Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s government has appointed Michal Cotler-Wunsh, a human-rights lawyer and former lawmaker for the Blue and White Party, as the country’s antisemitism envoy.
“At a time of growing polarization, intersecting global and local challenges, and the blurring of lines between online hate and real-world harm, I accept the position of Israel’s special envoy for combating antisemitism,” Cotler-Wunsh announced on Wednesday.
The announcement comes some five months after actress and activist Noa Tishby was removed from the position. “It is not possible for me to know if their decision was driven by my publicly stated concerns about this government’s ‘judicial reform policy,'” Tishby said at the time.
However, “given the reality that antisemitism continues its dangerous rise globally, and the threat to Israel’s existence through delegitimization policies has not slowed, it is difficult to come to any other reasonable conclusion,” she noted.
Then-Foreign Minister Yair Lapid appointed Tishby to the role in April 2022.
Cotler-Wunsh said she accepted Foreign Minister Eli Cohen’s offer “with a tremendous sense of responsibility.”
She vowed to “continue serving the Jewish people, the State of Israel and the universal principles of life and liberty for all to comprehensively identify and combat the scourge of antisemitism in all its forms.”
Though she was born in Jerusalem and returned to Israel more than a decade ago with her spouse and four children, Cotler-Wunsh spent her formative years in Canada. She returned to Israel to join the Israel Defense Forces as a lone soldier (one without close family in the country who can help them), serving as an officer in various training and command positions.
An international law, human-rights and free-speech expert, Cotler-Wunsh earned degrees from the Hebrew University Faculty of Law in Jerusalem and McGill University Faculty of Law in Montreal. She held a number of legal positions and worked in education before entering the 2019-20 Knesset with Benny Gantz’s Blue and White Party.
As a lawmaker, Cotler-Wunsh headed efforts to develop and strengthen connections between Israel and the Diaspora, raising awareness and providing exposure to both challenges and opportunities for new immigrants (olim) to Israel.
She also co-founded the Interparliamentary Bi-Partisan Task Force to Combat Online Antisemitism with lawmakers from Canada, Australia, the United States and the United Kingdom.
In April, pro-Palestinian activists briefly disrupted a speech by Cotler-Wunsh at the New York University School of Law with antisemitic chants, including, “From the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea, Palestine will be free” and, “Zionists out of NYU.”
Cotler-Wunsh has repeatedly advocated for the broad adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism as a way to effectively combat Jew-hatred masquerading as anti-Zionism.