Biden condemns "despicable" acts of antisemitism at Holocaust remembrance ceremony

Biden condemns “despicable” acts of antisemitism at Holocaust remembrance ceremony

Washington — In an address marking a Holocaust day of remembrance, President Joe Biden condemned what he called a “ferocious surge” in antisemitism in the wake of Hamas’ Oct. 7 attack on Israel.

“During these sacred days of remembrance, we grieve. We give voice to the six million Jews who were systematically targeted, murdered by the Nazis and their collaborators during World War II,” Mr. Biden said in his address at the Capitol on Tuesday, adding that “we recommit” to heeding the lessons of “one of the darkest chapters in human history to revitalize and realize the responsibility of never again.”

The president said the “hatred of Jews didn’t begin with the Holocaust, and didn’t end with the Holocaust either.” He added that it continues to lie “deep in the hearts of too many people in the world,” and was brought to life on Oct. 7.

Watch: Biden calls on Americans to unite against antisemitism, hate


“Now, here we are, not 75 years later, but just 7 1/2 months later, and people are already forgetting, they’re already forgetting that Hamas released this terror,” Mr. Biden said. “I have not forgotten, nor have you, and we will not forget.”

demonstrations against Israel’s ongoing war with Hamas and its toll on Palestinians in Gaza have come to a fever pitch in recent weeks, with protests at American college campuses that have cropped up throughout the country. Some of the demonstrations have featured antisemitic rhetoric that has prompted concerns about the safety of Jewish students on campuses. 

Numerous political leaders have condemned antisemitic rhetoric on college campuses in recent weeks. And particularly among Republicans, the issue has become a rallying cry, as they’ve seized on a reluctance from university presidents to call out the rhetoric on their campuses. That ire has also shifted to the president himself more recently, as House Speaker Mike Johnson has put political pressure on Mr. Biden. Johnson also spoke at Tuesday’s event.  

President Biden at Holocaust Remembrance Ceremony
President Biden speaks at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Annual Days of Remembrance ceremony at the U.S. Capitol, on May 7, 2024.

Evan Vucci / AP

“We must protect our Jewish students and we must give our full-throated unequivocal support to the nation of Israel,” Johnson said. “This is our moment.”

Last week, the president addressed the protests on college campuses, saying “order must prevail,” though he noted that “dissent is essential to democracy.” Despite pressure from Republicans, he told reporters that the National Guard should not intervene. 

In his remarks on Tuesday, Mr. Biden highlighted the administration’s efforts to protect Jewish Americans from antisemitism. And he walked a fine line that other officials have been treading in recent weeks of upholding Americans’ right to free speech while condemning acts that go too far, putting Jewish students and others in danger. 

“In America, we respect and protect the fundamental right to free speech,” Mr. Biden said. “But there is no place on any campus in America, any place in America, for antisemitism or hate speech or threats of violence of any kind.” 

The remarks come amid a precarious moment in the war in Gaza, after Israel appeared to move forward Tuesday with an offensive in the heavily populated southern city of Rafah, while cease-fire negotiations remain up in the air.