The position of Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism was established in 2004 by the Global Anti-Semitism Review Act. This position was most recently filled by Ira Forman who served as the special envoy from May 2013 until January 20, 2017 when, like all envoys appointed under President Obama, his post was not granted an extension. It has been empty since President Trump took office in January and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson said earlier this month he believed the role actually interferes with the government’s efforts to combat anti-Semitism.
“One of the questions I’ve asked is, if we’re really going to affect these areas, these special areas, don’t we have to affect it through the delivery on mission at every level at every country?” Tillerson said. “And by having a special person, an envoy out here, one of my experiences is, mission then says, ‘Oh, we’ve got somebody else that does that,’ and then they stop doing it.”
Unfortunately, closure of the Office to Combat and Monitor Anti-Semitism is slated for Saturday. The office currently has two half-time employees but they will be reassigned come July 1, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency. Human rights groups headed by the Jewish ones are making efforts to persuade the Trump administration to preserve its envoy to combat anti-Semitism. They are lobbying the administration on social media and through petitions, including one sponsored by the Anti-Defamation League. In the first three months of this year, the Anti-Defamation League stated that there were 541 incidents, among them 150 bomb threats made towards Jewish schools and centers.
Tillerson, current United States Secretary of State will soon receive a letter from Katrina Lantos Swett, whose father sponsored the legislation that created the position 13 years ago. She is a daughter of the late U.S. Rep. Tom Lantos, the only Holocaust survivor to have served in Congress. She is hoping to persuade Secretary Tillerson not to make an unnecessary mistake and she said: “It’s baffling to me that a time when we all acknowledge that anti-Semitism is a huge problem worldwide, that there wouldn’t be great eagerness to move swiftly to fill this post.”
“I can’t believe someone at the White House won’t have better sense than to realize that this is a disaster,” Forman told Jewish Insider in February. “I just can’t believe that they would even think of this given the relatively small budget needed to run this office. The office exists by legislation. It’s just a matter of someone signing up to fund it. This is as bipartisan as an issue as you can get, and I just hope folks at the White House come to their senses.”
"We want to ensure the department is addressing anti-Semitism in the most effective and efficient method possible and will continue to endeavor to do so," the State Department said in a statement.
Photo Credits: European Jewish Press