After President Joe Biden nominated Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt as his administration’s new special envoy tasked with monitoring and combating antisemitism, Zionist Organization of America head Morton Klein blasted the decision, calling for her disqualification due to her past “abuse of false Nazi and antisemitism charges against those with whom she disagrees politically.”
Lipstadt, a professor of modern Jewish history and Holocaust studies at Emory University, made headlines last year after defending comparing then-President Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler and those questioning election results to Holocaust deniers.
In response to the appointment, the nation’s oldest pro-Israel organization released the following statement Friday:
“The ZOA opposes [the nomination of] Emory University lecturer Deborah Lipstadt to be the U.S. Combating Antisemitism Envoy, because of her statements displaying partisan left wing bias,” the statement begins.
It then notes Lipstadt’s previous history of attacking former President Trump by means of false accusations.
“Lipstadt obscenely and falsely likened President Trump to Nazi murderers and propagandists; helped promote a video that wrongly did the same; promoted the Charlottesville Hoax (despite President Trump’s clear condemnation of neo-Nazis and white supremacists); and falsely called President Trump (the grandfather of Orthodox Jewish children) an ‘antisemitic enabler,’” the statement reads.
It continues by describing her political tactics as grounds for her disqualification.
“Lipstadt’s abuse of false Nazi and antisemitism charges against those with whom she disagrees politically should disqualify her from serving as the U.S. Combating Antisemitism Envoy,” it continues.
The Holocaust scholar, who twice endorsed Barack Obama, is then accused of ignoring antisemitic threats from Islam and the left.
“Lipstadt’s primary focus is antisemitism on the right (both real and imagined), at a time when the major threat is Islamist and far-left antisemitism,” the statement reads. “We are concerned that Lipstadt will ignore and/or give far too little attention to antisemitism from groups such as the Black Lives Matter organization, and leftist and Islamist BDS groups and Israel-bashing NGOs.”
Noting that President Biden promised to heal and unite Americans after assuming office, the statement then warns that Lipstadt’s confirmation would serve to aggravate divisions.
“Nominating and confirming Lipstadt would increase partisan divides,” the statement reads. “The Combating Antisemitism Envoy is a sensitive position that requires someone non-partisan, who will honestly and strongly address all real forms of antisemitism, from the left wing to the right wing, and who will not make inaccurate charges of antisemitism to defame political adversaries.”
“Lipstadt is a bad choice,” it concludes.
Lipstadt is best known for winning a lawsuit against Holocaust denier David Irving, who had sued her for defamation in 2000.
In June, she stated that “election denial” surrounding the 2020 elections reminded her of “the modus operandi of Holocaust deniers, who skew and distort a set of legitimate facts and, in so doing, render them lies.”
Previously, Lipstadt argued for the radical comparison of challenging election results with denying that a Nazi Holocaust, the “best-documented genocide in the world,” ever occurred, in a December Washington Post editorial.
However, in 2011, she told Ha’aretz that politicians who invoke the Holocaust for contemporary political purposes are engaging in “Holocaust abuse,” which is similar to “soft-core denial” of the Holocaust.
In September, in another contradicting move, Lipstadt argued that it was appropriate to compare 1930s Germany and what critics call Trump’s breaking of norms as she endorsed an ad released by the Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA) that drew parallels between the rise of fascism in Germany and the Trump presidency.
The Biden administration has faced sharp criticism for its delay in filling the antisemitism post, as pressure has been mounting due to a wave of antisemitic attacks across the country in recent months.
Lipstadt is the first nominee who will need to be confirmed by the Senate since the post was first created in 2004.
Last year, Congress moved to elevate the position to ambassador level, with more funding and easier access to the secretary of state and the president.
Follow Joshua Klein on Twitter @JoshuaKlein