12:00 P.M. EDT
MODERATOR: We’re thankful for Ms. Rosenthal’s time here in New York City. She was here for an event, so tapping into her schedule and allowing it, I appreciate that so much. We are waiting just for two more, but with everything happening in the day, we will see if they show. So just --
MS. ROSENTHAL: Did anything else happen that’s big?
MODERATOR: No, no, probably nothing since Sunday.
MS. ROSENTHAL: Okay.
QUESTION: Nothing as big anyway.
MS. ROSENTHAL: Mm-hmm.
MODERATOR: Yeah. But she is the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, and so I know she will speak a bit about the government policy on anti-Semitism, and then we’ll just open it up for dialogue and we’ll move from there. So thank you for your time.
MS. ROSENTHAL: I’m glad to be here. Let me first tell you about my job.
QUESTION: Yeah, because I’d like to know what it means.
MS. ROSENTHAL: Okay. In 2004, the U.S. Congress created this position. Tom Lantos, who is now of blessed memory, was the only Holocaust survivor ever to serve in the U.S. Congress. And he was, of course, very concerned about what he was viewing as the increase in anti-Semitism, and he wanted to make sure – around the world – and he wanted to make sure that – did somebody want this to start?
MODERATOR: We’re all set to go, yeah.
MS. ROSENTHAL: Okay. He wanted to make sure that there’s somebody who’s paying attention to that 24/7, and so they created this position. Two years later, President Bush appointed someone. I had never met the man who had the job before me, but his office was in a satellite office to the State Department, and he – I was very active in the organized Jewish community. He had a different way of being the special envoy than I did.
QUESTION: What was his name, the last person?
MS. ROSENTHAL: His name was Gregg Rickman. He now works for AIPAC, the American Israel --
QUESTION: Yeah, I know him.
MS. ROSENTHAL: Okay. So when I was appointed, the President and Secretary Clinton moved me into the State Department. I am down the hall from the Secretary. I am infused into the workings of all parts of the State Department. And it’s fabulous because it was clear to them – the President and the Secretary – that this was an important issue to them, and they wanted to make sure I wasn’t separated and that I was part of the active foreign policy apparatus of our country. So I really appreciate it, and I consider myself the luckiest person you’ll ever meet that I got the job.
I approach this job very much in keeping with my background. I’m the daughter of a Holocaust survivor who was a rabbi in Germany before he came here. And when he came to the United States, he decided that the most important thing he could do, in addition to having my sister and me, was to reach out to other faiths, to – his best friends were monsignors and priests and Protestant leadership. And if he had friends that were imams, I didn’t know about it because the Muslim population in the suburbs in Chicago was quite small then, if at all.
But there was very much an inter-religious focus to his being a rabbi in the United States, and it comes to me very naturally that I would approach this job in a very similar way. I believe that I have to monitor 194 countries around the world and make sure that we’re reporting accurately what’s happening in those countries. You probably know that the Human Rights Report – annual report was released two weeks ago, and the International Religious Freedom Report will be issued at the end of this month. They can be accessed on state.gov. You don’t want to print it out; it’s 7,000 pages. (Laughter.)
And you will find, and people who have been watching these reports over the years are finding, that the reporting on anti-Semitism in various countries is far more robust now that I’m knocking on a lot of doors. Of the 194 countries, I have, because of my reading and listening and hearing what’s going on, I targeted – I put a priority list of 38 together. And Turkey is on that list and the other here that you gave me are not, but I visit many countries.
And my goal, when I go to a country, is as expected. I meet with government leaders. I tell them what I’m hearing. I tell them what I’m concerned about, what I’m hearing from the Jewish community who I also meet with. And I make it a point to also meet with interfaith inter-religious groups and human rights groups. I want to hear from them what they think is going on with government policy, with the mood of the country, and I learn an awful lot from them as well.
And what I’m learning is not wonderful news. We are seeing an increase in anti-Semitism on every continent on the globe. And it – I have observed – I’ve been in the job almost a year and a half, and I’ve observed really six major trends that account for this increase, so I will share them with you, and if you have questions, obviously, that’s what we’re here for.
The first trend in increasing anti-Semitism is clearly the bad, old-fashioned anti-Semitism, the traditional anti-Semitism, the anti-Semitism that has stereotypes of Jews from centuries ago that continues conspiracy theories. Here I am in New York and Usama bin Ladin was just killed, and I remember how many places I’ve heard that the Jews were behind 9/11. These conspiracy theories happen all the time.
And some of it comes from old messages that people got from books, from their Grimm’s Fairy Tales, from their religious leaders, some from government leaders, some from history books, and some from lies that seem to not want to die. The most potent of those is the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, which is a forgery that, at the turn of the 20th century, became a huge, successful book out of Czarist Russia. And they created it to legitimate the pogroms that they were doing against Jewish communities all over.
And what the Protocols of the Elders of Zion is allegedly supposed to be is the minutes of a meeting that happened with world Jewish leaders planning to take over the world. And in the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, it says things like they’re going to take over the world, they’re going to completely dominate our finances, they’re going to impose Jewish law on everyone, they’re going to take over our communication systems. And so you start seeing that even in 2011, we see, and I hear when I’m in other countries and I see it in our own, where Jews are accused of controlling the media, Jews are accused of controlling the financial world.
And these lies won’t die and they morph into different things. But just last week in Venezuela, the government-run radio station, one very much listened to, Cristina Gonzalez, who is the person who is in charge of the radio station, was on a talk radio program. And she said she had just picked up this booklet that she wants to recommend to everyone in Venezuela to get – it’s called the Protocols of the Elders of Zion – and she proceeded to read some of the horrific things in Protocols. So sometimes conspiracy theories are made up anew, and some of them are based on the old stuff. Protocols of the Elders of Zion is a bestselling book in Turkey.
QUESTION: Are you kidding?
MS. ROSENTHAL: No. Many conspiracy books are in Turkey.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) see that in Venezuela, the situation --
QUESTION: But Venezuela will always be the Germans -- Nazis (inaudible). There’s no --
MS. ROSENTHAL: Well, I was the first high-level diplomat to get a visa to Venezuela in, I think, three years. And I went down there. Obviously, Chavez didn’t meet with me. He was in Iran at the time.
But I did meet with four members, all Chavistas, of the national assembly. And they were very interesting, because, I mean, they look at my card and they see that I’m an ambassador focusing on anti-Semitism, and so they immediately want to tell me they don’t agree with Ahmadinejad on his statements that the Holocaust didn’t happen and that it’s all financial and economic, and new markets is the reason why they’re forging a relationship with Iran.
We made statements. But as I just said, I think it’s far more important that I get other people to condemn what the government-run anti-Semitism that happens in Venezuela rather than me. So I’ve got some Muslim leaders too, and I have some requests out to Catholic leaders. And Chavez is – he’s pretty harsh on the Catholic Church too, so they have probably plenty of reason to want to condemn this. I just give you that as an example that the Protocols will not die.
There’s also, in the traditional form of anti-Semitism, blood libel. And that accusation came centuries and centuries and centuries ago in the Middle Ages, where the church accused Jews of killing Christian children to use their blood to bake matzo for the Passover. And this obviously is horrific. A young boy that was allegedly killed – well, let me say this – that allegedly lived and then was killed – has been sainted for hundreds of years. And there are still parts of the world that celebrate on that saint day his memory and curse the Jews that killed him.
