The Trump administration is following through with its initial plan of dramatic cuts to the State Department’s budget, leaving empty the office of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, a former State Department official who worked in that office and who asked not to be identified due to the sensitivity of the matter told Jewish Insider on Thursday.
In a directive recently issued by the administration, the State Department was ordered to let go of all contractors, including retired officials working in part-time positions (WAEs), within the Secretary’s bureau by April 28. The impact of that move is that the office’s operations to monitor and report anti-Semitism around the world – which is part of the Religion and Global Affairs office – will be shut down, according to the former official with direct knowledge of the situation.
“Reports of the Administration’s decision to not fill the office of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism raise serious concerns about its commitment to addressing surging anti-Semitism at home and abroad,” Congressman Ted Deutch (D-FL) told Jewish Insider. “In the time of rising anti-Semitism, the Administration should be seeking more ways to combat it rather than eliminating the one position dedicated to fighting it.”
Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), urged Secretary of State Rex Tillerson to “articulate how the State Department will combat and monitor anti-Semitism globally” in the absence of a dedicated staff to the issue.
“The establishment of a Special Envoy on Anti-Semitism was a watershed moment in the fight against anti-Jewish hatred. Eliminating the staff that advance these efforts would gut the U.S. capacity to fight anti-Semitism at a time when it is flaring,” Greenblatt said in a statement to Jewish Insider. “These dedicated diplomats drove an exponential growth in U.S. reporting on anti-Semitism and mobilized a full arsenal of U.S. diplomatic tools and training. Most of all, institutionalizing this focus was the strongest possible signal to our allies and to the world that fighting anti-Semitism is a fixture of American foreign policy.”
The Special Envoy was established by the Global Anti-Semitism Review Act of 2004. The Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor (DRL) produces annual reports on human rights practices and international religious freedom with input on anti-Semitism provided by the office of the Special Envoy.
The office was headed by Gregg Rickman under President George W. Bush, and by Hannah Rosenthal and Ira Forman under President Barack Obama. The position has been vacant since Trump took office on January 20.
Last month, a bipartisan group of 167 Members of Congress sent a letter to President Trump urging him to appoint without delay an anti-Semitism envoy. Additionally, Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04) – who co-sponsored the Global Anti-Semitism Review Act in 2004 – introduced bipartisan legislation that would elevate the position of Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism to the rank of Ambassador (requiring Senate confirmation) and prohibit the person from being double-hatted with another portfolio of issues.
“The special Ambassador to combat anti-Semitism at the State Department is one of those things that ‘make America great,'” Abe Foxman, Director of Center for the Study of Anti-Semitism at the Museum of Jewish Heritage, told Jewish Insider when the plan was first revealed as part of Trump’s budget proposal.
A State Department spokesperson did not immediately return an email seeking confirmation or comment from Jewish Insider.