Elan S. Carr, Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism
MR BROWN: Thank you and good afternoon, everyone. I appreciate you all joining for today’s on-the-record briefing with U.S. Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Elan Carr. We’d like to welcome Special Envoy Carr, who will discuss recent efforts to combat anti-Semitism globally. He’ll provide a brief readout on the Department’s first-ever U.S. Government-sponsored event about online anti-Semitism titled “Ancient Hatred, Modern Medium,” as well as the Global Imams Council’s adoption of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of anti-Semitism, and the recent signing of an MOU with Bahrain’s King Hamad Global Centre for Peaceful Coexistence.
Special Envoy Carr will provide opening remarks and then take your questions. As a reminder, the contents of the briefing are embargoed until the end of the call, and if you’d like to go ahead and get in the question queue, just dial 1 and then 0.
Elan, please, go ahead.
MR CARR: Thank you, Cale, and good afternoon, everyone. Thanks so much for joining us.
In the last two weeks, a few key initiatives have come to fruition in our global fight against the scourge of anti-Semitism. First, the State Department hosted the first-ever U.S. Government-sponsored conference on combating online anti-Semitism titled “Ancient Hatred, Modern Medium.” The event was hosted by Secretary Pompeo, who presented opening remarks, together with Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel, Minister Michael Gove of the UK, and others who presented opening remarks. Last week, the 12 separate sessions of the conference were released to the public through the Department website and can now be viewed at www.state.gov/anti-semitism-conference.
The conference comes at an urgent time. Anti-Semitism has been rising throughout the world for more than a decade now largely because of its propagation online. We sought to address this global challenge while upholding America’s bedrock free speech protections. Four especially important recommendations emerged during the course of the conference. They are to define anti-Semitism so that we can recognize it, educate relevant platform users about it, measure it using sophisticated data analysis, and forge collaboration, for example, between technology platforms, civic society, and government.
While our focus of the conference is anti-Semitism, many of the conclusions and recommendations we’ve made are equally applicable to other forms of online hate. The strategies and alliances formed can serve as tools in the broader cause of defending human dignity and religious freedom everywhere.
Second, on October 22nd, 2020, my office and the Kingdom of Bahrain’s King Hamad Global Centre for Peaceful Coexistence signed an historic memorandum of understanding to combat anti-Semitism together. We are deeply grateful to His Majesty King Hamad bin Isa Al Khalifa for his visionary leadership in the Middle East. And I was honored to sign the MOU together with my friend, the center’s chairman, Dr. Shaikh Khalid bin Khalifa Al Khalifa.
The document outlines our plans to work together to eradicate anti-Semitism and promote respect and peace between the Arab and Jewish peoples throughout – through educational and other programs. This agreement is groundbreaking in that it is the first time Arab partners have formally joined the United States in combating anti-Semitism. It is the first time that an Arab entity has employed the IHRA definition of anti-Semitism. That’s the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism, which this MOU formally does. And it is the first time in the region that we are seeing Israel acknowledged in this way. If I may quote from the agreement, we will work together to combat, quote, “all forms of anti-Semitism including anti-Zionism and the delegitimization of the State of Israel.” Groundbreaking.
And this has already started to have effects. So for example – and here’s a third point in our briefing – the Global Imams Council, following publication of our agreement with Bahrain and following communications between my team and the Global Imam Council, adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism. The Global Imams Council is the largest international NGO of Muslim faith leaders in the world, and they have now adopted the IHRA definition, and in so doing have pledged also to combat anti-Semitism globally.
There are other developments in this important cause of adopting the IHRA definition. Albania is the first Muslim-majority country to do so through formal parliamentary action. Kosovo did so earlier. And so we are seeing this on the march internationally, and this is a very, very good development for our mutual cause of fighting anti-Semitism, protecting the Jewish people, and of course supporting the State of Israel.
Thank you so much, and I look forward to your questions.
MR BROWN: Great. If you’d like to ask a question, dial 1 and then 0, and we’ll stand by. Okay. For our first question, let’s open the line of Lara Jakes.
