Bipartisan Legislation would Elevate Status of U.S. Official to Combat Antisemitism Abroad

Human Rights First welcomed the introduction of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Act of 2017 bill in the Senate. The bipartisan bill is cosponsored by Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) , and is a companion bill to a version currently being considered in the House of Representatives. The bill would elevate the position of the special envoy to the rank of ambassador and clarify the office’s role as primary advisor for U.S. government on efforts to monitor and combat antisemitism abroad.

The Office of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, when filled and fully staffed, performs critical work documenting and preventing incidents and crimes against Jewish communities.

“At a time when antisemitism is on the rise both abroad and here in the United States, Congress’s work to elevate the position of the special envoy to the rank of ambassador is an important indicator that the United States takes antisemitism seriously, and intends devote greater efforts to make the world safer for Jews” said Human Rights First’s Susan Corke. “We are inspired by a strong show of bipartisan agreement that eliminating hatred, discrimination, and bias-motivated violence against Jews and other vulnerable groups should remain a key component of our foreign policy.”

The Office of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, established in 2004 under the Global Anti-Semitism Review Act, performs critical work documenting bias-motivated incidents against Jewish communities, designing and implementing mechanisms to better combat antisemitism, and building relationships with Jewish communities and civil society organizations around the world. The special envoy is a major contributor to the State Department’s annual Human Rights Report and International Religious Freedom Report, two important resources for documenting human rights abuses against Jewish communities abroad. While today’s bill, if passed, would raise the profile of the Office of the Special Envoy, Human Rights First notes that the bill should be accompanied by parallel efforts providing adequate resources and staffing.

In March 2017 Human Rights First, along with a bipartisan group of 167 members of Congress and 12 supporting organizations, urged President Trump to prioritize filling the role. The call came amid increasing divisive antisemitic, populist, and xenophobic rhetoric in both the United States and Europe.

Human Rights First also calls on the administration to appoint and fully resource a new special representative to Muslim communities. The State Department position, established in 2009, acts as the U.S. government’s liaison with Muslim communities around the world to advance U.S. foreign policy goals, including religious freedom, combating intolerance, and countering extremism. The combined efforts of the special representative and the special envoy to, present a powerful and effective way to combat antisemitism, anti-Muslim bigotry, and extremism.

“Congress is sending a strong signal that America stands against hate and for inclusive democracy by elevating the position of the special envoy to the rank of ambassador,” added Corke. “We applaud this effort and encourage Congress and the Trump Administration to take additional steps to ensure that human rights are the bedrock of American foreign policy.”

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