The White House recently issued a statement by President Donald J. Trump to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
“It is with a heavy heart and somber mind that we remember and honor the victims, survivors, heroes of the Holocaust. It is impossible to fully fathom the depravity and horror inflicted on innocent people by Nazi terror.
“Yet, we know that in the darkest hours of humanity, light shines the brightest. ?As we remember those who died, we are deeply grateful to those who risked their lives to save the innocent.
“In the name of the perished, I pledge to do everything in my power throughout my Presidency, and my life, to ensure that the forces of evil never again defeat the powers of good. Together, we will make love and tolerance prevalent throughout the world.”
No one could question the sincerity, gravity, and compassion in those words.
No one, that is, until the Trump haters started screaming.
• “Wake up and smell the anti-Semitism in the White House,” bellowed Steven Goldstein, executive director of The Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect. “President Trump and his administration are engaging in the kind of Holocaust denial we have seen elsewhere from the most offensive scoundrels of history.”
• “This is what Holocaust denial is,” Senator Tim Kaine (D – Virginia) told NBC’s Meet the Press on January 29. “It’s either to deny that it happened or many Holocaust deniers acknowledge, ‘Oh, yeah, people were killed. But it was a lot of innocent people. Jews weren’t targeted.’”
• “Why whitewash Jews from that statement?” Meet the Press host Chuck Todd demanded of White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus.
• “Holocaust denial is alive and well in the highest offices of the United States,” Deborah Lipstadt complained in The Atlantic.com. “The Holocaust was de-Judaized.”
These explosions began soon after Trump’s statement emerged. It made no specific mention of the monumental suffering of the Jews in the Holocaust, nor the fact that the Nazis designed the entire blood-soaked exercise in order to erase them.
The notion that this was a deliberate effort to trivialize the Holocaust or promote anti-Semitism is belied by the fact that this proclamation “was written by an individual who is both Jewish and a descendant of Holocaust survivors,” as White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer explained.
Furthermore, Politico reported that this aide is Boris Epshteyn, a former Trump campaign aide who now serves as a special assistant to the president. Epshteyn was a Russian Jew who immigrated to America. His relatives were among the 6 million Jews whom Adolf Hitler destroyed.
These details are immaterial, when Trump is the big target to be brought down, at all costs.
Trump cannot win.
Had he mentioned Jews in this statement, the Human Rights Campaign would have issued a press release saying, “Why did Trump not include the gay people Hitler killed? Trump is a homophobe!”
If Trump had cited Jews and gays, the American Psychological Association would have moaned: “How dare Trump overlook the mentally disabled whom the Nazis murdered?”
And so on.
If Trump really were an anti-Semite, why would his inner circle include people like Treasury nominee Steve Mnuchin, senior policy aide Stephen Miller, deputy campaign manager and political hand Michael Glassner, and U.S. Ambassador to Israel nominee David Friedman?
Never mind them.
What kind of anti-Semite lets his gentile daughter marry an Orthodox Jew, and then convert to Orthodox Judaism herself? Ivanka Trump’s husband is Jared Kushner, President Trump’s senior adviser and son-in-law. Why would “anti-Semite” Donald J. Trump have let his nine-month-old Jewish grandson Theodore toddle across a White House carpet for the first time on January 26?
There are so many high-level Jews around America’s 45th president that Israel’s Haaretz newspaper last November dubbed them “Trump’s Jewish inner circle.”
“Nothing in the statement suggests anti-Semitism,” says Dr. Alex Grobman, a Holocaust scholar who earned his Ph.D. at Jerusalem’s Hebrew University. “Trump is surrounded by Jews in his administration. Some are committed Orthodox Jews, unlike those nominal Jews in previous administrations.” Grobman also is a consultant with the America-Israel Friendship League, which sponsored the 2013 media tour on which I first visited the Jewish state.
“Were President Trump’s actions upon coming into office to bow to the Saudi King, or reach out to the Muslim Brotherhood, or have Prime Minister Netanyahu of Israel use a side door when visiting the White House, then one might suggest there is underlying anti-Semitism,” said my colleague at the London Center for Policy Research, Eli Gold, an Orthodox Jew and yeshiva graduate. But given Trump’s “long support for Israel, his immediate outreach to Netanyahu, etc., I would suggest it was just a case of poor judgement” not to mention Jews in that Holocaust proclamation.
Should that document have mentioned Jews? Sure. That certainly would have kept many feathers unruffled. It also would have underscored the Jews’ centrality to the Shoah, as this mass genocide is known in Hebrew.
Nonetheless, citing the Jews in a Holocaust memorial text is a bit like discussing “the black slaves in the antebellum South.” Everyone knows that those who were enslaved below the Mason-Dixon Line were black. Likewise, the Holocaust is equated with Jews. In that sense, the word Holocaust is definitional: The Nazis’ deliberate, systematic extermination of European Jewry. There is no mystery about this, and failing to employ the phrase “the Jewish Holocaust” or “the Holocaust against the Jews” is hardly a calculated affront against those of Jewish faith and heritage.
The frenzied accusations that President Trump is a Holocaust denier and, deep down, an anti-Semite are revolting, despicable, and far beneath the Trumpophobes who spew them.