Biden says anti-Semitism has risen to record levels as he takes dig at Trump

US president says hate against Jewish religion 'has been given too much oxygen' in recent years

US President Joe Biden. EPA
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US President Joe Biden told top American rabbis on Thursday that he felt anti-Semitism was a big challenge for the entire country, while also taking a dig at Republican former president Donald Trump over the issue.

“Anti-Semitism has risen to record levels," Mr Biden said in a call with US rabbis to commemorate the Jewish High Holidays.

“In the past several years, it has been given too much oxygen."

The Democrat said in the call that the 2017 “Unite the Right” white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, made him decide that he should run for president.

The rally followed months of protests over the city's plan to remove a statue of Confederate Gen Robert E Lee.

Hundreds of white nationalists travelled to Charlottesville in August 2017, with some marching on the University of Virginia campus carrying torches and chanting “Jews will not replace us.”

Mr Trump, who was president at the time, was criticised for initially saying there were “fine people on both sides” after the rally devolved into violent clashes.

“That is when I decided I had to stay engaged instead of walking away,” Mr Biden said in the call on Thursday.

“Silence is complicity,” he added.

Mr Trump denies allegations of anti-Semitism.

The social and political climate in the US has become fertile ground for anti-Semitism in recent years, according to a report released in April by advocacy group Anti-Defamation League and Tel Aviv University.

Expressions of hatred against Jews have become “mainstreamed and normalised", and incidents of violence, vandalism and harassment of Jews have increased, the report had said.

More than 3,600 anti-Semitic incidents were recorded in the US in 2022, more than in any year since ADL began tracking the issue in 1979.

Updated: September 15, 2023, 12:37 AM