Biden to condemn current antisemitism in Holocaust remembrance amid college protests and Gaza war

President Joe Biden arrives at Andrews Air Force Base, Md., from a weekend trip to his Delaware home, Monday, May 6, 2024. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden is set to issue a forceful condemnation of antisemitism during a ceremony today to remember victims of the Holocaust at a time when the Hamas attack on Israel and controversy over the war in Gaza have sparked new waves of violence and hateful rhetoric toward Jews.

Biden’s remarks at the Capitol will play out as pro-Palestinian protests — some of which have involved antisemitic chants and threats toward Jewish students and supporters of Israel — rock college campuses across the country.

Biden has struggled to balance his support for Israel after the Oct. 7 Hamas attack — the deadliest day for Jews worldwide since the Holocaust — with his efforts to constrain its war on the militant group in Gaza.

“You can expect the president to make clear that during these sacred days of remembrance, we honor the memory of the 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust,” press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Monday. “And we recommit to heeding the lessons of this dark chapter. Never again.”

Jean-Pierre said Biden would speak to the “horrors” of the Hamas attack, and how antisemitism is on the rise globally and at home.

“And he will speak to how since October 7th, we’ve seen an alarming rise in antisemitism in the U.S. and our cities, our communities and on our campuses,” she added.

Biden was expected to steer clear of the upcoming presidential election in his speech. But his address comes as former President Donald Trump has criticized the incumbent for not doing more to combat antisemitism — while ignoring his own long history of rhetoric that invokes the language of Nazi Germany and plays on stereotypes of Jews in politics.

The Capitol event, hosted by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, will also feature remarks from House Speaker Mike Johnson and House Democratic Leader Hakeem Jeffries.

The campus protests have posed a political challenge for Biden, whose coalition has historically relied on younger voters, many of whom are critical of his public support for Israel.

Jean-Pierre said Biden would “reaffirm” the right to free speech. “But there is no place on any campus or anywhere for antisemitism,” she added. “There is no place for hate speech or threats of violence against the Jewish people.”

In conjunction with Biden’s speech, his administration was announcing new steps to combat antisemitism on colleges campuses and beyond. The Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights was sending every school district and college in the nation a letter outlining examples of antisemitism and other hate that could lead to federal civil rights investigations.

The Department of Homeland Security was moving to educate schools and community groups about resources and funding available to promote campus safety and address threats. And the State Department’s special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism was meeting with technology companies on how to combat the rise in hateful conflict online.

On Monday, Doug Emhoff, the husband of Vice President Kamala Harris and the first Jewish spouse of a nationally elected American leader, met with Jewish college students at the White House about the administration’s efforts to combat antisemitism. He heard students describe their own experiences with hatred, including threats of violence and hate speech, his office said.

Trump’s campaign on Monday released a video on Yom Hashoah, Israel’s Holocaust remembrance day, that aimed to contrast the 2024 presidential candidates’ responses on antisemitism.

The video shows images of Trump visiting Israel and speeches he has given pledging to stand with Jewish people and confront antisemitism, while showing footage of the protests on campuses and clips of Biden responding to protesters upset with his administration’s support for Israel in its war against Hamas.

One of the clips shows Biden saying, “They have a point,” but does not include the next sentence in which Biden said, “We need to get a lot more care into Gaza.”

Biden campaign spokesman James Singer said in response that “President Biden stands against antisemitism and is committed to the safety of the Jewish community, and security of Israel — Donald Trump does not.”


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