Jewish Groups Urge Senate to Hold Antisemitism Envoy's Confirmation Hearing 'Without Further Delay'

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Holocaust historian Prof. Deborah Lipstadt, 2019.
Holocaust historian Prof. Deborah Lipstadt, 2019.Credit: Olivier Fitoussi

WASHINGTON – Leading Jewish organizations came together Thursday to urge a confirmation hearing for Deborah Lipstadt, the Biden administration's nominee for Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism, the country's highest-ranking public official tasked with combatting anti-Jewish prejudice.

Senior officials from the Anti-Defamation League, the Jewish Federations of North America and the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America jointly wrote the ranking members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee to urge an immediate hearing for the Holocaust historian, whose hearing has not been scheduled despite being tapped by the president more than three months ago.

In their letter to Sens. Robert Menendez and James Risch, the organizations noted they generally do not comment on a nominee prior to Senate confirmation, but argued they were "compelled to urge you to hold the Committee's hearing on Prof. Lipstadt's nomination without further delay." Republicans on the committee had been delaying Lipstadt's hearing due to past tweets critical of Republican lawmakers, notably committee member Sen. Ron Johnson.

"The Minority has refused to grant her a hearing apparently because there is concern about her tweets calling out the use of antisemitic tropes," Menendez said Wednesday. "Let’s think about that for a minute. We don’t want the person nominated to advance our global efforts against antisemitism to call out antisemitism?"

The Jewish organizations highlighted Lipstadt's "long and well-documented history of fighting antisemitism and all forms of racism.....from both the left and the right," adding that antisemitism continues to be an issue across the globe. The organizations stated that the world's Jewish community "needs the United States to be a leader in the fight against antisemitism" and that "we must not waste more time leaving our lead official in this fight off the field."

Lipstadt, who taught at Emory University for nearly 30 years and has authored eight works on antisemitism and the Holocaust, came to international prominence in the 1990s after she was sued by author David Irving for accusing him of Holocaust denial. Lipstadt won the case, and she was eventually portrayed by actress Rachel Weisz in the 2016 film "Denial" about the trial.

The debate over the envoy's background had been a topic of fierce debate within the U.S. Jewish community — particularly between establishment organizations and progressive Jewish figures over whether criticism of the State of Israel constitutes antisemitism.

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