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Lipstadt: ‘Changes are being made’ at U.N.

The U.S. special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism laid out a multifaceted approach to the United Nations

Michael Brochstein/Sipa USA

Deborah Lipstadt, nominee to be special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, speaking at a hearing of the Senate Foreign Relations committee.

Despite its reputation for maligning Israel, the United Nations has shown progress in recent years in its dedication to fighting antisemitism, according to Deborah Lipstadt, the U.S. special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism. 

“You’ve got to recognize when changes are being made,” Lipstadt told Jewish Insider on Monday after a daylong meeting with antisemitism envoys from the U.S., Canada, Israel, the European Union and a handful of other countries. 

The envoys spent 45 minutes with U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Linda Thomas-Greenfield, who “spoke beautifully and was really interested in what we were doing,” said Lipstadt. They were also joined virtually by Ahmed Shaheed, the U.N. special rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief.

Shaheed authored a 2019 report identifying antisemitism as a major global challenge that all governments should confront because it “poses risks not only to Jews, but also to members of other minority communities,” and because it threatens democracy. In May, he released a follow-up report with an eight-point plan to fight global antisemitism. 

“If we can get that to become operational, that would make a big difference,” said Lipstadt.

Shaheed’s plan to combat antisemitism was released weeks before a U.N. Commission of Inquiry on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict published a report earlier this month blaming Israel for recent tensions in the region. 

“I think the United States is working very hard to try to control the potential damage it might do,” Lipstadt said of the commission’s report. “But at the same time, we look at Ahmed Shaheed’s report and an action plan and having a focal point, Miguel Moratinos [the UN Focal Point to monitor antisemitism]. You’ve gotta look at the whole picture.” 

The U.N., Lipstadt added, is “a conglomeration of countries. Some of them don’t feel too kindly towards Israel. Some of them don’t feel too kindly towards Jews. It’s not like it’s a unified corporation.” 

But despite the challenges, she feels reason to be optimistic.

“Five years ago, if you had told me that there was a report on antisemitism prepared by a special rapporteur which condemned antisemitism and said you have to take it seriously, and you have to understand Zionism,” Lipstadt explained, “I would have said, ‘What are you talking about?’ Not that you should stop there.”

Lipstadt, who joined the State Department less than two months ago after a long confirmation battle, said that one of her early trips overseas will be to the Persian Gulf, but declined to share specifics.  

“The Abraham Accords are an amazing development. It’d be crazy not to push against that door as long as it’s open,” she said. “There’s a real interest in the region. I’ve met with ambassadors from the region.”