Middle East

Biden pledges Israel support at Hanukkah event but delivers warning on public opinion

By Donald Judd and Jack Forrest, CNN

CNN  — 

President Joe Biden on Monday touted his “unshakeable” support for “the safety of the Jewish people and the security of Israel and its right to exist,” but he also offered a stark warning about the volatility of public opinion.

“We’ll continue to provide military assistance to Israel until they get rid of Hamas, but we have to be careful – they have to be careful,” Biden told those gathered for a Hanukkah reception at the White House Monday night. “The whole world’s public opinion can shift overnight, we can’t let that happen.”

The comments from Biden come as an emergency aid package that would provide funding for Israel and Ukraine remains mired in Congress and lawmakers face pressure to act amid a new wave of antisemitism in the US as the Israel-Hamas war enters a third month.

The reception, hosted by the president, celebrated the fifth night of Hanukkah and, according to the White House, featured some 800 guests, including Holocaust survivors, lawmakers and various Jewish leaders.

“I also recognize you’re hurting from the silence, and the fear, and for your safety, because of a surge in antisemitism in the United States of America and around the world — it’s sickening,” Biden told the audience.

He added, “You know, we see it, across our communities, and schools, and colleges, and social media — they surface painful scars, from millennia of hate to genocide of the Jewish people.”

Reported hate crimes and bias incidents against Jews, Muslims and Arabs have continued to surge since October 7, according to new data from the Anti-Defamation League and the Council on American-Islamic Relations.

The ADL said it recorded 2,031 antisemitic incidents in the two months following Hamas’ terrorist attacks on Israel, including reports of physical assault, vandalism and “anti-Israel rallies that included classically antisemitic, anti-Zionist and/or terror-supportive rhetoric.” That is up from 465 such incidents during the same two-month period in 2022.

CAIR, the nation’s largest Muslim advocacy group, said it has seen a similar spike in bias incidents during the first month of the war with 2,171 requests for help and reports made to its national headquarters and chapters across the country since October 7.

At the event, Biden called “upon all Americans to make clear there is no place for hate in America – against Jews, Muslims or anybody else.”

Biden was joined on stage by second gentleman Doug Emhoff, who has made combatting antisemitism a focus as the first Jewish spouse of a president or vice president. Last week, Emhoff condemned rising antisemitism at the National Menorah lighting ceremony.

The president in his remarks pointed to his support for Israel, while acknowledging differences between himself and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. He recounted how as a young lawmaker he told the Israeli leader, “I love you, but I don’t agree with a damn thing you have to say.” “It’s about the same today,” he said Monday.

Biden highlighted the work his administration has done to secure the release of hostages still held in Gaza and the delivery of humanitarian aid to the region, saying he “personally spent countless hours” working with Israeli, Qatari and Egyptian counterparts on both fronts.  

“There’s a whole range of things going on now that are really very, very difficult,” Biden said. “We’ve gotten more than 100 hostages out and we’re not going to stop till we get every one of them home.”

Seven American men and one woman remain unaccounted for since the Israel-Hamas war began, according to the White House. Four Americans  — a 4-year-old girl and three women — have been released so far.

The United States, Biden also said, “will continue to lead the world in humanitarian assistance to innocent Palestinian civilians, to emphasize to our friends, our Israeli friends, we need to protect civilian life.”

CNN’s MJ Lee contributed to this report.

Related Articles

Back to top button