Deborah Lipstadt’s first tour as anti-Semitism watchdog will be in Saudi Arabia

WASHINGTON (JTA) — Deborah Lipstadt’s first overseas tour as the State Department’s anti-Semitism monitor will begin in Saudi Arabia, a sign of the kingdom’s efforts to change its image in the West and among Jews.

Lipstadt, who was confirmed as ambassador in March, said she offered the visit to the Saudis, who were immediately receptive. She saw it as an opportunity to achieve an influential nation in global Muslim education due to its wealth and status as the land of Islam’s holiest sites.

She said she hoped to meet political, religious and civil society leaders.

“Talking with them about normalizing the situation, about the vision of the Jews, about normalizing the understanding of Jewish history for their population, especially the younger ones – not only, but especially with a younger population – is really important,” Lipstadt said during a June 18 briefing with Jewish media at the State Department. “It makes a statement about change.” The ministry suspended the briefing until the dates for the 11-day trip, from June 26, are finalized.

Lipstadt credited the Abraham Accords, normalization agreements between Israel and four Arab countries, for making such a visit possible.

“If you had told me a year ago, even after the Abraham Accords, this would be the first place I would go. I would say you are dreaming,” she said.

Lipstadt will also travel to Israel and the United Arab Emirates, one of the signatories to the Abraham Accords. His tour comes ahead of Biden’s visit to the region next month. Biden will travel to Israel, the West Bank and Saudi Arabia, where he will attend a meeting of GCC+3, the grouping of Sunni states of the Arab Gulf Cooperation Council, and Egypt, Jordan and Israel. Iraq.

Much of the West and especially the Democratic Party establishment remains suspicious of Saudi Arabia and its de facto ruler, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, because of its role in the bloody war in neighboring Yemen and of the 2018 murder in Turkey of American journalist Jamal. Khashoggi. Jewish groups hold memories of Saudis pursuing hostile anti-Israel and anti-Jewish policies in the 1980s.

Saudi Arabia has launched an intensive campaign to improve its image in recent months, in particular by setting up an alternative to the PGA Tour of the world of golf. He has also reached out in recent years to Jewish groups, last week hosting a group of 13 Jewish leaders, including six senior leaders from the UJA Federation of New York, for a short visit.

Lipstadt during his briefing also described a meeting she convened last week with her counterparts around the world, including from Germany, the European Union, Israel, Great Britain and Canada. She said the exchange of ideas was fruitful and she hoped to convene him “regularly, every two, three months, four months”. “We can learn from each other,” she said.

Lipstadt, who when campaigning for President Joe Biden suggested the Trump administration displayed fascistic tendencies, said at the briefing that it was essential to get people to understand how anti-Semitic theories portend trouble for all groups and for democracy. She also said the reverse is true — conspiracy theorists often end up adopting anti-Semitic tropes and endangering Jews.

Anti-Semitism “creates a lack of trust in government, because if you feel there is a group controlling the media, controlling the justice system, controlling the banks, controlling the government agencies, why should I trust them? ? Why should I trust democracy? she says. “Anti-Semitism is the canary in the coal mine.”

Lipstadt said his next trip later in the year would be to Argentina and Chile. In Argentina, she hopes to bring to the fore the unsolved 1994 bombing of AMIA, the Jewish community center in Buenos Aires, which killed 85 people.

In Chile, she said, she will speak with Jewish community leaders who “feel pressured” since the election due to pressure exerted on the community by President Gabriel Boric to criticize Israel.

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