Biden to Address Holocaust Remembrance While Still Quiet on Campus Unrest


President Biden, who has personally stayed relatively quiet during college campus protests in recent days, plans to speak out against antisemitism next week at a ceremony hosted by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s annual “days of remembrance” commemoration, the White House announced on Wednesday.

While his spokesmen have denounced violence and antisemitism on campus, Mr. Biden has made little effort to personally address the anti-Israel protests that have roiled colleges across the country, drawing criticism from Republicans and frustrating some Democrats who want him to show more public leadership.

Mr. Biden will travel to Capitol Hill on Tuesday to deliver the keynote address of the Holocaust museum’s yearly event and remember the Nazi effort to exterminate the Jewish people in Europe. “The president will also discuss our moral duty to combat the rising scourge of antisemitism,” Karine Jean-Pierre, the White House press secretary, told reporters.

Ms. Jean-Pierre noted that the Biden-Harris administration had developed a national strategy to counter antisemitism even before the Oct. 7 Hamas-led terrorist attack killed 1,200 people in Israel and touched off a war in Gaza that has killed an estimated 34,000 people. The goal of the effort, she said, is “to make real the promise of never, never again.”

But in response to repeated questions from reporters, Ms. Jean-Pierre offered no explanation for why Mr. Biden has not spoken out more himself about the campus unrest that has led to suspensions and arrests, including the nationally televised police raid on Tuesday night clearing out a building at Columbia University that had been taken over by protesters. “No president has spoken more forcefully about combating antisemitism than this president,” she said.

Mr. Biden has made no public comments since last week when he said only briefly that he condemned “antisemitic protests” while also denouncing “those who don’t understand what’s going on with the Palestinians,” a response that struck critics and even some allies as an equivocation that did not meet the moment. Since then, Mr. Biden has left it to aides to speak for him, trying to balance the free speech rights of protesters with rejection of violence and antisemitic statements.

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

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

Republicans have eagerly sought to take advantage by positioning themselves as defenders of Jewish Americans, despite a history by their putative nominee, former President Donald J. Trump, of meeting with or not disavowing the support of known antisemites and making sympathetic or envious comments about Adolf Hitler.

The Republicans are trying to pin antisemitism on Mr. Biden, even though the campus demonstrators have labeled him “Genocide Joe” as they protest his support for Israel’s war against Hamas.

“This is no time for politics; it’s not time for equivocation,” Speaker Mike Johnson said on NewsNation on Wednesday. “This is not a gray area. This is right and wrong, and the president of the United States should speak to that and say it clearly.”

Aiming to pressure the Democrats, Mr. Johnson held a vote in the House on Wednesday on a resolution condemning antisemitism and mandating that the Education Department use the definition of antisemitism embraced by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance.

While it passed on an overwhelming 320-to-91 bipartisan vote, 70 Democrats and 21 Republicans voted against it. The large number of Democratic “no” votes dismayed some in the party who were worried that it would make it easier for Republicans to portray them as not serious about antisemitism.

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