Biden condemns ‘ferocious surge of antisemitism’ in Holocaust remembrance speech

President Joe Biden condemned the “ferocious surge of antisemitism in America and around the world” during a ceremony 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.

Mr Biden said that on October 7, Hamas “brought to life” that hatred with the killing of more than 1,200 Israelis, mostly civilians and warned that, already, people are beginning to forget who was responsible.

The president used his address to renew his declarations of unwavering support for Israel in its war against Hamas even as his relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has grown increasingly strained over Israel’s push to invade the southern Gaza city of Rafah, which would surely worsen the already dire humanitarian crisis for Palestinians.

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President Joe Biden spoke at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum’s remembrance event (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

While acknowledging the ceremony was taking place during “difficult times”, Mr Biden made no explicit reference to the deaths of more than 34,700 Palestinians since the attack by Hamas led Israel to declare war in Gaza.

The tally from the Hamas-run health ministry includes militants, but also many civilians caught up in the fighting.

“My commitment to the safety of the Jewish people, the security of Israel, and its right to exist as an independent Jewish state is ironclad, even when we disagree,” Mr Biden said.

“We’re at risk of people not knowing the truth,” Mr Biden said of the horrors of the Holocaust, when 6 million Jews were systematically killed by Nazi Germany and its collaborators.

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President Joe Biden speaks at the US Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Annual Days of Remembrance ceremony (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

He steered clear of the upcoming presidential election in his speech, but his address comes as former President Donald Trump has criticised him 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.

Mr Biden’s remarks at the Capitol played 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.

“As Jews around the world still cope with the atrocity and trauma of that day and its aftermath, we’ve seen a ferocious surge of antisemitism in America and around the world,” Mr Biden said.

“Not 75 years later, but just seven and a half months later, and people are already forgetting, they’re already forgetting, that Hamas unleashed this terror, that it was Hamas that brutalised Israelis, that it was Hamas that took and continues to hold hostages,” Mr Biden said.

“I have not forgotten, nor have you. And we will not forget.”

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Joe Biden’s relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has grown strained over Israel’s decision to invade Rafah (Abir Sultan/Pool Photo via AP)

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

Mr Biden said “There’s no place on any campus in America” or any place in America for antisemitism or threats of violence.

He added, “We’re not a lawless country — we are a civil society”

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Pro-Palestinian protests have taken place on multiple college campuses across the US (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

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.

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Republican presidential candidate former President Donald Trump has taken aim at Joe Biden’s response to antisemitism (AP Photo/Mike Roemer, File)

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

The video shows images of Mr 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 Mr Biden responding to protesters upset with his administration’s support for Israel in its war against Hamas.

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

Mr Biden’s 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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