QUESTION: Hey. Thanks so much for taking the call. Did you – you’re aware there was some reporting a couple of weeks ago that the State Department was looking at declaring some NGOs as anti-Semitic, Amnesty International and Oxfam to be among them. I was just wondering if that had ever come to pass, how seriously that was considered, and if it had come to pass, when that might be implemented. Thanks so much.
MR CARR: Thank you, Lara. Well, as a matter of State Department policy, we don’t comment on reported leaks of information. So I have nothing for you on that.
QUESTION: So you can’t even confirm or deny it?
MR CARR: Correct.
MR BROWN: Great. If you’d like to ask a question, dial 1 and then 0. Let’s go to the line of Matt Lee.
QUESTION: So can I just follow up on Lara’s question there? Because whether you’re going to confirm or deny it, do you think that NGOs like Amnesty and Human Rights Watch, Oxfam, others, play a positive and informative role in countries surrounding Israel perhaps, like Syria, like Lebanon, like Iran? When it comes to your portfolio, I’m talking about, when it comes to anti-Semitic behavior, do you believe that those organizations present a realistic and – a realistic picture of what’s going on?
MR CARR: Well, I think there are a number of organizations that do some good work in the world – some in my portfolio, and some generally – in doing human rights work. I don’t want to comment on those three in light of this purported leak. But I mean, sure, there are a lot of important human rights organizations that do some good work in the world, and we don’t have anything more to say about those three in particular.
MR BROWN: Great. Can we go to the line of Jackson Richman?
QUESTION: Hi, Elan. Thank you for doing the call.
MR CARR: Thank you.
QUESTION: My question is: With a Biden presidency becoming increasingly likely, what does your office have to say about the pending victory? Does it have any plans to help in the likely transition? And any possible moves by the administration to address anti-Semitism in the months leading to Inauguration Day? Thank you.
MR CARR: Thank you. Well, obviously I can’t comment on the election – on any election, and certainly on this one, as of course votes are being tallied. But I do think it is critically important for the policies that we have fought for so hard to be continued, whether it’s in another four years of President Trump, or whether it’s in a different administration. I think it’s very, very important because these are not – these are not partisan measures.
I mean, when we fight for the safety of Jewish communities around the world, when we fight as we have to increase the investigation and prosecution and appropriate punishment of hate crimes, when we push the IHRA definition – the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance definition of anti-Semitism is absolutely critical, because to confront a threat effectively you’ve got to first define it. And we’ve made such gains around the world on this front.
The internet and social media, which has been – has been misused by malign actors to become vectors of not only anti-Semitism but so much – so many other kinds of hate, racism, and other kinds of hate. It’s critical that we address this.
And so I see these as fundamental issues that are American issues. And of course, the fight against anti-Semitism is a fight for American values. And so it is critically important that we not only stay the course on these efforts but that we double down and continue to push this, because in rooting this scourge out from our world we truly are building a better world for our children and grandchildren that we all aspire for them to have.
MR BROWN: Great. Can we go to the line of Laura Kelly?
QUESTION: Hi, thank you for doing this. My question is: Do you have any comment on the Michigan Jewish cemetery that was vandalized with President Trump’s name? And despite all the work that your office has done around the world, what does this act of vandalism say about the state of anti-Semitism in the U.S. and as it relates to the President?
MR CARR: Well, anti-Semitism has been increasing, as I said in my opening remarks, for over a decade now. Its propagation online is one of the primary reasons. There are other reasons as well. And we’re seeing that increase in the United States as well, I would say even in the United States, because, of course, the United States is the most Philo-Semitic country in the world, and I would argue that our administration and this President is the most Philo-Semitic administration and the most Philo-Semitic president we’ve had.
But despite that, anti-Semitism is rising globally, and this is a global phenomenon. It’s not an American problem or a German problem or a European problem. It is a global problem. And that requires a coordinated global solution. You mentioned the vandalism of the cemetery in Michigan. I mean, there have been all kinds of incidences. Pittsburgh, Poway. I spoke at the funeral of Lori Kaye, who was murdered in San Diego. And of course, we have Jewish university students under siege on campuses not only in the United States but throughout the world. And I visited with those two leaders in Western Europe who report the exact same thing I’m hearing from student leaders here.
