U.S. House Panel Approves Bills on anti-Semitism Envoy, Combating Genocide

Two bills that have wide Jewish organizational backing, one to enhance the role of the anti-Semitism monitor and the other, named for Elie Wiesel, to make combating genocide a U.S. policy

JTA
JTA
The late Eli Wiesel shown in Budapest in 2009.
The late Eli Wiesel shown in Budapest in 2009.
JTA
JTA

The U.S. House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee approved two bills that have wide Jewish organizational backing, one to enhance the role of the anti-Semitism monitor and the other, named for Elie Wiesel, to make combating genocide a U.S. policy.

Both bills were approved Thursday with bipartisan support.

The “Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Act” was authored by Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J., who helped author the 2004 law that created the position of the anti-Semitism monitor. It would elevate the position to ambassador level and require the president to nominate someone for the position within 90 days of its passage.

Lawmakers and Jewish communal organizations have chafed at the Trump administration’s failure to name someone to the anti-Semitism monitor post since Donald Trump became president, citing a perceived spike in anti-Semitism worldwide.

“Elevating the position will give the envoy greater standing at home and also abroad, to confront foreign leaders about anti-Semitic incidents when they occur,” said the National Coalition Supporting Eurasian Jewry in a statement released after the vote.

Separately a bipartisan slate of 41 Senators wrote Trump urging him to name a special envoy to combat anti-Semitism.

“The Special Envoy position and the Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism are critical in the leadership role of the United States in guiding a rules-based international order that promotes peace, security and opportunity for all people,” said the letter sent Thursday and spearheaded by Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio and Martin Heinrich, D-N.M.

The Anti-Defamation League thanked the senators for the letter. “Our government has been hamstrung in its response without an anti-Semitism envoy since January of last year,” CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said in a statement.

Also approved by the House Foreign Affairs Committee was the “Elie Wiesel Genocide and Atrocities Prevention Act,” authored by Rep. Ann Wagner, R-Mo., and Rep. Joe Crowley, D-N.Y.

Iwould make it U.S. policy to prevent genocide and would establish a Mass Atrocities Task Force at the State Department to coordinate government-wide efforts to prevent genocide.

The American Jewish Committee thanked Wagner and Crowley in a tweet after the vote for their “leadership in advancing U.S. efforts to prevent genocide.” Wiesel, the noted Holocaust memoirist and a Nobel Peace Prize laureate, died in 2016.

The bills now go to the full House. Both bills have companion bills in the Senate, enhancing the likelihood of their becoming law.

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