President Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris are finally denouncing anti-Semitism amid a surge in violence against Jewish people, and after pleas from multiple Jewish groups following days of inaction.
The tweets from Biden and Harris, each posted Monday morning, came three days after the president received a letter from five major Jewish groups urging the administration to “speak out forcefully” on the matter.
“The recent attacks on the Jewish community are despicable, and they must stop,” Biden wrote in his tweet. “I condemn this hateful behavior at home and abroad — it’s up to all of us to give hate no safe harbor.”
“The surge in anti-Semitic attacks against the Jewish community in the U.S. and around the world is despicable — it must be called out, condemned, and stopped. As a country, we must stand united against hate of any kind,” Harris wrote in hers.
In the letter sent to the president — signed by the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, the Jewish Federations of North America, the Orthodox Union and Hadassah — the groups warned that the Israeli-Palestinian unrest was causing a rise in anti-Semitic attitudes.
“We fear that the way the conflict has been used to amplify antisemitic rhetoric, embolden dangerous actors and attack Jews and Jewish communities will have ramifications far beyond these past two weeks,” the letter read.
The groups went on to “urge you to speak out forcefully against this dangerous trend and stand alongside the Jewish community in the face of this wave of hate before it gets any worse.”
Biden spoke to the press repeatedly on Friday, taking questions during a press briefing with South Korean President Moon Jae-in. While he answered questions on Israel, he declined to make any comments about anti-Semitism or the uptick in violence against Jews in America.
It is not clear what time the White House received the letter Friday and when it was made available to Biden.
The letter specifically pointed to anti-Israel rhetoric, mentioning a phrase once shared by Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D-Mich.) on her Twitter account.
“Heard in chants and seen on signs in disruption of pro-Israel rallies as well as at many of the anti-Israel rallies, protesters chanted slogans from ‘Hitler was right” to ‘From the River to the Sea, Palestine Will Be Free,’” the groups wrote to the president.
“This phrase calling for wholesale genocide raises fear among many Jews, who recall reports of Arab political and military leaders bragging that they would ‘push the Jews into the sea,’ in the years following the founding of Israel.”
The phrase “From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free” first rose to prominence as the slogan of the Palestine Liberation Organization at its founding in 1964. It refers to the notion that the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea should be entirely under Arab control, with the Jewish state eliminated.
Eventually, the slogan was altered slightly and adopted by Hamas, the terror group.
Tlaib retweeted a photo with the phrase back in December, but the retweet is now gone from her page.
In the wake of the recent violence in the region, progressive lawmakers including Tlaib and Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) and Ayanna Pressley (D-Mass.) have spoken out in full force against Israel, calling it an “apartheid state,” and accusing the “inhumane” Jewish nation of “terrorism.”
The intensity of their critiques has led observers to argue that their most heated statements can encourage anti-Jewish sentiments.
Over the course of the weekend, though, they also individually spoke out against the rise in anti-Semitism.
“There is no room for anti-semitism in the movement for Palestinian liberation,” AOC tweeted Friday. “Our critique is of Israel and their human rights abuses. This is not an excuse for anti-semitic hate crimes.”