Deborah Lipstadt Appointment to Global Antisemitism Monitor Blocked by Partisan ObstructionismHistorians in the News
tags: Republican Party, antisemitism, Deborah Lipstadt
Here’s something most Republican voters probably don’t know: For the last four months, a handful of GOP senators have been preventing the confirmation of the U.S. special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism. This post houses America’s point person for taking on anti-Jewish activities around the globe, but it has been vacant, despite a singularly qualified candidate being nominated for the role. That candidate is Emory professor Deborah Lipstadt. Her résumé speaks for itself. She has authored five books on anti-Semitism, advised the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, and been a trenchant public critic of anti-Jewish bigotry from the nationalist right to the socialist left. This past month, she testified as an expert witness at the trial of the alt-right instigators of the racist rally in Charlottesville, where the marchers chanted “Jews will not replace us!” (Last week, a jury fined them over $25 million.) Lipstadt even famously defeated Holocaust denier David Irving in court, in a legal drama that became a Hollywood movie.
With this track record, it’s unsurprising that her appointment has been embraced by Jewish organizations across the ideological and religious spectrum, from the Jewish Federations and the Anti-Defamation League to the Orthodox Union and J Street. These diverse Jewish groups can barely agree on where to set the thermostat, yet they agree on Lipstadt.
But to a small set of Republican senators, Jews are not a reliable authority on anti-Semitism and don’t get to choose who represents them. Despite Lipstadt being nominated in July, Republican members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee have blocked her confirmation hearing. As Jewish Insider reports, though “the Senate committee has scheduled its next hearing for Biden administration nominees for Dec. 1 … Lipstadt is not set to be considered at that convening.” As justification, Senator Jim Risch, the Republican ranking member of the committee, has obliquely cited tweets of Lipstadt’s that were critical of another GOP committee member, Senator Ron Johnson.
It’s a very strange objection, and here’s why: The anti-Semitism envoy is a global ambassadorship, not a domestic post, and has no authority over America. (Don’t take it from me, take it from Trump’s own deputy envoy.) That’s why the position requires confirmation from the Senate Foreign Relations Committee in the first place. In other words, even if Lipstadt were a partisan operative using her expertise as cover to take down random Republicans, if she got this job, she would not be permitted to opine on anti-Semitism inside the United States at all—and senators like Risch should know this. Moreover, if the real issue was Lipstadt’s tweets, then Republicans could grill her about them at her confirmation hearing. But they are blocking the hearing entirely. That’s because this is not about her tweets.
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