New York, NY, May 22, 2018 … Human Rights First and the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), in partnership with a bipartisan coalition of organizations and individuals, today called on Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to nominate and immediately fill two positions critical to the protection of human rights abroad. The Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism and the Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights and Labor, both positions within the State Department, are integral to the United States maintaining its moral obligation as a world leader. The anti-Semitism envoy position has remained vacant for more than 15 months, even as a disturbing series of anti-Semitic incidents and events have taken place in France, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere. The groups’ call came in a letter signed by more than 20 organizations and more than 25 prominent individuals, including former officials.
“America plays an essential role in the fight against anti-Semitism, but this role has been hamstrung for well over a year while these positions have sat vacant,” said Jonathan A. Greenblatt, ADL CEO. “We believe that a capable and dedicated individual in the post can make a crucial difference by spurring diplomatic efforts to stem the rise of anti-Semitism, coordinate and collaborate with Jewish groups documenting worldwide anti-Semitism, and respond in moments of crisis.”
Elisa Massimino, President and CEO of Human Rights First, added, “We view antisemitism as a grave threat to human rights. And at a time of resurgent anti-Semitism, American leadership is essential. Such leadership demands filling these senior positions. In the face of a rising tide of hate, we cannot afford further delay.”
Six bipartisan congressional letters and numerous letters from civil society organizations have been sent to the Trump Administration about the anti-Semitism position remaining vacant, including one last week from 41 senators and another signed by more than one thousand U.S. clergy and religious leaders. Last week, the House Foreign Affairs Committee unanimously approved a bill emphasizing the importance of the anti-Semitism envoy, calling for the position to be elevated to the rank of ambassador. Another letter circulated by co-chairs of the House’s Bipartisan Taskforce on Combating Anti-Semitism earlier this week had more than one hundred signatures calling for the envoy position to be filled. Former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson recommitted to filling the post in August 2017—yet failed to fill the post before his departure.
The absence of a respected and capable figure in this post is particularly troubling given a resurgence in anti-Semitic events and incidents in many countries. For example, violent anti-Semitic assaults increased 34 percent in Britain in 2017 and 26 percent in France. Incidents of anti-Semitic vandalism doubled in Canada last year, and in March, an 85-year-old French Holocaust survivor was brutally murdered in her home because she was Jewish.
Among the other organizations signing on to the joint letter are Agudath Israel of America, B’nai B’rith International, Hadassah, HIAS, Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, Jewish Council for Public Affairs, Jewish Democratic Council of America, The Lantos Foundation for Human Rights and Justice, National Coalition Supporting Eurasian Jewry, the Rabbinical Assembly for Social Justice Issues, and the Union of Councils for Jews in the Former Soviet Union.
Some of the individuals signing on include former U.S. Special Envoys to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Ira Forman and Hannah Rosenthal; former U.S. representative to the U.N.’s Economic and Social Council Ambassador Sarah Mendelson; former member of Congress and former Chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Howard Berman; and former U.S. Ambassador to Israel Daniel B. Shapiro.