State Department Aims to Soon Name Envoy to Combat Anti-Semitism

Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., is one of the lawmakers urging the Trump administration to fill the position. Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., is one of the lawmakers urging the Trump administration to fill the position. J. Scott Applewhite/AP file photo

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson is moving to make good on a promise to fill the legally mandated but long-vacant position of special envoy for the Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism.

In a statement to Government Executive on Wednesday, a State Department spokesman said, “The Trump administration considers the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism to be a crucial position, and hopes to announce an appointment soon.”

The envoy, established by the 2004 Global Anti-Semitism Review Act, works with State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor to produce annual reports on human rights practices and international religious freedom.

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Tillerson ruffled feathers among some lawmakers and Jewish advocacy groups last June when he told Congress that his decision to reduce the number of special envoys and transfer their functions to bureaus might achieve greater continuity to tasks such as confronting anti-Semitism.

Two veterans of that office challenged Tillerson’s suggestion in a Washington Post op-ed. 

Some 116 House Members led by Reps. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., and Chris Smith, R-N.J., sent a letter urging President Trump to keep the office staffed. Separately, Sen. Ben Cardin, D-Md., the senior Democrat on the Foreign Relations Committee, wrote Trump urging him to name an anti-Semitism envoy and a White House liaison to the Jewish community.

“These officials have been critical for working with all levels of government, including multilateral organizations to facilitate the protection of, address stereotypes and prejudice towards, and provide education and community and coalition building tools for the wider public on and with Jewish communities, including Jewish-American heritage,” Cardin said in July.

The Anti-Defamation League, upset that the envoy position had been vacant since January 2017, launched a petition favoring keeping the position. It was delivered to the State Department with 4,830 signatures. The league’s CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said, “We know firsthand that this role is critical to fighting anti-Semitism and it is vital that the United States continue to manifest its leadership in fighting hate around the world.”

Tillerson then wrote to Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., to confirm that the special envoy Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism position would be retained. It will be returned to State’s Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, with $130,000 in funding for two positions.

Separately, on Tuesday, the White House learned that the Senate is asking it to resubmit for the second session of the 115th Congress some 200 previous nominations never approved. According to Senate rules, all unconfirmed nominees must be resubmitted—unless the Senate specifically votes to hold them over.

Among those on the resubmission list are nominees for five ambassadorships, four high-level State Department manager slots, nine Foreign Service Officer positions and a United Nations alternative representative. Also on the list is Scott Garrett, the nominee to lead the Export-Import Bank of the United States who was rejected in a vote by the Senate Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs Committee.

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