Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News
President Joe Biden on Thursday announced a sweeping plan to address antisemitism across the United States.
It’s a plan that calls for large-scale cooperation among governmental and private entities and one that has been endorsed by dozens of Jewish organizations as well as lawmakers from the right and left.
“Right now, antisemitic incidents are at a record high in America,” Biden tweeted Friday. “It’s despicable. And silence is complicity. Under my presidency, we’ll continue to condemn hate wherever it rears its head, including by putting forward the first-ever national strategy to combat antisemitism.”
Right now, antisemitic incidents are at a record high in America.
It's despicable. And silence is complicity.
Under my presidency, we’ll continue to condemn hate wherever it rears its head, including by putting forward the first-ever national strategy to combat antisemitism. pic.twitter.com/gMwK6uXYsE
— President Biden (@POTUS) May 27, 2023
The strategy is, in a word, expansive, and includes hundreds of actions large and small Biden has instructed federal agencies to undertake as well as efforts to “build cross-community solidarity by organizations across the private sector, civil society, religious and multi-faith communities, and higher education.”
“I’m glad the Biden Administration responded to the urging of members of the Senate and House Bipartisan Taskforces for Combatting Antisemitism and released an unfortunately necessary national strategy to counter antisemitism,” Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.), the most prominent conservative to voice his support, said in a statement. “Any practical effort by any administration to curb the rising tide of antisemitism here and abroad can be helpful to address the increase in antisemitism and ensure we protect the right of all people to freely live their faith without fear.”
But not all conservatives are on board. Rep. Lauren Boebert has questioned Biden’s motivation for announcing the plan.
“When they say stuff like this, they mean they want to go after conservatives,” Boebert tweeted. “Their tactics are straight out of the USSR’s playbook.”
When they say stuff like this, they mean they want to go after conservatives.
Their tactics are straight out of the USSR's playbook. https://t.co/bnICe9b6zO
— Lauren Boebert (@laurenboebert) May 25, 2023
Mediaite published the White House’s response, which came from Deputy Press Secretary Andrew Bates.
“Congresswoman Boebert is mistaken; antisemitism is not ‘conservative’ – it is evil,” Bates said. “President Biden is standing up for a bedrock American value that goes beyond politics and is embraced by liberals, conservatives, and independents: that we are better than antisemitism and hate. Those vile forces fly in the face of what America represents. If anyone finds opposition to hate threatening, they need to look inward.”
It would be unfair to characterize Biden as either fully altruistic or cynical in his motivations.
Few reasonable people would question the legitimacy of calling antisemitism evil; it dates to the Old Testament and has always been rooted in darkness.
And most of Biden’s message is unassailable, bipartisan, and not truly geared against Republicans.
However, it is fair to notice that Biden is at least partially motivated by his reelection campaign.
The president has already shown that he hopes to peg former President Donald Trump as a man who sympathizes with antisemites.
During the video shared by Boebert, Biden reminds listeners of the 2017 Charlottesville, Virginia, “Unite the Right” rally, one that featured an appearance by numerous legitimate white supremacists and neo-Nazis and ended with the death of a young woman when a man, who was both schizophrenic and held neo-Nazi beliefs, drove his car into a crowd of counter-protesters.
“Six years ago, neo-Nazis march out of a field in Charlottesville, Virginia, literally carrying torches and neo-Nazi flags and spewing the same anti-Semitic bile that was heard across Europe in the 30s,” Biden says in the video. “In the process, a young woman was killed.
“What did you hear? ‘They’re very fine people on both sides.’ Come on. Reminder. Reminder. Hate never goes away. It only hides. Give it just a little bit of oxygen. It comes out from under those rocks with a vengeance.”
Biden has used the “very fine people” line against Trump since 2019, when the now president first announced his candidacy. But, as has been outlined by media of all political stripes, Trump did not defend white nationalists when he uttered that line.
As reported by USA Today in 2020, Trump said, “You had some very bad people in that group, but you also had people that were very fine people, on both sides.”
When asked for clarification by the press, Trump said, “I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists — because they should be condemned totally. But you had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists.”
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Some features of Biden’s plan are better understood as aspirational than instructional. The president is calling for Congress to pass numerous funding initiatives and legal reforms, and these processes will take time and figure to be contentious.
The most prominent proposal in the Biden plan is one to remove protections that prevent social media companies from being held legally liable when people post hateful content on their sites.
Biden has called for a “zero tolerance policy for hate speech,” which is a move that is ripe for arbitrary interpretation, and potential abuse and would, if advanced into law, almost certainly be challenged as unconstitutional and a vast governmental overreach.
Among the other initiatives is one that seems to be a Biden administration effort to stay in front of what has long been a real problem in Europe.
The federal government will partner with sports leagues to educate fans on antisemitism and hold spectators accountable if they engage in antisemitic behavior.
While European soccer venues, in particular, have a long history of neo-Nazi groups demonstrating and chanting vile rhetoric in the stands – which pro soccer leagues have taken profound efforts to combat – the issue has not truly arisen in American stadiums.
A small number of professional athletes – in reality, just NBA star Kyrie Irving and NFL wide receiver DeSean Jackson – have been accused of antisemitism and suffered immense public blowback for the effort.