Jewish Groups Blast Biden’s Anitsemitism Strategy; Shaped by Antisemitic CAIR

Antisemitism Biden Harris Emhoff (Susan Walsh / Associated Press)
Susan Walsh / Associated Press

The Republican Jewish Coalition (RJC) blasted President Joe Biden’s new antisemitism strategy on Thursday, as it emerged that it was crafted with help from the antisemitic Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR).

The strategy excludes extreme criticism of Israel from the definition of antisemitism, rejecting the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA) definition that was adopted by President Donald Trump in 2019.

(Democrat Alan Dershowitz said Trump’s executive order, which also extended civil rights protections to Jews on college campuses, was “[o]ne of the most important events in the 2,000-year battle against anti-Semitism.”)

As Breitbart News reported at the time:

[Trump’s] executive order would adopt the definition of antisemitism suggested by the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance (IHRA). It states: “Antisemitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of antisemitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities.”

The State Department has already adopted that definition of antisemitism. And there is bipartisan support in Congress for legislation to adopt that definition of antisemitism as well, Kampeas notes.

However, pro-Palestinian groups have argued that the IHRA definition is too broad, and defines opposition to Israel as antisemitic.

In fa[c]t, the IHRA states specifically: “Manifestations [of antisemitism] might include the targeting of the state of Israel, conceived as a Jewish collectivity. However, criticism of Israel similar to that leveled against any other country cannot be regarded as antisemitic.”

The Biden White House boasted Thursday about its new antisemitism strategy, claiming it is the first such strategy adopted by any White House. But the document excludes extreme criticism of Israel as antisemitism.

The Biden strategy also lumps antisemitism in together with Islamophobia, which fails to acknowledge the fact that the two are fundamentally different, and that antisemitism is frequently motivated by Islamic extremism.

Critics noted that CAIR was involved in the drafting of the document, as the White House acknowledged.

CAIR has frequently used antisemitic rhetoric, blurring the boundary between criticism of Israel or “Zionism” and outright attacks on Jews and Judaism. For example, as Breitbart News reported in December 2021:

The executive director of the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) in the San Francisco Bay Area called to “know your enemies” as she blasted Jewish organizations, “Zionist” synagogues, and Hillel campus groups who she accused of betrayal and supporting human rights violations.

“We need to pay attention to the Anti-Defamation League (ADL). We need to pay attention to the Jewish Federation. We need to pay attention to the Zionist synagogues. We need to pay attention to the Hillel chapters on our campuses,” she said.

Speaking against “Zionists,” a term historically used as a euphemism for “Jews” to avoid charges of antisemitism, Billoo called to “oppose the vehement fascists” as well as the “polite Zionists, too,” claiming they “are not your friends.”

The group also has a notorious reputation that crosses international boundaries, as Breitbart news has noted:

In 2007-8, CAIR was named an unindicted co-conspirator in the terror financing trial of the Holy Land Foundation for Relief and Development. That case, in turn, led the FBI to discontinue its work with the organization. In 2009, a federal judge ruled that the government “produced ample evidence to establish” the ties of CAIR with Hamas, the Palestinian terror organization. The United Arab Emirates labeled CAIR a terrorist organization in 2014 (a decision that the Obama administration opposed).

For its part, CAIR boasted Thursday of its involvement in crafting Biden’s antisemitism strategy, and specifically praised Biden for protecting criticism of Israel:

In a statement, CAIR added (original emphasis):

CAIR noted that the White House’s national strategy on anti-Semitism does not adopt the disputed IHRA definition of anti-Semitism as binding policy…

As the strategy states, “When Jews are targeted because of their beliefs or their identity, when Israel is singled out because of anti-Jewish hatred, that is antisemitism. And that is unacceptable.” Emphasis added.

This clear distinction based on the motivation for criticism of Israel highlights the administration’s commitment to combating antisemitism while safeguarding free speech and the right to engage in human rights activism.

The strategy acknowledges “several definitions of antisemitism, which serve as valuable tools to raise awareness and increase understanding.”

The IHRA definition, criticized by CAIR and many Jewish and Palestinian American groups, as well as domestic and international human rights organizations, is seen as potentially conflating criticism of the Israeli government with antisemitism, limiting free speech on Palestinian human rights.

RJC CEO Matt Brooks issued a strong blasted Biden’s antisemitism strategy, noting it was a step backward:

Joe Biden had a chance to take a strong stand against antisemitism and he blew it.

The IHRA definition of antisemitism is the definition endorsed by every mainstream Jewish organization. Biden’s own Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism has urged other countries to “embrace” it as an “integral” tool against the rising tide of Jew-hatred. The IHRA definition is indispensable because it recognizes that criticism of Israel is antisemitic when it delegitimizes, demonizes, or applies double standards to Israel.

After initial reports that its new strategy would enshrine the IHRA definition, the Biden administration came under heavy pressure from the anti-Israel left, forcing a delay in the roll-out. Now, hours before a Jewish holiday [Shavout, or Pentecost, which begins Thursday evening] and in the waning days of Jewish American Heritage Month, the White House is attempting a last-minute straddle – undermining the IHRA definition by promoting alongside it an alternative definition that says applying double standards and singling out the Jewish state for criticism is not antisemitic.

This decision seriously weakens the White House strategy. It is yet another instance of Biden caving to the anti-Israel radicals who constitute a growing Democratic constituency at both the elected and grassroots levels. It’s clear that only a Republican president will fully embrace the IHRA definition and put the full force of the federal government behind the fight against antisemitism in all its forms.

Another Jewish group, the Louis D. Brandeis Center for Human Rights Under Law, a non-partisan group, said that Biden had “forcefully embraced IHRA” but was also guilty of “regretfully muddying the water by also acknowledging a lesser standard” in defining antisemitism. The center also objected to the fact that Biden had appeared to retreat from President Trump’s 2019 commitment to protecting Jewish students on campus.

The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), the oldest pro-Israel group in the United States, also blasted the Biden administration’s antisemitism strategy and its reliance on a left-wing document called the “Nexus,” as well as the so-called “Jerusalem Declaration on Antisemitism” (JDA), another preferred left-wing alternative:

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. For example, the Nexus Document states that opposition to Zionism – i.e., the right of the Jewish people to self-determination and to live as a nation-state in their religious and ancestral homeland – is not necessarily antisemitic. The Nexus Document fails to appreciate that for many if not most Jews, their connection to their religious and ancestral homeland is an essential part of their Jewish identity.

The Nexus Document also states that “disproportionate focus on Israel and treating Israel differently than other countries cannot necessarily be considered antisemitic.” But if Israel – the one and only Jewish state in the world – is singled out for criticism and punishment, then there can be no doubt that antisemitism is at play.

The JDA is even more problematic. It does not even recognize that anti-Zionism, i.e., denying the Jewish people their right to self-determination, is antisemitism.”

Biden’s effort was spearheaded by Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff, who has reportedly embraced his identity more vigorously since his wife, Kamala Harris, became the vice president.

Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News and the host of Breitbart News Sunday on Sirius XM Patriot on Sunday evenings from 7 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET (4 p.m. to 7 p.m. PT). He is the author of the new biography, Rhoda: ‘Comrade Kadalie, You Are Out of Order’. He is also the author of the recent e-book, Neither Free nor Fair: The 2020 U.S. Presidential Election. He is a winner of the 2018 Robert Novak Journalism Alumni Fellowship. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.

This post has been updated.


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