Bold choice for new anti-Semitism envoy?

Friday, November 20th, 2009

It’s looking more and more like Hannah Rosenthal, the former executive director of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs (JCPA), will be the new State Department special emissary on anti-Semitism; her appointment could be announced as early as today, sources here say.

That looks to me like an intriguing, out-of-the-box selection.

Rosenthal, an unabashed progressive who tried to take JCPA in a more liberal direction on a number of domestic issues, will be an inviting target for the Jewish right – all the more so because she was an early supporter of J Street, the pro-peace process lobby and political action committee that continues to be the punching-bag-of-choice of major pro-Israel leaders.

Right wing bloggers are already howling. What did they think, President Obama would appoint a Jewish neo-con to the post?

But Rosenthal is also deeply committed to Jewish issues, knows her way around the Jewish community and she has a history of the kind of activism that could make the State Department office a much livelier place.

“She’s an activist who doesn’t back down,” said a former colleague.  “But she’s also very, very persuasive.  It’s a great choice.”

Rosenthal also has a history of challenging the old-boys network that dominates the Jewish communal leadership – which will make her new role doubly interesting when some former colleagues come calling at the State Department.

My own guess: Rosenthal will  be very aggressive and focused in fighting anti-Semitism around the world. At the same time, she will likely view anti-Semitism as one of numerous human rights issues U.S. policy needs to address more actively, not as a totally separate problem.

That could make her more successful internationally but more controversial within the Jewish community here.

About the Author
Douglas M. Bloomfield is a syndicated columnist, Washington lobbyist and consultant. He spent nine years as the legislative director and chief lobbyist for AIPAC.