And blood libel – the issue of blood and bloodthirsty you hear in the rhetoric coming sometimes from places around the world where they talk about Jews slaughtering people, and the cartoons they’ll use will have a knife dripping in blood. And it’s very hard to look at, it’s very hard to get my head around, and it’s very hard to confront, because we firmly believe in free speech. I don’t ever want to come across where I’m saying to a government, “You can’t say that.” I want to say to a government, “It was said; condemn it.” It isn’t good enough to just protect free speech unless you condemn bad speech.
Now, the morphing of blood libel in more recent years has been focused on a different accusation, and that is that Jews are kidnapping or killing people to steal their organs. This is a potent story that we saw in a series of articles in Sweden. I had a conversation with the foreign minister of Ukraine, who said he takes that accusation very seriously. They did an investigation when Jews were accused. This is not radical fringe; this is a foreign minister. This is the most widely read newspaper in Sweden, and so it goes, where this comes up from time to time.
So the traditional forms of anti-Semitism – desecration of cemeteries, graffiti and swastikas on Jewish institutions, graffiti that says, “Juden raus: Jews get out,” it happens all over. But there are new forms of anti-Semitism that I think are important to recognize. One is – and I alluded to it – that the Holocaust never happened, that the issue is fabricated, made up by the Jews, and the reason it has potency is because Jews run the media. And this is happening to an increased degree.
And so there’s urgency in confronting Holocaust denial, because, let’s face it; Holocaust survivors and camp liberators and direct witnesses are getting really old. And so there is urgency in recording the stories of survivors, in memorializing this, because this is about to be relegated to history, where a young generation will be born tomorrow that never met anyone who actually saw the travesty that was the Holocaust. And we do that by highlighting history lessons, we do it by training teachers on how to teach about the Holocaust. We do it by lifting up people who are doing wonderful things.
You may know of Father Patrick Desbois from France, who has made it his life mission to identify mass graves that nobody knows about. He’s identified almost 1,000 in Ukraine, Belarus, a little bit in Russia and Poland. He thinks he’s almost halfway there. He estimates there are between 1.1 and 1.3 million Jews in those mass graves. Now, these are mass graves in communities that did not get shipped to the concentration and extermination camps. These are people who were rounded up by their neighbors, stood next to a pit and shot, person by person. And the witnesses to that, often children, were rounded up and say, “Come see, see us kill the Jews.” They are now talking to Father Desbois, and they’re relieved to be talking about it because it’s been in them all these years. Some of them watched their schoolmates be killed. Some of them were asked to participate in some of the tasks around these mass killings.
So Holocaust denial is a terrible phenomenon. I was at a conference in Ireland in November and it was totally focused on Holocaust denial and what’s happening on campuses around the world and so-called research and --
MS. ROSENTHAL: He did. He has the Shoah Foundation. Shoah is the Hebrew word for the Holocaust. And he has put a lot of money and effort into recording survivors that he could find.
MODERATOR: Just for the transcript, they were referencing Steven Spielberg.
MS. ROSENTHAL: Steven Spielberg, right.
QUESTION: But if I may add something, the problem with survivors is that – I’m Jewish and my – all my family on the side of my mom, they died in camps. They were from Romania and Russia. They still – the survivor, they still don’t talk about it.
MS. ROSENTHAL: Some don’t.
QUESTION: There is – I mean, even when I was a little girl, nobody talked because it was like a shame. It was – and even now, my mom, she’s still alive – she doesn’t talk about it.
MS. ROSENTHAL: Well, that’s a different issue.
QUESTION: That – no, that is – it’s difficult.
MS. ROSENTHAL: That is a different issue that they don’t talk about it.
QUESTION: A lot of them don’t talk about it.
MS. ROSENTHAL: There’s a journalist in Chicago – his name is Howard Reich -- and he found out as an adult that his mother was a survivor, because in her dementia she started talking and seeing things that really she saw way back, and that was how he discovered the story. He’s made a documentary; you might be able to find it.
QUESTION: I want to ask you, can you go back to those six trends? Because you --
MS. ROSENTHAL: Okay.
QUESTION: -- mentioned the first trend and --
MS. ROSENTHAL: The first trend is the traditional anti-Semitism, alive and well. The second is Holocaust denial, which is being done by leaders of countries, leaders of faith communities, and it’s pretty horrific. There’s a lot of it coming from the Middle East. And so I will – I’ll get back to what I did about it. I’m first going to go through the trends.
There’s another trend, and that is Holocaust revisionism, and that’s a totally different phenomenon than saying the Jews have made this up. This is where there is a conflation of repressive regimes and the Holocaust, where it’s all bad, it’s all the same. Now, I want to be clear – I am not getting – I do not want to get into dueling victimhood or dueling atrocities. There have been repressive and oppressive regimes and genocides that have slaughtered hundreds of thousands of people, millions of people, and that – their memory needs to be honored. The history of that regime and event, historical chapter, needs to be learned.
But never before and never since the Holocaust has a government legally put the brightest, most highly educated scientists, doctors, historians, everybody, and the most cultured communities, and had them use that genius to build efficient killing factories. The Holocaust should represent to us the possible. And it is historically dishonest to conflate it with other horrible atrocities. Each one has a history that you need to understand how an entire culture could do this to other people. And until that is fully understood about how there could be a legal final solution and have it implemented and almost succeed in wiping out Jews from the face of the earth, we can’t be sure that that kind of evil will not rear its head again.
The fourth trend has to do with – and this is perhaps the most bone-chilling of all – and it has to do with Holocaust glorification. We are seeing in some of the countries parades down main street in capital cities of Waffen SS in full uniform – the veterans – being honored in parades.
QUESTION: Here, too, in the U.S.
MS. ROSENTHAL: Well, I don’t see throngs of people cheering them on in the United States, but there are neo-Nazis everywhere. We see an increase in party membership of neo-Nazis, websites, activities of neo-Nazis. And we see calls for another Holocaust to finish the job.
The fifth trend is reminiscent of the first trend, and that is that we are seeing an uptick – a dramatic uptick – in nationalism, and some call it ultra-nationalism, that is sweeping across Europe and other parts of the world, where there are actual political parties running on a platform that calls for people to be moved out of their country, where there are efforts to stop various people who may look different or pray different or live differently from erecting houses of worship. And this hatred of the other, number one, is never good for the Jews, but hate is hate. And when we see this anti-immigrant, anti-other rhetoric happening around the world, you have to ask yourself: What have we learned in history lessons? What did we all learn? What did these countries learn, countries that have a bad relationship with nationalism?
And the sixth trend is the one I spend the most time on, unfortunately, and that is where criticism of a policy of the sovereign state of Israel crosses over into anti-Semitism. Again, let me be clear. Criticism of the state of Israel does not make someone an anti-Semite. If that were the case, more than half of Israel would be anti-Semitic. We in America believe in robust discussions on policies, and we disagree with some policies and agree with other policies of our government. And so it is that we disagree and agree with policies of other governments. But there are – there is a phenomenon that happens where anti-Israel – anti-policy of the state of Israel crosses over into anti-Semitism easily and often.
