Biden Unveils a National Plan to Fight an Ancient Hatred
The Biden administration released the country’s first national strategy for combating antisemitism Thursday, calling on government, law enforcement and schools to crack down on discrimination and stanch the spread of online hate.
“Silence is complicity,” President Biden said in a videotaped announcement. “An attack on any one group of us is an attack on all of us.”
Last year there were 3,697 reported incidents of antisemitic assault, harassment and vandalism in the United States, according to an annual audit by the Anti-Defamation League. The figure, a 36 percent increase over 2021, is the largest number of incidents against Jews in the United States since the organization began its assessments in 1979.
Most of the antisemitic incidents tracked by the group last year were characterized as harassment, but the tally also included 111 assaults. The numbers reflect a trend in American culture and politics of visible examples of antisemitism that has raised alarm in Jewish communities.
The Biden administration’s strategy was developed in consultation with some 1,000 federal and local officials, faith leaders and civil society groups, and contains more than 100 recommendations for the federal government to take in the next year.
The actions include workshops to counteract bias in hiring and the workplace, enhanced Holocaust education programs and an effort to eliminate barriers to reporting potential hate crimes. The strategy also sets a November deadline for the Pentagon to assess antisemitic and Islamophobic behavior in the military.
The recommendations are not legally binding. But Jonathan Greenblatt, the chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, said the strategy was “historic” nonetheless at a moment when antisemitism is “unambiguously on the rise.”
“If we are going to turn this around, it requires an all-hands-on-deck approach,” he said.
The Biden administration solicited the views of academics and religious leaders, community activists and law enforcement. In a first, Mr. Biden sought the advice of foreign special envoys fighting antisemitism in Europe, who were invited to the White House earlier this year to share their experiences.
The national strategy sidesteps a contentious debate over the definition of antisemitism, which some fear can be used to shield Israel from legitimate criticism.
U.S. policy follows the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of antisemitism, which was widely adopted by Western governments after lobbying by Jewish groups, E.U. leaders and the alliance itself.
But that definition has come under fire from scores of Israeli and Jewish scholars and human rights organizations, who say it wrongly casts criticism of Israel as antisemitic. Some of those groups encouraged the White House not to include the I.H.R.A. definition in the strategy.
Instead, the Biden administration strategy recognizes the I.H.R.A. definition as the “most prominent,” while acknowledging the value of others, including one developed by the Nexus Task Force, created by the Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California.
Both sides in the debate declared victory on Thursday.
“We advocated for its inclusion, and it’s in there,” said Nathan Diament, the executive director for public policy at the Orthodox Union, an umbrella organization of Orthodox Jewish groups. “The language of the report recognizes it as the most prominent definition of antisemitism.”
J Street, a liberal pro-Israel advocacy group, which had urged the administration not to incorporate the I.H.R.A. definition, said “the strategy avoids exclusively codifying any one specific, sweeping definition of antisemitism as the sole standard.”