A swastika was found carved into an elevator at the State Department on Monday, leading Secretary of State Antony Blinken to condemn the hateful carving and describe it as a reminder that anti-Semitism is still alive.
“As this painfully reminds us, anti-Semitism isn’t a relic of the past,” Blinken wrote in a memo to all State Department employees that was reviewed by CNN. “It’s still a force in the world, including close to home. And it’s abhorrent. It has no place in the United States, at the State Department or anywhere else. And we must be relentless in standing up and rejecting it.”
Axios was first to report the incident.
Blinken said that the swastika — which was the centerpiece of the Nazi flag and is synonymous with anti-Semitism — has been removed from the elevator and the incident will be investigated by Diplomatic Security, the federal law enforcement branch of the State Department.
Blinken spoke to the fact that anti-Semitism is often connected with other forms of hatred and said none of them should be part of the US culture or the culture within the State Department.
“We also know from our own history and from the histories of other nations that anti-Semitism often goes hand in hand with racism, sexism, homophobia, xenophobia and other hatreds. None of these ideologies should have a home in our workplace or our nation,” Blinken said.
Blinken, who was raised in the Jewish tradition and has spoken movingly about his stepfather’s rescue by American soldiers after surviving the Holocaust, addressed the department’s Jewish employees directly in his message.
“To our Jewish colleagues: please know how grateful we are for your service and how proud we are to be your colleagues,” Blinken wrote. “And that goes for our entire diverse and dedicated team in Washington and around the world. I know I can speak for the Deputy Secretaries and senior leaders across the Department when I say that it’s an honor to serve alongside you on behalf of the American people.”
The defacement at the State Department comes as anti-Semitic attacks in the US have been steadily rising in recent years and have included deadly attacks on synagogues.
According to the Anti-Defamation League — the nation’s leading organization for monitoring, tracking and responding to anti-Semitism in the United States — assault, harassment and vandalism against Jews remain at near-historic levels.
The organization’s most recent Audit of Antisemitic Incidents in the US recorded 2,024 incidents in 2020, the third highest since the group began documenting them in 1979, even with Covid-19-related lockdowns across the country.
It was “very disturbing to hear of a swastika carved into an elevator wall at the U.S. Dept of State,” Anti-Defamation League CEO Jonathan Greenblatt wrote on Twitter. Greenblatt said his organization appreciated the “strong condemnation” from Blinken, and he added that he hopes “an investigation brings swift justice to those responsible.”
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