US antisemitism envoy to visit Saudi Arabia, Israel and UAE

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Deborah E. Lipstadt during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, US, February 8, 2022.
AP /Andrew HarnikDeborah E. Lipstadt during a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, US, February 8, 2022.

'It’s got to go beyond governments, especially when you’re dealing with a sentiment that’s been embedded'

Deborah Lipstadt's first foreign tour as State Department antisemitism watchdog will begin in Saudi Arabia, a sign of the kingdom's efforts to change its image in the West and among Jews, according to Thursday reports.

Lipstadt, a renowned Holocaust historian, said she proposed the visit to the Saudis, who were immediately receptive. In addition, she plans to meet with political, religious and civil society leaders.

She noted that Saudi Arabia had created an atmosphere where she could discuss "normalizing the vision of the Jews and understanding of Jewish history for their population, particularly their younger population," despite the fact that the country is not part of the Abraham Accords normalization agreement between Israel and Arab countries.

“It’s got to go beyond governments, especially when you’re dealing with a sentiment that’s been embedded,” she said, according to Haaretz. 

“When a country with a long history of colored reactions to Jews and Jewish history says ‘Come and let’s talk’ to a person at the level of an ambassador – they know what I want to discuss and address,” Lipstadt said. “I would have been negligent not to have planned that.”

She is expected to begin her trip on June 26.

Lipstadt is also scheduled to visit Israel, where she will meet with US ambassador Tom Nides and Foreign Ministry officials, and then will visit the United Arab Emirates. 

She said her next trip, later this year, will be to Argentina for the 28th anniversary of the bombing at the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires.

“It has not gotten the attention in the Jewish community, much less the world, that it deserves - given that it was the largest number of fatalities at a Jewish institution since the Holocaust,” Lipstadt said.

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