Biden says ‘despicable’ antisemitic attacks ‘must stop’

US president says ‘it’s up to all of us to give hate no safe harbor,’ days after major Jewish groups ask him to focus on uptick in attacks amid Gaza violence

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

US President Joe Biden speaks during a joint news conference with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, in the East Room of the White House on May 21, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
US President Joe Biden speaks during a joint news conference with South Korean President Moon Jae-in, in the East Room of the White House on May 21, 2021, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

US President Joe Biden spoke out Monday against a wave of antisemitic attacks hitting Jewish communities in the US and around the world since the start of the latest round of fighting between Israel and Hamas on May 10.

“The recent attacks on the Jewish community are despicable, and they must stop,” Biden wrote on his official Twitter account.

“I condemn this hateful behavior at home and abroad — it’s up to all of us to give hate no safe harbor,” he added.

Biden’s statement comes three days after several prominent US Jewish groups, including the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Committee, the Jewish Federations of North America, the Orthodox Union and Hadassah, appealed to the White House to take steps to rein in the spate of attacks in cities throughout the United States. Antisemitic incidents were also reported in the UK, Scotland, Germany and other countries worldwide.

“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 Friday letter said, according to the Washington Post.

We “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’s statement was echoed Monday by US Vice President Kamala Harris.

A handful of antisemitic attacks were reported across the US from this past Thursday alone.

On Saturday, six men assaulted and punched two Jewish teenagers in Brooklyn, according to VINnews. One of the assailants told the teenagers, “Free Palestine,” and made additional references to Israel during the attack, the website said.

The aftermath of an allegedly antisemitic attack at the Chaverim Congregation in Tucson, Arizona on May 18, 2021. (Chaverim Congregation via JTA)

On Friday night, Luca Lewis, a 20-year-old professional soccer player who plays for the New York Red Bulls, said he was threatened by men holding knives who asked if he was Jewish, and who told him they would kill him if his answer were yes.

The incident happened in New York, he wrote on Instagram. A group of men passed him and a friend on the street when one of the men asked Lewis if he was Jewish, according to Lewis.

“I paused for a moment in confusion and thought about it, then I saw them withdrawing knives,” Lewis wrote in his post. “I obviously said no. The guy looked at me with such disgust in his eyes and said ‘Good.’”

This made Lewis angry and he asked what would happen if he were Jewish, he wrote. “‘I’ll beat the f*ckin sh*t out of you and kill you,’” Lewis quoted the man as replying.

On Thursday, pro-Palestinian attackers threw punches and bottles at diners at a sushi restaurant in Los Angeles. In New York’s heavily Jewish Diamond District, protesters of Israel threw fireworks from a car amid a violent street altercation.

In Hallandale Beach, Florida, a man directed antisemitic abuse in addressing a local rabbi and later emptied a bag containing human feces outside the rabbi’s synagogue on Friday, WSVN reported. Police were investigating the case. The report offered no information linking the incident to Israel. On May 14, a Hallandale Beach man reported having rocks thrown at him as he walked back from synagogue.

In Tucson, Arizona, unidentified individuals hurled a large object through the glass door of a synagogue, Congregation Chaverim, on Tuesday night or Wednesday morning, AZcentral reported. Police are investigating that incident, as well.

The ADL said it has also received more reports of possible antisemitic incidents since the conflict broke out in Israel, with 193 reports in the week after the crisis began, up from 131 the previous week.

The World Jewish Congress released a report Monday providing an overview of some of the most blatant of such antisemitic phenomena. It included examples “representative of a far greater volume of online hate speech, much of it glorifying and praising the Nazi German genocide of European Jewry during the Holocaust,” WJC said in a statement.

Pro-Israel groups organized over a dozen rallies across the country over the weekend where demonstrators spoke out against the uptick in antisemitism and demanded action from the government to protect US Jewry.

Agencies contributed to this report.

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