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After swastika carved at State Department, Biden vows no place for antisemitism

Responding to hate symbol near office of special envoy on antisemitism, US president says society must give ‘no safe harbor’ to hate and stand up to bigotry wherever it is found

Jacob Magid is The Times of Israel's US correspondent based in New York

US President Joe Biden speaks during a visit to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in McLean, Virginia, July 27, 2021. (Susan Walsh/AP)
US President Joe Biden speaks during a visit to the Office of the Director of National Intelligence in McLean, Virginia, July 27, 2021. (Susan Walsh/AP)

US President Joe Biden said on Tuesday, following the discovery of a swastika carved in the US State Department building, that there was no place for antisemitism in his administration.

The swastika was found on Monday etched into an elevator, near the office of the special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism.

“Let me be clear: Anti-Semitism has no place in the State Department, in my Administration, or anywhere in the world,” Biden tweeted. “It’s up to all of us to give hate no safe harbor and stand up to bigotry wherever we find it.”

In a letter to State Department employees on Tuesday, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken updated staffers that the swastika had been removed from the elevator in the Harry S. Truman building and that the incident would be investigated.

“As this painfully reminds us, antisemitism isn’t a relic of the past,” Blinken wrote. “It’s still a force in the world, including close to home. And it’s abhorrent. It has no place in the United States, at the State Department or anywhere else. And we must be relentless in standing up and rejecting it.”

The secretary added that antisemitism “often goes hand in hand” with other types of bigotry.

Addressing the State Department’s Jewish employees, Blinken said, “please know how grateful we are for your service and how proud we are to be your colleagues.”

According to Axios, which first broke the story, the elevator where the swastika was found is within a heavily monitored area with security cameras at the entrances.

The office of the antisemitism envoy is not currently filled, with the duties being handled in the interim by deputy assistant secretary of state for democracy, human rights and labor Kara McDonald.

Monday’s incident took place against the backdrop of growing calls by Jewish groups to fill the position due to a recent uptick in antisemitic events. Biden administration officials have said the White House will make an appointment shortly, though that has been the response for nearly two months now.

Israeli Ambassador to the US Gilad Erdan said the vandalism “once again shows that antisemitism does not distinguish between Jews in Israel and Jews in America, and harms not only Israel but the entire world.”

“We must fight together resolutely against antisemitism of any kind and bring to justice anyone who acts out of hatred for the Jewish people,” he said in a statement.

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