The Biden administration published the first in the country national strategy to combat antisemitism on Thursday, calling on the government, law enforcement and schools to crack down on discrimination and stop the spread of hate online.
“Silence is complicity,” President Biden said in a videotaped announcement. “An attack on any group of us is an attack on all of us.”
Last year there were 3,697 reported incidents of anti-Semitic assault, harassment and vandalism in the United States, according to an annual audit by the Anti-Defamation League.. The figure, an increase of 36 percent from 2021, is the most incidents against Jews in the United States since the organization began its assessments in 1979.
Most of the anti-Semitic incidents tracked by the group last year were characterized as harassment, but the tally also included 111 assaults. The numbers reflect a trend in American culture and politics of visible examples of anti-Semitism that has raised alarm in Jewish communities.
The Biden administration’s strategy was developed in consultation with some 1,000 federal and local officials, faith leaders and civil society groups, and contains more than 100 recommendations for the federal government to adopt next year.
Actions include workshops to counter hiring and workplace bias, enhanced Holocaust education programs, and an effort to remove barriers to reporting potential hate crimes. The strategy also sets a November deadline for the Pentagon to assess anti-Semitic and Islamophobic behavior in the military.
The recommendations are not legally binding. However, Jonathan Greenblatt, executive director of the Anti-Defamation League, said the strategy was “historic” at a time when anti-Semitism is “unequivocally on the rise.”
“If we are going to change this, an all hands on deck approach is required,” he said.
The Biden administration solicited the views of academics and religious leaders, community activists, and law enforcement. For the first time, Biden sought the advice of foreign special envoys fighting anti-Semitism in Europe, who were invited to the White House earlier this year to share their experiences.
The national strategy sidesteps a contentious debate over the definition of anti-Semitism, which some fear could be used to shield Israel from legitimate criticism.
The US policy follows the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s working definition of anti-Semitism, which was widely adopted by Western governments after lobbying by Jewish groups, EU leaders and the alliance itself.
But that definition has come under fire of dozens of Israeli and Jewish academics and human rights organizations, who say it mischaracterizes criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic. Some of those groups encouraged the White House not to include the IHRA definition in the strategy.
Instead, the Biden administration’s strategy acknowledges the IHRA’s definition as the “most prominent,” while acknowledging the value of others, including one developed by the Nexus Task Forcecreated by the Annenberg School of Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California.
Both sides in the debate declared victory on Thursday.
“We advocated for its inclusion, and it’s there,” said Nathan Diament, executive director of public policy for the Orthodox Union, an umbrella organization for Orthodox Jewish groups. “The language of the report recognizes it as the most prominent definition of anti-Semitism.”
J Street, a pro-Israel liberal advocacy group, which had urged the administration not to incorporate the IHRA definition, said that “the strategy avoids exclusively codifying a specific and broad definition of anti-Semitism as the only standard.”