Anti-Israel Activist Tapped for State Department Role Withdraws Name From Consideration

Sarah Margon's nomination stalled due to support for Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement

Sarah Margon / Getty Images
January 25, 2023

An anti-Israel activist who supports the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions (BDS) movement and was tapped by the Biden administration to fill a critical State Department post withdrew her name from consideration due to Republican opposition.

Sarah Margon on Tuesday announced her decision to withdraw after a protracted Senate fight with Republicans who saw her as unfit for the job due to her years of anti-Israel activism. Margon is the former Washington, D.C., director at Human Rights Watch, a nonprofit organization that criticizes Israel and accuses it of engaging in "crimes against humanity." The Biden administration in 2021 tapped her to serve as assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights, and labor—a post that would have given her power to target Israel.

"At present, I don't see a path forward for confirmation, and after one and a half years, it's time to move on," Margon said in the statement first published by Politico. "I will continue to work on democracy and human rights, and am grateful to President Biden and Secretary [of State Antony] Blinken for their confidence in me and the honor of a nomination."

Margon's decision to withdraw her nomination is a win for Senate Republicans who stalled her nomination over her support for the anti-Semitic BDS movement, which wages economic warfare on Israel. Margon praised the travel website Airbnb when it made the 2018 decision to remove listings in disputed areas of Israel that Palestinians consider occupied land. And in a September 2021 confirmation hearing before the Senate, Margon said, "I believe the private sector across the board has an important role to play in not promoting or pursuing discriminatory policies."

Sen. Jim Risch (R., Idaho), the ranking member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said in a statement to National Review, "There are many qualified people on both sides of the aisle for positions in government, and I look forward to thoroughly reviewing the nominees the president sends to the Senate."

Margon's decision to withdraw comes on the heels of another controversy involving Human Rights Watch. Harvard University earlier this month revoked a fellowship offer to Kenneth Roth, the longtime head of Human Rights Watch who is seen as one of the Jewish state's fiercest critics. The elite school revoked Roth's fellowship offer, citing his anti-Israel bias, but made an about-face last week following outrage among pro-Palestinian groups and Roth himself. Harvard reportedly claimed it made an "error" in revoking the offer.

In addition to her work at Human Rights Watch, Margon was the foreign policy director at liberal billionaire George Soros's Open Society Foundations. Margon also came under scrutiny for supporting an effort by the International Criminal Court to prosecute George W. Bush administration officials for alleged "crimes against humanity" related to the war on terrorism, the Washington Free Beacon reported in April 2021.