The White House is today convening a round-table meeting to discuss what appears to be a rising tide of antisemitism in America. The officials attending will be asking what they can do to combat the new outbreak of the age-old hatred.
Their meeting is a positive first step – acknowledging the problem and addressing it. But much more needs to be done – first and foremost, by confronting antisemites and antisemitic expressions whenever they emerge, particularly on social media.
Among those attending today’s meeting – chaired by Douglas Emhoff, the Jewish husband of Vice President Kamala Harris – are Susan Rice, US President Joe Biden’s top domestic policy adviser, Deborah Lipstadt; the State Department’s special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism; and Keisha Lance Bottoms, US President Joe Biden’s senior adviser for public engagement.
Antisemitism rises in the US
Antisemitic expression on social media spiked following Elon Musk’s removal of content controls following his purchase of Twitter. It manifested itself in blatant antisemitic comments by, inter alia, rapper Kanye West. Musk learned the lesson: West, now called Ye, was suspended from Twitter last week after he praised Hitler.
Emhoff says he has become more sensitive to threats facing Jews since he became “Second Gentleman,” the first Jew married to a VP. “I’m in pain right now,” he tweeted. “Perpetuating lies – such as the denial of the Holocaust – and praising fascist murderers, is dangerous and fans the flames of antisemitism and hate. We all have an obligation to condemn these vile acts. We must not stay silent.”
Biden has made combating antisemitism and other forms of hatred a centerpiece of his agenda. It did not help that his Republican predecessor, Donald Trump, hosted Ye and white supremacist Nick Fuentes at his Mar-a-Lago estate in Florida last week. Trump, whose son-in-law Jared Kushner and his family are Jewish, should have known better.
Biden unequivocally denounced antisemitism on Friday, urging other political leaders to do the same. “I just want to make a few things clear: The Holocaust happened,” the president tweeted. “Hitler was a demonic figure. And instead of giving it a platform, our political leaders should be calling out and rejecting antisemitism wherever it hides. Silence is complicity.”
The Department of Homeland Security last week issued a terrorism advisory that the Jewish, LGBTQ and migrant communities face a “persistent and lethal threat,” NBC reported. Sen. Ben Cardin, a Jewish Democrat from Maryland, convened a meeting of top officials who tackle the threat of antisemitic violence.
While finding the proper balance between protecting free speech and protecting Americans from harm, we need to up our game, rebuild coalitions with other groups that have been the target of hate-based violence, and institutionalize coordination that counters antisemitism wherever it is found,” said Cardin.
Lipstadt made a salient point in her address to the South African Jewish Board of Deputies on November 15. “If we are going to fight this battle, we’ve got to understand the importance of words,” she said. “The big actions – governments have to take, absolutely – but each of us must speak out against hatred in all its forms.”
Brooke Goldstein, founder and executive director of The Lawfare Project, has taken the fight against antisemitism a step further, launching a grassroots civil rights movement called End Jewish Hatred. EJH says it “seeks to empower and liberate Jews from centuries of persecution and discrimination. We demand a world in which Jew hatred is acknowledged to be detestable and unacceptable, just as hatred or violence against any other group: Blacks, LGBTQ+ or women.”
Antisemites, in Goldstein’s view, must know that hate speech against Jews has consequences, from litigation (such as Lipstadt’s famous suit against Holocaust denier David Irving) to sanctions (such as Adidas ending its contract with Ye). “Antisemitism is growing as a global phenomenon and must be called out for the hate that it is,” Goldstein says.
We urge those taking part in today’s White House meeting to bear in mind that while there is no Iron Dome protection against antisemitism, it must be quashed as soon as it rears its ugly head.