White House takes new steps to counter antisemitism

September 28, 2023

Eight federal agencies on Thursday joined to clarify for the first time in writing that the Civil Rights Act prohibits certain forms of antisemitic, Islamophobic, and related forms of discrimination in federally funded programs and activities.

Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance.

The eight federal agencies taking part in the joint effort are the Departments of Agriculture, Health and Human Services (HHS), Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development (HUD), Interior, Labor, Treasury and Transportation. 

The Biden Administration said in a statement that they will “ensure that agency staff understand and are ready to respond to this kind of discrimination, engage with entities that are prohibited from discriminating in these ways to explain their legal responsibilities, and inform communities of their rights to be free from such discrimination and how to file complaints.”

The agencies will also continue to investigate complaints under Title VI and other civil rights authorities.

The White House noted examples, including shielding people from harassment or discrimination on federally transit systems, in housing funded by HUD, or in USDA-funded food programs.

“Discrimination in any form is unacceptable, and the Biden-Harris Administration won’t stand for it,” HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra said in his own agency’s separate statement. “Today’s bulletin raises awareness about federal laws prohibiting antisemitism and related forms of bias and discrimination. This is an important step on our journey towards being a nation where everyone can access the critical programs and services they need and deserve.”

Earlier this month, President Biden told top American rabbis that antisemitism in the U.S. had “risen to record levels.”

In an apparent dig at former President Trump, who is presently the GOP’s frontrunner in the 2024 Presidential election against Biden, the current President said that in the “past several years,” antisemitism “has been given too much oxygen.” 

Biden then reminded those assembled of the deadly 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia where marchers chanted, “Jews will not replace us!”

Trump, who was President at the time, has a Jewish daughter and son-in-law, and had months earlier touted himself as the “least antisemitic person that you’ve ever seen in your entire life,” was criticized for saying there were “fine people on both sides” after the rally devolved into violent clashes and one counter-protester was killed.

“Silence is complicity,” said Biden to the gathering of rabbis.

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