ADL, Jewish groups in rare move press Senate to ‘immediately’ consider antisemitism envoy
Jewish and anti-hate-speech groups in the U.S. are pressing lawmakers to quickly move forward on considering President Biden’s nominee for the position of special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, Deborah Lipstadt.
Republicans are delaying her confirmation hearing, citing concerns over Lipstadt’s tweets, including some that they say targeted members of the committee.
In a letter sent Thursday, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), Jewish Federations for North America and the Union of Orthodox Jewish North America Congregations of America, said “The global Jewish community needs the United States to be a leader in the fight against antisemitism and we must not waste more time leaving our lead official in this fight off the field.”
The ADL is the preeminent anti-hate speech and crime monitoring group that was born out of tracking antisemitism. The Jewish Federations represents 300 Jewish communities in the U.S. and Canada and the Orthodox Union is the largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization in the U.S.
The letter was sent to Sens. Bob Menendez (D-N.J.) and Jim Risch (R-Idaho), the chair and ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, which is responsible for convening the confirmation hearing for Lipstadt.
The groups wrote in their letter that they rarely advocate in favor of or against nominees, but were compelled to speak out given the dire state of antisemitism in the U.S. They endorsed Lipstadt’s qualifications for the position, as a renowned professor of Jewish history and Holocaust studies and legal victories against Holocaust deniers.
“Antisemitism continues to be a scourge across the globe. Presently, individual Jews are harassed and assaulted on city streets, synagogues are subject to vandalism, and various lawmakers press legislation to ban fundamental Jewish practices including the production of kosher meat and ritual circumcision,” they wrote.
“Prof. Lipstadt has a long and well-documented history of fighting anti-Semitism and all forms of racism. She has a record of calling out antisemitism in all its forms, from both the left and the right,” they added.
Menendez, as chair of the committee, has the power to schedule confirmation hearings but said during a business meeting on Wednesday that he seeks to preserve comity with Republicans by scheduling hearings on consensus with the ranking member.
Yet he also chastised GOP lawmakers for delaying Lipstadt’s confirmation hearing.
“The minority has refused to grant her a hearing, apparently because there is some concern about her tweets calling up the use of antisemitic tropes,” Menendez said during the business meeting.
“Let’s think about that a minute. We don’t want the person nominated to advance our global efforts against antisemitism to call out antisemitism? I sincerely hope that’s not the position of the minority.”
Risch told Jewish Insider on Wednesday that the committee has to review “carefully” Lipstadt’s twitter account, raising concern that the Jewish scholar had targeted members of the committee.
“She has said enough things on Twitter that it needs to be reviewed carefully — particularly about members of the committee, which is always quite sensitive,” Risch told the newsletter. “So we’ll get through that. … You’re going to see them all, I suspect, before it’s over with.”
In at least one tweet, Lipstadt described Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), a member of the Foreign Relations committee, as trafficking in “white supremacy/nationalism,” and shared an Haaretz article with the headline “GOP Senator Johnson slammed as ‘white nationalist sympathizer’ after race remarks.”
This is white supremacy/nationalism. Pure and simple. GOP Senator Johnson slammed as ‘white nationalist sympathizer’ after race remarks https://t.co/9vaBQsqK7J
— Deborah E. Lipstadt (@deborahlipstadt) March 14, 2021
The article referred to criticism Johnson received after the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol, where a mob of largely white supporters of former President Trump violently disrupted Congress’s certification of the election results in favor of President Biden’s victory.
Johnson said in an interview with a radio show host in March that he wasn’t concerned about the rioters, but would have felt threatened if they were supporters of Black Lives Matter and “antifa,” referring to far-left-leaning protesters described as anti-fascists who target neo-Nazis and white supremacists at demonstrations.
Menendez at the time criticized Johnson’s remarks as “racist”.