Bipartisan legislation to upgrade the status of the State Department’s envoy to combat international anti-Semitism was overwhelmingly approved in a vote in the Senate yesterday. The measure was passed by the House of Representatives last year and seems almost certain to become law.
The legislation calls for raising the position’s status to that of an official ambassador and requires it to report directly to the secretary of state.
“Anti-Semitism, unfortunately, is on the rise and we must do all we can to combat this ancient evil,” said Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL), a co-sponsor of the bill. “I welcome the passage of this important bipartisan bill that will ensure that the U.S. remains a leader in the fight against anti-Semitism worldwide.”
In addition to granting the position ambassador status, the bill, introduced more than a year ago, would also prohibit the envoy from “being doubled-hatted,” that is, filling another role in government at the same time. It does not assign any additional funding.
Other Senate sponsors include Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Bob Menendez (D-NJ), Cory Gardner (R-CO), Jacky Rosen (D-NV), and Elizabeth Warren (D-MA).
“As we have seen far too often, anti-Semitism is surging in New York State, our country, and across the world,” said Sen. Gillibrand. “We must do everything in our power to confront, and end, this growing threat. I am proud that we were able to pass this bipartisan bill to elevate the position of special envoy to the rank of ambassador in order to ensure that the State Department can monitor and help combat anti-Semitism across the globe. I will always stand with the Jewish community, and fight against hatred and prejudice in all its forms.”
The legislation was initially proposed by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), who wrote the bill that created the office of envoy to combat anti-Semitism in 2017. The move was partially prompted by the Trump administration leaving the post vacant for over a year. At the time there was speculation that then Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was considering eliminating or downsizing the position as part of a wider re-organization of the State Department.
Shortly after Mike Pompeo replaced Mr. Tillerson as secretary, he told Congress of his commitment to fill the post. The present envoy, Elan Carr, was named in February 2019. While his dossier officially charges him with dealing with matters of international anti-Semitism, amid rising domestic threats to Jews, much of his attention was also spent on American-based issues.
The office of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism is charged with studying threats to Jews abroad and with voicing concerns to foreign leaders on the state and safety of Jews in their countries.
Hannah Rosenthal, who occupied the post during President Obama’s first term, met with Swedish officials over a string of aggressive and violent anti-Semitic incidents in Malmo, a town with a large population of Muslim immigrants. Ira Forman, who was appointed by President Bush, confronted mayors of several Hungarian cities over the construction of monuments and other honors to Nazi-collaborators.
The Senate’s vote was welcomed by Jewish organizations.
“We have supported and surely welcome this important development,” Rabbi Abba Cohen, Agudath Israel of America’s Vice President for Government Affairs and Washington Director told Hamodia. “Raising the status of the State Department watchdog on anti-Semitism to ambassador will raise the profile of the issue on the world scene and in international relations, and raise the effectiveness of our nation’s efforts to monitor and combat this growing global scourge.”
Nathan Diament, Executive Director for Public Policy for the Orthodox Union, expressed hope the move would play a role in addressing rising threats facing Jews worldwide.
“The Jewish community is very grateful for the Senate’s passage of this important legislation,” he said. “Sadly, we have seen a surge of anti-Semitic incense around the world in recent years. With the passage of this legislation, the Senate is providing powerful new tools to the State Department to lead impactful international efforts to combat what has been aptly called ‘the world’s oldest form of hatred’ and roll back the tide of anti-Jewish hate.”