As the lead U.S. representative in action against “the world’s oldest hatred,” Elan Carr’s official job title is Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism. That means wherever anti-Semitism it is found, anywhere in the world – except, by statute, in the United States. Nonetheless, events in this country impact Carr’s global portfolio.
Carr will discuss his mission on Sept. 15 at the Atlanta Jewish Academy in Sandy Springs, in a program sponsored by the Atlanta Israel Coalition.
“The sky is not falling,” Carr told the Atlanta Jewish Times, speaking from Washington, D.C. “Let me be clear. We have urgent challenges that we need to confront. Is it worse today? Yes.”
He said that his message will be “that the United States in general, and this administration in particular, is committed in an unprecedented fashion to the fight against anti-Semitism, the protection of the Jewish people throughout the world, and support for the state of Israel.”
The 51-year-old Carr had been a deputy district attorney in the Los Angeles County District Attorney’s office for more than a decade when he was appointed special envoy on Feb. 5 this year by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. President Donald Trump had left the position vacant during the first two years of his administration, rankling members of Congress and the leaders of Jewish organizations.
“Although it is a global problem and is rising, there’s also good news. We have leaders not only here in this country but around the world who get it, who are appalled that this is happening. One of my jobs is to support with the full weight of the United States those friends and allies we have that understand the problem. I’m happy to report that we have no shortage of those at all levels of government. One of my great pleasures when I go overseas representing the United States is to see the passion they bring to the fight. That is incredibly encouraging and leaves me optimistic,” he said.
Optimism but realistic. As a colleague in the United Kingdom told Carr, “If all we do is contain it at the current levels, that’s not sufficient. We have to roll it back.”
Carr pointed to three sources of the scourge: “ethnic supremacists on the right,” “the Israel-hating radical left,” and “militant Islam.” “These are three perspectives on the world that should hate each other more than they hate anything else,” but all three have found a target in the Jewish people, he said.
“It is critically important that we draw a distinction between nationalism and ethnic supremacism. It’s a pernicious injustice to conflate the two,” Carr said. He cited this as a tactic used by some critics of Israel, founded as a national homeland for Jews.
Carr sees in the current environment an opportunity to address the anti-Semitism that Arab and Muslim immigrants have brought with them to Europe. “Almost all of the acts of personal violence against Jews in western Europe have come from that population,” he said.
“I think we have more of a chance to move the needle in the Middle East than ever before,” Carr said. He cited a geo-political realignment due in part to regional antipathy toward Iran and events in the Gulf region, including some thawing of relations with Israel.
“The institutional anti-Semitism that we see in the Arab and Muslim world is something I intend to focus on,” Carr said, citing “the indoctrination of children,” which he termed “mass child abuse.”
His personal history may aid him in this arena. “My family comes from the Arab world. I think that’s very helpful for a number of reasons. Jewish unity around the fight against anti-Semitism is very important. Sometimes it takes someone from a different perspective to be a catalyst for unity,” he said.
Carr’s mother fled Iraq after seeing her father, a leader in a once-thriving Jewish community in Baghdad, put on trial by Iraqi authorities after the founding of Israel in 1948. She traveled to Israel and later to the United States, where she met Carr’s father, who is of Ashkenazi descent. Carr grew up to become fluent in Hebrew and Arabic.
A graduate of the University of California-Berkley and the Northwestern University Law School, Carr became a legal adviser to Israel’s Justice Ministry before joining the U.S. Army. Carr deployed to his mother’s homeland in 2003, serving with an anti-terrorism unit, and as a JAG (Judge Advocate General) officer, prosecuting insurgents before Iraqi judges in Iraqi courts.
Carr also led services for Jewish troops, including the lighting of a Chanukah menorah in a former palace of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein.
Though the statutory mandate of his office is anti-Semitism outside of the United States, Carr said, “The White House has specifically tasked me” to also focus on the issue domestically. “I’m very public about it and so, when I go overseas, that’s actually a big asset.”
Even in “the most philo-Semitic country in the history of the world” a “metastatic cancer spreading over the United States is the anti-Semitism that cloaks itself in the language of anti-Israel,” Carr said.
“The college campus in particular is an urgent crisis,” said Carr, a former national president of the Jewish fraternity, Alpha Epsilon Pi. “What’s going on on college campuses is taking a measurable toll,” in declining support for Israel not only among Jewish students but also among evangelical Christian students.
Acknowledging that accusing Jews of dual loyalty is part of the definition of anti-Semitism, Carr rejected the suggestion that Trump was being anti-Semitic when he recently said that Jewish Americans who vote for Democrats are being disloyal to fellow Jews and to Israel. As the titular head of the Republican Party, the president is entitled to such political comments, he said.
“The accusation of dual loyalty is a euphemism,” Carr said. “It’s about disloyalty. When anyone says a Jew has dual loyalty what they mean is Jews are disloyal to the United States.”
Carr’s wife, Dr. Dahlia Carr, a rheumatologist, is the granddaughter of Holocaust survivors. The Carrs are the parents of two daughters and a son. They keep a kosher home and observe the Jewish holidays “very strictly,” Carr said. He won’t work on Shabbat, though he will drive. The family affiliates with the Orthodox movement, though the children attend a day school in the Conservative movement.
“The kids speak fluent Hebrew. They speak Hebrew to each other,” he said.
Ticket information for this event can be found at: http://www.tinyurl.com/carrATL-AIC.