Joe Biden warns of 'ferocious surge' of antisemitism in US

President Joe Biden warned against what he called a "ferocious surge" of antisemitism in the US and around the world during a Holocaust remembrance event on Tuesday.

He said too many people had been "denying, downplaying, rationalising the horrors of the Holocaust".

Mr Biden, 81, also condemned those who he said had forgotten the 7 October Hamas attack on Israel.

It was some of his most pointed criticism of Hamas since the attack.

"It was Hamas that brutalised Israelis," Mr Biden said. "It was Hamas that took and continues to hold hostages. I have not forgotten."

The president also criticised what he characterised as lawless behaviour and hateful rhetoric directed at Jewish people by some pro-Palestinian protesters on US university campuses in recent weeks.

He said that "scapegoating and demonising a minority" threatens all minorities.

The speech followed police interventions to dismantle several protest camps at colleges around the country. The demonstrators have faced complaints of intimidation and hate speech, which organisers have denied.

At the same time they say they have been subject to Islamophobic and racist remarks by counter-demonstrators.

Ahead of the speech, the White House announced new measures aimed at countering antisemitism, expanding on a national strategy first published in June. They include the creation of online resources "to ensure that colleges and universities do a better job of protecting both Jewish students and all of their students", as well as new guidance for schools.

Since the 7 October attack on Israel by Hamas militants and the subsequent Israeli invasion of the Gaza Strip, Jewish students in the US have reported an increase in antisemitic incidents. According to the Anti-Defamation League, a leading Jewish advocacy group, incidents spiked nationally in the final three months of 2023, and rose 321% on university campuses.

One Jewish student at Columbia University - where a protest encampment sparked a wave of pro-Palestinian demonstrations - previously told the BBC that she had been called a "murderer" and told to "go back to Poland".

While the protesters have said they were demonstrating peacefully for a ceasefire in Gaza, several encampments in university buildings have been shut down by police over concerns about escalating violence. Others have been allowed to continue on the proviso they remain peaceful.

In the six months since the Israel-Hamas conflict began, the Biden administration has attempted to balance support for Israel with addressing growing domestic dissent over the deteriorating humanitarian situation in Gaza.

But while some have accused Mr Biden of not doing enough to end the fighting, he has faced criticism from Republicans for publicly seeking to limit Israel's actions and not speaking about the protests sooner.