WASHINGTON — A top Senate Democrat urged US President Donald Trump on Wednesday to appoint a White House liaison to the Jewish community and special envoy to combat and monitor anti-Semitism (SEAS), roles that have been vacant since he took office.
Maryland Senator Ben Cardin, who serves as the ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, called those two positions “critical to the global and domestic fight against anti-Semitism” and said they were needed amidst an uptick in anti-Semitic episodes worldwide.
“With the recent increase in incidents of anti-Semitism in the United States and in some other countries, as well as a rise in the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS) movement, I am concerned that the Administration has failed to designate points of contact for Jewish international and domestic communities,” Cardin wrote in a letter to the president.
Last month, US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson suggested to a House of Representatives panel that hiring an anti-Semitism envoy wasn’t necessary and that the overall effort to combat anti-Semitism would be more efficacious without one.
Part of his argument was that local State Department missions neglect their responsibility to confront the issue if there is a special office in Washington dedicated to combating anti-Semitism.
Since then, an unnamed source told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency that the office would go unstaffed as of July 1.
Cardin said he was “troubled” by Tillerson’s comments and reasoning.
Since January, nearly 150 bomb threats have hit JCCs, Jewish day schools and other institutions, causing the evacuation of dozens of community centers and prompting some parents to remove their children from JCC programs.
Many, but not all, were found to be the work of an Israeli-American teen from Ashkelon who was charged with making thousands of bomb threats over the last two years.
Cardin, who is Jewish, noted the trend of bomb threats on Jewish institutions in his missive to the president and implored him to comply with a 2004 law, passed by Congress, to install an anti-Semitism envoy to combat it.
“Given continuing incidents of anti-Semitism, including over a hundred threats to Jewish institutions in this country since the beginning of the year, and significant incidents abroad, I urge you to comply with the FY17 Omnibus and Public Law 108-332 and select a qualified individual to serve as the SEAS, and also appoint a qualified White House Liaison,” he said.
While not congressionally mandated, every US president since Jimmy Carter has appointed and maintained a White House Jewish liaison.
The Baltimore native offered to assist the president in “identifying qualified persons.”