(January 11, 2021 / JNS) The new Congress passed legislation elevating the U.S. State Department’s special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism to the rank of ambassador. Jewish Democrats are already jockeying for the job in the Biden administration, but this would be an excellent opportunity to show his commitment to bipartisanship and desire to change the toxic atmosphere in Washington by reappointing Elan Carr.
So far, Biden has not appointed any Republicans to senior positions, which has not been a positive sign of his goodwill. Like most new presidents, he is expected to reward his loyalists and any job that goes to a Republican, no matter how qualified, angers his supporters. This is likely to be especially true for Biden, who has been fighting a rearguard action against the progressive wing of the party.
Nevertheless, he has an opportunity to reassure the Jewish community about his commitment to fighting anti-Semitism and add a Republican to his administration that has no political downside. The position is not important to the Democratic Party’s ideologues, and is not being fought over by the party’s warring factions and diversity advocates. Jewish Democrats hoping for the job will just have to live with disappointment or look for another position in an administration that will have no shortage of Jews (he’s already named Jews as his chief of staff, secretaries of treasury, state and homeland security, and director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
For those who don’t know him, since his role did not give him a high profile in the United States, Carr is a brilliant speaker, tactful diplomat, committed Jew and one who has given many years of his life to public service.
Carr served as a JAG Corps officer in the U.S. Army Reserve and was deployed to Iraq in 2003-04, where he helped track down and prosecute terrorists who attacked American troops. He also assisted efforts to establish an independent Iraqi judiciary, and trained Iraqi judges and lawyers on constitutional law and criminal defense. Carr loves to tell the story of leading a celebration of Hanukkah in what had been Saddam Hussein’s presidential palace.
Carr is no ideologue, and is an exemplary representative of the United States and the American commitment to fight anti-Semitism on a global scale. Before being asked to join the Trump administration, he was already heavily involved in Jewish affairs and the fight against the delegitimization of Israel. As president of the AEPi fraternity, Carr was a charismatic leader who helped inspire the brothers to make the nearly 200 chapters among the most active and effective pro-Israel student organizations in North America, educating their peers, promoting Yisrael Hayafah, and fighting BDS and other anti-Semitic campaigns on campuses across the country.
In just two years as special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism, Carr has traveled around the world to convey the U.S. commitment to fight Jew-hatred. One goal of his public diplomacy has been to broaden the consensus on the definition of anti-Semitism because, without one, you cannot fight it. He has done this by encouraging other governments and international organizations to use the working definition adopted by the 31 member states of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). Since taking office, the definition has been endorsed or adopted by a dozen countries: Hungary, Canada, Luxembourg, Greece, France, Cyprus, Italy, Uruguay, Serbia, Argentina, Spain and Albania.
Carr has also managed to convince all but the most fringe groups to understand that anti-Semitism is a phenomenon driven by the far right, the radical left and militant Islam.
It was no surprise given Carr’s advocacy that Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced in November that it is the position of the U.S. government that “anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism,” and that America is “committed to countering the Global BDS Campaign as a manifestation of anti-Semitism.” Carr is the person responsible for implementing “the policy of the United States to combat anti-Semitism everywhere in the world and in whatever form it appears, including all forms of discrimination and hatred rooted in anti-Semitism.”
Another example of Carr’s skillful diplomacy was the negotiation of an unprecedented agreement with the King Hamad Global Center for Peaceful Coexistence in Bahrain to work with the United States to combat anti-Semitism in the Middle East and to develop educational programs for children to teach tolerance. The center, which reflects the views of King Hamad Bin Isa Al Khalifa, is the first Arab institution to adopt the IHRA definition.
One major focus during Carr’s service has been online anti-Semitism. He organized the first-ever U.S. government conference focused on combating online anti-Semitism and developing practical responses for governments and civil society.
The envoy’s role is to focus on the broad issue of anti-Semitism, but Carr was also involved in helping countries deal with specific incidents, marches and even intervened on behalf of individual Jews, including a doctor in Sweden. In his meetings with officials, which included prime ministers, he lobbied governments to devote greater resources to protect Jews and their property and institutions.
Although his mandate was to work abroad, the White House also called on him to contribute to the domestic fight against anti-Semitism, so while he was involved, for example, in discussing enforcement of hate-crimes laws in countries like Germany, he also worked with law enforcement in the United States. He represented the White House at one of the funerals for a victim of the shooting at Chabad of Poway, Calif., and has condemned the anti-Semitic elements of the proposed ethnic-studies curriculum in California. He also prioritized fighting anti-Semitism on campus, which was reflected in the president’s executive order including the IHRA definition and prohibiting discrimination against Jews.
Most attention in the fight against anti-Semitism is reactive; however, Carr launched a series of “philosemitic initiatives,” including curricula and public information campaigns to promote an appreciation of Jews and their heritage. Programs have been created in the United States, Germany and Russia.
The job of monitoring and combating anti-Semitism should be a nonpartisan position, like FBI director, with a term that crosses administrations. The mission is too important to be held up by quadrennial confirmation votes and Jews fighting for the one position in the government that is essentially (though it need not be) a Jewish job.
I don’t know if Carr wants to stay in the position, but as someone committed to public service, I have no doubt he would be willing to serve at the pleasure of the new president to continue to fight for the safety of Jews around world. Jews of both parties should want the best person for the job, and I can think of none better than Elan Carr.
Mitchell Bard is a foreign-policy analyst and an authority on U.S.-Israel relations who has written and edited 22 books, including “The Arab Lobby, Death to the Infidels: Radical Islam’s War Against the Jews” and “After Anatevka: Tevye in Palestine.”
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