Marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Biden warns against downplaying Oct. 7

US president says the need to remember Nazi genocide, combat Jew-hatred is more pressing than ever after Hamas attack, pledges to continue efforts to secure release of hostages

US President Joe Biden speaks at Earth Rider Brewery in Superior, Wisconsin, on January 25, 2024. (Saul Loeb/AFP)
US President Joe Biden speaks at Earth Rider Brewery in Superior, Wisconsin, on January 25, 2024. (Saul Loeb/AFP)

Ahead of Saturday’s International Holocaust Remembrance Day, US President Joe Biden has warned against an alarming rise in antisemitism after Hamas’s October 7 terror onslaught against Israel, along with efforts by some parties to minimize what happened that day.

Biden, who launched the first US national strategy to counter antisemitism in May 2023, said Friday the need to remember the Holocaust and the “scourge of antisemitism” was more pressing than ever after the Hamas attack that killed 1,200 people, the biggest loss of life on a single day since Israel’s founding in 1948. Two-hundred fifty-three people were also taken hostage, with 132 still in captivity.

“In the aftermath of Hamas’s vicious massacre, we have witnessed an alarming rise of despicable antisemitism at home and abroad that has surfaced painful scars from millennia of hate and genocide of Jewish people. It is unacceptable,” Biden said in a statement.

“We cannot remember all that Jewish survivors of the Holocaust experienced and then stand silently by when Jews are attacked and targeted again today,” he said, calling for forceful pushback against Holocaust denial and “efforts to minimize the horrors that Hamas perpetrated on October 7, especially its appalling and unforgivable use of rape and sexual violence to terrorize victims.”

UN experts this month demanded accountability for sexual violence against Israeli civilians during the October 7 attacks, including allegations of rape, mutilations and gunshots to genital areas.

US Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer in November said the rise in antisemitism since the start of the Israel-Hamas war was a “five-alarm fire” that threatened the safety of Jews worldwide and the future of Israel.

Pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel demonstrators rally near Columbia University in New York on November 15, 2023. (Bryan R. Smith / AFP)

Biden said his administration was continuing to condemn and fight antisemitism, while working to ensure the release of the remaining hostages held by Hamas. He urged Americans to do their part to combat hate in all its forms.

“It is our shared moral responsibility to stand up to antisemitism and hate-fueled violence at home and abroad and to make real the promise of ‘Never Again,'” Biden said.

In addition to remembering the six million Jews killed in the Holocaust, “we also grieve the Roma, Sinti, Slavs, people with disabilities, LGBTQI+ individuals, racial minorities, and political dissidents who were abused or killed,” Biden said.

Saying Jews and Israelis are “close in our hearts,” Biden says his administration “recommits to carrying forward the lessons of the Shoah, to fighting antisemitism and all forms of hate-fueled violence… And we remember the enduring strength, spirit, and resilience of the Jewish people – even in the darkest of times.”

Biden, a devout Catholic who was born in the middle of World War II, said he had taken his own children and grandchildren to a German concentration camp to show them “the depth of this antisemitic evil and the complicity of silence or indifference.”

Pro-Israel demonstrators react while singing a song during a protest at Columbia University days after Hamas terrorists massacred 1,200 and kidnapped 200-250 more in southern Israel, October 12, 2023, in New York. (AP Photo/Yuki Iwamura)

Rights groups have reported sharp increases in both antisemitic and anti-Arab and anti-Muslim incidents since October 7.The White House in November announced it is also developing a national strategy to combat Islamophobia.

The effort has faced skepticism from some Muslim Americans who are furious about Biden’s continued political and financial support for Israel’s offensive against Hamas, which the terror group says has killed over 26,000 Palestinians. The figures are unverified and are believed to include close to 10,000 Hamas operatives Israel said it has killed during fighting in the Strip, as well as civilians killed by misfired Palestinian rockets.

The Biden administration has rejected calls for a ceasefire but is urging Israel and Hamas to pause the fighting to allow the release of hostages and humanitarian aid to enter Gaza.

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