NJ congressman has plan to combat anti-Semitism around the world
A congressman from New Jersey is spearheading an effort to have the United States combat anti-Semitism around the world.
The Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Act of 2018 (H.R. 1911) is an update to a bill introduced by U.S. Rep. Chris Smith, R-N.J. 4th District, in 2004.
The legislation is meant to provide critical support in the United States fight against antisemitism.
The law would upgrade the envoy position to ambassador, who would be the primary adviser in monitoring and combating anti-Semitism. It will also enhance the abilities of the envoy office itself.
"In 2004, I wrote the law to create the special envoy position for combating antisemitism at the U.S. State Department and it has done tremendous work over the years but the problem is that the special envoy is not the equivalent of an ambassador," Smith said.
Smith says the legislation will increase their ability to know what's going on and have a more effective response.
"There is a rising tide of antisemitism globally as well as in the United States," Smith said. "We're seeing it happen with defacing synagogues, overturning tombstones in cemeteries with swastikas and all kinds of other horrific things and most importantly the violence being committed against Jewish men and women simply because that happen to be Jewish."
The upgrading of the position to ambassador would allow for quicker decision making and less hurdles so the U.S. could combat anti-Semitism where it rears its head.
"The ambassador-at-large walks point and reports directly to the president and secretary of state as to what is going on and then we mobilize all of our diplomacy to make sure that we are combating antisemitism everywhere it manifests," Smith said.
This is an issue Smith says he has been working on since a visit to Moscow and Leningrad early in his tenure as a congressman back in 1982.
"It is inexplicable why dictatorships and other just blame the Jews and treat them so horribly with discrimination and what we're trying to do now is say that it matters to the United States government and we're going to hold to account anyone who's part of that kind of terrible mistreatment," Smith said. "We have sanctions that we could vet out against both individuals and countries. If it's a country that's complicit in antisemitism they could be designated a [country of particular concern] and therefore be held to account."
There are other sanctions that could be implemented.
"The law allows the president to give out sanctions, not just to a country but to individuals," Smith said. "It incentivizes the naming of the torturers, the naming of the people who are persecuting in country X, Y or Z so that we could hold them personally responsible by denying them visa's and not allowing them to do business in the United States."
Why are antisemitism attacks and incidents still occurring at a high rate in 2018?
"I think it is centuries old. The hatred of Jewish people because they're Jewish has manifested perhaps in its most horrific form in the Holocaust but there have been problems across the world for centuries especially in Europe," Smith said. "Unfortunately there's been a movement towards demonizing the state of Israel. No other country on earth is treated so dis-proportionally negatively than the state of Israel."
One of the hurdles in getting this legislation moved along quicker appears to be with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who gave Smith his word at a hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee in May that he would move to fill the position.
That effort came about a month after Smith penned a letter with U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey, D-N.Y, to Pompeo, expressing the urgency for him to get moving on filling the role.
"It's long past time for that appointment to be made," Smith said. "There were some people that were going to be named, including one in particular, but it just did not happen. Hopefully, soon when the Senate takes up our bill the envoy position will be turned into an ambassador."