Why does Joe Biden's antisemitism strategy barely mention Israel?

Biden’s long-delayed plan will do more harm than good to American Jews


WASHINGTON, DC - MAY 16: U.S. President Joe Biden departs a celebration marking Jewish American Heritage Month in the East Room of the White House on May 16, 2023 in Washington, DC. Tony Award nominees Ben Platt and Micaela Diamond performed music from "Parade" during the event, which focused on the Biden Administration's efforts to combat rising antisemitism. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

May 31, 2023 15:36

If you don’t like our principles, we have others. And remember, it’s not antisemitism so long as it’s anti-Zionism.

These are the messages of the Biden administration’s long-delayed National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism, which came out last Thursday afternoon. It is full of good intentions, but they are one-eyed and partisan. And that is why this exercise in bureaucratic bad faith will do more harm than good. 

If the White House wanted to bury bad news, Thursday afternoon was the time to do it. The Shavuot holiday had already begun in Israel. It began hours later on the East Coast, and it ran through Shabbat. Meanwhile, America’s politicians, think-tankers and journalists had already checked out for the Memorial Day weekend, which marks the start of summer. 

The timing ensured that Jewish organisations and analysts were slow to respond for five days: an eternity in media time. Still, by Monday, when Americans were firing up their grills for Memorial Day, major American Jewish organisations were expressing significant criticisms along with their slightly embarrassing statements of gratitude that the Biden administration has bothered to do anything at all.

 The 60-page document claims to fix a problem it struggles to define. It dilutes the nature and scale of antisemitism with kneejerk equivalencies like “antisemitism and Islamophobia” and “antisemitism, Islamophobia, and related forms of hate-motivated violence, such as online misogyny and gender-based violence, and violence against LGBTQI+, AANHPI [Asian American, Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander], or Black communities”. 

The Strategy hardly mentions the State of Israel, the target and pretext for so many anti-Jewish words and deeds. It fails to address how the “new antisemitism” of anti-Zionism has supercharged the old antisemitism, or the role of the overwhelmingly left-leaning universities in promoting it.

 The canonical modern definition of antisemitism was written by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). This definition is endorsed by the European Parliament, 31 member states including the UK, the Simon Wiesenthal Center, and the US State Department and Department of Education.

 The National Strategy says, however, that there “are several definitions of antisemitism”. The IHRA definition is only the “most prominent”. The Biden administration also “welcomes and appreciates” the Nexus definition of 2019. Written in the Journalism School of the University of Southern California, the Nexus definition has been widely criticised for failing to comprehend anti-Zionism.

The administration also “notes other such efforts” at definition. This is presumably a nod to the Jerusalem Declaration, drafted in 2021 by a group of even more obscure and even more left-wing academics. They concluded that BDS is not antisemitic “on the face of it”. Only an intellectual could believe something that stupid.

The World Jewish Congress criticised the administration’s vagueness as an “unnecessary distraction”. B’nai B’rith warned that the Nexus definition “allows the more invidious of Israel’s nemeses to hide their animus behind ‘strident’ criticism of Israel”. The Stop Antisemitism organisation, founded in 2018, said it was “extremely disturbed by several key aspects” of the strategy, which “falls short on all counts”.

The Combat Antisemitism Movement (CAM), a centrist group founded in 2019, said that the plan “does not highlight” the range of threats to Jewish life in America, “including from the far-left and radical Islamist communities”.

When Israel “is singled out because of anti-Jewish hatred, that is antisemitism”, the Strategy says. This is a wholly inadequate definition. Hatred is a feeling. Speculating about people’s private feelings or motivations is not the government’s business. 

The White House should, as the IHRA advises, draw a clear line on which kinds of public speech and actions are acceptably anti-Zionist and which are explicitly antisemitic and likely to incite violence. Instead, the Strategy says anything goes, so long as you’re pure in heart.

The Strategy is written to firm up the Democratic coalition, not protect American Jews. The White House cannot define the problem because the Democratic left, key groups in the Democratic coalition and heavily pro-Democratic institutions are all part of it. Instead, the Jewish problem is to be wished away. The Jews must blend into an alphabet soup of intersectionality and subordinate themselves to the greater good.

 “Those who target Jews also target women, Black, Latino, Muslim, AANHPI, and LGBTQI+ Americans,” the Strategy’s authors claim. This is only partially true, and it is deeply misleading. It masks LGBTQ activism of the “Queers for Palestine” kind and the fact that in polls African Americans, Muslim Americans and Latino Americans express antisemitic views at higher rates than other groups. 

Bizarrely, the Strategy recommends that the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) advise synagogues on security. CAIR has long been accused of association with the Muslim Brotherhood. In 2014, the UAE added CAIR to its list of terrorist groups.

In 2021, CAIR’s San Francisco executive director Zahra Billoo told members of another radical group, American Muslims for Palestine, that pro-Israel “Zionist organizations”, “Zionist synagogues” and Hillel student groups were “your enemies” who “would sell you down the line if they could, and very often do behind your back”.

 The lunatics are taking over the asylum.

May 31, 2023 15:36

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