Tuesday, April 08, 2008

U.S. State Dept: Anti-Semitic rhetoric among governments is on the increase

By Ron Kampeas

WASHINGTON (JTA) -- The Bush administration has taken the groundbreaking step of identifying some virulent criticism of Israel as anti-Semitism, as it warns that anti-Jewish attitudes and incidents are on the rise worldwide.

In a new study, the U.S. State Department cites Tel Aviv University's Stephen Roth Institute in reporting an increase of serious anti-Semitic incidents, encompassing physical attacks and vandalism, from 406 in 2005 to 593 in 2006.
The new study, "Contemporary Global Anti-Semitism," (link) also cites a range of other nongovernmental organizations to show dramatic increases in Latin America, Australasia and Europe, including a 31 percent spike in incidents in Britain from 2005 to 2006 and a 35 percent jump in Argentina during the same period.

The report goes quite far in warning about the intensification of anti-Semitic rhetoric among governments and international elites, and its policy recommendations are unusually strong for State Department reports, which generally refrain from pronounced language.

Its boldest venture is to name some attacks on Israel as anti-Semitism. In addition, the report marks the first time that the U.S. government has made it a policy to apply the label of anti-Semitism to some criticism of Israel.
"Anti-Semitism has proven to be an adaptive phenomenon," the report said. "New forms of anti-Semitism have evolved. They often incorporate elements of traditional anti-Semitism. However, the distinguishing feature of the new anti-Semitism is criticism of Zionism or Israeli policy that -- whether intentionally or unintentionally -- has the effect of promoting prejudice against all Jews by demonizing Israel and Israelis and attributing Israel’s perceived faults to its Jewish character."

In a town where tone often matters more than substance in assessing a government's priorities, the pronounced focus on anti-Semitism stands out, especially when compared to the State Department's separate, relatively muted report on human rights worldwide.
U.S. diplomats and other officials will be expected to take their cues from this forceful language in how they deal with political groups and individuals overseas.
In its introductory overview -- generally the part of any report that is most closely read by U.S. officials seeking guidance on an issue -- the report singles out governments that have had particularly parlous relations with the Bush administration, including Iran, Syria and Venezuela.
The body of the report, however, includes pronounced examples of anti-Semitism among the elites of nations that the United States has cultivated as allies, including Russia, Ukraine and Iraq. (Continues here)


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