Rep. Smith anti-Semitism bill headed to President’s desk

Would create ambassador position to combat anti-Semitism 

WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, at the very last legislative session of the 116th Congress, the House of Representatives passed legislation authored by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) that would elevate the State Department’s Anti-Semitism Special Envoy position—first created by Smith’s legislative provisions in 2004—to an Ambassadorship, giving more clout to address the alarming rise in anti-Semitism worldwide. As the Senate has already approved the amended legislation, the bill now heads to President Trump’s desk to be signed into law.

We’ve seen a rapid rise in anti-Semitic acts and rhetoric in many countries over the past decade: Jews harassed, assaulted and even murdered; synagogues attacked; graves and cemeteries desecrated; anti-Semitic slurs; and targeting the State of Israel with what my friend, the great Soviet refusenik and religious prisoner Natan Sharansky, calls the ‘three Ds’– demonization, double-standard, and de-legitimization,” said Smith.

My new law will raise the Special Envoy to the rank of Ambassador, and enable him or her to report directly to the Secretary of State,” Smith said. “That will give the Special Envoy more seniority and diplomatic access—both inside the U.S. Government and when engaging foreign governments—that is needed do the job effectively.”

Especially with the rise of on-line anti-Semitism, we see that hate abroad easily crosses borders and impacts our communities here at home. Now more than ever we need to integrate our efforts both in the United States and abroad to stop the hate and keep our communities safe,” said Smith, a founding member of both the House Anti-Semitism Caucus and the Inter-Parliamentary Task Force to Combat Online Antisemitism, which is comprised of legislative-branch members from Israel, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.

Smith’s bill, the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Act (H.R. 221), will ensure that the U.S. leadership position in fighting anti-Semitism worldwide—the Special Envoy at the State Department—would not only be promptly filled, but would be strengthened. The position, as well as the State Department’s Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism, was created and required by Smith’s original provisions of the Global Anti-Semitism Review Act of 2004. Smith’s new bill would also mandate the timely nomination of a Special Envoy.

Under the bill the Special Envoy position:

  • Would be elevated to the rank of Ambassador at the State Department and report directly to the Secretary of State;
  • Would be the primary advisor to the U.S. government in monitoring and combating anti-Semitism;
  • Would not be saddled with duties irrelevant to combating anti-Semitism, or “double-hatted”;
  • Must be filled (if vacant) by requiring the President to nominate a Special Envoy within 90 days of the bill becoming law and not later than 120 days after the position becomes vacant.

“I would like to thank my House colleagues, especially Congressman Brad Schneider (D-IL), for working with leadership in both parties to pass this bill. I also would like to thank Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL), Jackie Rosen (D-NV) and Senator Kristen Gillibrand (D-NY), along with their staffs, for their hard work in securing passage on the Senate side. I would also like to acknowledge and thank Special Envoy Elan Carr for his tremendous contribution in fighting anti-Semitism. And finally, I want to thank the many wonderful Jewish groups who fought hard for this legislation.”

The House voted overwhelmingly to pass Smith’s H.R. 221 in 2019. In the previous 115th Congress, Smith introduced identical legislation, H.R. 1911, which passed the House in 2018, but stalled in the Senate. Smith’s bill is endorsed by numerous organizations, including the Anti-Defamation League, B’nai B’rith International, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, the American Jewish Committee, Hadassah, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, and the Jewish Federations of North America.