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'Despicable, unconscionable, un-American': Biden denounces recent rise in antisemitic attacks

More vandalism, verbal and social media assaults have been reported in the United States as Israeli-Palestinian violence escalated in the Mideast.

President Joe Biden on Friday denounced a recent increase in antisemitic incidents in a statement, calling them "despicable, unconscionable, un-American."

"In the last weeks, our nation has seen a series of anti-Semitic attacks, targeting and terrorizing American Jews," Biden said. "We have seen a brick thrown through a window of a Jewish-owned business in Manhattan, a swastika carved into the door of a synagogue in Salt Lake City, families threatened outside a restaurant in Los Angeles, and museums in Florida and Alaska, dedicated to celebrating Jewish life and culture and remembering the Holocaust, vandalized with anti-Jewish messages."

Biden signed into law earlier this month legislation addressing anti-Asian hate crimes, which have increased during the Covid-19 pandemic, but legislation on antisemitic crimes has yet to pass. Several bills have been introduced by lawmakers on the issue.

From New York to Los Angeles, a growing number of antisemitic vandalism and other incidents have been reported to the police and shared on social media as deadly fighting escalated over the past several weeks in the Gaza Strip between Israelis and Palestinians.

And despite a cease-fire between Israel and the militant group Hamas, a move brokered by the Biden administration and other world leaders, tensions continued to flare in the United States as competing pro-Israeli and pro-Palestinian demonstrations take place. Mosques in the United States have reported damage in recent days as well.

The Anti-Defamation League, a Jewish civil rights group, said recently that its preliminary research found an increase in online and in-person incidents of antisemitism in the United States as the latest fighting between Israel and Hamas continued.

For instance, an analysis of Twitter posts between May 7 and 14 found more than 17,000 tweets that used variations of the phrase "Hitler was right," the group said earlier this month. In addition, the ADL said, it received more than 190 reports of possible antisemitic incidents in the week after the fighting began, up from 131 incidents in the previous week. Last year, there were 327 reported incidents at Jewish institutions, including synagogues, schools and community centers, up 40 percent from 234 in 2019, according to the group.

Attorney General Merrick Garland announced Thursday that he had directed the Justice Department to boost funding and other resources to states and localities to combat and investigate hate crimes. He also ordered prosecutors to aggressively pursue both criminal and civil investigations into hate incidents.

Speaking Friday, the president reinforced the anti-hate message.

"I will not allow our fellow Americans to be intimidated or attacked because of who they are or the faith they practice," Biden said, noting that May is Jewish-American Heritage Month. "We cannot allow the toxic combination of hatred, dangerous lies, and conspiracy theories to put our fellow Americans at risk."