New York Daily News
Friday, March 8, 2019 - 6:45pm

By Jack Rosen

With the 116th Congress, the American progressive movement is finally getting its day in the sun. Although Democratic Party leadership continues to uphold traditional Democratic policies, political news in 2019 has put progressives in the spotlight, and they are seen by many as the party’s inevitable future. The progressive far left is also permeated by a distinct anti-Israel bent that is only now entering mainstream U.S. politics.

But while the movement’s rising stars have had moments where they were celebrated, they have also been the center of controversy. In particular, freshman Rep. Ilhan Omar (Minn.) has come under fire for a series of anti-Semitic statements. These comments presented the Democrats’ far-left progressive wing with a unique opportunity to draw their moral boundaries and show Jewish Americans that, while some among them are outspoken critics of Israel, they are committed to holding the line against anti-Semitism. This could have been a shining moment for far-left progressives.

They missed it.

Far-left criticism of Israel is no stranger to controversy. Like many subjects pertaining primarily to a single religious, ethnic or racial minority, Israel warrants careful and nuanced discussion. As a result, in articles and conversations regarding Israel, it has become almost a tired line to clarify that criticism of Israel is not anti-Semitism.

And in many cases, this is valid; as a sovereign state and a democracy, Israel deserves to be analyzed by the media and others, and criticized when it does wrong. By the same standard, when Israel is held to a different standard than other countries on the world stage, that criticism deserves to be scrutinized as well. The same should be expected when Americans discuss any country whose majority population is a minority in the U.S.

In other words, progressives should expect that their criticisms are examined in turn. Then, in turn, they have every right to respond and defend their claims if they feel they are unfairly classified as anti-Semitic.

Enter Ilhan Omar. We are two months into Omar’s term in the House, and yet she has been at the center of controversy over three different anti-Semitic statements.

The first was a 2012 tweet accusing Israel of “hypnotizing the world.” She defended the tweet in a CNN interview in January 2019, but quickly apologized. The second, a tweet posted in early February, stated that Congressional support for Israel was “all about the Benjamins.” Then, in the same month, she made a comment that support for Israel constituted “allegiance to a foreign country.”

Certainly, all three statements are offensive and false in the context of Israel. Yet the reason for the backlash had nothing to do with Israel. What all three statements have in common is they all reference classical anti-Semitic tropes that have been used to justify persecution and violence against Jews for hundreds of years.

Respectively, these tropes are: 1) Jews control the world with mystical powers, 2) Jews control world governments by way of their wealth and 3) Jews cannot be fully loyal to their home countries because they have a “dual loyalty” to global Jewry. All of these tropes long predate the modern State of Israel, and appear in such places as The Protocols of the Elders of Zion, the most notorious anti-Semitic document every published, as well as the charter of the terrorist organization Hamas.

There is no way around it: Omar made statements that were blatantly anti-Semitic and greatly offensive to Jewish Americans. Regardless of whether she honestly misspoke — though that gets less believable with each new offense — her wording and implications have caused pain and outrage.

Given that American progressivism is heavily oriented around social justice and the defense and empowerment of minority groups, Omar’s comments should have yielded outrage from her colleagues.

The opposite was true. Although the Democratic establishment has been swift in condemning these comments, key far-left progressive figures like Sen. Bernie Sanders, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, and Rep. Rashida Tlaib have all come to Rep. Omar’s defense.

Omar, meanwhile, has failed to stand by her own apologies. She used the AIPAC controversy for her own fundraising purposes, demonstrating that she did not genuinely believe she was in the wrong. She made comments on dual loyalty after Tlaib was criticized for similar statements, demonstrating that she was not honestly trying to learn about anti-Semitism.

What do we take away from this?

We now know that far-left progressives don’t actually draw the line at “anti-Israel, not anti-Semitic.” Omar has clearly crossed that line, not once but several times, and her allies chose to defend her anyway; if ever the movement had a chance to prove the truth of their words, it was this. Anti-Semitism has found a safe haven within the American progressive movement.

We also know that these politicians’ support of minorities in this country does not extend to Jews. If a U.S. representative talked about any other minority group this way, these outspoken politicians would be the first to criticize. Yet they applaud the invocation of stereotypes and conspiracy theories about the Jewish people. Even Sanders, who is Jewish, personally offered his support to Omar following the AIPAC controversy, saying, “We will stand by our Muslim brothers and sisters.” What about your Jewish brothers and sisters, senator? Do they not matter as well?

