RJC, ZOA criticize Trump’s Holocaust remembrance statement

Jewish organizations say omission of Jews and anti-Semitism from statement unfortunate, cause of ‘deep pain’

US President Donald Trump signs an executive order as then chief of ftaff Reince Priebus looks on in the Oval Office of the White House, on January 23, 2017. (AFP/Saul Loeb)
US President Donald Trump signs an executive order as then chief of ftaff Reince Priebus looks on in the Oval Office of the White House, on January 23, 2017. (AFP/Saul Loeb)

Two Jewish organizations joined a chorus of other groups to criticize President Donald Trump’s statement for International Holocaust Remembrance Day which did not mention the Jewish victims of the Nazis or anti-Semitism.

The Zionist Organization of America expressed its “chagrin and deep pain” at the statement.

In a news release Sunday evening, Morton A. Klein, national president of the ZOA, praised Trump as a “great friend and supporter” of Israel and the Jewish people. Nevertheless, he wrote, “especially as a child of Holocaust survivors, I and ZOA are compelled to express our chagrin and deep pain at President Trump, in his Holocaust Remembrance Day Message, omitting any mention of anti-Semitism and the six million Jews who were targeted and murdered by the German Nazi regime and others.”

In his first statement about the Holocaust as president, Trump on Friday spoke of “the victims, survivors, [and] heroes of the Holocaust,” but did not mention the Jews or anti-Semitism, which had been customary in statements by his predecessors Barack Obama and George W. Bush.

A spokesman for the Republican Jewish Coalition said “the lack of a direct statement about the suffering of the Jewish people during the Holocaust was an unfortunate omission.”

“History unambiguously shows the purpose of the Nazis’ final solution was the extermination of the Jews of Europe. We hope, going forward, he conveys those feelings when speaking about the Holocaust,” Fred Brown told Politico.

The Anti-Defamation League’s CEO, Jonathan Greenblatt, criticized the statement on Friday, saying the omission was “puzzling and troubling.”

Last year, the ZOA was one of the groups critical of Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, who delivered a statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day that similarly failed to mention Jews.

Responding to criticism from the ADL and others, White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus said Sunday morning that “there was no harm or ill-will or offense intended” by leaving Jews and anti-Semitism out of the statement, adding that the White House “certainly will never forget the Jewish people that suffered in World War II.”

The ZOA has been perhaps the most vocal supporter among Jewish groups of the Trump administration in its early days, issuing statements praising Trump’s choice for ambassador to Israel, David Friedman; his stated intention to move the US embassy in Israel from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, and Friday’s executive order barring citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States for the next 90 days and suspending the admission of all refugees for 120 days.

Recounting his own history as the son of Holocaust survivors, Klein quoted a blistering criticism of the White House by John Podhoretz, a former Reagan White House aide, who wrote in Commentary Saturday that to universalize the Holocaust “is to scrub the Holocaust of its meaning.”

Added Klein: “ZOA hopes that President Trump will direct his staff and COS Reince Priebus to immediately rectify this painful omission.”

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