President Joe Biden gives remarks on the conflict between Israel and Palestine at the White House, Oct. 7, 2023. (Amanda Andrade-Rhoades/For The Washington Post via Getty Images)
By Ron Kampeas
WASHINGTON (JTA) — President Joe Biden said at least 11 Americans are dead among the hundreds killed in Israel during Hamas’s invasion of the country.
The president added that law enforcement agencies were working to secure Jewish American institutions amidst fears of copycat violence on U.S. soil.
Biden also ordered the White House to be bathed in blue and white light on Monday night, the colors of the Israeli flag, a signal of support for Israel as it copes with an invasion from Gaza that has so far killed at least 900 people and wounded thousands more. More than a hundred people are believed to be abducted, among them American citizens.
“This is not some distant tragedy,” he said in an impassioned and lengthy statement Monday evening. “The ties between Israel and the United States run deep.”
There were similar pledges of support in Congress, with lawmakers in both parties uniting in pro-Israel messages even as the institution is in a degree of disarray, with no functioning speaker in the U.S. House of Representatives following Rep. Kevin McCarthy’s ouster.
The State Department, meanwhile, created a dedicated online form for Americans seeking information about loved ones in Israel. The department also publicized a hotline, 833-890-9595.
The number Biden cited, 11, is two more than the nine the State Department reported earlier Monday, and comes as online reports of missing Americans proliferated, including two young women who were at an outdoor party where Hamas terrorists invading from Gaza slaughtered at least 260 young people and abducted others.
Biden confirmed reports that Americans were likely abducted.
“While we are still working to confirm, we believe it is likely that American citizens may be among those being held by Hamas,” he said.
Social media posts asking for information about missing Americans proliferated among relatives and friends of people who were at the outdoor party. Joining Hersh Goldberg-Polin, an American whose family announced that he was missing from the party on Sunday, were pleas for information about Ayelet Arnin, an American citizen, and Gili Adar, who worked at Young Judaea’s Camp Tel Yehudah in upstate New York. Both attended the outdoor event.
“AMERICAN GOVERNMENT HELP US BRING HER HOME,” read a flier circulating on social media asking for information on Arnin’s whereabouts.
In his statement, Biden cast the attacks as being in a long line of deadly attacks on Jews over the course of history.
“It is personal for so many American families who are feeling the pain of this attack as well as the scars inflicted through millennia of antisemitism and persecution of Jewish people,” he said.
Biden said the government was on alert for the type of domestic attacks that have followed past Israeli-Palestinian conflagrations. A string of assaults on Jews followed Israel’s last major conflict with Hamas, in 2021.
“In cities across the country, police departments have stepped up security around centers of Jewish life, and the Department of Homeland Security, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and other federal law enforcement partners are closely monitoring for any domestic threats in connection with the horrific terrorist attacks in Israel,” he said.
The president also referenced the 9/11 attacks, an analogy several commentators have made in recent days.
“We remember the pain of being attacked by terrorists at home, and Americans across the country stand united against these evil acts that have once more claimed innocent American lives,” he said.