Bookmark and Share
Printer Friendly
December 1, 2009

Would Obama Appoint an “Anti-Israel Lobbyist” to Anti-Semitism Envoy?

Listed in: Israel, Other Foreign Policy, Stop the Smears, NJDC News, Opinions

Originally published in Talking Points Memo

By David A. Harris, President of the National Jewish Democratic Council

Question: Did Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and the Obama administration appoint an “anti-Israel lobbyist” as the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat anti-Semitism?

Answer: Of course not.

The truth is that the administration of President Barack Obama selected Hannah Rosenthal, “a tireless advocate for Israel and social issues important to the Jewish community,” to serve in this important role. As NJDC said in a statement, “The selection of Rosenthal to this post—given her rich experience, and her personal history as the daughter of a Holocaust survivor—shows how seriously President Barack Obama’s administration takes the issue of global anti-Semitism. Indeed, this appointment sends a signal that should be heard loud and clear around the world.”

However, if you were a reader of right-wing blogs you might not be as certain. On Thanksgiving Day, World Net Daily’s Aaron Klein wrote a piece under the salacious headline, “Obama appoints anti-Israel lobbyist to anti-Semitism post.” But as Klein and his rightwing brethren should know, this simply isn’t true. Perhaps more importantly, this sort of writing reflects a total lack of perspective on the part of this right wing fringe - demonstrating again that it is entirely removed from mainstream political discourse.

In his attack, Klein joined the infamous Ed Lasky of American Thinker who earlier declared, “Hannah Rosenthal ... does not care much for Israel.” In the same article Lasky asked, “Is that a good sign, that the man [Abraham H. Foxman, the National Director of the Anti-Defamation League] who was victimized by anti-Semitism and has spent his life fighting anti-Semitism, has problems with the one person President Obama sees as being qualified to combat anti-Semitism?”

When Lasky penned his piece on November 11, Lasky must have assumed that Foxman would agree with Lasky’s own radical ideology and object to Rosenthal’s appointment. However, twelve days later Foxman welcomed Rosenthal’s appointment to this post as signaling “the continued seriousness of America’s resolve to fight the anti-Semitism ... and to institutionalize that fight as an American foreign policy priority.”

I recognize that in Lasky’s distorted understanding of the world he may have been surprised by Foxman’s praise. But Klein, who wrote his piece three days after Foxman’s statement, seemed to totally ignore Foxman’s welcoming words. Does Klein really think that Foxman would welcome Rosenthal if she served - as Klein falsely asserted - on a “‘pro-Hamas’ board?” In fact, it seems to be quite popular to invoke Foxman in right-wing attacks against this appointment. Is anyone on the right willing to acknowledge that Foxman and the ADL issued a statement supporting the selection of Rosenthal?

Give me a break. Anyone who labels J Street as “pro-Hamas” or Rosenthal as someone who “does not care much for Israel” is someone who is entirely out of touch with reality - and should be treated as such. I fully appreciate personal disagreements over the policies of particular organizations; I know I have mine. However, it is not helpful when members of the Jewish community wage baseless hyperbolic attacks against qualified Jewish leaders.

Clearly, not everyone in the Jewish community always agrees with every policy of our president. But when much of our mainstream leadership supports an Obama appointment, maybe the right wing should concentrate more on meaningful differences - such as actual policy disagreements - instead of further marginalizing themselves with absurd attacks.