The new State Department anti-Semitism envoy is…

Ira Forman, former head of the National Jewish Democratic Council. Ron Kampeas to follow with more details.

A few quick thoughts.

1) Forman is one of those guys who is an unabashed partisan, but will still be candid (at least when talking on background with this journalist) about if his side is screwing up/things aren’t going well.

2) Forman has been an unabashed partisan.

3) Forman has been a very Jewish unabashed partisan.

Not that there’s anything wrong with items 2 & 3.  But when it comes to the State Department’s special envoy to monitor and combat anti-Semitism, you could see how someone being viewed as overly partisan or too Jewish might undercut the credibility and effectiveness of the post. Which brings us back to item #1 — for what it’s worth, my personal experience tells me that Forman has the ability to step outside of his partisan self. Time will tell if he does.

It’s worth noting that President Bush tapped Gregg Rickman, who had been an official at the Republican Jewish Coalition, to serve in the then-newly created position. Democrats voiced no objections. But they would complain about Rickman later, after he was out of office, when he took aim at Hannah Rosenthal, his Obama-appointed successor. But Rickman was not alone — several Jewish communal figures criticized her for wading into a feud of sorts between J Street and the Israeli embassy in Washington.

After that early dust-up, things appeared to go smoothly for Rosenthal, who had served in the Clinton administration, before becoming the head of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs. After leaving the State Department, Rosenthal became the CEO/president of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation.

Whatever one thinks of the partisan stripes of Forman’s predecessors, both Rickman (fighting Swiss banks) and Rosenthal (organizing reaction to the Durban conference) came to the job with some clear-cut non-partisan experience battling anti-Semitism. In his NJDC post, Forman certainly was willing to call out anti-Jewish comments/actions, but mostly within the context of partisan warfare. Again, however, it’s important to note that Forman did on occasion spank Democrats (President Carter, for example). So, again, we’ll see.

 

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