The organization I lead, the American Jewish Congress, has operated for the past 100 years on the principle that in order to create a better America for Jews, we must create a better America for everyone. By failing to treat anti-Semitism with the gravity it merits, far-left progressives showed me they do not share in our vision for this nation.

Rosen is president of the American Jewish Congress.

Jewish News Syndicate
Friday, March 8, 2019 - 3:45pm

American Jewish Congress president Jack Rosen noted that the resolution’s passage was “a much-needed step,” adding that the text “is thorough in addressing the history, range and insidious nature of anti-Semitism, as well as Islamophobia and other forms of hatred and racism. For these truths to be acknowledged publicly by Congress is necessary and timely.”

However, he continued, “we are concerned that this action will not be enough to counter the repeated anti-Semitic comments by Congresswoman Ilhan Omar and other members of the House of Representatives. When Rep. Omar alleged that AIPAC was buying support for Israel from Congress, a similar resolution was passed. Not only did Rep. Omar proceed to make further problematic statements, but she also went as far as to use that controversy for her own fundraising.”

“Furthermore, the resolution fails to mention Omar by name,” stated Rosen. “Now that her anti-Semitic statements have become a pattern, Congress should have the courage to call her out clearly.”

Read the full article here

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Monday, March 4, 2019 - 5:06pm

By Ashley Murray

The day after a gunman killed 11 Jewish worshippers at the Tree of Life synagogue in Squirrel Hill, Dani Dayan, the consul general of Israel in New York, rushed to Pittsburgh to offer resources and meet with public officials, including Mayor Bill Peduto.

“He said, ‘I’m going to ask you again to go to Israel,’ and I said, ‘You don’t even have to ask, I will go,’” recalled Mr. Peduto on Monday, fresh off his trip last week to the Israel International Mayors Conference.

On his first day back at work in Pittsburgh, Mr. Peduto spoke about his five days in the Middle Eastern nation, where he honored the Tree of Life victims and learned about the advanced security measures available to government officials in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

“I can just tell you this, No. 1, the people of Israel are extremely proud of the people of Pittsburgh,” Mr. Peduto said. “The way that we responded to the community at that moment was something that was not experienced in the past with crimes of anti-Semitism, and it was recognized and appreciated.”

The annual conference offered various meetings with high-tech firms and government personnel, as well as a lineup of discussions on surveillance, cyber security and predictive analytics — including a tour of the underground Tel Aviv “Smart City Command Center.”

“We studied everything from drone technology to surveillance to sensor detection to all the different technology that is being utilized in Israel right now,” Mr. Peduto said. “The technology is so far advanced, and available to cities.”

He highlighted predictive sensor systems that could alert officials of somebody putting a foot over a bridge railing or dropping a suspicious package and walking away, and “immediately having a camera turn to [them] and a speaker saying ‘stay there’ and having somebody at the scene within minutes.”

Will the city consider any of these advancements? Mr. Peduto’s not sure because of the price tag, but said he looks forward to discussing the ideas over “a couple cups of coffee” with the city’s new director of performance and innovation, Santiago Garces.

But Mr. Peduto did not spend his entire trip to Israel talking about security and defense.

He delivered prayers from the families of Tree of Life victims to the Western Wall in Jerusalem and visited a memorial to them, which sits next to the 9/11 memorial in Jerusalem.

He said he also went there with a mission to discuss the threat of hate crimes with mayors from around the world. His counterparts included leaders of cities in Romania, Benin, Uruguay, Nepal and other countries.

On Wednesday night, Mr. Peduto participated in a panel discussing hate speech alongside a mayor from an Israeli city.

He said he went to the conference in part to further “a global understanding that hate speech leads to hate crime, and no matter what religion you are, it’s important to understand that we can make a difference if we intervene early,” he said.

Mr. Peduto’s trip was paid for by four organizations and government departments that organized the conference.

Some criticized the mayor via social media for his visit to Israel, as the country continues to build settlements in the West Bank.

“It’s part of the democratic process of who gets elected in foreign countries,” Mr. Peduto said. “Just as we don’t want to see interference in our elections, I don’t think it would be fair for me to be over in Israel criticizing a foreign government during a campaign season. I have my views, others have theirs, but I wasn’t there for any type of foreign diplomacy.”

