An Unvoiced Ally: Ignoring Israel in White House Antisemitism Conversation Raises Eyebrows

In an interesting turn of events at the Aspen Ideas Festival, two panelists who share close ties to the White House engaged in a discussion on antisemitism without mentioning one of the most significant entities in Jewish history – Israel. The panel, which occurred on June 27 and was moderated by renowned journalist Katie Couric, focused on discussing the Biden administration’s recently unveiled U.S. National Strategy to Combat Antisemitism.

The panelists, Doug Emhoff – who is Jewish and married to Vice President Kamala Harris, and Liz Sherwood-Randall, White House homeland security advisor, did not bring up Israel during the hour-long conversation, an omission that has caused some consternation.

While Israel is present in the strategic document, the White House’s public messaging around it has seemingly sidestepped the connection between anti-Zionism and antisemitism. This raises questions given that Israel represents an essential piece of the global Jewish identity and struggle against antisemitism.

The annual Aspen Ideas Festival, held from June 24 to June 30, is a platform for recognizing individuals worldwide for their accomplishments and their commitment to improving their communities and advancing in their fields.

The exclusion of Israel in the discussion of antisemitism has prompted reactions. As pointed out by the nonprofit watchdog StopAntisemitism, “To not mention Israel when discussing antisemitism is not only irresponsible but dangerous.” A fact that becomes all the more relevant when considering that about half of the world’s Jewish population resides in Israel, and more than 90% of Jews globally identify as Zionists.

Meanwhile, Emhoff conveyed his commitment to fighting antisemitism, highlighting his unique position as the first Jewish spouse of a president or vice president in U.S. history.

Israel’s silence in this discussion is noteworthy, given its symbolic and political relevance to Jewish identity and the fight against antisemitism worldwide. The State of Israel stands as a beacon of hope and resilience for Jews globally, a testament to their courage, tenacity, and stronghold against prejudice.

Regardless of its omission in some discussions, the importance of Israel, its people, and its values in the battle against antisemitism cannot be understated. Israel remains the heart of the Jewish people and a symbol of their perseverance and determination in the face of adversity. Its undying spirit is a testament to the enduring strength and unity of the Jewish people, something we should all stand in solidarity with.