Fingering the point man
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Fingering the point man

It’s official. Anti-Semitism is making a comeback worldwide. So said Secretary of State John Kerry earlier this week in announcing the appointment of Ira Forman as the new United States Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism.

The blogosphere came alive at the announcement – not because anti-Semitism is a problem, but because bloggers on the right see Forman as a problem. Why? Because he headed the National Jewish Democratic Coalition for 15 years and spearheaded the successful effort to keep the Jewish vote in President Barack Obama’s corner in the 2012 election.

These bloggers all focus on one thing: Forman fiercely defended Obama against Republican claims that the president was anti-Israel, if not anti-Semitic, referring to such rhetoric as “typical drivel,” among other things.

The right is very wrong.

Hate is the issue, not Forman or his politics; a hate that has lasted for millennia and never seems to go away. Combating that hate is the issue, an effort that seems to succeed for a little while but with no long-term lasting effect.

The appointment of Forman was incidental to Kerry’s release of the State Department’s annual International Religious Freedom Report. What it says about religious freedom around the world is the issue, and especially what it says about anti-Semitism, which it correctly calls “this pernicious evil.” Consider its carefully chosen words:

“Of great concern [in 2012] were expressions of anti-Semitism by government officials, by religious leaders, and by the media….At times, such statements led to desecration and violence.

“In Venezuela, the government-controlled media published numerous anti-Semitic statements, particularly in relation to opposition presidential candidate Henrique Capriles, a Catholic with Jewish ancestors….

“On October 19 [in Egypt], President [Mohamed] Morsy said ‘Amen’ during televised prayers in Mansour after an imam stated…, ‘Oh Allah, destroy the Jews and their supporters.’ This is a common prayer in Egyptian mosques….

“In Iran, the government regularly vilified Judaism….

“In Tunisia, Salafists (fundamentalist Sunni Muslims) attacked synagogues and issued anti-Semitic messages, as did some imams during Friday prayer sermons….Police arrested five persons, including one police officer, for allegedly plotting to kidnap Jews….

“In Ukraine…, in Russia…, in Argentina…, [anti-Semitic acts went unchecked]….In a worrisome sign, such anti-Semitic and xenophobic parties [as the Golden Dawn Party in Greece] gained seats in parliaments, and a rise in violent attacks on Jews in Europe included several shocking incidents. Hungary saw continued racist commentary by an openly anti-Semitic political party with seats in parliament, the Jobbik Party….In France, an Islamist extremist killed a rabbi and his two children, along with another student, outside a Jewish school in Toulouse.

“While a number of governments took active measures to combat anti-Semitism, this pernicious evil continued to spread.”

Ira Forman’s political orientation is not the issue. Hate is the issue; combating that hate is the issue; the growing tolerance of governments for intolerance toward Jews and their acceptance of violence against Jews are the issues.

To be sure, Forman is a blunt, outspoken, no-holds-barred advocate for the causes he espouses. Yet that is precisely the kind of person needed by a State Department usually mired in diplomatic double-speak to lead this fight.

We have to wonder whether some on the right who are jumping all over this appointment are less concerned about Forman’s politics and more concerned that the State Department now has a point man who will pull no punches wherever anti-Semitism rears its head in 2013, perhaps even here at home. While many on the right are staunch supporters of Israel, it does not follow that all of them like Jews. Anti-Semitism is not the exclusive province of the left.

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