President Trump’s new special envoy for combating anti-Semitism has issued a broad definition for the prejudice that targets Jews.
On Thursday, his first day on the job, Elan Carr suggested that any organized boycott of Israel was anti-Semitic.
He also tossed out decades of U.S. and international policy by saying he saw no distinction between the status of Jewish settlements in the West Bank and Arab villages that sit alongside them.
Under international law, the settlements, built on land claimed by Palestinians for a future state, are considered illegal. U.S. administrations for decades discouraged settlement construction, saying ownership of the land must be determined through negotiations, but several Israeli governments ignored the entreaties.
Refusal to buy products from a Jewish settlement while being willing to buy from the Arab villages is anti-Semitic, Carr said.
“We are going to focus relentlessly on eradicating this false distinction between anti-Zionism and anti-Semitism,” Carr told reporters at the State Department shortly after he was sworn in.
His position is tasked with monitoring the “growing scourge” of hatred of Jews around the world.
Carr is a former prosecutor from Los Angeles who ran unsuccessfully for county supervisor in 2016 and for a congressional seat in 2014.
His comments came after he was asked about a prominent Palestinian activist who said he was denied entry to the United States despite having a valid visa.
Omar Barghouti, a co-founder of the controversial Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement, was not allowed to board a plane Wednesday at the airport in Tel Aviv.
He was scheduled to speak at several U.S. venues, including Harvard University and a progressive synagogue in Chicago.
Carr said he could not comment on the Barghouti case, but he made clear he considers the BDS movement, as it is known, anti-Semitic because it aims to “strangle” the state of Israel.
The BDS website says its goal is to end Israeli occupation of the West Bank and erode international support for Israel’s settler project.
Carr said criticizing a government’s policies was acceptable, but “if Israel is criticized in a way that no other country in a similar circumstance is criticized, yes, that is anti-Semitism.”
Critics say the White House has frequently tilted in favor of Israel on key political issues, such as sovereignty over Jerusalem and the Golan Heights. Several of the president’s senior aides have sought to put together a peace plan for Israel and the Palestinians, but have yet to publicly release it.
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