And so there are no shortage of problems, and this vandalism in Michigan is appalling and is one more example of why we’ve got to fight this together. We’ve got to fight it everywhere – here at home and overseas.
And on that score, look, despite rising anti-Semitism, it’s very important to remember there is a lot of good news and a lot of good things are happening in this front. I briefed you on a couple of the more recent ones, but really there is a lot of good movements in the world on this score, and that is something we absolutely have to continue.
MR BROWN: Okay, for the next question let’s go to the line of Halley Toosi.
QUESTION: Hey, everybody. Thanks for doing this. Elan, I was wondering given there have been so many moves lately, like for instance the agreement on the scientific research recently in the West Bank and the passport decision, I was just wondering if – has there been any talk within the administration of changing U.S. documents and, like, official statements to refer to the West Bank as Judea and Samaria? And if so, like, how far along is that? And is that something that you would certainly support doing? Thanks.
MR CARR: Well, I have no knowledge of discussions to do anything like that formally. However, of course, Judea and Samaria are the historic terms for those areas. I typically refer to them as Judea and Samaria or the West Bank, because that’s how they’re known. I know other administration officials have done that, and it’s obviously proper to make historical – a historically accurate reference to those territories.
Now, of course, I will remind everyone that this administration unveiled a proposal for peace between Israel and the Palestinians that acknowledges historical Jewish claims to those areas while at the same time providing a pathway to Palestinian statehood in those very same areas.
And so I think one of the things that has been a hallmark of this administration from day one with regard to Middle East policy is that you can’t build peace on a foundation of falsehoods; you have to build peace on a foundation of truth. And Exhibit A, of course, is recognizing Jerusalem as the capital of the Jewish people and the state of Israel and moving our embassy there.
And again, look where we are now. We have peace that has broken out. I mean just incredibly moving examples of real peace and real brotherhood between Israel and the UAE, between Israel and Bahrain, between Israel and Sudan. There are movements with other countries as well.
And I think this is really evidence that when you tell the truth and you stand by your friends, and – very critically – you weaken your adversaries – of course, our chief adversary in the region being the Islamic Republic of Iran that has produced horrific human suffering in the Middle East, has destabilized the region; when you stand with your friends and you weaken your adversaries, good things happen. It’s not a surprise, but that’s – and that’s exactly what we’re saying.
And so while I have no particular knowledge about the terminology of which you asked, I do think that it is the hallmark of this administration’s policy to be historically accurate and to move the Middle East forward on a foundation of truth and not on a foundation of fiction. And I think the excellent results speak for themselves.
MR BROWN: All right, let’s go to the line of Alex Aliyev.
QUESTION: Yes, good afternoon. This is Alex Raufoglu from Turan News Agency of Azerbaijan, and thank you so much for this opportunity. I have two questions here.
One is a group of senators sent a letter to the State Department two years ago calling – urging them to counter anti-Semitic Russian propaganda. I’m wondering if you think we are better at identifying Russian – understanding (inaudible) by Russian use of anti-Semitism and protecting and threatening (inaudible) journalists both at home and abroad that you think can mitigate the harm of Russian hate speech?
And my second question is, as you know, there’s an ongoing war between Azerbaijan and Armenia. Because Israel supports Azerbaijan at this stage, a group of Armenians in L.A. recently launched a protest in front of Israeli embassy, and there is some hate speeches, anti-Semitic speeches, against the Government of Israel. I’m wondering if that’s also of your concern given that’s happening at home here. Thanks so much.
MR CARR: Certainly. Without commenting on Russia in specifics, I will say that – and this is something that we pressed very much in our conference on internet anti-Semitism – that it’s not all organic. I mean, we’re seeing some malign actors, some governments exacerbate the crisis by fomenting anti-Semitism across the world for a number of reasons – destabilizing democracies, undermining their neighbors, and we’re seeing a number of countries do this. I think chief among them is, of course, the world’s chief state sponsor of both terrorism and anti-Semitism, and that is the Islamic Republic of Iran. And so I think it is very, very important to counter those governments that are exacerbating what is already a crisis. The deluge of anti-Semitism online and social media is – it’s bad enough without these malign governmental actors supporting this and propagating it further. So that is a very important part of this.
