Congressman Chris Smith’s bill requiring the President to appoint an ambassador level envoy at the State Department to combat anti-Semetism bill, the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Act, overwhelmingly passed in the House of Representatives during the 115th Congress, but did not make it through the Senate. Smith re-introduced the bill today in the 116th Congress. His remarks about the bill on the House floor:
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to urge my colleagues to vote for H.R. 221, the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Act. In 2004, I authored the provisions of law that created and required this position and office it leads at the State Department. My latest legislation upgrades and strengthens the position to anticipate, prevent, mitigate, and respond to threats against Jewish communities worldwide.
H.R. 221 elevates the Special Envoy to the rank of Ambassador, reporting directly to the Secretary of State. This would enable sufficient seniority and access inside the U.S. government and when engaging foreign governments. The bill requires the President to nominate a candidate no later than 90 days after the bill becomes law and no later than 120 thereafter whenever the position is empty.
H.R. 221 forbids “double-hatting” the Special Envoy with duties irrelevant to combating anti-Semitism. The legislation also mandates the Special Envoy to be the primary advisor to the U.S. government on monitoring and combating anti-Semitism.
Often over many decades, the U.S. government has put combating anti-Semitism, human trafficking, and religious freedom violations in the backseat of our foreign policy. That is why Congress created offices and positions to ensure the United States was focused on fighting these evils.
The ancient, unique hatred of anti-Semitism is as strong as it was when the Special Envoy and Office to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism were mandated by law. Over the past decade, there has been a rapid rise in anti-Semitic acts and rhetoric in many countries: Jews harassed, assaulted and even murdered. Synagogues attacked. Graves and cemeteries desecrated. Anti-Semitic slurs. Targeting the State of Israel with the ‘three Ds’–demonization, double-standard, and de-legitimization–as my friend the great Soviet refusenik and religious prisoner Natan Sharansky named them. The so-called BDS movement to boycott, divest from, and sanction Israel is one of the most pernicious examples of what Sharansky rightly called the “new anti-Semitism.”
Anti-Semitic hatred is hardwired into the ideology of violent Islamist and white supremacist groups. But this evil goes beyond those perpetrators. Politicians, entertainers, and public intellectuals across the philosophical spectrum have exhibited anti-Semitism. Strong American leadership is essential to battle this bigotry.
Mr. Speaker, combating anti-Semitism has always been bipartisan and this has always been a bipartisan bill. During the last Congress, I introduced a Special Envoy bill, H.R. 1911, with my friend Brad Schneider. This House passed it 393-2. But the Senate took no action. So, we reintroduced it immediately after this new Congress began. More than 80 members have cosponsored it, including my good friend Eliot Engel, Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee, who was an original cosponsor. Many major Jewish organizations support the legislation.
Mr. Speaker, the text before my colleagues is identical to what the House passed almost unanimously last year. I urge my colleagues to again send this bill to the Senate with overwhelming support. Hopefully this time the Senate will act with urgency that reflects the persistence, prevalence, and peril of anti-Semitism.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker.