Biden special envoy nominee calls rise in antisemitism ‘staggering’
President Biden’s nominee for special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism on Wednesday said the increase in antisemitism across the nation is “staggering.”
Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt appeared before the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations for her confirmation hearing on Wednesday, more than six months after Biden nominated her to the ambassador-rank post.
Senate Democrats had accused Republicans of holding up Lipstadt’s confirmation because of concerns regarding some of her past tweets, according to a December report from CNN.
One post reportedly in question was from March 2021, when Lipstadt wrote on Twitter that Sen. Ron Johnson’s (R-Wis.) comments on the Jan. 6, 2021, Capitol riot were “white supremacy/nationalism. Pure and simple.”
Wednesday’s confirmation hearing, however, comes after some Jewish groups placed pressure on senators to hold a hearing and fill the role, which is tasked with advancing U.S. foreign policy on antisemitism and monitoring global antisemitism.
The push to fill the position ramped up after a rabbi and four congregants were held hostage at a synagogue in Texas last month for several hours. FBI Director Christopher Wray said the incident was “an act of terrorism targeting the Jewish community.”
Her confirmation hearing also comes one day after the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) issued a terrorism advisory bulletin that warned against the role of disinformation is playing in motivating extremists in the U.S. A senior DHS official said the new bulletin has its “highest degree of specificity” with an emphasis on the interest when it comes to targeting religious and racial minorities.
The official specifically referenced the Texas hostage situation, noting that authorities have “observed an increase in calls by these same organizations for followers to replicate what occurred.”
Lipstadt on Wednesday said the current level of antisemitism in the U.S. is “especially alarming” because it comes “less than eight decades after one out of three Jews on Earth were murdered,” according to a copy of her opening remarks.
“Often, in their long history Jews have felt abandoned. But then is not now, certainly not in the United States,” Lipstadt said.
She said the Texas hostage situation was “no isolated incident.”
“Increasingly, Jews have been singled out for slander, violence and terrorism,” she added.
Lipstadt opened her remarks on Wednesday by reciting a Hebrew blessing, the same words she said were read by Jews around the world when news broke that the hostages had escaped from the Texas synagogue.
Lipstadt is currently a professor of modern Jewish history and Holocaust studies at Emory University. She notably appeared as an expert witness at a trial in Charlottesville, Va. for the case involving the 2017 Unite the Right rally.