With regard to Azerbaijan, let me say that I was actually all set to come to Azerbaijan. I had a very nice invitation to visit, and, of course, COVID-19 intervened and made all travel impossible. But I do – I have publicly said this and I’ll say it again: Azerbaijan is in so many ways a model of interethnic and interfaith not only tolerance but true affection – true affection between its Muslim majority and its Christian community and its Jewish community.
And I was particularly touched when a Jewish community building – it was a synagogue – was being renovated and they ran out of money. The Muslim imam, the leader of the Muslim community, personally intervened and provided additional funding to renovate the synagogue. And these kinds of stories have to be told. I said before that there’s a lot of good news in the world on this front. There really is a lot of good news throughout the world, including in the Middle East, including in the Muslim world, and including in Europe. And so we really need to be telling these stories because they’re so important in providing inspiration for all of us and the kind of future we’d like to see – a future, again, not only of tolerance but of true affection between different ethnic and faith communities.
MR BROWN: Okay. Looks like we have one last question, so this will be the last one. We’ll go back to the line of Matt Lee.
QUESTION: Yeah, hey, I’m sorry. I just wanted to follow up on what you said. So forgetting about – in response to my first question, which was a follow-up to Lara’s question. So apart from those three specific NGOs, in terms of any kind of criticism – and I know that you have made a distinction between criticism of the Government of Israel and anti-Semitism, or at least you have in the past – is that distinction still clear? And is there anything that you’re aware of that the Government of Israel has done over the course of the last three years or over the course of your term that you think is worthy – that you think should be criticized? And if there is and if there has been, can you identify one or two examples? Thank you.
MR CARR: Yeah, that distinction is clear. In fact, I believe you and I discussed this in my very first press conference on the day I was sworn in, and what I said then is that hatred of the Jewish state is hatred of the Jewish people. This isn’t complicated. There is thankfully a diminishing viewpoint – dramatically diminishing, as I’ve traveled the world and met with interlocutors around the world, but still held by some – that somehow the moment countries are involved, well then you can’t talk about anti-Semitism anymore. So when the Islamic Republic of Iran calls Israel a cancerous tumor and says – uses terms like the “final solution” and says that Israel needs to be wiped off the earth, well, you can’t – that’s statecraft. And because Israel is a country, well, that’s statecraft, and this is simply nonsense. I mean, Israel isn’t just a country with some Jews in it. Israel is the Jewish state. It’s the nation-state of the Jewish people. And if any movement or entity focuses unique opprobrium and hatred on the Jewish collective, the nation-state of the Jewish people, that is anti-Semitism.
And so there’s nothing complicated about it, and that has nothing to do with criticizing policies of Israel. Any country can be criticized. The United States can and Israel can. But undermining Israel’s right to exist, denying the Jewish people the right to self-determination, demonizing or delegitimizing Israel, comparing Israel to the Nazis – a member of Congress tweeted just now, made an accusation that – accusing Israel of ethnic cleansing. Today, just now, a member of the United States Congress accusing the Jewish state of ethnic cleansing. And you’ve got to call this out, and criticism is one thing, but focusing unique opprobrium and demonizing the Jewish state is anti-Semitism.
And that’s why, by the way, we’ve taken a very strong stance against BDS, singling Israel out for boycott – basically “don’t buy from the Jews” is what BDS is – is anti-Semitism. And we’ve said it clearly, President Trump has said it, and Secretary Pompeo has said it. And so that’s our position, and I think it’s very, very important that we understand that when people are demonizing or hating the Jewish state, that we not shy away from and not hesitate calling that what it is, which is anti-Semitism.
MR BROWN: Thank you much, Special Envoy Carr, for taking the time to brief everyone and answer questions. And to everyone who joined the call, thanks for taking time on your Friday. This does conclude the call, so the embargo is lifted. Hope you all have a great weekend.
MR CARR: Thank you, everybody. Have a good weekend.