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Biden decries surge of antisemitism since the October 7 Hamas attacks on Israel

President Biden arrives to speak at the annual Days of Remembrance ceremony at the U.S. Capitol on May 7.
Saul Loeb
/
AFP via Getty Images
President Biden arrives to speak at the annual Days of Remembrance ceremony at the U.S. Capitol on May 7.

President Biden condemned antisemitic incidents on college campuses in a speech during a solemn event at the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday: the Days of Remembrance for the 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust.

Biden drew a line from the atrocities in the Holocaust to the Oct. 7 Hamas attacks in Israel, and said what has followed that day has been despicable.

"We've seen a ferocious surge of antisemitism in America and around the world," Biden said.

He described Jewish students facing harassment, and posters and slogans "calling for the annihilation of Israel" as well as efforts by some to deny what happened on Oct. 7.

"We know hate never goes away. It only hides and given a little oxygen, it comes out from under the rocks. We also know what stops hate — one thing — all of us."

Biden last week delivered brief remarks denouncing "chaos" on college campuses, saying that things had gone too far.

On Tuesday, he repeated that people are entitled to speak, debate and protest issues about which they feel strongly. "But there is no place on any campus in America — any place in America — for antisemitism or hate speech, or threats of violence or any kind," he said.

Biden has said antisemitism propelled him to run for president

Biden often talks about how the 2017 march of white supremacists in Charlottesville, Va., chanting "Jews will not replace us" played a big role his decision to run for president — though he did not recount this story at the bipartisan event at the Capitol on Tuesday.

President Biden and House Speaker Mike Johnson hold images of Holocaust victims during the annual Days of Remembrance ceremony at the U.S. Capitol.
Saul Loeb / AFP via Getty Images
/
AFP via Getty Images
President Biden and House Speaker Mike Johnson hold images of Holocaust victims during the annual Days of Remembrance ceremony at the U.S. Capitol.

The president often describes his father at the dinner table teaching the family about the horrors of the Holocaust. The lesson: that silence is complicity. Biden took his own children and grandchildren to the Dachau concentration camp in Germany to make sure they learned that same lesson.

His track record on the issue makes him uniquely positioned to make the case that Americans need to pay attention to antisemitic incidents, said Sarah Hurwitz, former speech writer for Michelle Obama and author of Here all Along, a book about Judaism.

"I think he perceives something very old and very ugly coming back to haunt us," Hurwitz said.

Copyright 2024 NPR

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Tamara Keith
Tamara Keith has been a White House correspondent for NPR since 2014 and co-hosts the NPR Politics Podcast, the top political news podcast in America. In that time, she has chronicled the final years of the Obama administration, covered Hillary Clinton's failed bid for president from start to finish and threw herself into documenting the Trump administration, from policy made by tweet to the president's COVID diagnosis and January 6th. In the final year of the Trump administration and the first year of the Biden administration, she focused her reporting on the White House response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Her reporting often highlights small observations that tell a larger story about the president and the changing presidency.