And the policy of the United States we set using Natan Sharansky, the great human rights fighter from the Soviet Union, who now is in Israel. He set guidelines of three Ds to explain when this crossover happens.
The first is when Israel is demonized. When you look at look at cartoons that have the leaders of Israel having blood dripping from their face, being accused of being Nazis, and being responsible for all the evils on the globe, that demonization is not criticism of a policy of the state of Israel. That’s anti-Semitism.
The second D is when Israel is held to a different standard than all other countries. There seems to be an almost obsession with Israel. If you look at the statistics in the United Nations, for example, you see that the United Nations passes resolutions condemning activities in countries. But if you add all the ones that are country-specific, they don’t equal the amount that they do just on Israel. The Human Rights Council only has one agenda item that is country-specific, and it is Israel. This obsession feeds a movement, almost, that is a cover. It’s a cover. Do I think all people who criticize Israel are anti-Semites? Absolutely not. Do I think some of it use it as a cover because it’s more fashionable to criticize Israel than to be anti-Semitic? Yes, I do. And so when we see this happening, it isn’t criticizing a policy of another country. This is a crossover to hating the collective Jew.
And the third D that crosses over is when Israel is completely delegitimized, when the rhetoric is it never had a right to exist; therefore, it shouldn’t exist now. There is no other country that is committing human rights abuses like you wouldn’t believe. If you read our Human Rights Report and you see what’s going on in the world and you see the incredible cruelty of governments and peoples, what they do to each other, you should be appalled. But the conclusion is never that that country shouldn’t exist. The only country that gets that designation is Israel.
And so the anti-Semitism that accompanies the crossover from criticism of a policy of the state of Israel is potent, it is profound, and it is a very important trend that we’re seeing all over.
What do I do about these? The traditional tools that a diplomat has include diplomacy. I go and I talk to government leaders – one-on-one, sometimes in multilateral organizations, where we bring up these issues. I want to point out that the Organization of Security and Cooperation in Europe, the OSCE, is really a remarkable organization in that it actually cares about its human dimension. And they hold international conferences on tolerance and on anti-Semitism and on all forms of religious hatred. So we engage a lot with OSCE.
We also have in our toolbox public diplomacy, and that’s what I’m doing here with you today, where we talk right past governments. We talk to the people, through the media, through public speeches, through meetings with civil society, where we are not just listening to what governments want to tell us. We find out from real people and we state our opinions to people on the ground in addition to government.
And the third major tool in the toolbox is programming or aid, money, where we actually support defenders of human rights and people who are in organizations that are really trying to advance tolerance and are doing good things.
Now, in dealing with anti-Semitism, because it’s the oldest hatred in the world, sometimes we need to employ new and different strategies that are variations on those three major tools. So, for instance, because I was hearing so much Holocaust denial out of the Middle East, I decided that someone named Hannah Rosenthal, who’s the Special Envoy to Combat anti-Semitism, condemning Holocaust denial would not make headline news. And so we brought eight imams. They all spoke English, they all have a following in the United States now, but one was from Saudi Arabia, one from Turkey, two from India, two from the United States, one from Sudan. I think I covered them all, but I’m not sure. And two of them had been Holocaust deniers, the one from Turkey and the one who studied in Saudi Arabia. They learned the Protocols of the Elders of Zion as textbooks. They learned from their religious leaders that the Holocaust never happened, that it’s a fabrication of the Jews.
Now, in fairness, the Imam Abdullah Antepli, who is now at Duke University, long ago realized how absurd his teaching was and has been very vocal in expressing his personal embarrassment and shame he feels for some of the feelings he had over the years. But the other person who came along needed convincing. So we take them to Dachau and we take them to Auschwitz. And when we got to Dachau, this was an important learning experience. The whole thing was a learning experience for me. But when they looked at the pictures and they looked at the model of Dachau that is there, they went down in prayer. Their instinct was to pray, and they went down. And as you know, Muslims, when they pray, are prostrate on the ground. And everyone at Dachau stopped. The tourists, the docents, people who were there as history students, and saw this, and they knew something historic was happening. And they cried bitterly and they asked a lot of questions. And a lot of the questions taught me that they knew nothing about the Holocaust. When a survivor rolls up his sleeves and shows the tattooed numbers on his arm, and the question is why did you let them do that to you, it is an indication to me they don’t know.
That my life experience – I don’t remember a nanosecond that I didn’t know about the Holocaust. I knew it when family reunions would happen and there’d be three people. And everybody else had cousins and uncles and aunts and grandparents. I had none of that. So I was aware at my earliest recognition that the Holocaust happened and it had, obviously, a profound impact on me. But the imams I was traveling with did not live that life. They don’t wake up in the morning glad to be alive because they worry about Nazis coming after them, who shudder sometimes when they take a shower. They lived a different life. They learned a different history. And that was really eye-opening for me. It wasn’t out of malice that they were denying the Holocaust. It was out of complete ignorance.
And so I knew this trip was going to be informative and transformative for them. I asked them – I told them my goal. My goal was I wanted all eight of them, if possible, to issue a statement at the end condemning Holocaust denial. And I can tell you there were dinner table conversations and when we’re in the bus between visits, pretty heated conversations, some pushback, some eye-opening revelations that all of us had. But I worried about them in Auschwitz, because Dachau is pretty sanitized. It’s freshly painted. It’s got a lot of artwork. And the museum doesn’t have the kind of gritty reality that Auschwitz has.
Every one of them and, of course, myself – every time I go to Auschwitz, I have a catharsis – all of them had their breakdown at different points, some when they saw an entire room full of human hair that was shaved from the corpses before they were put into the ovens, some fell apart when they saw the room full of children’s shoes, some when they saw the suitcases with individual names in their handwriting on it. All of them felt honored to bear witness to this.
The museum director came out, and when VIPs come to Auschwitz, they set up a table and a big book for ambassadors and heads of state to write in. They asked the imams to write. And many people signed their name, they say something like “never again,” they date it, and they leave. Each of the imams sat before the book with the pen in their hand, thinking long and hard what they wanted to say. They all wrote in Arabic because they wanted other people who come and look at the book to see that Arab-speakers were there and bore – they were able they were able to bear witness.
And at the end of our trip, they did issue a statement that was far better than if I had written it myself. They not only condemned Holocaust denial, they condemned Holocaust justification, Holocaust comparisons, and all other forms of anti-Semitism. We had a hearing in Congress that highlighted the statement that the imams wrote. It has been publicized all over in the United States. The Islamic Society of North America has its big conference in July. Fifteen, twenty thousand people come. The trip and the statement is going to be highlighted as a keynote presentation, which I will participate in.
And so getting a condemnation of Holocaust denial from Muslim leaders that recognize that part of leadership is taking responsibility for improving education was a very important strategy, an important event, and the ripple effects of it will take a while but I think will – could potentially change parts of history going forward.
