Is Hannah Rosenthal, the State Department’s new anti-Semitism czar, doomed to become the next Van Jones—an administration official whose impolitic comments force her departure? Last week, she told Haaretz that Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren’s recent criticism of the progressive Israel lobbying group J Street was “most unfortunate.” The remarks prompted several Jewish leaders to complain; Alan Solow, the Chicago Democrat who chairs the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, opined that Rosenthal went “beyond her responsibilities.” Meanwhile, the Israeli government requested clarification, and, late on Christmas Eve, they got it: Obama’s Assistant Secretary for Near Eastern Affairs asserted, “The Department of State deeply values its close relationship with Ambassador Michael Oren and his staff.” In other words, Rosenthal got some clarification, too.
Tablet Magazine reached Rosenthal earlier today at home in Madison, Wisconsin, where she is busy packing up her furniture for the move to Washington, D.C., later this week. She declined to comment on the furor her comments provoked, except to say that she believes the original Haaretz headline—which said she “blasted” Oren—exaggerated what she actually said, which was that she thought it “most unfortunate” that Oren apparently thinks J Street’s dovish policy positions could put the lives of Israeli Jews at risk.
“The interview focused on what is and what isn’t anti-Semitism,” Rosenthal said. “I don’t think a reporter asking me about J Street is out of bounds, and I don’t think my answer was out of bounds.”
Related: The Anti-Anti-Semite [Tablet Magazine]