On his relationship towards Jews, President Donald Trump can speak of the personal, professional, and political ties that include his daughter, the embassy in Jerusalem, its ambassador who previously served as his bankruptcy lawyer, and his late father, who contributed towards the building of a couple of synagogues in Brooklyn. Perhaps for all of these examples, the vacancy in the State Department’s Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism is so striking.
“The Special Envoy has played a unique and important role in the effort against anti-Semitism and for human rights,” Assemblywoman Nily Rozic wrote in a July 31 letter to the president. “As a state legislator representing communities in Queens that have seen a concerning rise in anti-Semitic incidents over the past two years, I write to again ask that you fill the vacancy.”
Perhaps for all of these examples, the vacancy
in the State Department’s Special Envoy to Monitor
and Combat Anti-Semitism is so striking
The position was created in 2004 by Congress and submitted reports on anti-Semitic incidents across the world. These included honors given to Nazi collaborators in Eastern European states, anti-Semitic speeches and articles written by nationalist candidates, and vandalism of cemeteries and monuments. The envoy served as a Holocaust educator, watchdog, and diplomat, while demonstrating the country’s resolve to take anti-Semitism seriously. The last envoy, Ira Forman, retired along with President Barack Obama on January 20, 2017.
“America plays an essential role in the fight against anti-Semitism, but this role has been hamstrung for well over a year,” said ADL spokesman Todd Gutnick in a statement. “Giving the near daily reports of anti-Semitic attacks and incidents across Europe and elsewhere, there’s no better time for a capable and dedicated individual in this post to spur diplomatic efforts to stem anti-Semitism abroad.”
Back in May, the ADL and Human Rights First circulated a letter addressed to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo requesting to fill the vacancy. It was cosponsored by more than a dozen organizations, which include Agudath Israel of America and the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York.
Perhaps in his desire to reduce the size of government, President Trump does not feel that this position is needed, and its tasks could be performed by other units within the State Department and his Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom Sam Brownback. Maybe the vacancy is part of his America First policy of non-interference in the internal matters of other countries. But until either Secretary Pompeo or President Trump has a statement on the vacancy, we can only guess.
The United States has long served as a beacon and example in defending vulnerable minority groups. In a time when the boundary between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism is blurred in Britain, while Jews young and old are murdered in France by religious fanatics, and when the president of Turkey spews wild conspiracy theories and Nazi comparisons towards Israel, the need to fill the anti-Semitism envoy position is more needed than ever. Two weeks ago, Rabbi Yoel Schonfeld wrote about his British cousins’ experience back home, where a yarmulke in public results in a “guaranteed anti-Semitic remark.”
When the Jerusalem embassy opened in May, many Jewish supporters of President Trump noted that not only was a promise fulfilled, but a law passed by Congress with overwhelming bipartisan support was not being followed. Likewise, the position of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism is also a matter of law. To be consistent and respectful of the legislative branch, President Trump should fill this position and demonstrate that combating anti-Semitism must remain not only a matter of his personal approach, but a tool of diplomacy, as well.
By Sergey Kadinsky