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March 13, 2017

Congress, Human Rights Groups Urge Administration to Appoint Special Envoy to Combat Anti-Semitism

Washington, D.C.—Human Rights First, along with a bipartisan group of 167 members of Congress and 12 supporting organizations, urged President Trump to prioritize the appointment of a Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism. The call came in a letter sent to the White House on Friday, at a time when divisive anti-Semitic, populist and xenophobic rhetoric is on the rise in both the United States and Europe.

“We view U.S. leadership on combating anti-Semitism and promoting human rights as pivotal components of American diplomacy and foreign policy,” wrote the authors. “The Office of the Special Envoy enables the U.S. to show the world its commitment to these ideals, particularly at a time when anti-Semitism is dangerously on the rise.”

Established in 2004 under the Global Anti-Semitism Review Act, the Office of the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism performs critical work documenting bias-motivated violations against Jewish communities, designing and implementing mechanisms to better combat anti-Semitism, and building relationships with Jewish communities around the world. The special envoy is a major contributor to the State Department’s annual Human Rights Report, which in part catalogues human rights abuses against Jewish communities abroad.

“Antisemitism is on the rise on both sides of the Atlantic,” said Susan Corke of Human Rights First. “Appointing a new special envoy not only sends a message to our allies overseas that we join with them in the fight against hate, it also reminds Americans that the United States stands for tolerance.”

Human Rights First also calls on the administration to appoint a new Special Representative to Muslim Communities. The State Department position, which was established in 2009, acts as the U.S. government’s focal point of engagement with Muslim communities around the world to advance U.S. foreign policy goals, including religious freedom, combating intolerance, and countering extremism.

As with the special envoy, maintaining a special representative is crucial to combatting hate, and each official is more effective when able to work in concert with the other. Past Special Representatives to Muslim Communities have focused on engaging with the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism to promote interfaith solidarity, particularly among youth, and challenge the false dichotomy between Islam and Judaism.

Human Rights First notes that both positions must be accompanied by sufficient funding and staffing to undertake the vital work of encouraging inclusion and diversity.

“President Trump needs to demonstrate his commitment to fighting antisemitism, anti-Muslim bigotry, and other forms of intolerance at home and abroad,” added Corke. “The administration needs to keep, fill, and fund both of these posts, ensuring that tolerance remains the bedrock of American foreign policy.” 

For more information or to speak with Corke contact Christopher Plummer at PlummerC@humanrightsfirst.org or 202-370-3310.