US Government Launches Historic Comprehensive Initiative to Combat Antisemitism
On Thursday, US President Joe Biden announced the first-ever comprehensive strategy to combat the alarming rise in antisemitism in America. The plan outlines more than 100 steps government agencies, and private-sector companies can take to combat antisemitism.
Biden delivered his remarks on the first US National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism through a videotaped message. He said, “In America, evil will not win, hate will not prevail. Silence is complicity. The venom and violence of antisemitism will not be the story of our time.”
The multi-pronged strategy has four goals:
Increase awareness and understanding of antisemitism, including its threat to America.
Build “cross-community” solidarity to counter hate.
Improve safety and security for Jewish communities; and,
Reverse the “normalization” of antisemitism.
The plan calls on all levels of government, from Congress to local councils, as well as private businesses and faith communities, to work together to combat hatred directed at Jewish people. In addition, tech companies (Twitter, Facebook, etc.) are encouraged to establish a “zero tolerance” policy regarding antisemitic remarks and posts.
Amy Spitalnick, CEO of the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, was pleased to see the administration’s efforts.
“Jewish safety is inextricably linked to the safety of other communities and the health and vibrancy of our multiracial democracy. As we see antisemitism and extremism increasingly normalized in our politics and our society, the urgency of this framework is even more clear.”
One sticking point is how to define and identify antisemitism. The plan states that there are “several definitions,” but “the most prominent is the non-legally binding ‘working definition’ of antisemitism adopted in 2016 by the 31-member states of the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), which the United States has embraced. In addition, the Administration welcomes and appreciates the Nexus Document and notes other such efforts.”
Many Jewish organizations and pro-Israel groups view the IHRA as the “gold standard,” but others think it stifles any criticism of the State of Israel:
“Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”
Despite being only 2 percent of the population of the US, hate crimes against Jewish people last year accounted for 63 percent of the attacks. Vice President Kamala Harris’ husband, Doug Emhoff, is the first Jewish spouse of a US president or vice president. He has taken on combatting antisemitism as his cause.
“I know the fear. I know the pain. I know the anger that Jews are living with because of this epidemic of hate,” said Emhoff. “We are committed to making sure that everyone can live openly, proudly, and safely in their own communities. It’s on all of us to put an end to the visceral hate we are seeing across our nation. We cannot normalize this.”
Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, the special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, said the first-of-its-kind plan is a “historic moment in the modern fight against what’s known as the world’s oldest hatred.”
“For the first time, the United States government is not only acknowledging that antisemitism is not only a serious problem in this country but laying out a clear plan to counter it.