May 25, 2023
White House Steps Up Monitoring of Antisemitism in New Strategy
(Bloomberg) -- President Joe Biden directed federal law enforcement agencies to better monitor anti-Jewish and other bias cases, and urged social-media companies and schools to crack down on hate speech, as part of a first-of-its-kind national strategy to combat antisemitism.
The White House on Thursday released a 60-page strategy, which includes more than 100 new actions federal agencies are taking to address a rising number of incidents. The White House said all will be completed within a year.
“This US national strategy to counter antisemitism is a historic step forward,” Biden said in a recorded video message introducing the plan. “It sends a clear and forceful message: in America, evil will not win. Hate will not prevail. The venom and violence of antisemitism will not be the story of our time.”
The strategy aims to bolster education on antisemitism and Jewish-American heritage, improve security for Jewish communities, reverse the “normalization” of antisemitism and counter antisemitic discrimination, according to the strategy document. The White House is partnering with organizations including the National Basketball Association Players Association, the Council on American-Islamic Relations and other faith and civil-rights groups.
Antisemitic episodes in the US reached a four-decade high in 2022, according to the Anti-Defamation League, up 36% from the previous record a year before. The ADL started tracking antisemitic incidents in 1979.
Biden rolled out the strategy at live-streamed event along with Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, the first Jewish spouse of a US president or vice president, and other senior administration officials who worked on it. Emhoff has been the public face of White House efforts on antisemitism.
“This plan will save lives. Our work to counter antisemitism will not stop with the release of this national strategy. We are dedicated to its implementation,” Emhoff said.
Earlier: Emhoff Urges ‘Bold Action’ From US, Europe to Fight Antisemitism
The plan is the White House’s most sweeping policy response yet to a surge of hateful rhetoric and violence against Jews in the US. It faced calls from lawmakers and civil-rights groups to do more to crack down on hate crimes and counter public expressions of hatred against Jews.
The White House plan includes:
- An annual threat assessment by the FBI and National Counter-terrorism Center on “antisemitic drivers of transnational violent extremism” to be shared with technology companies and others
- Eliminating obstacles to reporting hate incidents to the federal government
- Including antisemitism in diversity, equity and inclusion training for federal workers
- Urging online platforms to ensure that their terms of service explicitly cover antisemitism and adopt zero-tolerance policies for hate speech
- The Education Department will establish an antisemitic awareness campaign directed at K-12 and college students that also reminds schools of their legal obligation to address bias complaints.
- The US Holocaust Memorial Museum will launch a new education and research center.
The focus on social media could put the White House on a collision course with Twitter Inc. owner Elon Musk, who has removed speech restrictions from the platform. Studies have shown that hate speech has increased on Twitter since Musk’s purchase.
An interagency group formed last December, led by outgoing domestic policy adviser Susan Rice and homeland security adviser Liz Sherwood-Randall drafted the strategy. Rice said the administration consulted with tech companies, along with a thousand Jewish leaders and other stakeholders, in drafting the plan.
“They know very clearly where we stand on on these issues,” Rice said in an interview. “So this won’t and shouldn’t come as a surprise to them when they read it in the national strategy.”
The plan adopts a definition of antisemitism in line with one used by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance. The US uses that definition, which also considers certain forms of anti-Zionism as antisemitism. Some liberal groups opposed it, arguing it could stifle criticism of the Israeli government.
“When Jews are targeted because of their beliefs or their identity, when Israel is singled out because of anti-Jewish hatred, that is antisemitism. And that is unacceptable,” the strategy reads.
“There has been no change in our posture on this and the strategy will be clear,” Rice said.
Biden indicated that confronting antisemitism was a priority when he said the 2017 white nationalist march in Charlottesville, Virginia, in which tiki-torch carrying marchers chanted “Jews will not replace us,” helped motivate him to run for president. But the problem has persisted.
More recently, high-profile figures including former President Donald Trump; the performer formerly known as Kanye West and basketball star Kyrie Irving have made antisemitic comments or shared antisemitic content.
Musk last week likened billionaire George Soros to the Jewish comic book supervillain Magneto. Soros is a Holocaust survivor, and some of his critics have turned his liberal political activism into antisemitic conspiracy theories. Musk denies that he was attacking Soros over his background.
Deborah Lipstadt, the US special envoy for monitoring and combating antisemitism, said no administration would be able to extinguish an ancient hatred, but the plan could still make inroads.
“We won’t solve the problem. But if we can contain it, if we can reverse it, if we can get people to say this is serious, for me, that will be sufficient,” Lipstadt said in an interview.
(Updates with new details throughout)
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