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Sunday, March 3, 2019 - 7:00am

Cities around the world are on the front lines of hate crime and have much to learn from each other

By Bill Peduto and Jack Rosen

No one can prepare you to lead a city through its darkest hour. But you don’t have to do it alone. Those first few days after the Tree of Life Synagogue massacre, the advice of mayors who had led their own cities in times of great tragedy was invaluable. Parkland. Orlando. San Bernardino. None of us has all the answers, but having lived through something similar, the ability to share our experiences and learn from one another meant everything.

That is why we are bringing the experiences, lessons and unanswered questions of Pittsburgh to the world. Last week, we gathered in Israel with municipal leaders from around the globe for the 33rd International Mayors Conference hosted by the American Jewish Congress and Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs. Mayors are often on the front lines against today’s tragedies, attacks and battles with hate. The conference provides a platform from which to share the lessons of Pittsburgh with local governments near and far, in order to prevent future violence and draw some good from Pittsburgh’s darkest day.

If you had asked a random American six months ago to guess where the next anti-Semitic attack would take place, chances are he or she would not have said Pittsburgh. Pittsburgh’s Jewish community is integral to the city’s history and identity; it wouldn’t be Pittsburgh without it. Yet on Oct. 27, Pittsburgh became the site of the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in the history of the United States.

That anti-Semitism is on the rise is not new; 2017 saw a 37 percent increase in anti-Semitic hate crime, the third increase in as many years. And this is taking place around the world. A recent poll revealed a third of Europeans believe Jews use the Holocaust to advance their own agendas. In France, anti-Semitism rose 74 percent in 2018 from 2017 — a truly alarming statistic.

But perhaps more than any other incident, this attack should represent an international wakeup call that anti-Semitism is a real threat to Jewish lives everywhere. Before Pittsburgh, anti-Semitism in the U.S. felt like little more than a pale imitation of the anti-Semitism of old. After the shooting, we must remember that unchecked hate always leads to violence. Historically, anti-Semitism has always had the insidious ability to erupt seemingly out of nowhere.

That is why it is more important than ever to talk about Pittsburgh with leaders from around the world. To engage with them about anti-Semitism and other forms of ethnic, racial and religious discrimination. To show them the history and resilience of the Jewish people through the lens of modern Israel. To warn mayors around the world of what we saw: That they must fight anti-Semitism in their cities on every level or more Jewish lives will be taken.

The effect the shooting had on the city of Pittsburgh also shed new light for many residents on what it means to experience hate crime. When we speak about hate crime, we speak only about the victimized group. But the vile massacre at the Tree of Life Synagogue was an attack on all of Pittsburgh.

The man who murdered 11 worshipers on Oct. 27 hated Jews. He killed those people because they were Jewish. But he also hated Pittsburgh. He hated that it is a city where Jews are accepted and valued and can live without fear. It would be a disrespect to the dead and to the living to pretend as though this was anything short of an attack on our city of Pittsburgh.

Hate crime occurs all over the world. Cities must be able to support one another when hate crime strikes, so that the city governments can support and protect their people. We believe opening a conversation about the nature of hate crime and the ways in which cities can fight it is imperative for meetings such as the Mayors Conference.

The events following the shooting have also been a harsh reminder that although mayors know their cities best, national governments don’t always understand. It would be naïve to look at Pittsburgh and deny that hate crime and gun violence, especially in America, are linked. After witnessing the tragedy that befell Pittsburgh firsthand, we knew that concrete actions had to be taken to ensure that those who would harm minority communities would not be able to so easily. All mayors must be prepared to take hard stances for their cities.

Lastly, there is no replacement for building relationships, sharing experiences and having people to rely on. Mayors who have faced anti-Semitism and racism in their cities, who have had to make difficult decisions on gun control, and who have had to play a role in healing their cities — they can learn from one another. Above all, the International Mayors Conference offers international mayors the chance to create relationships across continents, built on something all mayors have in common: love for their cities.

Cities can help each other to heal, but our goal must be to prevent such future tragedies altogether. The battle against hate is often waged at a local level, but we don’t need to do this alone. Hate knows no borders; neither can we when we fight it. Together we must find ways to stop this from happening again — and build the bonds to be there for each other if it does.

Bill Peduto is mayor of Pittsburgh. Jack Rosen is president of the American Jewish Congress.

