Holding Antisemites Accountable.

Search
Close this search box.

Jewish Groups ‘Extremely Disturbed’ and Say Biden ‘Blew It’ On Policy to Counter Antisemitism

The White House on Thursday rolled out a 60-page strategy to counter antisemitism in the United States that some Jewish and anti-hate groups say misses the mark. 

The Biden administration cites an alarming rise in hate crimes that disproportionately impact American Jews as part of the impetus for the government-led effort to combat antisemitism

As part of the strategy’s four-pillar approach, the White House seeks to increase awareness and understanding of antisemitism, including how it threatens America, and broaden appreciation of Jewish American heritage.

The administration would also like to improve safety and security for Jewish communities; reverse the normalization of antisemitism and counter antisemitic discrimination; and build “cross-community” solidarity and collective action to counter hate.

But some groups have taken offense to what the White House says it considers antisemitism, and argue that President Biden has chosen a diluted definition of the term that doesn’t say it’s antisemitic to oppose Israel’s creation or hold the Jewish state to different standards than other countries.

Rather than solely using the International Holocaust Remembrance Association (IHRA) definition of antisemitism, which is favored by numerous mainstream Jewish organizations, the White House strategy calls several definitions of antisemitism “valuable.” 

The Biden administration cites an alarming rise in hate crimes that disproportionately impact American Jews as part of the reason for creating the national plan to combat antisemitism. 

“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,” the White House strategy acknowledges. 

The document continues, “In addition, the Administration welcomes and appreciates the Nexus Document and notes other such efforts.” 

The Zionist Organization of America argued in a statement Thursday that “the Nexus Document states that opposition to Zionism – i.e., the right of the Jewish people to self-determination and to live as a nation-state in their religious and ancestral homeland – is not necessarily antisemitic.

“The Nexus Document fails to appreciate that for many if not most Jews, their connection to their religious and ancestral homeland is an essential part of their Jewish identity.”

The White House documents don’t have a clear definition of antisemitism, according to some Jewish groups.

Liora Rez, executive director of watchdog group StopAntisemitism, argues that the Biden administration’s acceptance of numerous definitions “flies in the face of the plan’s assertion that ‘If we cannot name, identify, and admit a problem, we cannot begin to solve it.’” 

In a statement, Rez adds that she is “extremely disturbed by several key aspects of the White House’s antisemitism strategy” and says the Biden plan “falls short.”

“Against the advice of major antisemitism advocacy organizations, the plan does not use the IHRA definition to delineate what counts as antisemitism, instead relegating it to a brief paragraph that also includes the inferior, competing Nexus definition,” Rez writes.

The White House calls the strategy a “whole-of-society plan that both meets this moment of escalating hatred and lays the foundation for reducing antisemitism over time.”

“Not using IHRA as a foundational guide creates a gaping hole; while the plan acknowledges that Jews have been targeted because of their connection to Israel, it fails to name anti-Zionism as a primary form of antisemitism,” she argues.

Similarly, Republican Jewish Coalition CEO Matt Brooks said in a statement that “Joe Biden had a chance to take a strong stand against antisemitism, and he blew it.”

“The IHRA definition of antisemitism is the definition endorsed by every mainstream Jewish organization. Biden’s own Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism has urged other countries to ‘embrace’ it as an ‘integral’ tool against the rising tide of Jew-hatred. The IHRA definition is indispensable because it recognizes that criticism of Israel is antisemitic when it delegitimizes, demonizes, or applies double standards to Israel,” Brooks adds. 

Rabbi Abraham Cooper, the associate dean and director of global social action at the Simon Wiesenthal Center – a Jewish global human rights organization – applauded the White House’s efforts on Thursday, but in his praises he emphasized the importance of the IHRA definition of antisemitism. 

The Biden administration wants to improve safety and security for Jewish communities, reverse the normalization of antisemitism, counter antisemitic discrimination and build “cross-community” solidarity and collective action to counter hate.

“Central to this fight is the adoption of the IHRA definition of antisemitism by all agencies, internet companies, universities and cultural institutions across our country. For without a single definition, accountability for anti-Semitic acts and hate crimes would be made that much more difficult,”  Rabbi Cooper said in a statement. 

He adds that “we must also remember that a significant portion of the antisemitic hate generated against the Jewish people specifically targets genocidal and murderous rhetoric and acts against the democratic Jewish state of Israel which today is home to the largest Jewish community in the world.”

Rabbi Cooper notes in a statement to the Washington Free Beacon that “the fight against antisemitism cannot be a multiple-choice question.”

The Republican Jewish Coalition also believes that the White House caved in to influence from the “anti-Israel left” when crafting the document. 

“After initial reports that its new strategy would enshrine the IHRA definition, the Biden administration came under heavy pressure from the anti-Israel left, forcing a delay in the roll-out. Now, hours before a Jewish holiday and in the waning days of Jewish American Heritage Month, the White House is attempting a last-minute straddle – undermining the IHRA definition by promoting alongside it an alternative definition that says applying double standards and singling out the Jewish state for criticism is not antisemitic.

“This decision seriously weakens the White House strategy. It is yet another instance of Biden caving to the anti-Israel radicals who constitute a growing Democratic constituency at both the elected and grassroots levels. It’s clear that only a Republican president will fully embrace the IHRA definition and put the full force of the federal government behind the fight against antisemitism in all its forms,” Brooks writes.

StopAntisemitism also criticized Biden for allowing the plan to veer into strategy for combating other hate crimes and not solely focusing on antisemitism. 

“The plan will not even allow antisemitism to stand alone, repeatedly mentioning planned executive actions to fight ‘antisemitism, Islamophobia, and related forms of bias and discrimination.’ Fighting Islamophobia and other bigotries is an excellent goal, but it does not belong in this particular antisemitism strategy,” said Rez. 

“The Administration grossly missed its chance to make a clear statement on what constitutes antisemitism, and America’s Jews will suffer as a result,” she added. 

White House Deputy Director of Communications Herbie Ziskend told The Post on Thursday that “President Biden’s comprehensive National Strategy to counter antisemitism reaffirms the United States’ unshakable commitment to Israel’s right to exist, its legitimacy, and its security—and makes clear that when Israel is singled out because of anti-Jewish hatred, that is antisemitism. And that is unacceptable.”