Cuts to leave US office combating antisemitism unstaffed

In February, a statement by over 100 Holocaust organisations, educators and scholars urged the US government not to do this


The US State Department is reportedly planning to reassign employees working in its office to combat antisemitism, leaving it without any staff.

In the past, the office, which tracks and attempts to counteract antisemitism abroad, has had a special envoy, as well as three full-time staffers. However, the two current officials – both working part-time – are to be moved from July 1, according to the Jewish Telegraph Agency.

In February, it was reported that the Trump administration was considering axing the office as part of government cuts.

At the time, a statement was published in the name of more than 100 Holocaust organisations, educators and scholars, urging the US government “to maintain and strengthen the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism and to create a new office to address this urgent issue domestically”.

Republican and Democrat members of Congress had called for the state department to fill the vacant envoy position. However, when questioned during a hearing of the US House of Representatives Appropriations Committee, Rex Tillerson, the Secretary of State, appeared to suggest having such an envoy might be counterproductive.

“One of the things that we are considering—and we understand why [special envoys] were created and the good intentions behind why they were created—but one of the things we want to understand is by doing that, did we weaken our attention to those issues” he said.

“Because the expertise in a lot of these areas lies within the bureaus, and now we’ve stripped it out of the bureaus.

“One of the questions I’ve asked is, if we’re really going to affect these areas, these special areas, don’t we have to affect it through the delivery on mission at every level at every country?” he added. “And by having a special person, an envoy out here, one of my experiences is, mission then says, ‘Oh, we’ve got somebody else that does that,’ and then they stop doing it.

“And so it was not the intent—I know the intent was to bring more attention to it—but I’m back to how do we deliver on mission? How does this actually get done?"

Following the hearing, Jonathan Greenblatt, the president of the Anti-Defamation League, said: “We know first-hand from working intimately with every prior envoy who had served in this very important role the tremendously positive and impactful outcomes that have been accomplished through diplomacy by these envoys”, he said.

“We are concerned by Secretary Tillerson’s remark and urge him and the President to reconsider and make clear that the State Department will not wane in its efforts to stem anti-Jewish hatred overseas”.

The State Department told JTA that it wanted “to ensure the Department is addressing anti-Semitism in the most effective and efficient method possible, and will continue to endeavour to do so”.

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