It is embarrassing that top Republicans refuse to support a future Antisemitism Envoy because she calls out antisemitism. In a time of rising antisemitism in America, the next Ambassador should not be the most timid, but the most bold.
In January, the State Department’s special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism was raised to the rank of Ambassador. After President Biden’s inauguration, rumors swirled about who would become America’s first Ambassador against antisemitism. One name later rose above rumor: Dr. Deborah Lipstadt. On July 30th, Biden officially nominated Dr. Lipstadt to the position. It is now late November, and there is no confirmation in sight. To date, this surprisingly tedious confirmation process has largely attracted only niche coverage from Jewish news outlets. However, these proceedings deserve the national spotlight. As they stall Dr. Lipstadt’s confirmation, Senate Republicans once again dig themselves to new depths of cynicism.
Looking at Deborah Lipstadt’s life, it is easy to see why she has become the Jewish community’s consensus pick for Antisemitism Envoy. After entering academia in 1974, Dr. Lipstadt’s distinguished career culminated at Emory University, where she was hired in 1994. Originally an Associate Professor of Religion, Lipstadt was later promoted to Dorot Professor of Modern Jewish and Holocaust Studies. Beyond her professorship, Dr. Lipstadt also established Emory’s Tam Institute for Jewish Studies. Around the same time that she was promoted at Emory, Lipstadt was also appointed to the United States Holocaust Memorial Council. While her academic pursuits could fill a career in themselves, Dr. Lipstadt rose to public prominence after she was sued for libel in 1996 by a notorious Holocaust denier for featuring his writings in her recently-published book on Holocaust denialism. Lipstadt won, and her book about the years-long ordeal was later made into a movie.
Lipstadt’s condemnations are not reserved for avowed Neo-Nazis, and she regularly comments on offenses committed by mainstream politicians. Dr. Lipstadt has openly criticized political heavyweights across the aisle, from former President Jimmy Carter to former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. It is this willingness to hold power to account that has delayed Lipstadt’s confirmation process. One Republican Congressman was remarkably candid with Jewish Insider when asked for comment on the matter. Senate Foreign Relations Committee Ranking Member Jim Risch (R-ID) plainly stated “she has said enough things on Twitter that it needs to be reviewed carefully — particularly about members of the committee, which is always quite sensitive.” Dr. Lipstadt’s crime appears to be being a qualified and outspoken woman on Twitter. Similar charges have been levied by Congressional Republicans before. Most notably, Republicans with the help of Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) defeated the nomination of Neera Tanden to the United States Office of Management and Budget. Tanden, the former President of the Center for American Progress, was rejected over tweets criticising numerous senators. The recent effort to sink or at least stall Dr. Lipstadt’s confirmation appears to be another attempt to utilize a depressingly successful playbook.
Further investigations have clarified the specific statements drawing Republican fury. In March 2021, Dr. Lipstadt quote-tweeted a Haaretz article about committee member Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) and described his reported actions as “white supremacy/nationalism. Pure and simple.” Johnson had appeared on a radio show and told the host he was not scared of the insurrectionists on January 6th, but he would have been if the people attempting to overthrow the government were instead Black Lives Matter activists. Republicans are also concerned about her defense of an advertisement from the Jewish Democratic Council of America in which the rhetoric of former President Donald Trump and his antisemitic allies were compared to rhetoric from 1930s Nazi Germany. Dr. Lipstadt was joined in her defense of the piece by Abraham Foxman, the former head of the ADL and Holocaust survivor. Even today, Lipstadt continues the fight against those antisemitic Trump allies. Just a few weeks ago, she served as an expert witness at the trial of the white supremicists and “fine people” who organized 2017’s deadly rally in Charlottesville, Virginia.
It is embarrassing that top Republicans refuse to support a future Antisemitism Envoy because she calls out antisemitism. In a time of rising antisemitism in America, the next Ambassador should not be the most timid, but the most bold. Thankfully, no Congressional Democrats have voiced their opposition to Dr. Lipstadt’s confirmation. This means that she will most likely be appointed should a vote proceed. Congressional Republicans have turned this relatively low-profile nomination process into yet another political football in a move that only further reinforces how depraved they have become. Republicans in Congress will take any opportunity to obstruct progress, even if it means playing games with the potential safety of the Jewish community.
Alex Moskovitz is a freshman C.L.E.G. major in the School of Public Affairs. He is a staff writer and deputy editor at American Agora.
Image Credits: Fairfield University