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March 24, 2023 3:14 pm

Bipartisan House Taskforce Calls for More Funding for Antisemitism Envoy


avatar by Andrew Bernard

US Jewish academic and Holocaust expert Deborah Lipstadt addressing the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. Photo: Reuters/Sipa USA/Rod Lamkey

A bipartisan group of 83 members of Congress on Friday called for the budget of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism to be raised to $2 million per year, an increase of $500,000 over last year, in a letter to the House subcommittee responsible for funding that office.

“Antisemitism is a tangible and growing threat faced by both the American Jewish community and Jews around the world,” the letter said. “In 2019, then United Nations Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Dr. Ahmed Shaheed, published a report on antisemitism that shared ‘serious concern that the frequency of antisemitic incidents appears to be increasing in magnitude’ and that ‘antisemitism is toxic to democracy and mutual respect of citizens and threatens societies in which it goes unchallenged’ in several countries around the world. The fact that stereotypes about Jewish control of business and the financial markets, and questions of Jewish loyalty – to their country or their community – remain widespread only heightens the need for the work of the Special Envoy.”

The letter was organized by Reps. Grace Meng (D-NY), Kathy Manning (D-NC), Chris Smith (R-NJ), Susan Wild (D-PA), Maria Elvira Salazar (R-FL), David Kustoff (R-TN), Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-FL) and Don Bacon (R-NE), all of whom are members of the House Bipartisan Taskforce for Combating Antisemitism.

The office of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism is a State Department position created in 2004 that focuses on foreign antisemitism and is currently held by Deborah Lipstadt, a historian and academic who has written extensively on Holocaust denial and antisemitism.

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The letter notes that in the past two years Lipstadt has visited ten countries as part of her duties, but has had to turn down some engagements for want of funding. If approved, the new funding would be included in the fiscal year 2024 State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations bill.

The letter also requests that the bill include language asking the Secretary of State to plan “continuity of staff” so that the office of the Special Envoy can continue to operate between administrations before the Senate confirmation of a new envoy.

While the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism was created to address foreign antisemitism, Lipstadt on Tuesday at a forum of her European colleagues in Madrid said that antisemitism is on the rise at home and abroad.

“Jew-hatred is on the rise across Europe, in South America, as well as in my home, the United States,” Lipstadt said. “My predecessors in the past might have been able to travel abroad and meet with government officials and say, ‘you have a problem, and you need to take it seriously.’ Today, I cannot do that. Rather I must say, ‘WE have a problem, and just as my government is taking it seriously, so too does yours.’”

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