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'Despicable': Biden denounces rise in antisemitic attacks amid Israel-Gaza conflict

Attacks against the Jewish community have increased across the country in recent weeks, including several incidents in New York.
President Joe Biden speaks at the White House on May 13, 2021.
President Joe Biden speaks at the White House on May 13.Kevin Lamarque / Reuters file

WASHINGTON — President Joe Biden on Monday condemned the recent spate of antisemitic attacks across the U.S. amid the conflict between Israel and Hamas, saying the "despicable" acts "must stop."

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

The condemnation comes as his White House works with Jewish groups to respond to the incidents and after his administration pressed for a cease-fire announcement between Israel and Hamas after nearly two weeks of violence in the Gaza Strip.

Over the weekend, assaults and vandalism against the Jewish community were reported in New York, including one where the New York Police Department said three men made antisemitic comments to four Jewish men outside a synagogue in Brooklyn and then allegedly banged on the synagogue’s door and kicked a mirror on a parked car outside.

The anti-Defamation League and other Jewish groups sent a letter to Biden on Friday noting other attacks in Times Square, Los Angeles, South Florida, Tucson, Arizona and Skokie, Illinois.

The White House confirmed that it received the letter and is working alongside the community organizations to condemn and respond to the “disturbing rise” in incidents, according to a White House official.

Biden “recognizes that this is a persistent evil that always deserves our attention and efforts,” the official said, adding that the president has been speaking out against antisemitism for decades, including his vocal denunciation of the events at Charlottesville, Virginia, in 2017.

Senior administration officials have been in touch in recent days with various stakeholders and national organizations to discuss the increase in antisemitism, which they expect will intensify over the next week and beyond.

“The rise in hate, period, is something that this administration has been focused on from the beginning, whether it's AAPI hate that came from Covid-19 and the dangerous rhetoric that we heard, or whether it's antisemitic violence,” White House adviser Cedric Richmond said in an interview Sunday morning on CNN.

Richmond added that the Department of Justice will attempt to respond to “all hate crimes as we see them increase in drastic numbers.”

White House domestic policy adviser Susan Rice also tweeted Friday: “During this Jewish American Heritage Month, I was proud to honor my friend Abe Foxman, who’s devoted his life to battling anti-Semitism & bigotry. The spike in anti-Semitic attacks around the world & here at home is despicable & must be roundly condemned and forcefully countered.”

There has been, in particular, a rise in antisemitic incidents in the wake of the latest round of fighting between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip. In a recent NBC News op-ed, American Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt said his organization found there were more than 2,000 antisemitic attacks in 2020, a 10 percent increase from the previous year.