(CNSNews.com) – The head of a Jewish Democratic organization sparked a firestorm on Twitter on Monday after she accused a prominent Republican appointed by President Trump to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council of having “emboldened actual neo-Nazis.”
The charge directed by Jewish Democratic Council of America (JDCA) CEO Halie Soifer at Trump ally Richard Grenell prompted strong reactions from supporters who pointed to his record.
As ambassador to Germany – from May 2018 until last June – Grenell spoke out repeatedly against anti-Semitism, was credited for helping to secure the deportation from the U.S. of a Nazi fugitive, pressed Germany and other E.U. governments to adopt a stronger stance against Hezbollah, Iran’s proxy terrorist group in Lebanon, and at a rally in Geneva last year lashed the U.N. Human Rights Council for persistently singling out Israel.
Grenell also periodically upset his hosts by scorning European outreach to the regime in Iran, some of whose leaders deny the Holocaust and have called for an end to the Jewish state.
In her accusatory tweet, however, Soifer – a former national security advisor to Sen. Kamala Harris – pointed to a controversy that erupted briefly in mid-2018 after Grenell was quoted by Breitbart London as saying that wants to “empower” conservative leaders in Europe.
“Today, Trump appointed Richard Grenell to the Holocaust Memorial Council,” Soifer tweeted. “As US Amb to Germany, Grenell sought to ‘empower’ far-right parties & anti-establishment conservatives in Europe. Others have been unqualified, but he’s emboldened actual neo-Nazis.”
(In his remarks at the time, Grenell said, “I think there is a groundswell of conservative policies that are taking hold because of the failed policies of the left.” Amid criticism from some quarters in Germany and the U.S., he tweeted, “The idea that I’d endorse candidates/parties is ridiculous. I stand by my comments that we are experiencing an awakening from the silent majority – those who reject the elites & their bubble. Led by Trump.”)
Reacting to Soifer’s tweet, Omri Ceren, national security advisor to Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and former managing director at The Israel Project, called it “a disgraceful slur of Grenell, who cares passionately about the well-being and security of the Jewish people.”
Others on Twitter drew attention to Grenell’s involvement in bringing to an end a long legal battle over the deportation from the U.S. of Jakiw Palij, a 95-year-old former Nazi SS labor camp guard.
When Palij was deported in August 2018, the Simon Wiesenthal Center (SWC) commended Grenell, saying he had made the matter “a diplomatic priority.”
Grenell at the time gave credit to Trump, saying the president’s “instructions were clear and his leadership crucial” in getting the deportation done.
Zionist Organization of America president Morton Klein, who was born to Holocaust survivors in a displaced persons’ camp in Bavaria shortly after the war, came out in support of Grenell’s appointment, calling him “a great Zionist & strong advocate for the Jewish people & Israel” and “smart, articulate, courageous & knowledgeable.”
The SWC also welcomed the appointment, saying that “no U.S. ambassador posted to Berlin in recent history has done more to combat anti-Semitism in Germany, from neo-Nazis to Islamists linked to Iran and Hezbollah than Richard Grenell.”
“I couldn’t think of more worthy appointment to US Holocaust Memorial Council than @RichardGrenell!” tweeted international human rights attorney Arsen Ostrovsky. “Ric has been unwavering in fighting Antisemitism. As Amb to Berlin, he was first to put on kippa when they said No. And he’s been fearless holding Holocaust denying Iran to account!”
The kippa reference related to an episode in May last year. Amid concerns about potential anti-Semitic attacks during annual Iran-backed Al-Quds Day events, some Jewish leaders suggested that Jews avoid wearing their distinctive skullcaps. Grenell countered, “Wear your kippa. Wear your friend’s kippa. Borrow a kippa and wear it for our Jewish neighbors. Educate people that we are a diverse society.”
Grenell, who served for three months this year as acting director of national intelligence, is also special presidential envoy for Serbia and Kosovo negotiations. In the latter capacity he helped to broker an economic normalization agreement between the warring Balkan neighbors, in a deal that also saw Muslim-majority Kosovo agree to recognize Israel.
This isn’t the first time Soifer has provoked controversy for wielding Nazi accusations.
Last fall, a JDCA political ad promoted by Soifer juxtaposed an image of Trump with images from the Nazi era, a tactic which the SWC described as “beneath contempt” and the Anti-Defamation League called “deeply offensive.”