JERUSALEM – In her first major interview since becoming President Obama's newly appointed anti-Semitism czar last month, Hannah Rosenthal yesterday blasted the Israeli government for its criticism of a lobby group accused of anti-Israel activity.
Rosenthal characterized as "most unfortunate" a decision by Michael Oren, Israel's ambassador to the United States, to not attend the annual dinner in September of J Street, a lobby group that is mostly led by left-leaning Israelis and that receives funds from Arab and Muslim Americans.
In an interview yesterday from Jerusalem with Israel's Haaretz newspaper, Rosenthal said Oren "would have learned a lot" if he had participated in J Street's conference.
Rosenthal was in Israel as the Obama administration's envoy to the Foreign Ministry's Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism.
"I came away realizing what a generational divide there is and I don't know how it is in Israel. Young people want to be part of the discussion, they feel they have fresh ideas and they feel that we have to end the stalemate," she said, speaking of the J Street dinner.
Rosenthal stated it was important that new and different voices need be heard regarding Israel in the American Jewish community.
"It is not 1939," she said. "We have the state of Israel. We have laws in countries that are holding people accountable."
Regarding a recent U.N. report accusing Israel of war crimes during the Jewish state's defensive war in Gaza last year, Rosenthal told Haaretz, "it is not anti-Semitic to look at a certain policy of Israel and say – I disagree with it. Half of the population in Israel isn't anti-Semitic by not agreeing with policies."
That U.N. report has been blasted as one-sided and as relying largely on Hamas information and Palestinian witnesses.
Continued Rosenthal: "I do believe that some of the criticism against Israel is anti-Semitism but not all of it is. And I think that healthy democracies – and Israel is one – ha[ve] to do self reflection and the world looks at the light unto the nations and says I agree to this policy or I don't agree – that is not anti-Semitism."
Rosenthal serves on the board of J Street, which states on its website it seeks to "promote meaningful American leadership to end the Arab-Israeli and Israeli-Palestinian conflicts peacefully and diplomatically."
J Street supports talks with Hamas, a terrorist group whose charter seeks the destruction of Israel. The group opposes sanctions against Iran and is harshly critical of Israeli offensive anti-terror military actions.
Reacting to Rosenthal's remarks yesterday, Jeffrey Goldberg at The Atlantic commented, "the Obama administration official charged with monitoring worldwide anti-Semitism makes her first target... the Israeli ambassador to the United States? I'll be taking bets now on how long Hannah Rosenthal lasts in the job."
The Israeli government, meanwhile, has been distancing itself from J Street. When its ambassador, Oren, refused to attend the annual J Street dinner, Israeli embassy spokesman Yoni Peled told the Jerusalem Post his government has some "concern over certain [J Street] policies that could impair Israel's interests."
The Powerline blog previously documented how far-leftist Israelis are influential in the J Street leadership, including former Knesset Speaker Avrum Burg, who generated controversy when he stated, "To define the state of Israel as a Jewish state is the key to its end."
Another key J Street member, Mideast expert Henry Siegman, has compared Israel to apartheid South Africa.
Rosenthal was anti-war activist
WND recently reported Rosenthal was a 1960s anti-war activist and community organizer whose husband worked with the founder of a socialist party, of which, according to documentary evidence, Obama was a member.
Hannah Rosenthal, a former Health Department regional director under the Clinton administration, started her position last month as the State Department's special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism. She previously headed the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, an umbrella U.S. Jewish organization.
Rosenthal was a community organizer who became involved in the anti-war and civil-rights movements in the 1960s.
Her husband, Richard Phelps, is an executive from Wisconsin. In Madison, with 1.5 percent unemployment, Phelps worked with University of Wisconsin professor and socialist activist Joel Rogers to create a pilot program through the blue-ribbon Economic Summit Council to train workers and match skills with jobs.
That same year, while running for a seat in the Illinois Senate as a Democrat, Obama actively sought and received the endorsement of the socialist New Party, according to confirmed reports during last year's presidential campaign. Rogers was founder of the New Party.
The New Party worked alongside the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, or ACORN. The New Party's aim was to help elect politicians who espoused its policies. Among New Party members was linguist and radical activist Noam Chomsky.