Another think-outside-the-box kind of strategy or difference is – and it’s, again, trying to get other people to condemn and other people other than Jews to condemn anti-Semitism, and other people other than Muslims to condemn Islamaphobia, and so it goes. When I see incidents of hatred of Muslims, I speak out against it. I release statements. When there are examples of anti-Semitism, Muslim leaders – Farah Pandith, who is my colleague in the State Department, and her job is engagement with Muslim communities around the world – we have very different jobs. I’m to monitor and combat anti-Semitism. She’s to engage. But we learned very early in our relationship that hate is hate.
And we went to an OSCE conference, a tolerance conference last summer in Kazakhstan. And if you’ve ever been to any of these conferences, it’s people sitting around a table, diplomats, people mostly with hair much grayer than mine, and they read official statements from their governments. I wrote the official statement condemning anti-Semitism for the United States. Farah wrote the official statement condemning Islamaphobia. The first session of the conference was on Islamaphobia, the second on anti-Semitism, the third on Christophobia, and the fourth was everything else.
The night before, Farah and I decided to swap speeches. And so at the session on Islamaphobia, I was in the chair for the United States. And they called on the United States and I pushed the button and I introduced myself: My name is Hannah Rosenthal, I’m the Special Envoy on Combating anti-Semitism, and I want to condemn in the strongest terms possible all forms of Islamaphobia. And the room went, “Whoa.”
Some, I think, were embarrassed for me. They thought, oh my goodness, she came to the wrong session. But no, this was quite intentional. And I spent my time condemning hatred of Muslims.
The next session was anti-Semitism. Farah was in the chair for the United States Government, and the same thing happened: My name is Farah Pandith, I’m the Special Representative to Muslim Communities, and I want to condemn in the strongest words possible all forms of anti-Semitism. And we stuck on a paragraph at the end that was exactly the same: Jews cannot fight anti-Semitism alone, Muslims cannot fight Muslim hatred alone, gays cannot fight homophobia alone, Roma cannot fight anti-Roma sentiments alone. We have – hate is hate, and we have to work together. That was our message. And it got through because we did something different. It wasn’t just talking heads reading statements. Well, a number of the countries, and particularly the young people that were there, came up to us and said that was great, we get the message. The message is important, and sometimes the messenger is even more important because it improves the impact of the message.
But other than just making statements, we want to do something. So Farah and I got together and we decided we needed to put together a campaign that allows people who otherwise can be very paralyzed by the enormity of hatred around them, give them something to do. And so we created 2011 Hours Against Hate. And it’s on Facebook and it is totally a virtual campaign aimed at young people. The goal is that young people will pledge a certain amount of hours to volunteer service to a community that is different than theirs. So a Jewish young professional would volunteer, say, five hours at a Catholic food pantry. And a Muslim might volunteer five hours at a Jewish clinic, a Baha’i at a evangelical children’s school, young school. And you get my idea, that we’re asking people to walk in each other’s shoes. And it’s all virtual. And this has caught on.
I can’t even believe it because I don’t get technology. I was taught while we were traveling how to tweet, and I tweeted. My tweet is Hannah@State. That’s my handle – @Hannaha@State. And I tweeted something and then we gave a talk, and I came back and a hundred people were following me, and I have no idea how they found me. But this is the world young people are communicating in. And this is how they’re sharing information and this is how global – that’s what globalization means to them.
And so Farah and I decided we would also go, because we were invited by many countries, to come and talk about 2011 Hours Against Hate. We decided to go to three countries where Jews and Muslims – and it’s not just about Jews and Muslims, but because it’s Farah and me, we decided to start this way – three countries where Jews and Muslims have not only coexisted, they’ve thrived together somewhere in their history. Where did we go? We went to Turkey. We went to Azerbaijan. We went to Spain, to Cordoba.
And it was amazing. The days that I get depressed, the days that I get, like, is the world ever going to learn from history, are we ever going to improve, is this ever going to happen, hanging out with young people can be inspirational. And so we did town hall meetings with hundreds of young people. We did meetings in universities with smaller groups, larger groups, in those three countries. It was amazing. Everyone got it. Everyone said we want to do this. Some of them held up their phones and did a video of themselves and posted it. If you go on the Facebook page, you’ll see in many languages, there are videos, there’s comments, people are pledging. And our hope was we would get 2011 hours and we have more than doubled that easily. People want to do this. People want to do something.
But one thing I discovered is that what is in the culture of the United States and is second nature to us here – to volunteer – is not the case around the world. Now, the European Union has designated 2011 as the year of volunteerism, and hopefully this virtual campaign will help move that along. But the whole notion that you would give your time to help people is something that, at least in Europe, is a culture they have to start learning about. But they’re getting it when we talk to them, and they’re learning about it when they go online or go into their phone or go however the technology works. And it is remarkable how many young people have completely adopted this, then they send it out to their list, and they send it out to their list. And we are hearing from people all over world.
Hundreds of people tweet me. I don’t know a single one of them. Their names indicate, in some cases, that they’re Muslim. At least I know most of them are Arabic speakers, but they write in English, “Thank you for what you’re doing. I get it. I just volunteered three hours to do X, Y, and Z.”
And so while as a diplomat I use the normal tools of diplomacy, sometimes in fighting the oldest hatred – and I would argue the most virulent hatred – you have to use a little creativity and focus on young people. So that’s what I’m seeing, that’s the kind of stuff I’m doing, and if you have questions, shoot.
QUESTION: Yeah. About Turkey, okay, as you know, there’s been a stalemate between Turkey and Israel because of what happened with the flotilla. Turkey and Israel go back a long way. I mean, Turkey saved 10,000 Jews during the Holocaust. What do you suggest about this situation in Turkey for people to – I mean, what percentage of people would you say are anti-Semitic, and do you think the government is? And maybe you can’t talk about that on the record, but –
MS. ROSENTHAL: Well, I’m here to be on the record, so let me –
QUESTION: All right. So I’d like you to be honest and talk about it.
MS. ROSENTHAL: I will be honest with you.
QUESTION: All right.
MS. ROSENTHAL: I met with the chair of the foreign relations committee of the parliament in Turkey, and he came in, and he said to me, “Ms. Rosenthal, I know the way to end anti-Semitism.” I said, “You do? Great. I would love to end it. What – how do we do it?” And he said, “Have Israel apologize to Turkey for killing nine of our people.”
And I looked at him, and I said, “Do you mean to tell me that on May 30th, the day before the flotilla, there was no anti-Semitism in Turkey?” He said, “What does that have to do with it?” I said, “That’s what I’m here to talk to you about is anti-Semitism.” Now, Erdogan in Turkey has tried very hard to be clear when he says, “I oppose the policies of Israel but not Jews.” Some countries, when they use the word “Zionist,” they may be referring to, quote/unquote, “the Zionist entity,” that being Israel. But sometimes they’re talking about the Jews of the conspiracy that are planning to take over the world.
And so when people refer to Jews as Zionist to me, I ask them to clarify, which is what I did. It was pretty clear to me that I was not going to change the chair of the committee’s mind. But I wanted to use my time with him to make clear that what happened in the flotilla happened, and that is a diplomatic crisis to be dealt with, but anti-Semitism in Turkey has predated that. Now, we’ve had synagogues bombed there, and when it happens the government immediately responds in Turkey. They improve security. They make public statements condemning it in saying the Jewish community is an important community to our country.