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Saturday, February 23, 2019 - 8:53pm

Mayor Bill Peduto traveled to Israel on Saturday to attend the 33rd annual International Mayor’s Conference.

The conference, a global meeting of government, technology and energy leaders that studies leading examples of sustainable development, takes place Sunday through Thursday in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv.

Twenty-five mayors from around the world are participating.

Mr. Peduto will honor the victims of the Tree of Life synagogue massacre — the deadliest anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history — while at the conference.

No city taxpayer dollars are being spent as conference organizers are paying all travel costs.

The conference is presented by the American Jewish Congress, the American Council for World Jewry, the Israeli Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Federation of Local Authorities in Israel.

Mr. Peduto will return to the U.S. on Friday.

Jewish News Syndicate
Tuesday, February 5, 2019 - 1:28pm

“The passage of this legislation is an important victory against the BDS movement, which seeks to inflict economic harm on the State of Israel and its people,” said American Jewish Congress president Jack Rosen. “BDS not only hurts Israelis of all religions, ethnicities and political beliefs, but also hurts countless Palestinians employed by Israeli businesses.”

Read the full article here

The Jerusalem Post
Tuesday, January 29, 2019 - 1:06pm

“Never Again” means thinking the unthinkable: that it can and will happen again, if we are not constantly vigilant.

By Jack Rosen

Every year on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, we say “Never Again.” To many of us, to forget would be impossible. But for each new generation, the memory of the Holocaust grows more distant. Only by remembering can we prevent the repetition of history – by teaching, educating, and having difficult conversations.

“Never Again” means thinking the unthinkable: that it can and will happen again, if we are not constantly vigilant. As the son of Holocaust survivors and a lifelong Jewish advocate, I have a duty to my ancestors, to my children and to my people to preserve that memory.

In light of that duty, I would like to share with you five reasons why everyone must remember and understand the Holocaust today.

1. The Holocaust happened recently.

Seventy-four years ago, the Red Army liberated Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp in Nazi-occupied Poland. And 74 years sounds like an awfully long time. But if you were not around in 1945, your parents were, or your grandparents.

This fall, I had the privilege of seeing my grandson, Alex, deliver a moving speech about antisemitism. In that moment, I felt newly connected to the future of the Jewish people. Then, I thought of my own grandfather, burned alive in the very house in which he sought shelter.

Two generations is more than enough for the whole world to change.

2. No one saw it coming.

We like to think we could see a genocide from a mile away, but that’s simply not true. In fact, most of the world did not realize the extent of the Holocaust until years after the end of World War II.

Jews were well integrated into German society over the course of several hundred years. German Jews felt relatively safe prior to the rise of Nazism; even after Hitler became chancellor, they could not have known what was coming.

It’s easier, more digestible, to think the signs were obvious. The warning signs for the next genocide will not be clear either, until it is too late.

3. It only takes a decade.

The nightmarish ideology of the Third Reich did not develop overnight, yet the actual timeline of escalation is horrifyingly short. Adolf Hitler took power in January 1933. Kristallnacht, the Night of Broken Glass, was in November 1938. By 1941, the Nazis’ “Final Solution” was under way. By 1945, it was over.

That’s 12 years from the first anti-Jewish law the Nazis passed to the six millionth Jew they murdered. It is critical that we remember not only the scale of the Holocaust, but the speed at which the Nazis went from being a fringe hate group to the architects of hell on earth.

4. It could happen to any group.

The Holocaust doesn’t hold lessons only for the Jewish people, but for all minority groups, everywhere. Again, Jews felt safe in German society.

The organization I lead, the American Jewish Congress, was founded in 1918 on the principle that in order to build a better society for Jews, it must be better for everyone. Conversely, freedoms and rights are not truly protected for anyone, if they are not protected for everyone. As long as we live in a world where genocide can occur against any group, no group is truly safe from genocide.

5. The warning signs are here today.

In recent years, we have seen a striking surge in antisemitism. FBI statistics on hate crimes show that crimes against Jews in 2017 accounted for more than half of all hate crimes against any religious group.

In October, 11 worshipers at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh were gunned down because they were Jewish.

The year 2017 saw a 37% increase in antisemitic hate crime – rising for the third year in a row. Meanwhile, a recent CNN poll revealed that 1 in 20 Europeans had never heard of the Holocaust.

Last year, Poland passed a bill to deny Polish involvement in the Holocaust. This denial is a lie. Just ask my grandfather.

