Biden Condemns Antisemitism in Holocaust Remembrance Speech

President Biden on Tuesday condemned a “ferocious surge of antisemitism” in the United States following the Oct. 7 Hamas attack against Israel and said people were already forgetting the deadliest day for Jews since the Holocaust.

Speaking at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Days of Remembrance, Mr. Biden tied the anti-Jewish sentiment that led to the Nazi effort to exterminate Jews directly to Oct. 7.

“This ancient hatred of Jews didn’t begin with the Holocaust,” he said. “It didn’t end with the Holocaust, either.”

For Mr. Biden, a self-described Zionist, the speech was a clear assertion of his support for Jewish Americans as he struggles to balance his support for Israel with increasingly forceful calls for the protection of civilians in Gaza.

Mr. Biden’s address also comes as protests against Israel’s war in Gaza roil college campuses, with students demanding that the Biden administration stop sending weapons to Israel. In some cases, the demonstrations have included antisemitic rhetoric and harassment targeting Jewish students.

“I understand people have strong beliefs and deep convictions about the world,” the president said. But, he added, “there is no place on any campus in America, any place in America, for antisemitism or hate speech or threats of violence of any kind.”

Mr. Biden also denounced attempts to minimize the Hamas attacks, which killed 1,200 people in Israel and sparked a war that has killed an estimated 34,000 people in Gaza.

“Now here we are, not 75 years later, but just seven and half months later, and people are already forgetting,” Mr. Biden said. “They are already forgetting. That Hamas unleashed this terror. It was Hamas that brutalized Israelis. It was Hamas who took and continues to hold hostages.

“I have not forgotten, nor have you,” he told the crowd of more than 100, including Holocaust survivors. “And we will not forget.”

Since the outset of the war, Mr. Biden has faced criticism from Arab Americans and Palestinians who have said they don’t hear Mr. Biden talk about the plight of their people with the same empathy and emotion that he uses to describe Israel and the Jewish people.

The leader of the World Food Program has said that parts of Gaza are experiencing a “full-blown famine,” in part because of Israel blocking humanitarian aid.

Jewish groups have been pressuring the administration to take firmer policy steps to combat antisemitism on college campuses, in particular. On Tuesday, the Biden administration fulfilled some of those requests.

The Education Department’s Office for Civil Rights released new guidance to every school and college outlining examples of antisemitic discrimination, as well as other forms of hate, that could lead to investigations for violating Title VI of the Civil Rights Act.

The law prohibits discrimination based on race, color and national origin, and the department has interpreted it as extending to Jewish students. Since the Oct. 7 attack, the department has opened more than 100 investigations into complaints about antisemitism and other forms of discrimination. The administration also announced that the Department of Homeland Security would also offer new resources, including an online campus safety resource guide.

Nathan Diament, executive director for public policy for the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations, one of the groups that has been lobbying the administration for more measures for weeks, said that the Jewish community “need them implemented rapidly and aggressively.”

“President Biden’s speech today was an important statement of moral clarity at a time when too many people seem to be morally confused,” Mr. Diament said. “Just as important as the president’s words today is the announcement that his administration is taking more steps to counter the surge of antisemitism in the U.S.”

The president promised that his commitment to the security of Israel “and its right to exist as an independent Jewish state is ironclad. Even when we disagree,” a reference to the arguments his administration has had with Israel’s right-wing government about the toll the war is taking in Gaza. The speech came against the backdrop of Israel’s plans to move forward with a ground operation in Rafah, which Mr. Biden opposes. More than 1 million Palestinians are sheltering in Rafah.

Mr. Biden made a tacit acknowledgment during his speech that the pro-Palestinian cause has resonated with other minority groups with histories of violence and oppression.

“We must give hate no safe harbor against anyone — anyone,” Mr. Biden said in his speech, adding that Jewish people helped lead civil rights causes throughout history.

“From that experience,” he added, “we know scapegoating and demonizing any minority is a threat to every minority and the very foundation of our democracy.”

But Mr. Biden largely focused on the issue at hand. After his address, he stayed to watch three Holocaust survivors, who carried photos and mementos as they recounted their memories of loved ones. They invited the audience to stand and raise black-and-white photos of Holocaust victims that were placed on audience chairs in the air.

Mr. Biden held a photo of four children to his chest.

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