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At Senate Hearing, Lipstadt Defends Record, Vows to Fight Antisemitism

(JNS) The Biden administration’s nominee to lead the U.S. State Department’s office that monitors and combats antisemitism, Deborah Lipstadt, appeared in the Senate on Tuesday, February 8 for her confirmation.

Appearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Lipstadt made the case that antisemitism is on the rise. “Increasingly, Jews have been singled out for slander, violence and terrorism,” she said. “Today’s rise in antisemitism is staggering.”

Her confirmation has been delayed for several months reportedly over concerns raised by Republicans of her past tweets, including one labeling a specific statement by Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) as “white supremacy.” During a radio interview last year, he stated that he was not concerned by the mostly white insurgents at the U.S. Capitol on January 6, but would be concerned if former President Donald Trump had won the election and those rioting at the Capitol were Black Lives Matters protesters or members of Antifa.

At her hearing during her questioning by Johnson, Lipstadt apologized to the senator, saying, “While I may disagree with what you said specifically—and I think that’s a legitimate difference—I certainly did not mean it, and I’m sorry if it was taken and I’m sorry if I made it in a way that it could be assumed to be political.”

It was only a commitment on the nominee’s part to make such an apology that convinced Republicans on the committee to grant her a hearing. Johnson said he would still vote against Lipstadt.

She has also been criticized for appearing in a 2020 ad where she likened Trump’s rhetoric to that of Nazi Germany.

In her hearing, Lipstadt dismissed partisanship, saying she has called out antisemitism on both sides of the aisle. She acknowledged, however, that some of her posts had not been “as nuanced” as she would have liked.

If she is confirmed, Lipstadt’s role would be to focus on reporting on global antisemitism and pressing governments to adopt measures to mitigate it. While the position does not primarily focus on domestic concerns, she will likely be seen as the Biden administration’s voice on the issue.

One important issue will be to work to apply the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism, which equates anti-Zionism with antisemitism. The Biden administration has supported the IHRA definition, despite criticism by some on the left that criticism of Israel is not antisemitic.

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