But that’s not all. In our divided political climate, hateful ideas are taking root as I have never seen before. In November, Arthur Jones, a Holocaust-denying American Nazi, ran for a seat in the US Congress and won 25% of the vote in his district.

Just this month, US Congressman Steve King was censured for defending white supremacy. Months ago, he met with a Nazi-founded far-right group during a trip to Auschwitz funded by a Holocaust memorial group. He has been elected eight times.

These are the warning signs. It can happen here. We cannot afford to miss the signs again. If given the chance, it will be attempted again.
But we have one advantage over Germans in the 1930s: Now we know the stakes. We have seen what is possible.

So today, 74 years later, I call upon each of you to remember. Remember what happens when good men and women do nothing. Remember that “Never Again” is not just a phrase – it is a promise we make to each other.

The writer is the president of the American Jewish Congress.

The Hill
Thursday, January 24, 2019 - 7:00am

By Jack Rosen

With political tribalism in America ever-rising in pitch, the number of issues where agreement across the aisle is possible appears to be shrinking. Long gone are the days when policy differences stopped “at water’s edge,” and a united front on matters of foreign policy and national security were seen as central to America’s strength and prestige. Perhaps no subject is more emblematic of this partisan estrangement than American support for Israel.

Support for Israel was long a subject of bipartisan consensus. When the Jerusalem Embassy Act was passed in 1995, laying the groundwork for the eventual transfer of the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, it was with near unanimous support from both houses of Congress. Today, vocal support for Israel is increasingly shifting toward the right wing, and in today’s political climate, when an issue is embraced by the right, it becomes toxic to the left. (And vice versa).

Among Republican politicians today, the support of Israel — its policies, its defense, its right to exist — is essentially party orthodoxy. It has become part of a “package” that Republicans are expected to incorporate into their platforms. As a result, Democrats are keeping support for Israel at arm’s length so as not to appear acquiescent to the other side, and thereby missing out on the chance to support the only country in the region that aligns with their values.

When both parties view themselves so much as opposing teams in tug-of-war, issues like Israel become compartmentalized as extra inches of rope rather than significant, complicated issues. It also creates confusion for voters as to whether their elected representatives are truly for or against Israel, or if they are merely following the herd.

Indisputably, President Trump’s policies have made strong steps for Israel, not only for its defense and prosperity, but also for its normalization and legitimacy on the international stage. But in doing so, Trump has stamped the issue of Israel with his own brand. Only 21 percent of Democrats think Trump is striking the right balance on Israel, but a full 73 percent of Republicans do, according to a Pew survey.

More broadly, data shows the partisan divide on Israel is widening. In 2001, when asked if they sympathize more with Israel or the Palestinians, 50 percent of Republicans and 38 percent of Democrats said Israel; in 2018, those numbers have diverged to 78 percent and 27 percent, respectively. In other words, as Republicans skew more toward Israel, Democrats skew away. This effect is amplified farther from center; support for Israel among conservative Republicans has reached 81 percent, and among liberal Democrats has dropped to 19 percent.

As a lifelong advocate for the State of Israel, I cannot help but worry that Americans, especially impressionable young voters, will be pushed away from Israel — not by ideology, but by allegiance to a party. The majority of American Jews vote Democrat, but what happens when young Jews believe they have a social obligation to reject the State of Israel?

There are numerous strong reasons that liberals and conservatives alike should align with the support and defense of the Jewish State. As one of the closest allies we have, we cannot allow our discourse to deteriorate such that Americans do not apply their own values case-by-case.

Disturbingly, extreme anti-Israel voices and dangerous political beliefs are increasingly finding footing in the progressive movement and being legitimized in the mainstream. For example, Women’s March leadership with ties to notorious anti-Semite Louis Farrakhan have refused to step down. I cannot imagine that these individuals would have been so embraced in the political climates of decades past.

Last, but far from least, I am gravely concerned by how this effect will manifest itself in the 2020 presidential election. In the past, the president usually reflected the moderate wing of his party. In its search for a young, firebrand anti-Trump, however, the Democratic Party might choose a progressive candidate who subscribes to anti-Israel attitudes. Will their nominee be compelled to oppose Trump on all issues, and reject the current U.S.-Israel relationship for political points? For the Democrats to choose an anti-Israel candidate in 2020 could be disastrous for U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East.

