Deborah Lipstadt, the US Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat antisemitism says she was impressed with Saudi Arabia’s efforts to address antisemitism. In an interview with The Jerusalem Post, the Special Envoy spoke about global trends of antisemitism and warned that we are witnessing a “perfect storm,” as antisemitism is coming from both the far left and the far right simultaneously.
Last week, Lipstadt announced her first international trip since taking office a month ago. The first destination in her 11-day trip was Saudi Arabia. Many wondered whether the visit is related to President Biden’s trip to the region next week, but Lipstadt says that her trip had nothing to do with the White House efforts to promote normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia.
"When you're dealing with topics such as antisemitism, what you want to see is movements in the right direction."Deborah Lipstadt
Lipstadt's first trip
Last week, Lipstadt announced her first international trip since taking office a month ago. The first destination in her 11-day trip was Saudi Arabia. Many wondered whether the visit is related to President Biden's trip to the region next week, but Lipstadt says that her trip had nothing to do with the White House efforts to promote normalization between Israel and Saudi Arabia.
"When you're dealing with topics such as antisemitism, what you want to see is movements in the right direction, she said. "I saw amongst many of the people I met movement in the right direction."
“I'm not naive to think everything is all solved and everything is terrific, but I saw that,” she added.
Addressing contemporary antisemitism
In an interview with the Post at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where she addressed a conference of "new tools to address contemporary antisemitism," Lipstadt said that she spoke with people at the Department of Education, and that "they made thousands and thousands of changes to textbooks, eliminating anti-Semitic references."
"They acknowledge that their job isn't done," said Lipstadt. "I heard something even more positive from a high-ranking Saudi official who said to me - 'changing the textbooks is not enough to change the culture around textbooks.'"
Rumblings in Russia
Earlier on Tuesday, it was published that the Russian government has ordered the Jewish Agency to cease all operations inside the country.
"I was not aware because I've been at the conference today," she said, adding that the information was "very disturbing."
"A few weeks ago I met with Rabbi Goldschmidt who left Moscow quite abruptly in March, shortly after the Russians began the war because he refused to support the war," she said. "He came to see me at the State Department, and one of the things he talked about was his fear that things might go badly for Jews in Russia and that the community was at a potential risk."
"And when I hear something like this, I think, you know, maybe he's right. It's very disturbing," she added.
Lipstadt told the Post that she does not have information about the shooting investigation at the Highland Park neighborhood that left six people dead, at least one of them Jewish.
"Highland Park is a very Jewish neighborhood," said Lipstadt. "They have somebody in custody, but I don't know anything about him."
"Whoever the victims are, it's a horrific thing," she said. "People go on July 4th; it's the summer, it's celebratory, it's picnics, like Yom Ha'atzmaut here. And to have this happen -- and it's not a singular incident."
She went on to say that "President Biden and Vice President Harris are just terribly concerned about it, as are many, many Americans. This is a shameful moment, a terrible moment, and a tragic moment."
The full interview will be published on Friday.