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Full text: Biden’s response to rabbi-heckler about ceasefire

"I was raised by what the Jews call a righteous Christian," the U.S. president claimed.

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks at the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 19, 2023. Credit: UNGA/Screenshot.
U.S. President Joe Biden speaks at the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 19, 2023. Credit: UNGA/Screenshot.

The White House released the full text of U.S. President Joe Biden’s remarks at a Nov. 1 evening campaign reception at the Minneapolis Event Center in Minnesota. During the president’s speech, which began at 6:09 p.m. local time, a heckler who identified as a rabbi demanded a ceasefire. Biden not only answered the person’s question but said that the person should not be removed from the event. Below is the relevant portion from the official White House transcript, edited very lightly for style.

Biden: … But you know—and I wasn’t going to run again. I was going to write a book and set up an institute. I was a professor at the University of Pennsylvania, and they—the Biden Institute and the Domestic Policy Institute at the University of Delaware. And—and I—that’s what I was going to do.
 
But then along came Charlottesville. Remember, Charlottesville, Virginia—what happened? Well, I was about to announce that I stay—that I was staying right where I was, when I was—you know, and you remember what happened. Those folks came out of the woods in the fields with torches—torches, singing the same anti—chanting the same antisemitic bile that was chanted in Germany in the early 30s, accompanied by the Ku Klux Klan. Not a joke. And a young woman bystander was killed.

And the previous president, who is seeking the job again, was asked what he thought about it. You know what he said? He said, “There are very fine people on both sides.” “Very fine people on both sides.” 
 
When I heard that, I knew I couldn’t—
 
Audience member: Mr. President, if you care about Jewish people, as a rabbi, I need you to call for a ceasefire right now.
 
(Cross-talk.)
 
Audience member: Sit down!
 
Audience member: Get out! Get out!
 
Biden: No, no, no, no, no, no. No, let—
 
Audience member: (Inaudible) Palestinians and Israelis have died. Please explain to me why.
 
Audience member: Ma’am, you need to leave the event.
 
Biden: Let—if you’ll be quiet, I’ll answer your question.
 
Audience member: I would love for you to answer my question, please.
 
Biden: I think we need a pause.
 
Audience member: A pause?
 
Biden: Yes, a pause, for—
 
Audience member: What is a pause?
 
Biden: A pause means give time to get the prisoners out. Give time—(applause).
 
Audience member: (Inaudible.) If you’re clapping for a ceasefire, (inaudible)—
 
Biden: No, don’t—don’t—look—
 
Audience members: Four more years! Four more years! Four more year!
 
Audience member: Ceasefire now!
 
Biden: No, no, no, no, no. No, it’s OK. It’s OK. 
 
Audience members: Four more years! Four more years! Four more years!
 
Biden: It’s OK. I under—I under—don’t—just let her stay in.
 
Audience member: (Singing.) Ceasefire now. Ceasefire now. Ceasefire now.
 
Biden: Well, but what happened was we ended up, when those folks came out of the woods, like I said—
 
Audience memberCeasefire now. If you care about life, sing with me. (Singing.) Ceasefire now. Ceasefire now. Ceasefire now.
 
Biden: Well, I understand her emotion. I really do. 
 
And, you know, I’ve—I’m going to say something that’s both revealing and self-serving at the same time. I’m the guy that convinced Bibi to call for that ceasefire to let the prisoners out. I’m the guy that spent all the time talking to El-Sisi to let him open the—open the door into Egypt. I’m the guy who spent—(applause). And I’ve met—and I’ve met with the War Cabinet. I met with—
 
And I—I’m one of these guys—from the very beginning, I was—for what it’s worth, I was raised by what the Jews call a righteous Christian: my dad. My dad was one of those guys who came home from work and would, before he went back to close the shop, my dad would talk about how we had—how—he didn’t understand why we didn’t bomb the railroad tracks into the—into the concentration camps. My dad couldn’t understand why the Jews in that boat were not allowed in. My dad talked about silence being complicity. My dad was one of those guys who was that—just that kind of man.
 
And, you know, I learned from him. Matter of fact, you know, silence is complicity. And the fact of the matter is: From the time each of my children and grandchildren reached the age of 14, the first thing I did on their 14th birthdays—I put them on a plane and I took them to Dachau one at a time—one at a time. Because I wanted them to see. 
 
You walk through that gate in Dachau, saying it will “set you free.” But the beautiful homes all along that fence line—the idea no one could have lived there and not known what was happening.
 
Silence is complicity. I wanted them to understand they had to speak up.
 
But, folks, this is incredibly complicated for the Israelis. And it’s incredibly complicated for the Muslim world as well.
 
I support a two-state solution, and I have from the very beginning. (Applause.)
 
 But I can thoroughly understand the emotions, both on the Palestinian side of this argument and on the Jewish side of the argument.
 
But, folks, do—the fact of the matter is that Hamas is a terrorist organization, a flat-out terrorist organization. (Applause.)
 
And—well, I’m—I better talk about what I was going to talk about. (Laughter.)
 
But the point is that, you know, when those folks came out of those woods, I knew I couldn’t sit on the sidelines anymore. I really mean it. Because the president of the United States had just drawn a moral equivalence between those who stood for hate and those who stood against hate. That’s what he did back when—in Charlottesville.
 
You see, I really do believe, as my father taught me, silence is complicity. And I wasn’t going to be silent. So, I ran.

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