The State of Israel is not a political prop. It is not a partisan matter. It is a thriving, diverse nation nearly 9-million strong. It is a symbol of hope and rebirth for an ancient people scattered around the world, who in it found a second chance after nearly being extinguished. It is a vital ally whose story is intertwined with ours. And it is a bastion of democratic and, yes, progressive values in the Middle East, offering liberty to citizens of all religions and ethnicities. We cannot allow our allies and our values to be made into bargaining chips or publicity items. Israel matters too much to be lost to the tide of party politics.

Jack Rosen is the president of the American Jewish Congress.

International Policy Digest
Friday, November 23, 2018 - 3:36pm

By John Lyman

To understand how anti-Semitism is on the rise not just in the United States, but globally as well, I turned to the American Jewish Congress for answers.

Below is the text of my interview with Dan Rosen, board member and senior leader, of the American Jewish Congress. The interview was conducted via email.

The mass shooting at the Tree of Life Synagogue was in late October. Can you describe what impact the shooting has had on American Jews and where the community goes from here?

What the Pittsburgh shooting really did was reveal how serious and dangerous any and all anti-Semitism can be. Anti-Semitism has absolutely been on the rise in America in the last few years, but most incidents have been nonviolent, and I think many Jews, as well as non-Jews, could become complacent. But this immense display of violence demonstrates that all of these seemingly small incidents were part of a larger trend that, if unchecked, leads to violence. Going forward, we must speak out against anti-Semitism and hate wherever they appear, because they do add up and build momentum.

Has the shooting had any impact on your organization’s mission and goals?

Our mission has not changed. But Pittsburgh certainly alerted us to how dire the situation is becoming and how necessary organizations like the American Jewish Congress are. With the shooting comes a need for extraordinary effort to fight antisemitism. Israel and international Jewish communities will always be high priorities for us, but it’s hard to fight for Jews abroad when Jews don’t feel safe here.

Anti-Semitism has always lurked beneath the shadows in American politics and society. In the past few years, it has become more overt. George Soros conspiracy theories and the rally in Charlottesville are prime examples. Why is anti-Semitism coming out from the shadows?

Anti-Semitism is not only emerging, but also spreading, and those are different but connected processes.

Our society is increasingly divided. Americans increasingly blame their problems on others – other parties, other states, other ethnic or religious groups – and our politics as a nation reflect that. And when people need a scapegoat, anti-Semitism is almost inevitable. For centuries, Jews have been used as the ultimate scapegoat, and that idea still lies dormant deep within our culture. When people feel desperate and helpless and cannot find someone to blame, they will eventually look to the Jews. Additionally, different forms of hate feed into one another, and once society becomes more willing to hate one group, it also be willing to hate other groups.

Anti-Semitism always lurks, in the dark corners of society, but the internet has increasingly given anti-Semites different ways to gather as a community. Where once anti-Semites were forced to keep their hatred private, or at least localized, now they can be connected with other hateful individuals around the country. They reinforce each other’s views and create echo chambers in which these toxic worldviews grow and multiply and convert others. The Pittsburgh shooter was very active in white supremacist social media communities, and posted immediately before entering the synagogue. He is not the first mass shooter to have been radicalized by a hateful online community; we must recognize that online hate does not stay online, and is no less real than an in-person meeting of anti-Semites or racists.

I would add that a more divided, resentful society is more receptive to hateful ideas. One thing that makes anti-Semitic conspiracy theories so insidious is that many people who believe and perpetuate them might not even realize they are anti-Semitic. George Soros conspiracies are a prime example of this, where those who subscribe to and espouse these beliefs might not realize that they are playing on centuries-old anti-Semitic rhetoric. The same goes for hatred of Israel, which is frequently used to justify or explain anti-Semitism around the world; people read about it online and buy the rhetoric without understanding why it is dangerous.

Outside of the U.S., what global politicians have contributed to the anti-Semitism rhetoric and what effect does this bring on the global community?

The most extreme examples are leaders who openly call for the destruction of Israel and the Jewish people. The Iranian regime calls routinely for the annihilation of Israel, uses horribly anti-Semitic rhetoric, and propagates – perhaps even believes – absurd Jewish conspiracy theories, such as Israel controlling the weather. Hamas leaders use the most disgusting and appalling language for Jews, and the Hamas Charter, which is still the organization’s foundational document, references age-old anti-Semitic tropes and calls for the genocide of the Jews.

