the conference. In a September 3, 2001, press release, JCPA announced that it had "walked out of the [conference] in the midst of anti-Semitic rhetoric and following attempts to single out Israel as a racist state."

Under Rosenthal, JCPA publicly supported "Israel's right of self defense against terrorism with all means necessary." In a December 3, 2001, press release, JCPA stated:

The JCPA supports Israel's right of self defense against terrorism with all means necessary. The defense of one's citizens is the first responsibility of any government. The time for waiting for Yasser Arafat to confront the terrorist groups operating in areas under Palestinian Authority control, particularly Hamas and Islamic Jihad, and to put an end to suicide attacks and anti-Israel incitement, has run out.

[...]

It is now up to Israel to find the response that will prevent such barbaric attacks from occurring in the future. There is no simple way to pursue terrorists and those who harbor them. The JCPA will stand behind the Israeli government at it seeks to develop the most effective strategy for defending its citizens.

JCPA expresses its deep appreciation to President George Bush and senior administration officials for showing strong and unyielding support for Israel following these terrorist attacks and the Israeli government's initial response. The President's unequivocal call on Arafat to confront terror groups and end these attacks is reminiscent of the actions he has taken in Afghanistan. America and Israel stand united in the fight against global terrorism, which seeks to undermine democracy, freedom, and a commitment to seek genuine peace.

Rosenthal protested expulsion of Israeli scholars from British academic journals. On July 16, 2002, Rosenthal sent a letter to John Garside, the principal and vice chancellor of the University of Manchester Institute of Science and Technology, expressing JCPA's "dismay at the expulsion of two Israeli scholars ... from the boards of two British journals of translation studies run by Professor Mona Baker." Rosenthal wrote: "The two respected professors were dismissed as part of an academic boycott of Israel, simply because they are Israelis. Such action -- excluding scholars based on their nationality, race, or religion -- is an appalling violation of all recognized norms of academic and intellectual freedom and sets an immoral and dangerous precedent. The JCPA strongly urges you to speak out on this issue and immediately end any affiliation between the University and Professor Baker's journals." JCPA urged its members to promote "counter petitions" and to write similar letters.

JCPA campaigned for Arafat Accountability Act. On July 10, 2002, JCPA urged its members to ask members of Congress to co-sponsor the Arafat Accountability Act, which the organization said "imposes a number of sanctions immediately on the Palestine Liberation Organization (PLO) and the Palestinian Authority until they cease violating their commitment to end violence and terror."

JCPA "condemned a Presbyterian Church delegation for meeting with and praising ... Hezbollah." On October 21, 2004, JCPA "condemned a Presbyterian Church delegation for meeting with and praising the terrorist group Hezbollah while on a fact-finding trip to the Middle East." JCPA wrote: "These actions do not occur in a vacuum. This meeting comes on the heels of the Church's troublesome call to begin a phased divestment from certain companies that do business with Israel."

JCPA issued statement calling on "Protestant leaders to reject divestment from Israel." In a November 29, 2004, statement released jointly with other Jewish organizations, JCPA "call[ed] on Ecumenical Protestant leaders to reject divestment from Israel and instead focus on real conversations about how to end the Palestinian-Israel conflict." The statements said that the signers were "startled that there are those within the Ecumenical Protestant community who believe an economic lever should be employed in a discriminatory fashion specifically against the State of Israel."

JCPA co-sponsored Israel Project's "press ambassadors" program. According to a July 1, 2004, Washington Jewish Week article (retrieved from the Nexis database), JCPA co-sponsored "The Israel Project's 'Ultimate Training Seminar for Pro-Israel Advocates' this week, which aimed to teach how to present a pro-Israel message to the public." The article quoted Rosenthal saying that "Israel advocacy is a bipartisan issue" and reported that Rosenthal "noted that working with the media is only one part of effective Israel advocacy, and relationships with government leaders and community groups are essential to keeping support high for the Jewish state."

WND falsely claims Rosenthal quote implies Israel is at fault for anti-Semitism

2002 Rosenthal quote does not suggest Israel is to blame for anti-Semitism. In the subhead of Klein's article, WorldNetDaily claimed that Rosenthal "hints Jewish state to blame for hatred against its people." Klein wrote that Rosenthal's "writings suggest Israel's policies are to blame for anti-Semitism" and referred to "quotes in which Rosenthal seemed to imply Israeli policies were to blame for anti-Semitism." In fact, the only quotes Klein cited as evidence -- comments attributed to Rosenthal in a 2002 Jewish Telegraphic Agency article -- do not imply that Israeli policies are to blame for anti-Semitism. From the JTA article:

Then there was the dramatic rise in attacks on European Jews and their institutions as Israeli-Palestinian violence intensified. This followed a wave of anti-Semitic attacks in Europe after the Palestinian intifada erupted in September 2000.

Most attacks reportedly were carried out by young Arab immigrants, but Jews were startled and distressed by the failure of governments, such as France's, to respond.

"I'll tell you point-blank: I have two grown daughters, and I didn't think that my kids were going to have to deal with some of the same anti-Semitism that I did as the daughter of Holocaust survivors," Rosenthal said. "It's a scary time, with people losing the ability to differentiate between a Jew, any Jew, and what's going on in Israel."

Rosenthal appointment supported by ADL

WND quoted past ADL statement without noting ADL supports Rosenthal appointment. In his WorldNetDaily article, Klein referenced a May 1, 2008, open letter from Anti-Defamation League national director Abraham H. Foxman to Rosenthal disagreeing with an op-ed Rosenthal had written. Klein did not note, however, that three days before his WorldNetDaily article was published, Foxman had issued the following statement "welcom[ing]" Rosenthal's appointment:

This appointment signals the continued seriousness of America's resolve to fight the anti-Semitism that we have seen gaining legitimacy in too many countries and to institutionalize that fight as an American foreign policy priority.

We look forward to working with Hannah Rosenthal to mobilize the significant political will and resources of the United States to broaden understanding abroad about the new forms of anti-Semitism permeating public discourse. Working with Secretary Clinton, and Assistant Secretary Michael Posner, we have no doubt that the Special Envoy will play an important role in encouraging countries to make the hard choices and to implement policy, legislative, judicial and educational measures to counter anti-Semitism.

Rosenthal is latest admin. official to be smeared with "czar" label and false attacks

Bush anti-Semitism envoy wasn't called a "czar." WorldNetDaily's branding of Rosenthal as "Obama's new anti-Semitism czar" follows a pattern of right-wing media dubiously applying the "czar" label to Obama administration officials and smearing them with false attacks. A Nexis search reveals no examples of anyone referring to Bush appointee Gregg Rickman -- Rosenthal's predecessor as Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism -- as a "czar" (or "tsar" or "tzar"). A search of WorldNetDaily's website also yields no results.

Anti-Semitism envoy office was created by congressional statute. According to the State Department's website, the Office of the Special Envoy To Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism "was established by the Global Anti-Semitism Review Act of 2004, and is a part of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor."

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