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‘Middle East anti-Semitism declining’ – US anti-Semitism envoy says after visit to Saudi Arabia

Others paint a bleak picture of anti-Semitism in the West during a Jerusalem forum this week

U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism, Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt speaking at Hebrew University in Jerusalem (Photo: Special Envoy Deborah Lipstadt/Twitter)

The Middle East is showing dramatic changes in its feeling toward Jews, reported the United States’ special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism, after a visit to Saudi Arabia. 

“For too many decades, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia was a great exporter of Jew-hatred, but what I found is something quite different, something that has changed there dramatically in the last few years,” said Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt on Tuesday at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. 

Lipstadt gave her remarks at a forum titled “New Tools in Combating Contemporary Anti-Semitism.” The forum was held jointly by the Hebrew University, the U.S. Embassy in Israel, and Israel’s Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Diaspora Affairs. Also a historian and professor, Lipstadt assumed her role as special envoy on anti-Semitism in April 2022. 

Lipstadt began her first official tour of the region just two weeks before U.S. President Joe Biden visits to the Middle East next week. Her 11-day tour has taken Lipstadt to Saudi Arabia and Israel, and will bring her to the United Arab Emirates. 

On its website, the U.S. State Department wrote, “Amb. Lipstadt intends to build on the profoundly important Abraham Accords to advance religious tolerance, improve relations in the region, and counter misunderstanding and distrust.”

“Her engagements will emphasize promoting interfaith understanding, as well as combating intolerance and anti-Jewish sentiment,” the statement said. 

Lipstadt said that in Saudi Arabia, “a number of people” seemed willing to separate the issue of anti-Semitism from the issue of the Israeli-Palestinian “geopolitical crisis.”

“These are important first steps. There was a clear willingness to continue this conversation. There is room to move things forward,” she said. 

According to the envoy, the embassy staffers and leadership she met with were “focused on combating violent extremism, focused on interfaith dialogue.” These included the Muslim World League, whose secretary-general visited Auschwitz in 2020, Lipstadt noted.

A contrasting picture was painted by other participants of the “Combating Contemporary Anti-Semitism” forum. Panelists included U.S. Ambassador to Israel Thomas Nides, Israeli Diaspora Affairs Minister Nachman Shai and Anti-Defamation League National Director and CEO Jonathan Greenblatt. 

“Something has changed in the U.S. and around the world,” Greenblatt said. “In 2021, the ADL recorded the highest number of anti-Semitic incidents we’ve ever seen in American history – 2,717 acts, a 34% increase over the prior year. … The number last year was almost triple that of 2015.” 

The U.S. ambassador to Israel concurred. 

“None of us would disagree that anti-Semitism is on the rise. You can’t open a newspaper or look at social media and hear about the violence that takes place and not believe it to be true. We’re doing our best, but our best is not enough,” Nides said.

Greenblatt remarked that both white supremacists and anti-racists are doubling down in slandering and attacking Jews.

“Who do they blame – who do they make this slander against? The Jewish Community Center of Boston, the Jewish day school, the synagogues,” the ADL director said. “How does this happen that you blame the synagogues for the devastation and ‘colonization’? It’s because, for years, we’ve seen this in some elements of the anti-Israel community. Anti-Israeli NGOs in the U.S. have been saying this kind of thing for years, with no one stopping them, no one protesting them.”

During her visit to Israel, Lipstadt met with several officials, including President Isaac Herzog and Prime Minister Yair Lapid. She also met with author and actress Noa Tishby, who is Israel’s own special envoy for Combating Anti-Semitism and Delegitimization. Lapid appointed Tishby to the newly-created ambassadorial role this April.

Tishby has made a name for herself as an activist for her severe criticism of the BDS [Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions] movement.

In her book, “Israel: A Simple Guide to the Most Misunderstood Country on Earth,” Tishby called the BDS movement “a giant pile of crap—misinformation, disinformation, manipulation, elimination of history and flat-out lies.” 

She also called out the dangers of the BDS movement at the American Jewish Committee Global Forum 2022, which took place in New York City in June.

“The BDS movement’s intention is to dismantle Israel as the Jewish state. If the Jewish state ceased to exist, it would be a calamity. Every Jew around the world would be in danger. Jewish people have had freedoms in the last 70 years because of a Jewish state and a Jewish army. If you are a Ukrainian Jew, you have somewhere to go,” Tishby said.


The All Israel News Staff is a team of journalists in Israel.

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