Many are quick to dismiss such leaders as outliers and extremists with empty words. But when these beliefs are given an international platform and Iran can spew this vitriol at the United Nations, or when the UN and world leaders fail time and time again to condemn Hamas – or even justify it – then it becomes normalized.

The Palestinian Authority is also complicit in this, though to a lesser degree. PA President Mahmoud Abbas has a long record of Holocaust denial, but it’s almost never talked about, or it’s explained away. That matters, especially when Palestinian schools and television, in both Gaza and the West Bank, teach children to deeply hate Israelis and Jews and tells them killing Jews is good.

Speaking of Holocaust denial, the Polish government passed a bill last year rejecting hard evidence of Polish complicity in the Holocaust and preventing anyone from suggesting that the Polish people played any role. This essentially shuts down Holocaust research, education, and free speech in Poland. When world governments deny the Holocaust, it legitimizes Holocaust denial in the eyes of deniers and would-be deniers around the world.

Broadly speaking, though, any world leader or public official who uses, enables it, or fails to recognize anti-Semitic speech is contributing. We don’t arrive at Pittsburgh from nowhere; that comes from years of slowly encroaching anti-Semitism that becomes normalized bit by bit. So when people like Jeremy Corbyn displays casually anti-Semitic beliefs and language, and he is allowed to get away with that over and over with little to no consequence, it becomes normalized in the public view, and it adds up.

The mid-term elections saw the Democrats take the U.S. House of Representatives by a fairly significant margin. What, if any, impact do you predict on U.S.-Israeli relations?

I don’t expect that this will have a significant impact on U.S.-Israel relations. The majority of Democratic and Republican members of Congress support Israel and our relationship to it. Yes, some younger Democrats are taking less pro-Israel stances, but I believe that for the most part, their time serving on Capitol Hill will show them why Israel is such a crucial ally for us and why American support of Israel matters.

Donald Trump has been steadfast in his support for Israel. He has taken steps in cutting off funding to the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA). Does this help or hinder the peace process?

In the long run, this is an asset to the peace process. One of the largest obstacles to peace is that Israel is talked about in different terms from any other country, and the situation of Israelis and Palestinians is treated as somehow exceptional. It prevents the world from looking at the conflict in a practical way. The United Nations significantly contributes to this issue, and cannot be a fair international body if it can’t look at Israel objectively.

UNRWA is an example of this. The world faces so many refugee crises, but Palestinian refugees are the only ones with their own UN body like this; the rest fall under the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). So the emphasis on UNRWA codifies this idea that the Israeli-Palestinian conflict cannot be handled by the same institutions or rules that other difficult global conflicts are handled by. UNRWA also defines Palestinian refugees differently than other refugees. And that’s not even touching on UNRWA’s role in funneling UN funds into Hamas terror operations, or UNRWA schools in Gaza teaching vile anti-Semitic beliefs and horrible lies about Israel to young children.

Now, many people do not realize these things, and as a result might misunderstand and be frustrated by the U.S. decision to cut funding to UNRWA; Palestinian leadership certainly did not take it well. But I believe in the long run, it’s a step in the right direction for a lasting peace.

Is an Israel-Palestine peace process possible as long as Hamas is in power?

Not a final, complete peace process, no. While Hamas is in power, Israel and Palestinian Authority leadership can absolutely make steps toward peace, come to productive agreements regarding the West Bank, and lay the groundwork for a lasting peace. But ultimately, the peace process must involve a resolution to the situation in Gaza, and that cannot happen with Hamas in power.

Israel cannot negotiate peace with a terrorist organization that vows Israel’s destruction and the genocide against the Jewish people, including in its foundational documents, and that seeks violence against Israeli civilians. The Palestinian Authority cannot represent all Palestinians when many of them are under the repressive rule of Hamas. And the people of Gaza cannot thrive and grow when they are manipulated and brainwashed to view Jews as nonhuman oppressors from childhood on, and denied basic infrastructure and services in favor of rockets and terror tunnels.

Moreover, Hamas does not want peace. Hamas does not want Gaza to recover or get better. It will never accept less than the complete destruction of Israel. Hamas rejects aid from Israel and redirects international aid money into violence. The Hamas government cannot provide for the people of Gaza; it maintains power by manufacturing a continual violent struggle. Only when Hamas is no longer in power and Gaza is allowed to heal will a true Israeli-Palestinian peace be attainable.



