The Senate has confirmed the appointment of Professor Deborah Lipstadt as President Biden’s Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism. She now faces the task of addressing rising anti-Semitism throughout the world. It’s a big job, but she should be assigned to do even more. Anti-Semitism is rising in America as well.
Lipstadt is a strong choice for the post. A renowned Holocaust historian and anti-Semitism scholar, she has been a fierce defender of the Jewish people and a courageous opponent of Jew-hatred. Of particular importance, she has a history of condemning anti-Semitism from all its ideological sources: far right, radical left, and militant Islam.
Congress created this post in 2004 and elevated it to the rank of ambassador in 2020. In doing so, lawmakers rightly sought to address the unique threats posed by Jew-hatred, not only to Jews but to America and to civilization itself. However, the statutory framework defines the role as focusing solely on anti-Semitism outside of the United States.
When I served as the Special Envoy, President Trump tasked me with an added role: combating domestic anti-Semitism. This additional portfolio was never formalized, primarily because the office is funded through foreign appropriations. With his Special Envoy now in place, President Biden should work with congressional appropriators to add this critical portfolio to Lipstadt’s mandate.
Tragically, domestic anti-Semitism appears to be worsening. Recent FBI statistics show that although Jews comprise only 2% of the American population, hate crimes against Jews amount to 60% of all religious-based hate crimes. In its most recent Audit of Antisemitic Incidents, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), recorded a 12% increase in acts of assault, vandalism, and harassment against Jews, marking the highest number of such incidents since the ADL began tracking this in 1979. And recent polling conducted by the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law found that a stunning 65% of university students active in Jewish organizations felt unsafe on campus because of physical or verbal attacks; half felt the need to conceal their Jewish identity or support for Israel for the sake of their safety.
We cannot expect to succeed in reversing the rise in domestic anti-Semitism unless we place someone in charge of the task. Here are five reasons the Special Envoy is the government official best positioned to lead that effort.
First, in the United States as well as globally, the rise in anti-Semitism is fueled by three ideological camps. Far right ethnic supremacists have committed murderous attacks on Jewish targets from California to Germany. On both sides of the Atlantic, the radical left has besieged Jewish students on many campuses and injected overt anti-Semitism into center-left political parties. Militant Islamists have ravaged Jewish communities in the Americas, Europe, and the Middle East. Treating the problem of anti-Semitism within the United States as different from the foreign phenomenon will only frustrate our need to meet the global threat with coordinated, focused, global solutions.
Second, Jew-hatred today is spread mainly by the internet and social media. These stateless vehicles transmit venomous ideology globally at the speed of a click. Because such technologies are so central to spreading anti-Semitism, I recruited an assistant special envoy whose exclusive responsibility was the internet — in effect, its own worldwide domain. In the borderless battlefield of cyberspace, one cannot practically distinguish between foreign and domestic anti-Semitism; to combat either is to combat both.
Third, interagency coordination is essential, which is why the Trump administration ran this effort out of the White House Domestic Policy Council. The domestic fight requires support from the Department of Justice, in regard to hate crimes; the Department of Homeland Security, to protect Jewish communities and allocate resources through the Nonprofit Security Grant Program; and the Department of Education, especially concerning enforcement of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act when Jewish students face discrimination and harassment. The Special Envoy has the expertise, perspective, rank, and now increased staffing to serve in that coordinating role.
Fourth, by leading our domestic efforts, the Special Envoy becomes a more effective diplomat overseas. Credibility is an important diplomatic currency. In my meetings with foreign leaders, our ability to set forth priorities in confronting domestic anti-Semitism allowed us to obtain greater cooperation from our foreign partners.
Finally, the Special Envoy is the Administration’s face in the fight against anti-Semitism. Audiences here at home want to know what is being done to protect by far the world’s largest diaspora Jewish community. “That’s not my department,” is not the kind of answer that inspires confidence. Jewish communities in the United States and overseas are genuinely afraid. America needs an ambassador who will show the world that she is fighting against the scourge of Jew-hatred everywhere.
This piece originally appeared in RealClearPolicy