May 2, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Scoop: Inside Biden's antisemitism task force meeting as protests roil U.S.

Biden in blue suit and red tie

Photo: Drew Angerer/AFP via Getty Images

President Biden's antisemitism task force convened Wednesday to discuss how the administration can improve campus safety for Jewish students and provide new resources to local law enforcement to protect Jewish individuals and communities, according to administration officials.

Why it matters: The White House is working to do more to address the college protests roiling the country.

  • Meetings like Wednesday's are an attempt to identify concrete ways the Biden administration can address both the immediate challenges and address the long-term problem of growing antisemitism.
  • The meeting was called by Neera Tanden, the head of the Domestic Policy Council, and Liz Sherwood-Randall, Biden's homeland security adviser. The goal was to add a renewed sense of urgency to a problem Biden has long decried.
  • Officials discussed Biden's speech on May 7 at a Holocaust memorial at the U.S. Capitol but it wasn't the main topic of conversation, officials said.

Driving the news: Cabinet members and top officials made new commitments in three broad areas: Campus safety, combatting online antisemitism and providing more policy protection for Jewish communities, according to administration officials.

  • On Thursday, Biden weighed in on the college protests that have been roiling the country, condemning the "chaos" that has stemmed from the protests against the Israel-Hamas war.
  • "There's the right to protest, but not the right to cause chaos," Biden said from the Roosevelt Room of the White House, adding that "order must prevail."

Biden added: "There should be no place on any campus, no place in America, for antisemitism or threats of violence against Jewish students."

Zoom out: Democrats are concerned about the political implications – and the deep divisions in their party – of the college protests.

  • Republicans have hammered Democrats – and Biden – for not condemning the protesters on more forceful language.

Zoom in: The task force, which Biden announced in late 2022, wants departments and agencies, including the Departments of Justice and Homeland Security, to coordinate more closely to law enforcement.

  • To counter online antisemitism, administration officials will work with technology companies to enforce their own terms of service.
  • Cabinet officials in attendance included Attorney General Merrick Garland, Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra, DHS Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas and USDA Secretary Tom Vilsack.
  • Ambassador Deborah Lipstadt, Biden's special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, and Ambassador Stuart Eizenstat, the Chair of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, also attended.

Editor's note: This article has been updated to add Biden's quote on antisemitism and to note that protest leaders say they are not antisemitic.

Go deeper