The Washington Examiner
Wednesday, November 14, 2018 - 12:00am

By Jack Rosen

All politics are local, goes the famous axiom. What affects us most personally closely shapes how we vote. While American Jews live in every state in the nation, the tragedy in Pittsburgh, in which 11 worshippers were killed in the Tree of Life Synagogue by an anti-Semite just days before the midterm elections, was surely close to our hearts.

Jewish-American voters are by no means monolithic in partisanship or orthodoxy. But we spoke in a clear, loud voice that a change in direction was needed. As a matter of fact, exit polls show that the violence in America and the growing divisions and intolerance that spawn it was on the minds of most voters — Jewish and non-Jewish — as they entered their polling places this past Tuesday.

Pittsburgh is one of many hate crimes in recent months. It was not the only one that led to mass violence against a minority, or that took Jewish lives. Over two successive days in October, two Orthodox Jewish men were assaulted in my home city of New York. Pittsburgh was not even the only lethal hate crime committed in the United States that very Saturday. Yet Pittsburgh stands out in the national psyche.

Pittsburgh was a climactic event that proved definitively that anti-Semitism is not an empty threat. The majority of anti-Semitic hate crimes in the news have been nonviolent, or at least nonlethal. Nazi-inspired graffiti, the defacement of gravestones, and the false JCC bomb threats were all frightening harbingers of the dark forces coursing through America’s veins.

And just last month, Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan, who already had a record of anti-Semitic speech, publicly compared Jews to termites. In past years, these incidents, taken individually, could be written off as anomalies. But in the context of Pittsburgh, none of these instances can be ignored.

This moment brought all other recent American anti-Semitism into focus. Not only is anti-Semitism not dead, it is thriving. Multiple candidates in the midterms were openly white supremacist and anti-Semitic. Arthur Jones, an avowed Holocaust denier and neo-Nazi, became an official Congressional candidate in Illinois and won 25 percent of the vote; Russell Walker, a North Carolina state candidate who espouses white supremacy and said Jews descend from Satan, won 37 percent of his electorate. Leslie Cockburn, an unsuccessful Congressional candidate from Virginia, is the author of an anti-Semitic book portraying Israel as the cause of America’s internal problems.

Still other campaigns used anti-Semitic imagery to target their Jewish opponents. Most notably, Ed Charamut, a Connecticut state candidate, released a widely-condemned anti-Semitic depiction of his opponent in the days following Pittsburgh.

These and other anti-Semitic candidates were defeated at the polls this year. But voters should not let their guard down; these candidates are moving into the mainstream. They are now within the perimeter of what is considered acceptable political expression. Complacency is not the answer, vigilance is.

Prior to this year, many Americans, including Jews, thought anti-Semitism to be in decline. Jews have made remarkable strides in this country over the decades, and until recently, anti-Semitism was significantly less dangerous than it once was.

For a mass casualty attack against Jews to take place in 2018 suggests that we are regressing as a nation — a sentiment deeply concerning not only to Jews, but to other minorities, and indeed to any citizens who believe in American democracy. The conclusion, then, is that something needs to change.

At a press conference last Wednesday, President Trump deflected a question about anti-Semitic attacks by citing the progress he has made for the State of Israel. And yes, Israel is important to Jews, but a stronger Israel can’t lift up Jewish-Americans; only America can do that. Indeed, Jewish-Americans cannot build a stronger Israel if we feel threatened at home. Partnership with Israel is not a substitute for protecting America’s Jewish communities. No foreign policy act can replace the work that must be done to address the division gnawing at America’s consciousness and the hate tainting its soul.

I call on all our leaders, no matter their party or religion, to address hate at its source. Do not put the blame solely across the aisle. Do not expect a solution to come from abroad. And above all, don’t wait for another Pittsburgh to decide enough is enough.

Many new Members of Congress — from both parties — have expressed a desire to improve the tone and substance of political discourse in America. This is a needed first step to healing the nation and addressing the dark forces that vex our nation. Congress can show that it means business by holding a special joint session dedicated to promoting interfaith understanding and to celebrating the pluralism that is at the heart of our national creed.

This session should set an example for all Americans and the world by abolishing the partisan aisle and commingling Republicans and Democrats in the chamber.

To all those who won their elections last week: Congratulations. We are counting on you. The reuniting of America must be job one. Let’s get to work.

Jack Rosen is the President of the American Jewish Congress.