Biden’s counter-antisemitism campaign subtly targets Trump

Joe Biden
President Joe Biden speaks during a reception to celebrate the Jewish new year in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Friday, Sept. 30, 2022. Vice President Kamala Harris and her husband Doug Emhoff stand at right. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) Susan Walsh/AP

Biden’s counter-antisemitism campaign subtly targets Trump

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For the second time this month, the White House is amplifying antisemitism amid criticism of former President Donald Trump over the issue.

But the White House has been reticent to link the only declared 2024 Republican presidential candidate with antisemitism directly as President Joe Biden reportedly prepares to launch a reelection campaign.

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Trump has shared a meal with rapper Kanye West, also known as Ye, who has defended Nazis, and white nationalist Nick Fuentes.

The former president’s eldest daughter has converted to Judaism, and he has Jewish grandchildren. He moved the U.S. Embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem.

The White House’s antisemitism response “makes sense,” according to former Republican aide John Pitney. Claremont McKenna College’s Roy Crocker American politics professor contends it is unnecessary for Biden to connect Trump with antisemitism because he “has already done that himself.”

But “the problem of antisemitism is broader, deeper, and older than Trump or Ye,” Pitney told the Washington Examiner. “In the Ukraine war, for instance, the Russians have deployed antisemitism against President [Volodymyr] Zelensky,” he said.

Democratic strategist Jim Manley did not want to overanalyze the White House’s approach to antisemitism through politics, describing it as “a very serious issue” with “real consequences.” But at the same time, the late Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s former communications director was quick to criticize some Republicans’ relationship with antisemitism, predicting “things are going to get increasingly ugly” if that sentiment is left unchecked.

“There’s a real sickness coursing through our society, especially in the Republican Party,” he said. “It needs to be addressed, and it needs to be stopped now. This is not the 1940s. It is 2022, for God’s sake, and this stuff is flat-out not acceptable.”

During a White House Hanukkah reception Monday night, Biden repeated “silence” regarding antisemitism is “complicity” and that the country must not provide hate and violence a “safe harbor” in America. That is a message he has reiterated since his 2020 campaign in reaction to the 2017 Charlottesville Unite the Right rally.

Monday’s event was Biden’s latest overture to the Jewish community after second gentleman Douglas Emhoff‘s antisemitism-focused roundtable this month. It supplements the president’s other forms of symbolic outreach, such as adding the first menorah to the White House collection and September’s inaugural White House High Holiday celebration. Biden retained a pro-Israel policy position during the 2020 primary as well when many of his opponents adopted pro-Palestine stances.

At the start of Emhoff’s antisemitism roundtable, which comprised prominent reform, conservative, and orthodox Jewish leaders, the first Jewish presidential or vice presidential spouse spoke of “an epidemic of hate facing our country.”

“Let me be clear: Words matter,” Emhoff said. “People are no longer saying the quiet parts out loud, they are screaming them.” “We cannot normalize this,” he continued. “We all have an obligation to condemn these vile acts. We must not stay silent. There is no either-or. There are no two sides. Everyone must be against this.”

Policy-wise, Biden last week founded an antisemitism interagency task force, led by the White House Domestic Policy Council and the National Security Council, directing the group to draft a framework in reply.

“This strategy will raise understanding about antisemitism and the threat it poses to the Jewish community and all Americans, address antisemitic harassment and abuse both online and offline, seek to prevent antisemitic attacks and incidents, and encourage whole-of-society efforts to counter antisemitism and build a more inclusive nation,” press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre wrote in a statement.

“At September’s United We Stand Summit, our administration announced a series of actions and commitments to take on hate-fueled violence,” she expanded in an earlier press briefing. “President Biden has established the first ambassador-level special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism and appointed the renowned Holocaust expert to the role.”

The White House, too, is underscoring its securing of “the largest increase in federal funding ever for the physical security of nonprofits, including synagogues and Jewish Community Centers,” according to one staffer.

The White House this month declined to mention either Trump or Ye as the reason Biden tweeted about antisemitism after Ye praised Adolf Hitler, denied the Holocaust, and identified as a Nazi in an interview with Infowars’s Alex Jones.

“I don’t think it matters who in particular,” Jean-Pierre said when asked about the tweet. “When we see this type of hatred, when we see this type of antisemitism, we need to call it out.”

Three days earlier, Jean-Pierre offered a similar answer when needled about Trump’s Mar-a-Lago dinner with Ye and Fuentes, a white supremacist activist who has espoused antisemitic views and opinions.

“I’m not going to respond to everything that happens with the former president,” she said. “But this is something that’s important that we speak very clear about and we speak very forcefully about.”

Biden still has not confirmed whether he will run for reelection, but he and his advisers are considering a campaign centered on Trump, even if the former president drops out of contention, according to NBC.

Trump’s respective bid has suffered setbacks. The former president’s launch was overshadowed by an explosion in NATO ally Poland before he received a barrage of criticism for saying the Constitution should be “terminated” so he could overturn the 2020 election and announcing a non-fungible token, or NFT, digital trading card collection, excluding complications created by existing criminal and legal proceedings.

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Hate crimes decreased in 2021, but the FBI last week said its own data are incomplete. For example, there were 7,262 hate crime incidents last year, based on reports from 63% of law enforcement agencies. In comparison, there were 8,263 in 2020, when 81% of police agencies reported.

© 2022 Washington Examiner

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