Blinken to Senate: Confirm antisemitism and religious freedom envoys

Written by on August 3, 2021

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken called on the Senate to confirm the nomination of Rashad Hussain as Ambassador at large for international religious freedom, and Deborah Lipstadt as Special Envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism.

Blinken delivered remarks to the press on Monday about the US refugee admissions program “Priority 2” designation for Afghan nationals.

“On Friday, the White House announced two outstanding public servants who – with the consent of the Senate – will be joining our team here at the state department,” he said. “We’re eager for Rashad and Deborah to be confirmed and to get to work because this is a critical moment.”

He noted that Rashad Hussain previously served as Special Envoy to the Organization of Islamic Cooperation among other key roles in the Obama administration, and he’s currently director for partnerships and global engagement at the national security council.

Speaking about Lipstadt, Blinken said that “She’s a scholar of modern Jewish history and Holocaust studies “who fights relentlessly against Holocaust denialism, including in a landmark London trial, when she was sued for libel by a Holocaust denier resulting in an overwhelming victory for Deborah and all those fighting Holocaust denialism.”

“She was also a two-term member of the United States Holocaust Memorial council, and represented our country at the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz,” he added.

Blinken went on to say that in the United States, “as in many parts of the world, we’ve seen a rise in antisemitism and anti-Muslim hatred in recent years.”

“This hits painfully close to home,” he continued. “As you know, there was an antisemitic incident here in this building last week,” Blinken said, in a reference to a swastika that was found last week inside an elevator at the State Department building, near the office of the special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism.

“That was deeply disturbing, not only because it was a deliberate act of hate toward many of our employees, but because this is the State Department and at our best, the state department leads the fight for the dignity and freedom of people everywhere,” he said. “We’re resolute in the fight against antisemitism. So that swastika wasn’t only a threat directed at Jewish people in this building. It was also an insult to our global mission and our national ideals.”

He added that “there’s just one response that we’ll make to that kind of hatred and that’s to become even more committed to the fight against antisemitism. Deborah and Rashad will help us do that. The investigation into that incident is ongoing. We’ll share new information as it becomes available.”

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