With the changing Middle East and the changing world that we’re all experiencing, Turkey is trying to figure out what its role is going to be as a bridge between East and West. And to the extent that the Jewish community in Turkey worries about the rhetoric that gets so heated about Zionists – and I put my fingers in quotes saying that – makes them feel very vulnerable. The Jews in Turkey express to me they don’t want to wear their kippah, they don’t want any outward showing that they’re Jews. They feel harassed and worry.
They’re not planning to leave en masse, as in other countries when I meet with them, but they are watching. And I often think that Ataturk must be spinning in his grave. They watch more women being covered. They watch more rhetoric of Islamicism, of Islamists. And the Jews are not the only ones worried about that. The real tension in Turkey is between the Islamists and more orthodox Islam and the secularists. And Turkey has always prided itself in religious tolerance and in being secular. And many of the young people there see that equation changing, and it is of serious concern to them.
QUESTION: (Inaudible) something about my country, where you have somebody like Marine Le Pen talking about (inaudible) preference, meaning you have to be French. And as I was telling a friend not too long ago, I’m glad that I was not born when Mr. Sarkozy was there because I would have been sent away. If you need to have three of your parents born in France, that’s tough. And I believe that Jewish people in France, and especially in Paris, they don’t feel very comfortable. They don’t wear kippahs. They don’t want to be seen as Jewish people. And this is worrying, but not only there. I believe a lot of countries in the world now.
MS. ROSENTHAL: Well, in 2009, there was a 300 percent increase in incidents of anti-Semitism in France. And it seemed to be very related to the Israel-Gaza drama, Israel’s cast lead. Actually, what we recorded all over the world during and after Operation Cast Lead, we saw a spike in anti-Semitic incidents.
Why is that expected? Why do we know that if the Turkish flotilla of 15 ships goes at the end of this month that we’re going to see spikes in anti-Semitism? Why is that okay? That’s really the fundamental question, because you can agree or disagree with something Israel is doing, but why then would you call for – would you carry signs that say, “Jews back to the gas chambers,” or, “Hitler was right”? Countries need to face this reality that anti-Semitism gets a pass.
QUESTION: I have a question. Turkey is up a new election June 12th. In your opinion, do you think that Erdogan is going to win? Because a lot of people in this country who are Turks, Turkish American, and who moved here, I’ve heard things like, “I will never move back. I went back for vacation, I took my sons, I wanted them to go to school in Turkey. No way. Next thing you know, it’s going to be Sharia law.”
On the other hand, I covered the Commission on the Status of Women. It’s very clever, you might say, very interesting, that I spoke to a human rights lawyer, a woman, who’s part of the AK Party, the ruling party. And they’ve done so many things for women and women are the thing, and Erdogan’s wife was there and Erdogan specifically said in a video, “I absolutely condemn discrimination against women.” Yet you still have the honor killings. But the point is that I wonder myself – as a journalist, as a human being, as someone who speaks Turkish who lived in Turkey, who has many Muslim friends – I wonder is this all a cover, because here you have this Islamist government who tries to look like they’re modern and maybe want to get in the EU, and we’ve got all these women’s rights and la la la, but at the same time here we’re talking about anti-Semitism and you still see the culture discriminates against women and the increase of covering. So I wonder if you can speak to that.
MS. ROSENTHAL: Well, I don’t have an opinion on who I think is going to win. I really don’t. I mentioned to you that I have family in Izmir, Turkey. My niece married somebody from Izmir. And I talk to him about it sometimes, and he says he can’t tell who’s going to win, and he’s back there all the time and has family there. So I don’t know the answer. The people of Turkey have to decide that.
But I was on a campus talking to Catholic – Christian students and Muslim students, and they worry. And by the way, the women were covered. They worried about the loss of secular focus. They look to their east and they see Islamists and what has happened, and they don’t want their country to go that way. But the election is going to have to speak for itself. We’ll all be watching it carefully. There are a lot of elections that are going to be coming out that we’re going to be watching carefully.
QUESTION: What – in the light of what happened yesterday, the death of Usama bin Ladin, what I was thinking is that we have to be very careful, because I went – I was telling you (inaudible) that I went yesterday to interview some imam and people (inaudible). And most of them, except for, like two or three people, they really were glad that the guy died. They did not care about he was killed. He was not there anymore, and they hoped for a better world. My worry is that most of the time, we opposed Jewish people and all people, which we should not do because they’re not all bad. I mean, they are not all against Jewish people and Jewish people are not against – so could we do not to put fuel on the – because are we going to see, like, some sort of an anti- (inaudible) or whatever?
MS. ROSENTHAL: I’m going to tell you a story. One of the imams that went with me to Auschwitz – Imam Majid, who is now the head of the Islamic Society of North America – told me an incredible story about September 12th, 2001. He went to his mosque, which is a huge mosque and community center outside of Washington, and he went there and he was so surprised to see the parking lot full of cars, and people standing around the mosque, and wondered what was going on. And within a few minutes, he realized that the organized Jewish community, a few synagogues and a Jewish federation, had organized to go and protect the mosque because of the fear that people were going to hate Muslims because of what happened the day before. And I think it would be unfair to say that didn’t happen in some circles. And he turned to me and he said, “Jews got it.” And I said, “Of course they did.” When there are incidents against Jews, usually it’s followed by other incidents. We get it. And that’s why we have to work together.
The way Jews have been secure and safe in this country has been because we have known how to build strong coalitions with like-minded people, other people of conscience. And it can be around the environment or it can be around fighting poverty or whatever the issue, but we work together. And we speak out on their issues and they speak out on our issues because they are all of our issues. That kind of coalition-building doesn’t happen either around the world. It’s very new as a strategy.
An example is I’m in Lithuania and I’m meeting with the Jewish community who want to see a bill passed, and they’re not sure that they’ve got the votes. And I said, “Well, have you asked the – do you have a relationship with the cardinal?” “Oh, yeah, we have a relationship.” I said, “Well, why don’t you ask the cardinal to speak out on behalf of it?” And they looked and me and said, “Why would the cardinal speak out on a bill I care about?” And I said, “Because it’s the right thing to do. That’s why.” Because leaders of religious communities, people of conscience, know when things are the right thing to do. And it may not benefit them, but it benefits the world when it’s benefiting some community.
It wasn’t out of stupidity. It just isn’t in their culture to think interfaith, inter-religious, inter-ethnic, in advancing common goals. I think it’s the most important export we Americans have is we know how to build partnerships and coalitions. And so in the civil societies, groups that I meet with, that’s what I try and encourage. And by example, I’m speaking out against Islamaphobia, or when the Copts were killed.
QUESTION: That’s right. Yes, it’s the most important –
MS. ROSENTHAL: Yeah.
QUESTION: -- to speak your – what you said earlier –
MS. ROSENTHAL: Absolutely.
QUESTION: -- that you spoke for a – it’s very important. If not, people don’t believe you.
MS. ROSENTHAL: Well, and it’s important because it’s the right thing to do, and it is enlightened self-interest.
MS. ROSENTHAL: Because I may need help. So if I’m speaking out against this today, I may need help tomorrow. And I want people to know I can be counted on to speak out against hatred no matter what form it’s in.
