WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs and founding co-chair of the Bipartisan Taskforce for Combating Anti-Semitism, today joined with Reps. Christopher H. Smith (R-NJ), Bradley S. Schneider (D-IL), and Peter J. Roskam (R-IL) to introduce the bipartisan Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Act of 2017 (H.R. 1911).
“Just this week, a Jewish Community Center in Sweden closed due to security threats, tombstones were desecrated at a Jewish cemetery in France, and vandals damaged a Greek Holocaust Memorial. We continue to see the steady rise of anti-Semitic political parties in places like Hungary, Greece, and even France,” Rep. Engel said. “Since the Bush Administration, the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism at the State Department has been a watchdog for human rights abuses against the Jewish people in addition to developing and implementing policies to combat anti-Semitism wherever it rears its ugly head. Our legislation would make that position an Ambassador, underscoring the fact that combating anti-Semitism is both a moral obligation and a foreign policy priority for the United States. The Office of the Special Envoy enables the U.S. to show the world its commitment to these ideals, particularly at a time when anti-Semitism is on a dangerous rise worldwide.”
The Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Act of 2017 (H.R. 1911) would elevate the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism to that of Ambassador, with Presidential appointment and Senate confirmation, require the Special Envoy to be a person of recognized distinction in the field of combating anti-Semitism or religious freedom, direct the Special Envoy to report directly to the Secretary of State, and prohibit the Special Envoy from being double-hatted with another issue portfolio. The legislation also seeks to ensure the mandate of the Special Envoy is clear, to “serve as the primary advisor to, and coordinate efforts across, the United States Government relating to monitoring and combating anti-Semitism and anti-Semitic incitement that occur in foreign countries.”
The Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Act of 2017 is supported by the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, the Simon Wisenthal Center, the Jewish federations of North America, B’nai B’rith International, the National Coalition Supporting Eurasian Jewry, and the World Jewish Congress, North America.
The Office of the Special Envoy was created by the Global Anti-Semitism Review Act, which passed Congress with bipartisan supporting in 2004. This office has been crucial in documenting anti-Semitic incidents and human rights abuses against Jewish people abroad and developing and implementing policies designed to combat anti-Semitism. During previous Administrations—both Democratic and Republican—this office was critical in documenting human rights abuses against Jewish communities abroad as well as developing and implementing policies designed to combat anti-Semitism.
In February, recent reports suggested the Trump Administration has considered eliminating the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism at the U.S. State Department for Fiscal Year 2018, along with other critical diplomatic staff devoted to climate change and outreach to Muslim communities. In response, Rep. Engel along with 166 other colleagues wrote a letter to President Trump urging him to prioritize the appointment of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism.
The letter received broad support from outside organizations, including: The Anti-Defamation League, American Jewish Committee, B’nai B’rith International, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, National Coalition Supporting Eurasian Jewry, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, Religious Action Center for Reform Judaism, World Jewish Restitution Organization, Human Rights First, J Street, World Jewish Congress North America, and the Zionist Organization of America.