Donald Trump defies calls to appoint envoy to combat anti-Semitism around the world | The Independent

Interesting that his issue is getting more widespread coverage (Jewish and Israeli media have been covering this extensively). Hard to understand the reluctance to appoint both the envoy and maintain the staff (one can make the argument, as Tillerson has, that special envoys let other officials off the hook but overall, the absence of an envoy and staff means a lower profile domestically and internationally):

Donald Trump has defied calls to appoint a special envoy to combat anti-Semitism across the world despite growing pressure from Jewish groups and Congress.

The two remaining staffers in the US State Department’s office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism are reportedly set to be reassigned next month, which will leave the branch completely unstaffed after 1 July.

Officials are yet to comment on the reported move, but insist they remain committed to fighting discrimination against Jews.

President Trump is legally required to appoint a Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, a position created under former president George W. Bush.

Members of Congress from the Republican and Democrat parties have urged his administration to strengthen the office’s status in letters and proposed bills.

But earlier this month Secretary of State Rex Tillerson told them special envoys were not productive and said appointing one could weaken efforts to tackle anti-Semitism.

The US State Department said they had produced annual reports about human rights and religious freedom before the office was created in 2004, according to the Jewish Telegraphic Agency(JTA).

They told the JTA: “We want to ensure the Department is addressing anti-Semitism in the most effective and efficient method possible and will continue to endeavor to do so.

“The Department of State condemns attacks on Jewish communities and individuals. We consistently urge governments around the world to address and condemn anti-Semitism and work with vulnerable Jewish communities to assess and provide appropriate levels of security.

“The Department, our Embassies, and our Consulates support extensive bilateral, multilateral, and civil society outreach to Jewish communities.

“Additionally, the State Department continues to devote resources towards programs combating anti-Semitism online and off, as well as building NGO coalitions in Europe.

“We also closely monitor global anti-Semitism and report on it in our Country Reports on Human Rights Practices and International Religious Freedom Report, which document global anti-Semitism in 199 countries.”

The Anti-Defamation League has launched an online petition calling for the White House to fill the position.

The group’s CEO John Greenblatt said “maintaining the special envoy for anti-Semitism seems like a no-brainer” in an interview with the JTA.

“The idea of having a dedicated envoy who can travel around the world to raise awareness on this issue is critical,” he added.

Source: Donald Trump defies calls to appoint envoy to combat anti-Semitism around the world | The Independent

Tillerson retreats from pledge to fill anti-Semitism envoy post | The Times of Israel

While I understand Tillerson’s arguments (Canada has had similar debates over special ambassadors/envoys in the past), the politics will be interesting to watch:

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson retreated from his department’s commitment to fill the post of envoy to combat anti-Semitism, saying the effort may be more effective without one.

“One of the questions I’ve asked is, if we’re really going to affect these areas, these special areas, don’t we have to affect it through the delivery on mission at every level at every country?” Tillerson said in testimony Wednesday to the foreign operations subcommittee of the US House of Representatives Appropriations Committee. “And by having a special envoy, one of my experiences is, mission then says, ‘oh, we’ve got somebody else that does,’ and then they stop doing it.”

Since Congress established the position with a 2004 law, the role of the envoy has been to train career State Department officers and diplomats in identifying and combating anti-Semitism and to encourage embassies and bureaus to more closely monitor anti-Semitism. The envoy has not functioned as a stand-alone entity but rather is part of the Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, and supervises about five career State Department staffers.

European Jewish community officials have said that having an envoy has delivered a message to their governments that the United States is focused on anti-Semitism.

At the subcommittee hearing, Rep. Grace Meng, D-N.Y., asked Tillerson for a timeline for the hire. Earlier this year there were reports that the Trump administration, eyeing massive budget cuts to the State Department, planned to eliminate the role. National Jewish groups and Congress members expressed outrage, and in April a State Department spokesman told JTA that the department did not in fact plan to eliminate the position and was reviewing candidates to fill it.

Lawmakers have noted that because the role was created by statute, the Trump administration cannot eliminate the post. Tillerson said he would seek to persuade Congress to cut the position if he deems it necessary.

“Those that are mandated by statute, we will be back to talk with you about those as to whether we think it’s good to have it structured that way or whether we really think we can be effective on those issues in a different way,” he said at the hearing.

Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., the ranking Democrat on the foreign operations subcommittee, was appalled by the possibility of the position being eliminated.

“It is outrageous and offensive that Secretary Tillerson would even suggest appointing a Special Envoy for Monitoring and Combating Anti-Semitism is unnecessary, particularly given that his State Department committed to filling the post back in April,” she said in an email to JTA. “As reports of hate crimes against Jews continue to rise in the United States and around the world, it is essential that Secretary Tillerson fill the Special Envoy position immediately.”

Bipartisan legislation under consideration would enhance the position to ambassador level.

Source: Tillerson retreats from pledge to fill anti-Semitism envoy post | The Times of Israel

Holocaust Organizations, Scholars Slam Possible Defunding of Anti-Semitism Office

Will be surprising if the Trump administration pursues defunding as they should have learned from previous mistakes (i.e., not mentioning Jewish victims of the Holocaust, delayed condemnation of antisemitic acts and hate crimes). But who knows:

As President Donald Trump prepared to enter the White House, reports began to circulate about what his first budget proposal would look like. The day before his inauguration, The Hill reported on plans of the incoming administration to make drastic cuts in government spending, including the elimination of the National Endowment for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Humanities and reductions in funding and program eliminations within the Departments of Commerce, Energy, Transportation, Justice and State.

Within this last department, Bloomberg reported late last month, the administration was considering whether to eliminate several special envoys, including one on anti-Semitism. On Monday, more than 100 Holocaust organizations, educators and scholars released a statement in response, following similar efforts by the American Jewish Committee, the Simon Wiesenthal Center and U.S. Representative Chris Smith (R-N.J.). William L. Shulman, president of the Association of Holocaust Organizations, tells Newsweek it took the intervening time to put together the statement, edit it and circulate it for signatures.

“We are alarmed by reports that the President plans to defund the US State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, an office that tracks and counteracts anti-Semitism abroad,” the Association of Holocaust Organizations wrote. “We urge the U.S. government to maintain and strengthen the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism and to create a new office to address this urgent issue domestically.

The office in question was created via the Global Anti-Semitism Review Act of 2004, which expressed “the sense of Congress [that] the United States should continue to support efforts to combat anti-Semitism worldwide through bilateral relationships and interaction with international organizations such as the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE)” and that “the Department of State should thoroughly document acts of anti-Semitism that occur around the world.” The act directed the Secretary of State to establish an Office to Monitor and Combat anti-Semitism, which would be headed by a special envoy, to take on the role of tracking, reporting on and combating anti-Semitism.

“Anti-Semitism is not only a Jewish problem,” Ira Forman, who served as the most recent Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism under former President Barack Obama, is quoted as saying in the release. “Jew-hatred—like other forms of religious and ethnic prejudice—is a threat to the very foundations of liberal democracies.” Speaking to Jewish Insider about the possible defunding, Forman said, “I can’t believe someone at the White House won’t have better sense than to realize that this is a disaster…. This is as bipartisan an issue as you can get, and I just hope folks at the White House come to their senses.”

Source: Holocaust Organizations, Scholars Slam Possible Defunding of Anti-Semitism Office