As Anti-Semitism Skyrockets, White House Focuses on Islamophobia
“The Biden-Harris administration will develop our nation’s first National Strategy to Counter Islamophobia,” Vice President Kamala Harris announced Wednesday. Yes, you read that correctly — the Biden administration is taking steps to protect the religion symbolized by a crescent, not a six-sided star. “Even as anti-Semitic rhetoric and threats of violence skyrocket throughout the United States, the Biden administration is developing a strategy to combat Islamophobia,” said Family Research Council President Tony Perkins on “Washington Watch.”
Indeed, the timing of the announcement could hardly be more awkward for the White House, coming a week after Jewish students at The Cooper Union had to shelter in a locked library as a pro-Hamas mob banged on the doors — just one of many recent anti-Semitic outrages. On top of that, in case anyone needed reminding about the right side of the conflict in the Middle East, last week Hamas reiterated it aims at the total “annihilation” of Israel, shortly before the United Nations General Assembly demanded Israel stop firing back before it even began in earnest.
The White House’s announcement has drawn criticism — not surprising — and not just from conservatives — somewhat surprising. Jewish evolutionary behavioral scientist Gad Saad responded with dry wit, “According to the @FBI director, Jews make up 2.4% of the US population but are the targets of 60% of hate crimes. This is why it is apparently important to fight Islamophobia according to the White House.”
Jewish author Abigail Shrier also tweeted, “On one hand, the administration is responding to the immediate physical danger of its Jewish citizenry with a task force to combat … Islamophobia [ellipses in original]. On the other, it assigned the least competent member of the entire federal government to head the effort. Unclear which side should take greater offense.” Over the past three years, Vice President Harris has served as the Biden administration’s border czar, gun violence czar, and artificial intelligence czar.
“Earlier this year,” explained Harris from her teleprompter, “in response to an historic rise in anti-Semitic attacks, we also released the first National Strategy to Counter Anti-Semitism.” The strategy included administration-wide actions, several new initiatives to protect Jews, and a White House summit, United We Stand.
Unfortunately, the White House strategy displayed more political bias than grasp of the issues. “I don’t know if any conservatives were invited” to the White House summit, Family Research Council’s Senior Fellow for Regulatory Affairs Chris Gacek told The Washington Stand. A review of the attendee list shows the event was dominated by left-wing activists, while prominent conservative voices such as Rabbi Yaakov Menken were conspicuously absent. The 60-page strategy document itself appeared to consider anti-Semitism as the exclusive domain of fringe-right groups, such as those that infamously gathered in Charlottesville, Va. in 2017.
As a result of its political insulation, the White House’s anti-Semitism strategy failed to foresee or forestall the tidal wave of anti-Semitism that has broken out across university campuses, spearheaded by left-wing groups such as Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). “You cannot go to any college in America and find any instance of right-wing anti-Semitism,” said Gacek. “No tolerance for the Klan, or anything. But there are at least 200 chapters of the Students for Justice in Palestine [SJP].”
Harris framed the Islamophobia strategy as “another important step forward in our fight against hate.” After the White House summit on anti-Semitism, “it seems like there was this need [in the Biden administration] to balance this off with a statement on Islamophobia,” said Gacek.
Harris envisioned the Islamophobia strategy as “a comprehensive and detailed plan to protect Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim from hate, bigotry, and violence, and to address the concern that some government policies may discriminate against Islam.”
First, the slippery terminology of “hate, bigotry, and violence” flowed throughout Harris’s short address. “Every person has the right to live safe from violence, hate, and bigotry,” she insisted. “President Biden and I have a duty, not only to keep the people of our nation safe, but to condemn unequivocally and forcefully all forms of hate.” This is dangerous language.
Certainly, government exists to protect every person from violence against the person or property, and ordinary laws suffice to either deter or punish the commission of such crimes.
But “hate” and “bigotry” usually refer not to physical acts but to a person’s internal thoughts and emotions. To claim that anyone enjoys a right to be “safe from … hate and bigotry” implies that they hold a veto over the thoughts and opinions other people are allowed to hold. In particular, Merriam-Webster defines “bigotry” as “obstinate or intolerant devotion to one’s own opinions and prejudices.” Does the government define what is obstinate or intolerant? Does the supposedly aggrieved victim? This is a basic problem with all hate crime legislation in a free republic, which is not abated by leaning into it even harder.
Second, Harris used the clunky phrase, “Muslims and those perceived to be Muslim,” twice in the speech. But why not just say “Arabs” or “Muslims and other Arabs”? That is who we’re talking about, after all — people who are targeted because either their dress or their ethnicity resembles that of radical Islamist terrorists from the Middle East. A blonde-haired, blue-eyed person is never “perceived to be Muslim” unless they don distinctively Muslim garb. That many Arabs have slightly darker skin pigmentation is only another point in their favor, according to the calculation of the racial identity-obsessed Left, making it even stranger that Harris would not mention it. More on this shortly.
Third, what does Harris mean by “concern that some government policies may discriminate against Islam?” She gave as an example “the so-called Muslim ban,” but then said that Biden revoked that policy nearly three years ago. Surely that is not a reason why the administration must announce an Islamophobia strategy at a crisis of anti-Semitism.
It turns out that Muslim voters — usually reliable Democratic votes — are hopping mad over Biden’s support for Israel. The Washington Post called it “warp-speed unraveling of relations.” The National Muslim Democratic Council wrote a letter complaining that Biden had “eroded trust in voters who previously put their faith in you” and threatened to “withhold endorsement, support, or votes” from Democrats who supported Israel. They issued an ultimatum that the White House secure “an immediate ceasefire,” with a deadline of 5 p.m. on October 31.