QUESTION: I will have to go. I’m on – I was very glad to meet you, but next time go to France.
MS. ROSENTHAL: I did go to France.
MS. ROSENTHAL: I have been to France.
MS. ROSENTHAL: They have an ambassador for xenophobia, Zimeray, Francois Zimeray.
QUESTION: Oh, please. I’m going to – no, I don’t say anything.
MS. ROSENTHAL: And Zimeray, I talked to him about the 300 percent increase in incidents in France.
QUESTION: Was he in New York?
MS. ROSENTHAL: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. He was here.
QUESTION: Well, he does not really care, does he?
MS. ROSENTHAL: Well, I can’t say that. I –
QUESTION: I can. (Laughter.)
MS. ROSENTHAL: You can, but I can’t, and I won’t.
QUESTION: You’re a diplomat, but I’m not.
MS. ROSENTHAL: But he did say to me that the criticism of the sovereign State of Israel crosses over to anti-Semitism every day in France. That’s what he said to me.
QUESTION: Yeah. It’s really sad. I mean, it’s –
MS. ROSENTHAL: Well, all six of these trends are scary.
QUESTION: Yeah, I –
MS. ROSENTHAL: They’re scary for the world. And they seem to be intractable. They seem to be here for good. And so, do I think in my tenure I’m going to eradicate the world of anti-Semitism? I don’t think so.
QUESTION: But you’re really right when you say that it’s not only anti, like, Jewish because in France, it’s anti-everything, every person that comes from another country except if you are, like, American –
QUESTION: I can’t say that.
QUESTION: Oh, yes.
QUESTION: Oh, no. I had some nice people who were nice to me because they were not originally French, but the average French person couldn’t care less about me because I’m foreign.
QUESTION: That’s what I said.
QUESTION: That’s what I mean.
MS. ROSENTHAL: Well, I’ve had nothing but great experiences in Paris, and I look forward to going back. (Laughter.) I think it’s a wonderful city. However, I think that until a country faces up to the role they have played in history to anti-Semitism, they can’t adequately come to terms with the current anti-Semitism.
QUESTION: You know there is – you are talking about – there is two thing that – there are two things. When I was very young, I read the Jewish Suss, Le Juive Suss, which is a book from Feuchtwanger because, as a Jewish girl, I wanted to know why, what happened in Germany, why. And it’s very interesting to read even if you don’t agree with any of the things in the book, but it’s interesting. And you have movies, like last year France came out with a movie called La Rafle, which is about what happened in August ’42, I guess, when the police, the French police, went door-to-door and arrested men, women, kids. And you see in the movie the German, and they say, “We don’t want the kids. We did not ask for the kids. You give us what we did not ask for.” And the French are, like, hey, you should be happy. I mean it’s, like, you come out of the movie and you’re, like, “I’m going to ask for political asylum in America. I just – I’m” – I was so upset. I mean, it’s incredible.
MS. ROSENTHAL: There’s a best-selling book here called Sarah’s Key. It’s about the roundup in France, and it’s opening a lot of people’s eyes.
QUESTION: Yeah. I read it.
QUESTION: I mean, come on.
MS. ROSENTHAL: Right.
QUESTION: How could they do that?
QUESTION: It’s a great book. It’s an amazing book.
QUESTION: So you see a lot of work has to be done.
MS. ROSENTHAL: Oh, yeah. Oh, yeah. A lot of work.
QUESTION: I’m sorry, I have to go.
MODERATOR: No, thank you for coming.
MS. ROSENTHAL: I didn’t get a chance to introduce myself. I’m Hannah Rosenthal.
QUESTION: Oh, hi (inaudible). I’m (inaudible) from the Russian. (Inaudible.) I write for a few papers in Canada and in India.
MS. ROSENTHAL: Oh.
QUESTION: And I don’t think (inaudible).
PARTICIPANT: You missed an excellent presentation.
QUESTION: I’m sorry.
PARTICIPANT: But a transcript will be available, as well as the audio.
QUESTION: I happened to sort of trapeze (ph) myself today because I had some time. Otherwise – because the first time I’m coming to this office, and I used to be on –
PARTICIPANT: Oh, that’s right.
QUESTION: -- 51st Street. So –
MS. ROSENTHAL: Thank you.
QUESTION: So did you – was it, like, chronological, or your orders – I mean, did you cover something specific?
MS. ROSENTHAL: I covered what I’m seeing –
MS. ROSENTHAL: -- the trends I’m seeing as I travel in the world.
MS. ROSENTHAL: And I gave an example – some examples of what I do about it.
MS. ROSENTHAL: And in some cases I’ve been successful and in some cases I haven’t been.
QUESTION: Any specific countries, apart from France, you have been to?
MS. ROSENTHAL: Oh, yeah. I’ve been to a lot of countries. I’ve been to the UK. I’ve been to Germany. I’ve been to Poland several times. I’ve been to Lithuania, Azerbaijan, Turkey, Ukraine –
QUESTION: The Middle East?
MS. ROSENTHAL: -- Tunisia. I’ve been to Israel and I’m – I was supposed to in February – get this – go to Egypt, Tunisia, and Albania. There was an assassination in Albania and Tunisia blew up and then Egypt blew up, so I didn’t do that trip. But I will be going, and I want to focus on two – other than my focus so far – I’ve been on the job almost a year and a half – I really focused on Europe and somewhat South America. And I didn’t focus on the Middle East intentionally because there’s so much confusion about –
MS. ROSENTHAL: -- what’s about the Middle East and what’s about Jews. The most common sentence I say in my job is: George Mitchell is the special envoy on Middle East peace; I’m the special envoy on anti-Semitism. Is there a bright line? Sometimes not.
QUESTION: So you report to him, to George?
MS. ROSENTHAL: No. No, no, no. No, no, no. We’re both special envoys.
MS. ROSENTHAL: Some of those countries have a history that they haven’t come to terms with.
QUESTION: That’s so true.
QUESTION: Can you mention those countries?
MS. ROSENTHAL: Sure. I mean, the countries in the former Soviet Union have – were under the thumb of Soviet dictators for 50 years, and they were under the thumb of Nazis for a few years, so they view the time of victim status by the Soviets as the major thing in their lives, and I’m there saying yeah, but you rounded up all the Jews. You rounded them up, not the Nazis. You did.
QUESTION: How is the – how is – what’s your take on countries in the Middle East per se, like Dubai, Qatar – Saudi Arabia, of course is much more – it’s not that open --
MS. ROSENTHAL: Not open. End of sentence. (Laughter.)
QUESTION: Yeah. Exactly. Why I ask you this is I just came back from an assignment after four months. I worked in Doha in – as you know, Qatar is much more friendlier towards the U.S. As you know, they also had the football thing. They got the bid of the 2022 FIFA games. After that, I found – and I’ve been an observer of everything generally. None of the local press there ever says anything about the Jews. There is not even a passing mention about anything to do with even favorable stories, which is surprising. I was just wondering why – I mean, after all, it’s another country. Yes, it’s a different religion. A lot of them practice Islam; that’s fine. And you know there are forms of Islam. So as a observer of the situation, I’m trying to ask my host with whom I was staying – so she was saying that’s typical. I mean, so I don’t know. For instance, Gulf News which carries a lot of news about the world, Al-Jazeera’s based there. Even they, off and on, carry stories as though it’s symbolic. So --
MS. ROSENTHAL: Well, Al-Qaradawi has a show on Al-Jazeera that is viewed by tens of millions where he calls for a new Holocaust to finish killing the Jews.
