Anti-Semitism continues to be on the rise in the United States, which does not have a domestic anti-Semitism czar in the White House. The recent unprecedented wave of violent assaults targeting Jews on the streets of our cities, with almost 200 anti-Semitic incidents reported during the recent Israel-Gaza conflict, makes the need for creating this White House position now more urgent than ever before.
In my term as deputy special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism at the State Department, I spent much of my time advocating with diplomats of foreign countries for best practices in fighting the world’s oldest hatred. High on that list was the importance of every country having a point-person for the Jewish community to report any anti-Semitic incidents or attacks—but even more importantly, someone who can be held accountable for the policies that affect the safety and security of local Jewish communities.
More than once, while I was holding these conversations with my international counterparts, it occurred to me that we at home in the United States face the same rise in anti-Semitism as most other countries around the world. Yet we do not have our own domestic anti-Semitism czar.
That needs to change.
Within the Executive Office of the President of the United States, there should be an Office to Combat Domestic Anti-Semitism, led by the domestic anti-Semitism czar. This senior official should be given the authority and responsibility to coordinate a whole-of-government approach to dealing with domestic Jew-hatred. Such an effort would include bringing together the resources of the FBI, Department of Justice, Department of Education, Department of Homeland Security and the FCC. Together, these federal agencies can confront the totality of anti-Semitism in the United States, which emanates from right-wing white supremacist groups, left-wing anti-Zionist groups, radical Islamists and elsewhere.
The czar can help coordinate the ongoing efforts necessary to confront anti-Semitism in the United States. The czar can also have an emergency action plan in place should American Jews ever again face a wave of anti-Semitic hate crimes like we just experienced during and after the most recent 11-day conflict between Hamas and Israel. The Trump administration successfully modeled this whole-of-government approach with the first-ever federal conference on anti-Semitism. Today, the United States needs an executive office with an appointed czar to maintain this effort on an ongoing basis.
The anti-Semitism czar would be a “domestic diplomat” with the ability to persuade Hollywood, social media influencers, rap stars, athletes, elected officials, government bureaucrats, teachers, academics and thought leaders generally, to understand when they have crossed the line into anti-Semitism through their speech or actions.
The czar’s office should also employ a handful of staff and be allocated the budget and wherewithal to fulfill the mandate of creating and implementing a whole-of-government approach to combating anti-Semitism. The czar’s office should form a broad public-private coalition dedicated to fighting Jew-hatred. And the staff under the czar should at the very least include one Republican and one Democrat, in the interest of keeping the office bipartisan.
The coalition-building by the White House office would first and foremost include advocating for all institutions to adopt the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) working definition of anti-Semitism, with all of its examples underneath it. The State Department began using the IHRA working definition in 2010; through an executive order, the working definition was adopted across all executive agencies in December 2019.
The IHRA working definition examples delineate how anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism. Examples of when speech or actions have crossed the line into anti-Semitism include, “Denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, e.g., by claiming that the existence of a State of Israel is a racist endeavor.” Another example: “Applying double standards by requiring of [Israel] a behavior not expected or demanded of any other democratic nation.”
In the United States, the two institutions of great societal import that have demonstrated time and again the need to adopt the IHRA working definition are Congress and our institutions of higher education. Since coming to power, Democratic House members in the so-called “Squad” have engaged in anti-Semitic and anti-Israel vitriol. The czar would lobby on Capitol Hill to ensure that combating anti-Semitism remains a top priority that is confronted, including within the halls of Congress itself.
Anti-Zionism also permeates on university campuses in the United States, where Jewish and pro-Israel students are intimidated, harassed and even violently attacked by anti-Semitic campus groups like Students for Justice in Palestine. Too often, many campus administrators take little action or even justify the hostile anti-Israel environment as something protected under the First Amendment. Additionally, too many university campuses receive money from anti-Israel sources, leading to academic departments spreading anti-Semitic and anti-Israel propaganda. The czar can bring the moral authority of the White House and the resources of the federal government to bear on battling the anti-Semitism plaguing these segments of American society.
The recent move to upgrade the U.S. special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism to an ambassadorship was a true step forward in the fight against global anti-Semitism.
The time is now for the United States to create the position and appoint an individual combating Jew-hatred at home. The domestic anti-Semitism czar can help the United States stay on the course envisioned by America’s Founding Father George Washington, with his timeless message to the Hebrew Congregation in Newport, Rhode Island: “For happily the Government of the United States, which gives to bigotry no sanction, to persecution no assistance, requires only that they who live under its protection should demean themselves as good citizens, in giving it on all occasions their effectual support.”