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March 07, 2017

Fighting Antisemitism at Home and Abroad

Last week the Bipartisan Congressional Task Force for Combating Anti-Semitism called on President Trump to develop a comprehensive response to antisemitic hate crime. The appeal came in a letter amid an outbreak of bomb threats targeting Jewish community centers and the desecration of graves at Jewish cemeteries.

Trump initially floundered in denouncing antisemitism. Now he should heed the call of the task force and maintain U.S. leadership in the global fight against antisemitism by initiating concrete action to protect Jewish communities. Hate crimes should be treated as the serious human rights violations they are. They undermine the right to religious freedom, the right to non-discrimination, and the right to security. They send a message to an entire community that, as a class of people, they do not belong.

The task force urged the president to ensure that mechanisms are in place so that government agencies can coordinate detection of and responses to hate crimes. It also called on the administration to provide access to resources and information necessary to combat antisemitic offenses, evaluate growing antisemitism online, and devise a comprehensive policy response to rising antisemitism.  

But the fight against antisemitism is global, and President Trump is reportedly considering eliminating or underfunding two key State Department posts, the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism and the Special Representative to Muslim Communities. Special envoys and representatives have secured important victories as they’ve worked to push back against a troubling trend of growing intolerance overseas. They have elevated antisemitism into a foreign policy priority, worked to adopt definitions of antisemitism within the State Department and at the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance, established mandatory training on antisemitism at the Foreign Service Institute, confronted antisemitic leaders in other countries, built coalitions with civil society, engaged Muslim youth around the world, and worked together to combat both antisemitism and anti-Muslim bigotry.

As anxiety over growing antisemitism rises, President Trump should demonstrate his commitment to fighting antisemitism, anti-Muslim bigotry, and other forms of intolerance at home and abroad. To do this, the administration should implement the task force's recommendations and keep the State Department posts that ensure that tolerance remains a bedrock of American foreign policy.