Secretary of State Anthony Blinken testifies at a Senate Appropriations subcommittee hearing, June 8, 2021. (Chen Mengtong/China News Service via Getty Images) by the Forward

State Department officials urge Blinken to fire officer who operates antisemitic blog

(JTA) — Six months after his internet posts attacking Jews came to light, a U.S. Foreign Service officer remains employed by the State Department. Now, at least 70 of his co-workers sent a letter to Secretary of State Antony Blinken demanding his dismissal.

The letter, sent July 28, argues that Fritz Berggren is a threat to Jewish employees at the State Department, and has violated department rules and ethical standards, Foreign Policy reported after obtaining a copy of the letter. 

“Not only is his propagation of antisemitic ideas highly disturbing and offensive to Jewish and non-Jewish employees alike, but as Jewish employees, we feel his presence at the Department is threatening,” the letter reads, according to Foreign Policy. 

A State Department spokesperson said on Wednesday that the allegations “are taken seriously,” but said department policy was not to comment on individual personnel matters,

“When such allegations are substantiated, the Department may take disciplinary action, up to and including separation, when appropriate,” the spokesperson said in a statement. “The Department does not take such actions lightly and must comply with all required procedures before doing so.”

For years, Berggren has maintained a website, featuring screeds against Jews and the LGBTQ community, and promoting white Christian supremacy.

“Jesus Christ came to save the whole world from the Jews — the founders of the original Anti-Christ religion, they who are the seed of the Serpent, that brood of vipers,” Berggren wrote in an Oct. 4, 2020, post on his website titled “Jews are Not God’s Chosen People. Judeo-Christian is Anti-Christ.”

The Jewish Americans and Friends in Foreign Affairs employee group at the State Department organized the letter along with other Jewish State Department employees. 

Blinken, who is Jewish, responded to the letter on Aug. 9.

“I want to assure you that the Department treats reports of alleged misconduct with the utmost seriousness,” Blinken wrote in the letter obtained by The Forward. “As you know, individuals who engage in discriminatory harassment may be removed from consideration for senior-level positions or supervisory duties, and they may face disciplinary action up to and including separation when warranted.”

Blinken also noted the nomination of Deborah Lipstadt, a preeminent historian of the Holocaust, as the department’s special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism as proof of the administration’s commitment to fighting hate.

The letter to Blinken was sent two days after a carving of a swastika was found in an elevator at the State Department’s headquarters in Washington, D.C., on July 26. That incident led Blinken and other top U.S. officials to issue condemnations of antisemitism.

“While there is no evidence that Berggren is behind the swastika carved into the Department elevator, his continued employment with seemingly no consequences sends a message of impunity that has undoubtedly contributed to the atmosphere in which someone would dare to do such a thing,” the letter reads. 

The letter also noted that Berggren appeared to have violated State Department rules when he displayed his government affiliation in a July 3 post. 

Shalom Konstantino, the interim president of the Jewish Americans and Friends in Foreign Affairs that organized the letter, said he was satisfied with Blinken’s response. Konstantino said that “the swift action” Blinken and the department’s chief diversity and inclusion officer have already taken “showed to us the seriousness with which our letter was taken” and it was “wholeheartedly welcomed by members of our community.”

“We hope the Secretary will personally ensure accountability for the individual case we raised through appropriate personnel actions at the earliest opportunity,” he added.

Foreign Policy reported that Blinken’s response to concerns about Berggren has been met with anger and frustration by some and understanding by others, who concede that Blinken has limited power to control the speech of his employee. 

Berggren responded to news reports about the letter with a post on his website.  

“I am heartened to know that I have Jewish readers — I truly hope that they, like Saul, come to know Jesus Christ as literally the Son of God,” he wrote. “Saul, renamed Paul, converted and began preaching the message: Jesus is the Son of God!”

He added, “If even one Jew or Gentile is converted then it is well worth the trouble.


The post Fire antisemitic blogger, 70 State Department employees demand in letter to Blinken appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

Author

Jacob Kornbluh

Jacob Kornbluh

Jacob Kornbluh is the Forward’s senior political reporter. Follow him on Twitter @jacobkornbluh or email kornbluh@forward.com.

State Department officials urge Blinken to fire officer who operates antisemitic blog

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