Biden's Holocaust memorial speech holds key to his future as protests, antisemitism rage (2024)

WASHINGTON — Seven months after Hamas launched the deadliest attack on Jews since the Holocaust, President Joe Biden will be tasked with delivering one of the most high-stakes, closely watched speeches when he addresses the Holocaust memorial ceremony at the U.S. Capitol.

His remarks also fall squarely seven months from an Election Day where Biden is trying put together a coalition of young, Black, Muslim and progressive voters that sent him to the White House. But many no longer see eye-to eye with his stance in the Israel-Hamas war.

With Biden at the Holocaust commemoration will be Speaker Mike Johnson, a Republican from Louisiana who dashed for Columbia University two weeks ago as anti-Gaza war protests and record antisemitism began unsettling college campuses. President Biden’s charge will be two-fold: Assuage the fears of Jewish American voters and offer reassurance to them while acknowledging the sense of betrayal felt by his base as he continues to support Israel with military aid.

In his address, Biden will talk about the Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel that led to the “deadliest day for Jewish people since the Holocaust” and a surge in antisemitism, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierretold reporters.

The president will speak to the “horrors of October 7th,” and how “we've seen an alarming rise in antisemitism in the US and our cities, our communities, and our on our campuses,” said Jean-Pierre.

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The speech will be delivered during the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s Annual Days of Remembrance ceremony, which occurs the day after Israel's Yom HaShoah or Holocaust Remembrance Day to commemorate the six million Jews murdered by Nazis during World War II.

On Oct. 7, Islamist terrorist group Hamas killed about 1,200 people in southern Israel and took about 250 more as hostages. In the seven months since, Israel's retaliatory attacks have killed more than 34,000 Palestinians, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry.

Biden's Holocaust memorial speech holds key to his future as protests, antisemitism rage (1)

The war has also unleashed a humanitarian crisis. About 1.1 million people in Gaza – half of the population – have completely exhausted their food supplies and coping capacities and are struggling with catastrophic hunger and starvation, according to the U.N’ s World Food Program.

In recent weeks, protests over Israel’s war on Gaza have engulfed college campuses with "Gaza Solidarity Encampments" springing up coast-to-coast demanding an immediate cease-fire. Meanwhile, Jewish students across the country are reporting a rise in antisemitism.

Biden faces commemorating the biggest massacre of Jewish people at a time when Jewish students on college campuses are feeling unsafe. All the while, key voting blocs have said they believe Israel is perpetrating a "genocide" against thousands of Palestinians in Gaza. Chants of "Genocide Joe has got to go!" has been a common refrain at college protests across the country.

After an initial deal in November, the U.S. has been unsuccessful in brokering a second deal between Israel and Hamas. On Monday, Hamas announced it would accept a cease-fire proposal that was negotiated in Egypt without Israeli involvement surprising the Biden administration.

State Department spokesman Matt Miller said the Biden administration was reviewing the Hamas announcement and "will be discussing this response with our partners over the coming hours."

Israel said it would dispatch negotiators to Cairo to discuss an agreement they would be willing to sign. However, Israel began striking targets near Rafah, which has been a point of contention between the Biden administration and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Biden's Holocaust memorial speech holds key to his future as protests, antisemitism rage (2)

"You can expect the president to make clear that during these sacred days of remembrance, we honor the memory of the 6 million Jews killed in the Holocaust, and we recommit to heeding the lessons of this dark chapter Never again," said Jean-Pierre, during the White House press briefing on Monday. "He will speak to the horrors of October 7th, when Hamas unleashed the deadliest day for Jewish people since the Holocaust."

The Anti Defamation League, a Jewish advocacy group, recorded 732 campus-based antisemitic incidents between October 7 and the end of 2023 alone. It was 1,062% higher than the same two-month period in 2022, when ADL recorded only 63 incidents.

Biden’s speech comes on the heels offormer President Donald Trumpaccusing Biden of running a "Gestapo administration,"a reference to Nazi Germany at a private campaign fundraiser over the weekend.

The comments followed Trump complaining that the multiple indictments against him were politically motivated.

“These people are running a Gestapo administration. And it’s the only thing they have,” And it’s the only way they’re going to win, in their opinion, and it’s actually killing them. But it doesn’t bother me.”

White House spokesperson Andrew Bates said the president is focused on bringing Americans together, "instead of echoing the appalling rhetoric of fascists,lunching with Neo Nazis, and fanning debunked conspiracy theories that have cost brave police officer their lives."

But Biden must strike a delicate balance. Young Americans are more likely to sympathize with the Palestinians than the Israeli peoples, according to a new Pew report. A third of adults under 30 say their sympathies lie either entirely or mostly with the Palestinian people, while 14% say their sympathies lie entirely or mostly with the Israeli people.

AGallup survey released March 27, showed 55% of all Americans disapprove of Israel’s military action. That includes 75% of Democrats, which is up from the 63% who said the same last November.

“At this time of alarming antisemitism and Holocaust denial, remembering the history and lessons of the Holocaust is crucial,” Stuart E. Eizenstat, chairman of the Holocaust museum said in a statement. “The combined presence of these leaders is an important statement to our nation at this very challenging moment.”

Swapna Venugopal Ramaswamy is a White House correspondent for USA TODAY.You can follow her on X, formerly Twitter, @SwapnaVenugop

Biden's Holocaust memorial speech holds key to his future as protests, antisemitism rage (2024)


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