MS. ROSENTHAL: Yes.
QUESTION: Oh. Now, so it is difficult for you to go and make a presentation of stuff in these countries?
MS. ROSENTHAL: Well, I haven’t yet. What I’m going to add for 2011-2012 is I want to deal with textbooks out of Saudi Arabia --
MS. ROSENTHAL: -- which go everywhere. When I was in Argentina, I visited the new mosque there and new community center, and I said, “This is amazing.” And they said yes, it was a gift from the Saudis, and they gave us the books, they gave us the – I mean --
QUESTION: The works.
MS. ROSENTHAL: And the textbooks that we viewed in the past have Jews and Christians are children of apes and pigs, and getting rid of the infidels is a worthy cause.
QUESTION: Oh, wow.
MS. ROSENTHAL: And there was recently a series of news stories out of England where they discovered that the Saudi textbooks are in – are teaching 5,000 children in London --
MS. ROSENTHAL: -- about apes and pigs and about how to cut off hands for people that you don’t trust.
QUESTION: And what is the basis on which these stories are --
MS. ROSENTHAL: I don't know. An investigative reporter went into the schools is what I assume.
MS. ROSENTHAL: BBC, I think, broke the story.
QUESTION: Now, I mean, why do they even have to bring up that book? That’s my point. Is there a justification by their doing that, bringing out the book, saying that they have to cut off the hands --
MS. ROSENTHAL: And that Jews are children --
MS. ROSENTHAL: Because it’s part of their indoctrination.
QUESTION: Propaganda, okay.
MS. ROSENTHAL: Yeah. But – and so if all little kids are being taught that by their families and by their trusted teachers and religious leaders, they’re going to believe it. And so the education reform that is going on in Saudi Arabia about math and science, that’s all well and fine, but the young kids are still being taught that it is okay to kill Jews and Christians, preferably Jews.
QUESTION: This probably is propagated in other parts of the Middle East as well.
MS. ROSENTHAL: Oh, absolutely.
QUESTION: So obviously, that’s their first primers of the – really that any of us read.
MS. ROSENTHAL: Well, we’re going to be also looking at textbooks out of Pakistan.
QUESTION: The madrassas, right?
MS. ROSENTHAL: Yeah.
QUESTION: What about out of Turkey?
MS. ROSENTHAL: It isn’t part of what I’m doing right now to look at that. But I already told you that I’m totally aware that not only is Protocols of the Elders of Zion available anywhere – now, I’m not saying it shouldn’t be. But if it’s there, it needs to be condemned. And --
QUESTION: Are you aware of the Fatullah (ph) movement in New Jersey and how they’ve tried to change all the textbooks of the schools? And the textbooks in Turkey, they – I don’t know about now, but they – I used to teach there as well, and they used to have religious classes, and my Turkish friends told me about that. I was, like, astounded.
MS. ROSENTHAL: Well, I think a lot of the world right now is going through an identity crisis: who are we, where do we fit into this, things are changing too fast, I don’t – things are unstable, oh my goodness. And so it’s a trying time for everybody, and it’s really trying as a diplomat to try and make sense of it and advance my agenda, which is combating anti-Semitism. But what better time then when people are questioning their identity and opening their eyes. And with these new forms of communication, they can no longer be brainwashed by a singular messenger. And they used to be able turn off your internet and turn off your phone. They can’t do it anymore. The technology is just out there, and we don’t even know what the technology will be in 10 years.
So that’s the hopeful part of this Arab spring, is this was truly organic. I don’t think anybody could say they didn’t see that someday this would come, but that it happened so fast – and everybody’s communicating – excuse me. The government can’t close down the communication, and it’s really quite remarkable. And it seems to truly be about freedom. People want to be free to associate with who they want to associate with, say what they want to say, read what they want to read, be who they want to be. And they’re saying, “I see this is happening in other parts of the world. Why can’t we have it happening here?” It’s not about ideology that is religious. You talk to many of the nongovernmental organizations in Egypt that are working so hard on its reform, they don’t want to see the outcome of this be Islamist. They want to see increased freedoms.
A lot of it will be up to women. These countries cannot compete in the global marketplace unless they’re using all of their resources. And some of their – half of their most precious resources are women.
QUESTION: I just wanted to end on a note. Back in the ‘90s, when I first started living in Turkey, my students used to ask me, “Teacher, what religion are you?” And I said, “I’m Jewish.” And they said, “Oh, that’s great. We love Jews, but we hate Arabs.” Now it’s like the opposite thing happened, and it’s like really strange, because if I told that to somebody now in Turkey, they’d probably be surprised. But I never had a problem in any of my classrooms. They were mostly all Turks – never once, except maybe one time when I taught a group of religious people. It wasn’t about my religion; it was about the fact that I was a woman.
And one guy got up and said, “No woman’s going to tell me what to do.” But I taught a full class of religious guys, 35 people, about how to go to England, how to get into the culture, change your socks, stuff like that. It was – and the funny thing is they were – they loved it. They didn’t ask me what my religion was; they didn’t care. I was there as a person from the West who was helping them – they all spoke really good English – just helping them to make a change. But it’s interesting to note that most of the people – I didn’t say all, but most of the people that I worked with had no issue with that back then.
MS. ROSENTHAL: Yeah. Well --
QUESTION: But now – it’s a different world now.
MS. ROSENTHAL: It’s a different world, and it’s very complicated. We invest resources and time and energy in building new leaders. And there are efforts in many parts of the world to identify women that – young women who can be leaders. And it’s terrific. I have a home in Madison, Wisconsin. My daughters live there. I have a home there only because I can’t sell it. (Laughter.) But I was home at a time when there was a group of Egyptian young women leaders were coming through, and they were – they happened to be coming through Wisconsin to visit the political party conventions, so they could see – they don’t know from political parties, conventions, platforms, how do you organize voter lists – they don’t know that, the mechanics of running an election, so they came to learn. And I heard about it, and I said, well, I’m glad to host them at my condo and feed them, and we’ll have a nice little reception between their meetings, because I’m very centrally located. It was great.
So there were probably about 30 of them, and they came into my home. Now, what you don’t know is I studied to be a rabbi, I’m the daughter of a rabbi, I happen to be a secular Jew but I’m surrounded by Judaica. There’s a mezuzah on my door. A lot of my artwork is Jewish artwork. And they came in, and we’re having this wonderful conversation. And most of the girls, young women, were covered, impeccable English, extremely well educated. It was exciting to know they’re being nurtured as future leaders.
And then they turned to me and said, “What do you do?” And I said, “Well, I work for the United States Government. I am the special envoy to fight anti-Semitism.” And their jaws dropped, and they said, “Are you a Jew?” And I said, “Yeah. I’m Jewish.” And they said, “Why are you so mean, greedy, and hostile?”