Obama's campaign last year denied the then-presidential candidate was ever an actual member of the New Party.
But the New Zeal blog dug up print copies of the New Party News, the party's official newspaper, which show Obama posing with New Party leaders, listing him as a New Party member and printing quotes from him as a member.
The party's spring 1996 newspaper boasted: "New Party members won three other primaries this Spring in Chicago: Barack Obama (State Senate), Michael Chandler (Democratic Party Committee) and Patricia Martin (Cook County Judiciary)."
The paper quoted Obama saying, "These victories prove that small-'d' democracy can work."
The newspaper lists other politicians it endorsed who were not members but specifies Obama as a New Party member.
New Ground, the newsletter of Chicago's Democratic Socialists of America, reported in its July/August 1996 edition that Obama attended a New Party membership meeting April 11, 1996, in which he expressed his gratitude for the group's support and "encouraged (New Party members) to join in his task forces on voter education and voter registration."
A former top member of the New Party recounted in a WND e-mail interview Obama's participation with his organization.
"A subcommittee met with (Obama) to interview him to see if his stand on the living wage and similar reforms was the same as ours," recalled Marxist activist Carl Davidson.
"We determined that our views on these overlapped, and we could endorse his campaign in the Democratic Party," Davidson said.
Davidson was a Chicago member and activist within the New Party. He told WND he handled some of the New Party member databases and attended most of the party's meetings.
Davidson is also a notorious far-left activist and former radical national leader in the anti-Vietnam movement. He served as national secretary for the infamous Students for a Democratic Society anti-war group, from which the Weatherman domestic terrorist organization later splintered.
Davidson remembers Obama attending one New Party meeting to thank attendees for voting for him.
Davidson said that to his knowledge Obama was not a member of the New Party "in any practical way" – using qualifying language.
Becoming a New Party member required some effort on behalf of the politician. Candidates must be approved by the party's political committee and, once approved, must sign a contract mandating they will have a "visible and active relationship" with the party.
Asked whether Obama signed the New Party contract, Davidson replied there was "no need for him to do so."
"At the end of our session with him, we simply affirmed there was no need to do so, because on all the key points, the stand of his campaign and the New Party reform planks were practically the same," Davidson told WND.
The socialist-oriented goals of the New Party were enumerated on its old website. Among the New Party's stated objectives were "full employment, a shorter work week and a guaranteed minimum income for all adults; a universal 'social wage' to include such basic benefits as health care, child care, vacation time and lifelong access to education and training; a systematic phase-in of comparable worth and like programs to ensure gender equity."
The New Party stated it also sought "the democratization of our banking and financial system – including popular election of those charged with public stewardship of our banking system, worker-owner control over their pension assets [and] community-controlled alternative financial institutions."
Many of the New Party's founding members were Democratic Socialists of America leaders and members of Committees of Correspondence, a breakaway of the Communist Party USA.
The New Party, established in 1992, took advantage of what was known as electoral "fusion," which enabled candidates to run on two tickets simultaneously, attracting voters from both parties. But the New Party went defunct in 1998, one year after fusion was halted by the Supreme Court.
According to DSA documents, the New Party worked with ACORN to promote its candidates. ACORN, convicted in massive, nationwide voter-fraud cases, has been a point of controversy for Obama over the presidential candidate's ties to the group.
In 1995, the DSA's New Ground newsletter stated, "In Chicago, the New Party's biggest asset and biggest liability is ACORN.
"Like most organizations, ACORN is a mixed bag," the newsletter said. "On one hand, in Chicago, ACORN is a group that attempts to organize some of the most depressed communities in the city. Chicago organizers for ACORN and organizers for SEIU Local 880 have been given modest monthly recruitment quotas for new New Party members. On the other hand, like most groups that depend on canvassing for fundraising, it's easy enough to find burned out and disgruntled former employees. And ACORN has not had the reputation for being interested in coalition politics – until recently and, happily, not just within the New Party."
Aside from founding the New Party, Rogers also was co-founder of the Apollo Alliance, a group of U.S. business, labor, environmental, and community leaders which reportedly aided in the drafting of Obama's stimulus and cap and trade bills.