White House pivots to Islamophobia when asked about rising antisemitism

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre turns to Islamophobia when asked if the White House was concerned about a potential rise in antisemitism due to the ongoing Israel-Hamas war.

By Andrew Bernard, The Algemeiner

“We have not seen any credible threats,” Jean-Pierre said in reference to a possible surge in antisemitism.

“But look, Muslims, and those perceived to be Muslim have endured a disproportionate number of hate-fueled attacks. And certainly President [Joe] Biden understands that many of our Muslim, Arab, Arab-American, and Palestinian-American loved ones and neighbors are worried about the hate being directed at their communities and that is something you heard the president speak to.”

Outside the US, the rate of antisemitic incidents has been surging across Europe since the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas invaded Israel earlier this month and triggered a war between the two sides.

While Jean-Pierre did mention that the US Department of Homeland Security is examining potential threats to both the Jewish and Arab-American communities, she refused to say whether Biden regarded anti-Israel campus protests that have erupted across the United States following Hamas’ massacre of Israelis on Oct. 7 as antisemitic.

“I’m not going to get into what’s happening across the country and at different universities,” she said. “Peaceful protest is really part of our democracy, being able for folks to be able to express their feelings. I’m not going to get into any specifics on that. The president has been very clear in wanting to make sure that Jewish Americans, and wanting to make sure that Arab-Americans, Muslims are protected here.”

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Pressed on whether that contradicted Biden’s statements that “silence is complicity,” Jean-Pierre said, “Of course the president is against antisemitism.”

Biden has delivered impassioned speeches to the American Jewish community about the threat of antisemitism and his own support for Israel’s right to defend itself. However, he has been facing pressure from Arab and European leaders — as well as from people in the younger and more progressive wing of his Democratic Party — to adopt a more equivocal approach that restrains Israel in the aftermath of the worst single-day slaughter of Jews since the Holocaust.

Hamas on Oct. 7 invaded Israel and massacred over 1,400 people, mostly civilians, injured thousands more, and took over 200 hostages back to its enclave in neighboring Gaza. Following Biden’s public support for Israel to defend itself in response, an 11-year employee of the US State Department resigned over what he described as America’s “blind support” for Israeli “apartheid.”

While Biden has made a point in recent days of calling for humanitarian aid to enter Hamas-controlled Gaza, there has reportedly been internal debate within his administration about whether the president has been too pro-Israel, with critics calling for a ceasefire and Israel to curb its military response targeting terrorists in Gaza.

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Former US President Barack Obama, under whom Biden previously served as vice president, on Monday issued a statement saying that an Israeli military strategy that “ignores the human costs” in Gaza could “backfire.”

“Already, thousands of Palestinians have been killed in the bombing of Gaza, many of them children,” Obama said. “Hundreds of thousands have been forced from their homes. The Israeli government’s decision to cut off food, water, and electricity to a captive civilian population threatens not only to worsen a growing humanitarian crisis; it could further harden Palestinian attitudes for generations, erode global support for Israel, play into the hands of Israel’s enemies, and undermine long term efforts to achieve peace and stability in the region.”

Obama then pointed to a reading list of suggested articles on the conflict that included a Thomas Friedman article in the New York Times titled “Israel Is About to Make a Terrible Mistake” and an article written by Obama’s former speechwriter, Ben Rhodes, in the New York Review of Books that says Israel has the right to go after the “military wing” of Hamas, which he calls “a faction that has proven to be the worst version of itself.”

The US State Department has designated Hamas as a foreign terrorist organization since 1997.