Doug Emhoff had a job to do, however first he needed to collect himself.
4 days earlier, on the Jewish vacation of Simchat Torah, Hamas terrorists had launched a brutal shock assault on Israel, killing greater than 1,400 individuals. Vice President Kamala Harris and her boss, President Biden, had been totally briefed on the assaults the following morning, and she or he had referred to as Israeli President Isaac Herzog to supply her condolences. Later that week, she told reporters she had been “utterly outraged” by the “excessive acts of terrorism.” Hamas has been designated as a terrorist group by the USA, Canada and the European Union.
However Emhoff, Harris’ husband and the primary Jewish partner of a president or vice chairman, had a particular position to play, he stated in an interview this week with The Occasions.
For greater than a yr, Emhoff had led the Biden administration’s efforts to battle antisemitism. The work was not at all times simple — final yr, he represented the USA on a go to to Auschwitz-Birkenau — however by no means earlier than had he been referred to as upon to reassure Jewish People within the wake of tons of of killings of their co-religionists.
After Hamas’ onslaught, the White Home had rapidly refashioned a beforehand scheduled roundtable Emhoff had deliberate to attend with Jewish leaders to be a extra high-profile occasion. Biden would communicate; nationwide safety advisor Jake Sullivan could be there. Emhoff — who, like most Jewish and Palestinian People, was coping with what he referred to as “very uncooked” emotions of his personal — must try to consolation others.
As Biden and Emhoff waited to enter the room the place they might deal with the Jewish leaders assembled for the roundtable, the president pulled the second gentleman apart, held his palms, and regarded him within the eyes.
“How are you doing? How are you?” Biden requested Emhoff.
“It simply obtained — it obtained me,” Emhoff recalled, his eyes misty. “After which I needed to exit and communicate. And so that you noticed my uncooked emotion.”
In his first public remarks because the Oct. 7 assaults, an emotional Emhoff spoke of his “deep, visceral connection to Israel and its individuals.”
“We witnessed a mass homicide of harmless civilians. It was a terrorist assault,” he informed the viewers as he smashed his fist on the lectern he stood behind. Biden, together with his palms in his pockets, stood subsequent to Emhoff and listened.
“And there’s by no means any justification for terrorism. There are not any two sides to this situation,” Emhoff added.
Throughout his speech, Biden remarked that he might “see the ache in a few of your faces” as he walked into the room. He mounted his gaze on Sheila Katz, chief government of the Nationwide Council of Jewish Girls, who was crying. “You OK, kiddo?” he requested.
“Effectively, your concern for household, associates again in Israel. You are worried about children being focused in class about — about going about their each day lives. You’re harm by the downplaying of Hamas’ atrocities and blaming Israel. That is unconscionable,” Biden stated.
Demonstrations over the Israel-Hamas battle have roiled cities and school campuses. Totally different teams of protesters have gathered to precise solidarity with Israel or Israelis, to assist Palestinian civilians and to protest Israel’s navy marketing campaign.
However going as far as to precise assist for a bunch like Hamas is mistaken, Emhoff informed The Occasions.
“In my private opinion, talking out in favor of terrorism is mistaken,” he stated. “Hamas is a terrorist group who dedicated terrorist atrocities to harmless individuals. And so that can’t be supported.”
Within the days because the Oct. 7 assaults, Israel has laid siege to the Hamas-ruled Gaza Strip, launching a collection of airstrikes and chopping off the territory’s entry to water, energy and primary provides, a marketing campaign that help teams have warned is making a humanitarian disaster. Israeli troops started getting ready for a possible floor invasion of Gaza, the place airstrikes have already killed round 3,500 Palestinians, in keeping with the Gaza Well being Ministry.
Within the U.S., particulars of Hamas atrocities and graphic pictures of the bloodied scenes they left behind in southern Israel have flooded social media, tv screens and newspapers. Overwhelmed hospitals and Palestinian our bodies strewn throughout the rubble in Gaza after Israeli airstrikes have additionally performed on loop.
The onslaught of horrible occasions and imagery have left some Jewish and Palestinian People despairing of any hope for peace within the area.
Grief has weighed on Emhoff over the past 10 days, too. “It’s simply very uncooked for me as a Jew and as somebody who has actually put myself on the market,” he stated.
However hopelessness has not overwhelmed him. Biden and Harris have continued to push him to talk out in opposition to bigotry and violence “as a result of it’s essential,” he stated. “Regardless of how painful that is … the outrage and simply the sheer ache and shock of what’s taking place, I’m nonetheless going to maintain doing what I’m doing — concentrate on preventing in opposition to hate and antisemitism and Islamophobia.”
Federal authorities have heightened safety in cities throughout the nation over fears that the conflict might result in antisemitic or Islamophobic violence. On Saturday, per week after the Simchat Torah assaults, a Chicago man was arrested within the deadly stabbing of a 6-year-old Palestinian Muslim boy in what authorities have referred to as a hate crime. Wadea Al-Fayoume was stabbed 26 occasions and his mom was wounded.
“It’s sick. I’m sick about it,” Emhoff stated of the killing.
To outlive this second, and guarantee hate doesn’t additional divide the nation, People have to return collectively, Emhoff stated.
“Crucial factor is bringing teams collectively so we are able to battle in opposition to hate collectively,” he stated. “Nobody can battle alone, which is one thing that [Harris] taught me. … There’s nothing worse than feeling alone.”
©2023 Los Angeles Occasions. Go to at latimes.com. Distributed by Tribune Content material Company, LLC.