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Biden addresses anti-Semitism in his speech commemorating the Holocaust

President Biden, who has remained relatively quiet personally during protests on college campuses in recent days, plans to speak out against anti-Semitism next week at a ceremony as part of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum's annual Days of Remembrance, officials said the White House announced on Wednesday.

While his spokesmen have denounced violence and anti-Semitism on campuses, Mr. Biden has made little effort to personally address the anti-Israel protests that have rocked college campuses across the country, drawing criticism from Republicans and frustrating some Democrats who want that he shows more public leadership.

Mr. Biden will travel to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to deliver the keynote address at the Holocaust Museum's annual event, commemorating the Nazis' efforts to exterminate the Jewish people in Europe. “The president will also speak about our moral duty to combat the growing scourge of anti-Semitism,” White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters.

Ms. Jean-Pierre noted that the Biden-Harris administration had developed a national strategy to combat anti-Semitism even before the Hamas-led terrorist attack on October 7 that killed 1,200 people in Israel and sparked a war in Gaza which killed an estimated 34,000 people. The goal of the effort is to “make the promise of never, never come true again,” she said.

But in response to repeated questions from reporters, Ms. Jean-Pierre offered no explanation as to why Mr. Biden has stopped speaking out himself about the campus unrest that has led to suspensions and arrests, including the nationally televised police raid The evacuation on Tuesday evening of a building at Columbia University that had been occupied by demonstrators. “No president has spoken out more forcefully about the fight against anti-Semitism than this president,” she said.

Mr. Biden has not spoken publicly since last week, when he said only briefly that he condemned “anti-Semitic protests” while condemning “those who do not understand what is going on with the Palestinians,” a response that drew critics and even some Allies were surprised by an ambiguity that did not correspond to the moment. Since then, Mr. Biden has left it to his aides to speak for him, trying to balance protesters' right to free speech with opposition to violence and anti-Semitic speech.

“Americans have the right to peacefully protest as long as it is within the law and peacefully,” Ms. Jean-Pierre said. “Forcibly taking over a building is not peaceful. That's just not it. Students have the right to feel safe. You have the right to learn. You have the right to do this without interruption.”

Former Rep. Ted Deutch, a Florida Democrat who is now chief executive of the American Jewish Committee, said it was important for Mr. Biden to publicly condemn anti-Semitism and that he looked forward to hearing about the planned address next week. “I hope the president speaks as boldly and forcefully as this moment requires,” Mr. Deutch told Julie Mason on her Sirius/XM radio show.

Republicans have eagerly tried to press their advantage by positioning themselves as defenders of Jewish Americans, even though their presumptive nominee, former President Donald J. Trump, has a history of meeting or not disavowing support for anti-Semites and making sympathetic or envious comments about them Adolf gave Hitler.

Republicans are trying to accuse Mr. Biden of anti-Semitism even though campus protesters have called him “genocide Joe” as they protested his support for Israel’s war against Hamas.

“This is no time for politics; This is not the time for ambiguity,” spokesman Mike Johnson said on NewsNation Wednesday. “This is not a gray area. This is right and wrong, and the President of the United States should make this clear.”

To put pressure on Democrats, Mr. Johnson voted on a resolution in the House of Representatives on Wednesday condemning anti-Semitism and requiring the Education Department to use the definition of anti-Semitism advocated by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.

While it passed with an overwhelming 320-91 bipartisan vote, 70 Democrats and 21 Republicans voted against it. The large number of Democrats' “no” votes dismayed some in the party, who feared it would make it easier for Republicans to portray them as people who are not serious about anti-Semitism.

Anna Harden

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