The White House announced on Monday the establishment of an inter-agency group to coordinate U.S. government efforts “to counter antisemitism, Islamophobia, and related forms of bias and discrimination.”
“As President [Joe] Biden has made clear: antisemitism has no place in America. All Americans should forcefully reject antisemitism—including Holocaust denial—wherever it exists,” White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said in a statement announcing the move.
The statement made no additional references to Islamophobia or related forms of bias and discrimination other than noting that the inter-agency group, which will be led by staff from the Domestic Policy Council and National Security Council, would address them.
As its first order of business, though, the group will be tasked with developing a national strategy for combating Jew-hatred.
“This strategy will raise understanding about antisemitism and the threat it poses to the Jewish community and all Americans, address antisemitic harassment and abuse both online and offline, seek to prevent antisemitic attacks and incidents, and encourage whole-of-society efforts to counter antisemitism and build a more inclusive nation,” said the statement.
“We look forward to working with advocates, civil rights leaders, civil society, and members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to continue countering the scourge of antisemitism,” it continued.
The decision follows last Wednesday’s high-profile White House roundtable on antisemitism, during which Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, who chaired a discussion with Jewish leaders at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, said that the United States was facing an “epidemic of hate.”
“Let me be clear—words matter. People are no longer saying the quiet parts out loud, they are screaming them,” said Emhoff, the Jewish husband of Vice President Kamala Harris. “We cannot normalize this. We all have an obligation to condemn these vile acts. We must not stay silent. There is no either-or. There are no two sides. Everyone must be against this.”
The White House roundtable came on the backdrop of a surge of anti-Jewish harrasment and physical attacks. According to data published by the Anti-Defamation League, 2021 saw the highest number of documented reports of harassment and violence towards Jews of any year since 1979, when ADL started tracking such cases.
Antisemitic rhetoric has become increasingly volatile in recent months—particularly with the rapper Ye, formerly known as Kanye West, making a series of comments attacking Jews and praising Hitler.
In a letter to Biden last Tuesday, a bipartisan slate of U.S. lawmakers from both chambers had demanded the creation of an interagency task force to pursue a “whole of government” approach to combat antisemitism at home and abroad.
“Rising antisemitism puts Jews both in the United States and around the world at risk,” the letter stated. “Antisemitic voices, inciting hateful and violent action, are finding new audiences, with anti-Jewish conspiracies gaining traction across the globe and through social media.”