QUESTION: Oh, my god.
MS. ROSENTHAL: And I looked at them and I said, “I just welcomed you into my home. I just fed you. We’re having a wonderful time here. What about that is mean, greedy, or hostile?” “Well, all Jews are mean, greedy, and hostile.”
QUESTION: And you said they’re from Egypt, did you say?
MS. ROSENTHAL: These happen to be from Egypt, but this could happen anywhere.
QUESTION: You mean they actually said that to you?
MS. ROSENTHAL: Yeah. They actually said it to me.
QUESTION: That is wild.
MS. ROSENTHAL: I mean, first of all, that they were talking to a Jew, I think, was really astonishing to them. Maybe I’m the first, I don’t know. But I was immediately mean, greedy, and hostile, and that’s what they believe. You’re not born believing this; somebody taught them this. And this – part of leadership training has to be tolerance training. You have to face – I mean, we in this country, we have to face our bigotry every day, our history and our prejudices. So do these other countries.
QUESTION: What happened?
MS. ROSENTHAL: Well, I told them that I was insulted. “Well, don’t be insulted. You’re not necessarily, but all Jews are.”
QUESTION: Oh, my god. Did you still host them?
MS. ROSENTHAL: Well, it was coming to an end. It wasn’t like a diplomatic meeting, that if that had happened in a diplomatic meeting and I brought something – I’ve had diplomatic meetings where I’ve said, “This meeting is now over.”
QUESTION: Wow. I’ll bet it must have felt horrible at that point.
MS. ROSENTHAL: No, I felt angry. I felt angry that anyone thinks that it’s okay to breed and nurture leaders without confronting their prejudice.
QUESTION: But what would have bothered me is the fact that they would have even had the nerve to actually not be diplomatic and to say that in front of you after you welcomed them into their house.
MS. ROSENTHAL: Hey, hey.
QUESTION: And you just said they were very cultured kind of --
MS. ROSENTHAL: Well educated.
MS. ROSENTHAL: Absolutely.
QUESTION: But I’ve always told people that education has nothing to do with what’s in your mind, because I dated a guy in Turkey who was very well educated, had a ton of money, and his attitude toward women was the woman waits on me. So when people tell me education, I go, it goes far beyond education.
MS. ROSENTHAL: Well, Germany was the most highly educated country in the ’30s and ’40s, so, no, it does not give you wisdom. But in leadership training courses and when teachers are identifying potential stars to move into leadership training, there has to be an awareness that they’re going – if they’re going to be on the global scene, which everybody will be, they have to understand what their background, what their education, what prejudices have given them.
QUESTION: I think the most striking thing that I ever saw was in – when I used to live in Atlanta, we had a thing at the synagogue where the Holocaust survivors, with the numbers, were in the audience that night talking about what happened. And I think that is the most riveting – I actually did a class on “Schindler’s List” and on this in Turkey with all Turks, but they were very open-minded students. And half were SS and half were asked to be victims. This is an actual class. The candles were on, I played the music from “Schindler’s List.” I was not prepared for people to cry. It was the most transforming – but these people also, in my class, were not, as far as I know, didn’t really dislike Jews. But it was the most transforming because people said, “Oh, my god, I really feel this, and I really feel what the Jewish people must have felt.” And it was wild.
And I took them to see the film, and it was – a took a Muslim – the mother of that same boyfriend, I took to the synagogue in Ankara, which is Orthodox, and I’m not, but never mind. They cover with the thing and the guy goes like this. And you know what she came out telling me in Turkish? She said, “I always said Jews and Muslims are close together. We do the same thing. We say the same thing.” And you know something? It’s transforming when you can take one person to a synagogue, who doesn’t know anything, but she wanted to go, she asked to come. I said, “Great.” And you know what? She’s going to be telling other people, “I was in a synagogue, and it’s very similar to what we do.”
I hosted some Germans. My boyfriend was from Iraq. He – I didn’t want him to bring up the Holocaust. He insisted on it. He said, “I want to know what you learned about the Holocaust.” I could have kicked him under the table; I practically did. But they said, “I’m glad you brought the subject up.” They were law students. They were in South Carolina. I met them on a plane. They asked me, “Will you host us?” I said, “No problem.” They talked about it openly that they weren’t well educated on the Holocaust and they thanked him and me for talking about it, and they sent me a huge box of – three tiers of chocolates. (Laughter.)
But what you’re saying is it’s about that individual. There aren’t a lot of people like me, for example, or you, that – we think there are, but there are a lot of mainstream Jews who wouldn’t do that. They wouldn’t go out with a Muslim. They wouldn’t host --
MS. ROSENTHAL: I do not think it is up to the Jews to solve this problem.
QUESTION: Well, I’m not just saying the Jews. There are a lot of people in general --
MS. ROSENTHAL: I think that this has to happen at a community level, at a government level --
QUESTION: Yeah, of course.
MS. ROSENTHAL: -- and everything in between, that these offhanded comments of hatred against any group needs to immediately be shut down. When there is unanswered hate, we see what happens. And what you were saying about a Holocaust survivor, that’s the urgency so many of us feel. My father’s been dead a long time. He died young. But most Holocaust survivors, they’re now in their 80-90s, late 90s, and they’re dying. And the camp liberators, who were direct witnesses, and the people in the communities and the little shtetls and small villages that fed the food to the executioners and dug the ditches and came around to cheer as people were being killed, they’re dying.
QUESTION: I wish you’d been at this Sexual Violence against Jewish Women in the Holocaust thing that Gloria Steinem was at. There was a doctor – nobody got his name – he stood up, he’s got to be close to 70, he’s a doctor who saw the mutilations. He’s seen these patients and I know he’s documented it, he said, but I said and everybody told him he should write a book; it’s phenomenal. I was, like, astounded when I --
MS. ROSENTHAL: Well, there is a reason why so many books about the Holocaust are coming out now, because people are – some people are looking at it and saying, “Enough already with the Holocaust,” and the rest of us are saying, “Please get them written now because in a few years, they’re going to be history lessons like the Civil War.”
QUESTION: Well, I grew up with the films like you did. I don’t think – I saw so many actual – so much actual footage of bodies piled on bodies.
QUESTION: How can you sit and deny it when you’ve got the actual footage? It’s mindboggling to me. And the great thing for me is that I have – well, I can’t say all my friends, but most of my friends have been very open-minded. And I maybe had one friend from Turkey who – and I’m not saying he doesn’t like Jews, but he doesn’t even know what’s going on in his own country, and he’s very well educated. And I rail with him – I used to rail with him constantly, “Read. For God’s sakes, read what’s happening in your own country.” People are sleeping, even in this country.
MS. ROSENTHAL: Well, in a lot of countries, what’s written about what’s happening in their country is very controlled, and so I would say it’s more important that they deal with interethnic, interreligious groups and find out how people are feeling, how --
QUESTION: I think that’s a great thing you’re doing.
PARTICIPANT: But it’s not – people don’t have the instinct for that.
MODERATOR: Thank you so much for your time.
QUESTION: Yeah, thank you.
PARTICIPANT: You bet.
MODERATOR: Excellent (inaudible) briefing. I will make it available to some of our journalists.
# # #