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Biden’s UN envoy nominee: BDS activity ‘unacceptable, verges on anti-Semitic’

At Senate hearing, Linda Thomas-Greenfield pledges to combat ‘unfair targeting of Israel,’ encourage states that have normalized with Israel to back Jerusalem at world forums too

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

United States Ambassador to the United Nations nominee Linda Thomas-Greenfield testifies during for her confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill on Jan. 27, 2021, in Washington. (Greg Nash/Pool via AP)
United States Ambassador to the United Nations nominee Linda Thomas-Greenfield testifies during for her confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill on Jan. 27, 2021, in Washington. (Greg Nash/Pool via AP)

NEW YORK — US President Joe Biden’s nominee for UN envoy, Linda Thomas-Greenfield, pledged Wednesday to fight bias against Israel at the international forum if confirmed.

“I look forward to standing with Israel, standing against the unfair targeting of Israel, the relentless resolutions proposed against Israel unfairly,” Thomas-Greenfield said at her Senate confirmation hearing, adding that she was also planning to work with her Israeli counterparts to bolster the Jewish state’s security and “to widen the circle of peace.”

The nominee was asked to comment on the Abraham Accords, which saw the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain, Sudan and Morocco normalize with Israel at the Trump administration’s behest. “I’m hopeful that those countries that have recognized Israel under the Abraham Accord will also see some opportunities to be more cooperative at the UN and more supportive of Israel’s presence there,” she said.

“I look forward to working with Israel to develop a strategy… for engaging with countries that would appreciate having Israel’s expertise to support their development efforts,” she added.

On the anti-Israel Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, Thomas-Greenfield said she finds the “actions and approach” taken by its supporters to be “unacceptable.”

President-elect Joe Biden listens as his nominee for US Ambassador to the United Nations, Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield, speaks at The Queen Theater, Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020, in Wilmington, Del. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

“It verges on anti-Semitic, and it’s important that they not be allowed to have a voice at the UN, and I intend to work against that,” she said, in comments likely to please mainstream Jewish groups as well as the pro-Israel lobby in Washington.

However, she also noted that Biden “has indicated that we will run to rejoin the Human Rights Council,” which the Trump administration vacated over accusations of anti-Israel bias.

Thomas-Greenfield argued that when the US leaves such forums, it loses its ability to influence them, adding that that same philosophy is what motivates the Biden administration to rejoin United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) and restore funding to the UN agency for Palestinian refugees, UNRWA.

The Trump administration left UNESCO in 2017 and halted its millions of dollars in aid to UNRWA the next year, arguing both suffered from anti-Israel bias and effectively helped perpetuate the conflict.

If confirmed by the Senate, Thomas-Greenfield would be neither the first African American, nor the first woman, nor even the first African American woman, to serve as US ambassador to the United Nations. But she’s a groundbreaking diplomat nonetheless: Thomas-Greenfield joined the State Department more than three decades ago, when Black women were even more of a rarity in the US diplomatic corps than they are today.

In her 35 years as a diplomat, she’s held roles such as deputy assistant secretary in the Bureau of Population, Refugees and Migration, US ambassador to Liberia, and more recently, assistant secretary of state for African affairs under former president Barak Obama.

In a 2018 Ted Talk, she revealed how her childhood in the deep south helped shape the diplomat she has become.

“I [grew up] in a segregated town in which the KKK regularly would come on weekends and burn a cross in somebody’s yard,” Thomas-Greenfield said then. “But I had the hopes and dreams of my mother who taught me I could face any challenge in my path by being compassionate and kind.”

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