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Hannah Rosenthal


by Rhonda Spivak, May 16, 2012


[Editor's note: The Winnipeg Jewish Review will be reporting on other aspects of Hanna Rosenthal's remarks in Winnipeg and other subjects covered in an exclusive interview in our next issue]


Hannah Rosenthal, the State Department's envoy for combating anti-Semitism was very dissatisfied with a visit she had with Jordan's Minister of Education in 2011 because he told her he refused to teach about the Holocaust in Jordanian schools .

"He said we're not going to teach it. At best it [the Holocaust]is an exaggeration," Rosenthal said in an exclusive interview prior to delivering the first Shindleman Family lecture for the Canadian Institute for the Study of Antisemitism [CISA] in Winnipeg at the Fort Gary Hotel on May 7, 2012.

According to Rosenthal, Jordan's Minister of Education also told her he refused to teach about the Holocaust "because it will confuse the children." She added, "I didn't get anywhere.That [meeting]was a failure."

Rosenthal also said she spoke to officials of the United Nations Relief and Works Agency [UNWRA] who are responsible for the education for millions of Palestinian refugees and their descendants, about their failure to teach U.N.-created human rights and Holocaust materials.

She said UNWRA officials said that the agency is bound by agreements with host countries to use textbooks from the host country. Thus if a host country does not wish these materials to be included, then they are not.

When asked if she has ever sat in to observe a classroom in an UNWRA school, Rosenthal said she had not as "I don't speak Arabic " such that that the information she received would be dependent "on whoever is translating."

When asked whether the United States, which funds a significant part of UNWRA 's budget would ever condition its continued funding of UNWRA on removing antisemitic content from textbooks in its schools, Rosenthal replied "We do not condition humanitarian aid on human rights and education."

When asked if she has had meetings with the Palesitinian Minister of Education or other officials in the Palestinian Authority regarding what Palestinian children are taught about Israel and the Holocaust, Rosenthal said to date she has not met with any officials in the Palestinian Authority.

Rosenthal said that this week or shortly thereafter she expects to receive a report from a grantee of the State Department which is to be "a thorough analysis" of Palestinian and Israeli textbooks regarding antisemitism and expressions of negative, or intolerant views of the other. The report, she said, has taken over two years to be completed. "It does matter what textbooks say," she said.

In her public talk, she also said, "We anticipate we will find textbooks full of problems."

When asked about whether her office monitors antisemitism on Palestinian Authority television Rosenthal answered "I do not track PA television, but MEMRI does (Middle East Media Research Institute) and we have given them a grant to monitor anti-Semitism, especially Holocaust denial in all of the Middle East."

The $200,000 grant to MEMRI was awarded on August 11, 2011 by the Department of State’s Office of International Religious Freedom in the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor. This grant as given to enable MEMRI to expand its efforts to monitor the media, translate materials into ten languages, analyze trends in anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial and glorification, and increase distribution of materials through its website and other outlets.(

It appears from MEMRI's website that it has shown instances of antisemitism in th e PA media but there is no overview report analysing trends in antisemitism in the PA. There is for example an analysis of antisemitism on Moslem Brotherhood websites  on the  MEMRI website [Antisemitic and Anti-Israel Articles on Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood Website Inquiry & Analysis Series Report - No. 785 - January 13, 2012 - By: B. Chernitsky*] but no such similar report on antisemitism in the PA.

The Winnipeg Jewish Review sent an email to MEMRI asking "Has MEMRI issued a report on the PA within the context of PA anti-semitism to the US government and/or other donor nations? If not, will you be issuing one ?" We did not receive a reply by press time [this article will be updated if we receive a reply].

Rosenthal's office last issued an anti-semitism compendium, which is a country and theme-based approach to monitoring global antisemitism, in 2010. In regard to "Israel and the occupied territories" this report, (which can be accessed at found that "In both the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, Palestinian media published and broadcast material that included both anti-Israeli and anti-Semitic content, which sometimes amounted to incitement. Rhetoric by several Palestinian groups included expressions of anti-Semitism, as did sermons by some Muslim religious leaders. Some Palestinian religious leaders rejected the right of Israel to exist. Hamas's al-Aqsa television station carried shows for preschoolers extolling hatred of Jews and suicide bombings. Palestinian media not under the control of the PA, particularly those controlled by Hamas, continued to use inflammatory anti-Semitic language. Unofficial Palestinian television broadcast content that sometimes praised holy war to expel the Jewish presence in the region. Some children's programs shown on Hamas television legitimized the killing of Israelis and Jews via terrorist attacks."

In regard to Jordan, this 2010 report found "Anti-Semitism was present in the media, and editorial cartoons, articles, and opinion pieces sometimes depicted negative images of Jews without government response. Aside from expatriates, there was no resident Jewish community in the country."

Rosenthal said that said that while in Jordan she did meet young people who said "I do not want to inherit the bigotry " of the previous generation.

Regarding the revolution in Egypt, Rosenthal said that what was remarkable is "that we saw young [Egyptian]people fighting for human rights and this wasn't about Israel and this was historic. In the main they were fighting for fundamental human rights."

Yet she added, "I am not a polyanna", noting that democracy in Egypt has not yet arrived, and the situation there "will be a rollercoaster." Yet, in the final analysis, Rosenthal belives that ultimately what started in Tahrir Square will bring more democracy and human rights to Egypt.

Rosenthal spoke out strongly in her talk against the government of Saudia Arabia's official antisemitic curricula, some of which is based on the "Protocols of the Elders of Zion," the notorious forgery positing Jewish world domination.

Rosenthal said in Saudia Arabia there are textbooks in use which describe Jews as the spawn of “monkeys and pigs,” and Christians are also referred to in similar derogatory terms.

Unfortunately, as she said, "Saudia Arabia is educating many places in the world, far outside of Saudia Arabia. For example, Rosenthal related that "in Argentina, there is a new mosque that was a gift form the Saudis, and the Saudis also provide teachers and books."

"Half of the madrasses in Pakistan use Saudia Arabian texts," she stated

Rosenthal said noted the United States can not threaten to withhold money from Saudia Arabia as "they don't need money from us." But, the United States can raise this issue in diplomatic meetings and can issue statements

Rosenthal added "We have relations with Saudia Arabia and they are afraid of Iran."

In the course of her talk, Rosenthal indicated that she was hoping this summer to take a group of imams from -Jordan, Lebanon, Egypt and the Palestinian territories to see concentrations camps and learn first hand about the Holocaust.

Rosenthal's visit here was her first visit to Canada. She was introduced by Dr. Catherine Chatterley, the founding Director of the Canadian Institute of Antisemitism in Winnipeg, one of only six independent institutes in the world devoted to the study of antisemitism.

Editor's note: The suggestion in the 2010 Antisemitism compendium report is that media controlled by the PA wasn't rife with antisemitism, as opposed to the media in Hamas run Gaza. I question that conclusion. Anyone who looked at the Palestinian Media Watch website in 2010 would see that antisemitism was plentiful in PA official media in the West Bank.



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Rhonda Spivak, Editor

Publisher: Spivak's Jewish Review Ltd.

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