Hannah Rosenthal is the United States' Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism. In this role, said Ms. Rosenthal, "I have been tracking anti-Semitism around the world, and have witnessed its alarming presence and growth."
No government, said Ms. Rosenthal, should produce materials that are intolerant of members of any religious, racial, or ethnic group, or teach such intolerance as part of its educational curriculum. The Department of State continues to shine the light on governments that use such hateful lessons and textbooks, which call Jews the children of apes and pigs and promote the Protocols of the Elders of Zion --a fraudulent anti-Semitic text purporting to describe a Jewish plan for achieving global domination.
"One of my primary goals this year," said Ms. Rosenthal, is to address the issue of intolerance in textbooks and in the media in the Middle East." It is critical to educate youth about the Holocaust – the systematic murder of 6 million Jews during World War Two. Most national curricula in Middle East Countries unfortunately do not teach about the Holocaust. Some even include verses from the Quran that they use to justify intolerance and violence against non-Muslims, primarily Jews and Christians.
On her recent trip to the Middle East, Special Envoy Rosenthal met with government officials in Saudi Arabia to discuss the intolerance in many of their textbooks. Ms. Rosenthal also met with Saudi religious and education scholars about the need to teach about the Holocaust.
In Jordan, government officials and scholars are creating a curriculum to mix students of different religions and cultures. A Melkite Catholic priest has worked with the American embassy against hatred of Muslims and Jews by bringing religious leaders to the United States on an exchange program.
In Lebanon, nongovernmental organizations and students are working on Christian-Muslim dialogue. One professor is trying to fight sectarianism among the youths of Lebanon who came of age during the Lebanese civil war when differences among religious groups caused grave divisions in society.
Important efforts to combat religious intolerance in Middle East are underway, but much more still needs to be done to ensure that respect for religious minorities is the norm rather than the exception.