The position of special envoy to combat anti-semitism has been left empty, prompting religious liberty advocates to urge the Trump administration to fill it before it becomes inactive.
The Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism will be officially unstaffed as of July 1, with the administration yet to name an envoy to the office and the two remaining staffers slated for reassignment. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson testified before Congress about the administration’s hesitancy to fill the posting, citing concerns that a special envoy as the focal point would weaken the focus on anti-semitism throughout the administration. Dr. Katrina Swett, daughter of the late California Democratic Rep. Tom Lantos, who created the position in 2004 and was the only Holocaust survivor to serve in Congress, disagrees.
“I think failure to fill that post sends a troubling message to friends and foes alike that this administration is downgrading its focus on fighting anti-semitism,” Swett told The Daily Caller News Foundation. “Anti-semitism is more virulent than it has been in quite some time, and its growing. It’s not decreasing, and so, to send a message like that, even if that was not your intention, and even if you felt that, ‘well, we’re going to try to do other things to show that that’s not our intention,’ it would still be enormously damaging.”
A special envoy would help better organize and mobilize efforts as the “tip of the sword” to focus on and combat anti-semitism on a global scale, according to Swett.
Groups like the Anti-Defamation League have filed petitions lobbying for the envoy position to be filled. Sens. Marco Rubio and Kirsten Gillibrand also filed a bill to raise the status of the envoy position to that of an ambassador. Swett sent a letters to Tillerson and to Trump, which urged the administration “to move swiftly to nominate individuals to fill these important posts,” referencing not only the special envoy position but also the Ambassador-at-Large for International Religious Freedom, which the administration has also left empty.
Past envoys in this office have made enormous strides in helping the U.S. government, and governments around the world, combat new forms of anti-semitism, according to Swett. She mentioned the works of past envoys Hannah Rosenthal and Ira Forman as examples of the office’s recent important achievements.
Rosenthal officially defined “new anti-Semitism,” as an effort to demonize, delegitimize, and apply a double standard to Israel, but which poses as legitimate criticism of the country. Forman traveled around the world to help governments cooperate with the U.S. to combat anti-semitic attacks and in one instance traveled to France for this purpose, in the wake of the Islamic attack on a kosher grocery store following the Charlie Hebdo attack.
Swett told TheDCNF she feels strongly about the need to fill this position “as a daughter of the only survivor of the Holocaust ever to serve in Congress.”
“And it feels very disrespectful to his memory that this post, which has been established by Congress and which has done very important work, would just be sort of left vacant and left to atrophy,” Swett said. “And Its not only disrespectful, I think, to my late father’s memory, but frankly to all of those who have fought very hard against antisemitism on so many fronts for so long.”
If the position is unstaffed by July 1, the Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism will remain, as the office was legislatively created, but will be officially inactive.
Neither Trump nor Tillerson have responded to Swett’s letters at this time.
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