The Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism and the position of special envoy were created by an act of Congress and signed into law by President George W. Bush in 2004. Over the past several years, levels of anti-Semitism have gone up appreciably around the world, including in the United States.
But despite these upsetting developments, the Trump administration has still not filled the special envoy position, and the office to monitor anti-Semitism remains unstaffed.
When asked about this recently, a State Department spokeswoman stated that combating anti-Semitism remains a “priority,” but she would not commit the White House to filling the position.
We’ve been down this road before. Last summer, Jewish groups across the nation urged the administration to fill the special envoy position. A few months later, in January of this year, then-Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee that a special envoy would soon be named.
But nothing happened. At least until last week. It now seems that the pressure to appoint the special envoy is mounting.
In an open letter to Secretary of State-designate Mike Pompeo, Reps. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) and Chris Smith (R-N.J.) pushed the issue, arguing that appointment of a special envoy “is now more important than ever.” They went on to assert that “the longer this position remains empty, the more likely the U.S. commitment to combating the modern-day scourge of an ancient evil is called into question…U.S. leadership in the fight against anti-Semitism is essential, even more so now, and we cannot shirk the responsibilities that rest on our shoulders as a world leader.”
Lowey and Smith were supported by ADL CEO Jonathan A. Greenblatt, who in an open letter to the president pointed to the alarming growth of anti-Semitic assaults around the world, and urged the appointment, arguing that the special envoy is “America’s voice on anti-Semitism around the world.”
It is worth noting that this is all taking place days before Yom Hashoah, which in our community will be commemorated at the Jewish Community Center of Greater Pittsburgh on April 12. Many view the Holocaust as a singular event, whose evil and barbarity should serve as warnings against letting such genocide happen again. But the Holocaust also serves to instruct on the danger that anti-Semitism itself poses to the world.
Those who resort to blaming the Jews — an increasingly common but surprising occurrence in the “enlightened” 21st century — are not rational actors. This is why it must be fought globally; anti-Semitism infects our world, and is as detrimental to those professing it as it is to us in the Jewish community.
The special envoy position was created with bipartisan support, and remains a bipartisan cause. It should be filled now. PJC