By Doina Chiacu and Andrea Shalal
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -Biden administration officials, voicing alarm at reports of anti-Jewish incidents at U.S. universities, met American Jewish leaders on Monday to discuss steps to counter the surge, a White House official said.
Tensions between pro-Israel and pro-Palestinian groups have sprung up on some U.S. campuses, including several in New York, prompting university officials to tighten security.
“There is no place for hate in America, and we condemn any antisemitic threat or incident in the strongest terms,” White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre told a regular briefing.
She said the Biden administration was closely monitoring threats at Cornell University in New York, and would do “everything we can” to counter anti-Jewish actions and threats across the country.
The Anti-Defamation League last week reported a nearly 400% spike in U.S. antisemitic incidents overall since an Oct. 7 Hamas attack on Israel. Of 312 incidents between Oct. 7-23, about 190 were linked to the Israel-Hamas war, it said.
Vice President Kamala Harris’s husband, Douglas Emhoff, joined Education Secretary Miguel Cardona; Deborah Lipstadt, the administration’s special envoy to monitor and combat antisemitism, and other officials on Monday to discuss steps the administration is taking to address the incidents.
Hamas militants in Gaza breached the barrier to Israel on Oct. 7. Israel said Hamas killed 1,400 people and captured 239. Israel responded with a bombardment of Gaza that medical authorities there say has killed more than 8,000 people.
The White House said it was taking action to fight “an alarming uptick” in antisemitic incidents at schools and colleges, including working to ensure campus law enforcement was engaged with state and local law enforcement.
It said the Department of Education’s Office for Civil Rights was making clear that Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act specifically bans “certain forms of antisemitic and related forms of discrimination.”
The Jewish leaders included representatives of the campus Jewish organization Hillel, the Anti-Defamation League and the National Council of Jewish Women, the White House official said.
Cardona and White House domestic policy adviser Neera Tanden will visit a university and meet with Jewish students later this week, the official said.
Anti-Muslim incidents are also on the rise. The Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) last week said it had received 774 complaints of incidents motivated by Islamophobia and bias against Palestinians and Arabs since Oct. 7. The group said this was the highest level since 2015.
Biden hosted a meeting last Thursday with a handful of Muslim leaders, a White House official said, adding that administration officials continue to meet with Arab and Muslim community members concerned by Biden’s handling of the crisis.
Over the weekend, threats were posted online to Jewish students and the Center of Jewish Living at Cornell, according to the student newspaper and the campus Hillel group. Campus police were guarding the building and students were advised to stay away.
The FBI said it was aware of the threats made at Cornell.
“We take all threats seriously and are working closely with Cornell and our law enforcement partners at every level to determine the credibility, share information, and take appropriate investigative action,” it said in a statement.
The FBI would not comment on how many reports of antisemitism or Muslim hate on campuses it had received.
New York Governor Kathy Hochul said late on Sunday she was speaking with leaders of public and private universities across the state about keeping their campuses safe.
“The disgusting & hateful posts on a message board about Jewish @Cornell students is the latest in a series of concerning incidents on college campuses,” Hochul said on the X social media site, formerly known as Twitter.
(Reporting by Doina Chiacu and Andrea Shalal; additional reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt; Editing by Howard Goller)