White House tasks several agencies with responding to incidents of antisemitism and Islamophobia
The departments of Homeland Security, Justice and Education will all have roles to address what the White House sees as rising discrimination on college campuses.
The Biden administration is assigning federal agencies with new responsibilities to assist universities and local law enforcement responding to hateful acts aimed at Jewish and Muslim students, which the White House said have risen since the outbreak of the Israel-Gaza war earlier this month.
The Homeland Security Department is hosting calls with campus police departments and the Justice Department is engaging in dialogues with colleges and impacted communities in direct response to incidents that have taken place at colleges since Hamas’ Oct. 7 attacks and Israel’s subsequent military action. College campuses have seen an “alarming risk of reported antisemitic incidents,” a White House official said on Monday, spurring the administration into action.
DHS and Justice are both working with state and local officials to assess threat environments and share information about available resources, the official said. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency at DHS tasked 125 protective security advisors and 100 cybersecurity advisors to work with schools and determine their needs. Justice’s Community Relations Service office has led its department’s outreach.
The Education Department’s Office of Civil Rights is working to expedite its process for discrimination complaints of certain antisemitic and Islamophobic incidents. It will for the first time clarify that any discriminatory actions taken in federally funded programs or activities toward Jewish, Muslim, Sikh or Hindu people are prohibited under the 1964 Civil Rights Act, thereby making it easier for those experiencing such discrimination to “seek redress for it.” Education will complete that update this week and is also holding webinars over the coming months to ensure students understand how to file complaints.
President Biden earlier in October said Americans cannot “stand silent” in the face of antisemitic and Islamophobic incidents.
“We must, without equivocation, denounce antisemitism,” Biden said. “We must also, without equivocation, denounce Islamophobia.”
From Oct. 7-23, the Anti-Defamation League recorded 312 antisemitic incidents across the United States. That marked a 388% increase compared to the same period last year. ADL opted to include in that tally 109 rallies it labeled as “anti-Israel” and expressing “explicit or strong implicit support” for Hamas. Cornell University deployed campus police to guard its Center for Jewish Living on Sunday after anonymous posts surfaced on a Greek life forum, GreekRank.com, that threatened violence against Jewish students.
The Council on American Islamic Relations, meanwhile, said it has received 774 complaints, including reported bias incidents, since the Israel-Gaza war broke out on Oct. 7. The group said it believed it was the largest wave of complaints it has received since December 2015.
The Biden administration is continuing its outreach efforts this week, with Education Secretary Miguel Cardona, Second Gentleman Doug Emhoff and other officials meeting on Monday with the Conference of Presidents of Major AMerican Jewish Organizations to discuss “the alarming uptick in instances of antisemitism at schools and on college campuses.” Cardona has in recent weeks visited several college campuses to learn about the antisemitism they face and this week will continue that effort in New York City and Baltimore.