Obviously, that deadline came and went with no ceasefire, and now the White House is desperately trying to shore up support among a key segment of its base. On Wednesday (November 1), President Biden agreed with a pro-Palestine heckler and, for the first time, endorsed a humanitarian “pause” in Israel’s advance into Gaza, which had been underway for less than 48 hours. “Biden’s call for a cease-fire by another name is a capitulation to the loudest voices on his party’s extreme-left flank,” wrote National Review Senior Writer Noah Rothman.
Also on Wednesday, Vice President Harris announced the “nation’s first National Strategy to Counter Islamophobia.” In this context, the announcement appears to be another move calculated to appease incensed Muslim voters that form a key Democratic constituency. “It doesn’t surprise me … how out of touch this White House is — number one — and how they pander to the far-left — number two,” U.S. Rep. Randy Weber (R-Texas) said on “Washington Watch. “They’ve been just totally out of touch with reality and moving further and further to the Left.”
Having determined to roll out an Islamophobia strategy in what Perkins called, “a cold political calculation,” the Biden administration needed to determine the best way to sell it. They chose to claim that the Biden administration has “condemn[ed] unequivocally and forcefully all forms of hate” since day one. This characterization required Harris to overlook not only legitimate forms of hate, like hatred of child trafficking, but also forms of hate that benefit Democrats, such as the radical Left’s intimidation of the Supreme Court and targeted attacks on pro-life organizations in conjunction with the Dobbs decision.
“After a surge in hate during the pandemic,” Harris claimed, “in particular anti-Asian hate, President Biden signed the COVID-19 Hate Crimes Act to improve the reporting of hate crimes.” Harris remembers the pandemic much differently from most Americans. After Americans spent weeks and months locked at home, the country saw a surge in violent crime generally. If a particular element of “hate” was most pronounced, it was not anti-Asian hate — there were only a few instances of national prominence — but the nightly BLM riots that expressed anti-police and anti-white hatred by destroying cities. Months after the violence died down, Biden signed a bill with the effect of inflating the numbers of reported hate crimes, to bolster the narrative that America was seething with hate.
Harris claimed the Islamophobia strategy was necessary because of “an uptick in anti-Palestinian, anti-Arab, anti-Semitic, and Islamophobic incidents across America.” The reality is, most of the violence and intimidation is directed against Jews, and law enforcement has done little to stop it. To my knowledge, there has only been one outrageous incident of an “anti-Palestinian/anti-Arab/Islamophobic” — these are nearly synonymous — crime, which the administration has cited repeatedly.
In fact, according to the FBI’s hate-crime database (which might have inflated numbers), Islam was the fourth-most persecuted religion in the U.S. from 2020-2022 (2023 data is not available). Since the pandemic, the FBI records 1,948 anti-Jewish crimes (56%) — anti-Jewish crimes shot up 400% after October 7, according to the Anti-Defamation League — 442 anti-Christian crimes (13%, combining anti-Catholic, anti-Orthodox, and anti-Protestant crimes), 372 anti-Sikh crimes (11%), and 311 anti-Islamic crimes (9%). Crimes against all other religions totaled 398.
“This is a cover-up of … all the horrible actions that took place,” Family Research Council Action President Jody Hice insisted. “It’s brushing all that aside to focus on Islamophobia.”
“Here’s the bottom line: in America, no one should be made to fight hate alone,” Harris concluded. Except for those Jewish students stranded in the library. Anti-Semitic demonstrations on college campuses “typically have either the tacit approval of law enforcement or a ‘stand-down’ kind of treatment,” remarked Gacek. Where were the Feds? Will the pro-Palestinian mobs see the U.S. Department of Justice prosecute them with the same zeal they prosecuted January 6?
Having failed so spectacularly with their strategy to counter anti-Semitism, the Biden-Harris administration is rolling out a similar strategy to counter a supposed wave of anti-Muslim hatred.
But “that’s not the problem that needs to be addressed right now,” said Gacek. “We have never seen these kinds of widespread, terrorist attacks on Jews in the United States. … We have this phenomenon. It’s never been seen before. And they’re talking about this [Islamophobia] thing.”
In fact, Gacek suggested the strategy to counter Islamophobia may actually hinder efforts to protect Jews. “Is it Islamophobic for a Jew to point out that the people carrying out these attacks on Jews are all Palestinians?” he asked. “Is it Islamophobia for senators to write a letter to Christopher Wray against SJP … or more saliently for Jews to point out, ‘These people are attacking us’?”
“This anti-Semitic rhetoric and the threats of violence now that has been going on for about three weeks is rather shocking,” Perkins said on “Washington Watch.” “The White House was at first slow to deal with it. But now [they’re] wanting to make this look like it’s a two-sided issue.” He added, “It’s not a squabble between two groups. It’s a fomenting of hate toward the Jewish community.”
Weber expressed “no surprise at all that President Biden, instead of supporting our great friend and ally and condemning anti-Semitism, … would literally make this about trying to condemn some fake movement on the other side of this coin. … Our greatest friend, our greatest ally, Israel, needs our help.”
“During my time as Chair of USCIRF [the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom], we looked at the rise in Western Europe of anti-Semitism as a warning sign of greater hostility toward faith as a whole,” Perkins pointed out. “And so, as Christians in this country, we need to be looking at this and taking note, because don’t think it’s going to stop with hatred for Jewish people.”
Joshua Arnold is a senior writer at The Washington Stand.