The Biden administration’s new National Strategy to Combat Antisemitism, far from being an effective roadmap to prosecute and prevent hateful attacks on Jews and Israel, is actually designed to protect many of the most vicious antisemites in America—including those in the president’s own party.
Biden laid out his strategy for fighting antisemitism in the United States on May 25, at a time when the latest statistics show attacks against Jews make up 63% of reported religiously motivated hate crimes, though Jews represent just 2.4% of the U.S. population.
The strategy first fails to define the antisemitism that it ostensibly opposes. Or rather, its various definitions of antisemitism contradict one another, creating more confusion than clarity. Ultimately, the document seems to be little more than a ruse designed to excuse some of the worst antisemitism that exists in the United States today—anti-Zionism.
Biden’s antisemitism strategy also endorses the involvement of a virulently antisemitic organization with ties to Islamist terrorists—the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR).
Finally, the strategy does not treat antisemitism singularly, but instead dilutes the offense by lumping it with other forms of hatred, even though Jews suffer from hate crimes far more than any other group.
In short, Biden’s National Strategy to Combat Antisemitism is simply a public relations attempt to convince Jews and other humanitarians that the government opposes hate crimes, while ignoring a huge swath of haters.
The whole strategy is a deception: While it purports to recommend and take various actions against Jew-hatred, it instead offers a mishmash of definitions that above all leave the extremely prevalent anti-Zionist form of antisemitism free from censure.
To its credit, one definition of antisemitism endorsed by Biden’s strategy is that used by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA), which has been adopted almost universally—by 36 other countries, the European Union, the Organization of American States, the Council of Europe and 26 individual U.S. states, not to mention hundreds of institutions around the world. This definition includes anti-Zionism, appropriately, as a form of antisemitism.
But bizarrely, Biden’s strategy also endorses other, problematic definitions—specifically the Nexus Document and the Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism (JDA)—neither of which include anti-Zionism as a form of antisemitism. This flaw is egregious, which is why many major Jewish organizations have criticized the inclusion of these deficient definitions of antisemitism.
The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), for example, in a letter to President Biden, said, “The JDA and the Nexus Document are … dangerous, wrongly shielding antisemites who try to mask their hatred of Jews by expressing it as hatred for the Jewish state.”
Similarly, B’nai Brith issued a statement saying that they are “disappointed in the document’s mention of the Nexus definition of antisemitism,” adding, “we believe that definition allows the more invidious of Israel’s nemeses to hide their animus behind ‘strident criticism’ of Israel.”
Anti-Zionism is one of the most prevalent manifestations of antisemitism. It is the form of antisemitism found on most American university campuses, in the United Nations and on the American left generally, including among growing numbers in the U.S. Congress—mostly Democrats, such as Reps. Ilhan Omar and Rashida Tlaib.
Omar famously tweeted “It’s all about the Benjamins baby,” implying that Jews were buying political support for Israel, a classic antisemitic trope. Rashida Tlaib has said that people “cannot claim to hold progressive values yet back Israel’s apartheid government,” inferring that Jews cannot be progressive if they support Israel (which in fact does not practice apartheid).
Anti-Zionism is also the predominant form of antisemitism expressed by most Palestinians and by their supporters in the United States. Their position denies self-determination of the Jewish people, insisting that Israel be expelled from occupying “Arab” land—“from the [Jordan] River to the [Mediterranean] Sea”—in other words, the entire Jewish state.
Perhaps most outrageously, Biden’s antisemitism strategy specifically names as an ally an organization notorious for its anti-Zionism: CAIR. According to Biden’s National Strategy, the organization will educate faith groups about how to protect their places of worship, forge interfaith relationships, and maintain open lines of communication with law enforcement.
But CAIR is an organization known for spewing antisemitic vitriol and having ties to Hamas. CAIR’s leadership has accused “Zionist synagogues” and Jewish organizations of being responsible for Islamophobia in the United States. In short, to include CAIR in a major policy initiative fighting antisemitism is an affront—the group discredits Biden’s entire strategy.
No wonder that CAIR’s national deputy director, Edward Ahmed Mitchell, applauded the fact that the IHRA definition of antisemitism was not the sole definition endorsed by Biden’s strategy. He’s no doubt delighted that anti-Zionist campaigns like BDS can continue without hindrance—proof that Biden’s strategy is little more than a deception designed to shield leftist anti-Zionists from accusations of antisemitism.
The president’s new antisemitism strategy also deceives by lumping antisemitism in with other forms of hatred. It repeatedly mentions antisemitism in the context of other forms of hate. In fact, the first paragraph of the document’s Overview section begins by mentioning several other forms of hate.
Despite the fact that millennia-old antisemitism is considered by most scholars a unique phenomenon, the Overview asserts “The hatred of Jews shares much in common with other forms of hate, such as racism, Islamophobia, homophobia, transphobia, and misogyny.”
There are, of course, many forms of hate in the United States. Nevertheless, failing to address antisemitism on its own additionally proves that Biden is not serious about combating it.
Rather, he simply wants voters to believe he’s serious … without riling his left-wing base. That’s the reason his strategy mentions only one specific type of antisemite—white supremacists—ignoring all the antisemitism of the left. After all, you don’t bite the hand that keeps you in office.
If Biden were really serious about fighting antisemitism, he would have created a strategy that includes only the IHRA definition of antisemitism, addressed antisemitism singularly and ensured that his strategy targets all forms of antisemitism no matter their source on the political spectrum.
Jason Shvili is a freelance writer in Toronto, Canada.