The tenor of some protests against Israel’s response to Hamas attacks that killed 1,400 people shocked him, he said. He thinks Americans are giving up on distinguishing between criticism of Israeli policies and criticism of the Jewish people.
“There seems to be a conflation between the inability to separate the actions of the Israeli government and those of the Jewish people and the elimination of the feelings they have towards the actions of the Israeli government towards all Jews , regardless of how these Jews may also feel about the situation. actions of the Israeli government,” he said. “And that’s very concerning.” I think you see it in a lot of actions on college campuses and now in K-12 schools and in a lot of speeches – unable to deconstruct what’s happening and put it in a box.
Emhoff’s remarks were among the most virulent yet made by the administration in the face of a wave of protests that have erupted at colleges and universities. Across the country, students and professors have demonstrated their opposition to Israel’s campaign in Gaza and its support for settlements in the West Bank. In some cases, Jewish students began expressing fear of being targeted because of their religion, regardless of their stance on Israeli politics.
The most alarming example occurred a few days ago, when Jewish students on the Cornell campus were threatened by an individual who said he would rape Jewish women and “decapitate all Jewish babies.” Patrick Dai, a 21-year-old university student, was later charged with posting threats to kill or harm others using interstate communications.
The White House has recently taken steps to address growing tensions on college campuses.
Emhoff and Education Secretary Miguel Cardona hosted a roundtable in October with several prominent Jewish leaders to discuss the rise of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia on college campuses. Emhoff also visited a Jewish school in Washington, D.C., speaking with a group of students, some of whom told the second gentleman that they felt “helpless.”
While Emhoff was in London, Cardona and White House domestic policy adviser Neera Tanden visited Towson University for a panel discussion on anti-Semitism in which students explained how they had been harassed by their classmates, including writing “Fuck Jews” on a board, POLITICO reported Thursday.
“We have to solve complex policy problems,” Tanden told the students, adding that it was important to see everyone as human.
On the day of the Hamas attacks, Emhoff said he was at the Naval Observatory, the official residence of the vice president and his wife. He said that all of a sudden his phone started blowing up, with news of what had happened in southern Israel.
“It was just a shock, an absolute shock to see that,” he said.