US President Donald Trump delivered a speech on Sunday to the World Jewish Congress, telling delegates gathered for the organization’s plenary assembly in New York that anti-Semitism and prejudice should be fought wherever it is found and that threats by a “regime that talks openly of Israel’s destruction” should never be ignored.
In his speech, delivered via video link, Trump marked Yom Hashoah, Israel’s Holocaust Remembrance Day, calling the Holocaust “the darkest chapter of human history” where six million Jews were “murdered by an evil that words cannot describe, and that the human heart cannot bear.”
“In the memory of those who were lost, we renew our commitment and our determination not to disregard the warnings of our own times,” he said, adding: “We must stamp out prejudice and anti-Semitism everywhere it is found.
“We must defeat terrorism, and we must not ignore the threats of a regime that talks openly of Israel’s destruction. We cannot let that ever even be thought of,” he said in reference to the Iranian regime, without naming it.
— WJC (@WorldJewishCong) April 23, 2017
Iran has long backed armed groups committed to Israel’s destruction and its leaders have called for it to be wiped off the map.
Israel, under the leadership of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, has long-held that Iran and its nuclear program poses a threat to its existence. In a speech earlier this year on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Netanyahu said that Iran poses the “greatest danger” to Israel and predicted that the world’s silence in the face of the Islamic Republic’s threats to annihilate the Jewish state will end with Trump in office.
Netanyahu has been a bitter opponent of the 2015 nuclear deal signed between Iran and six world powers, including the US under the administration of Barack Obama, while Trump has repeatedly castigated the “disastrous” deal, stopping short of indicating whether the US would scrap it.
In his speech on Sunday, Trump quoted Theodore Herzl’s famous “if you will, it is no dream” line, as a testament to “a great nation risen from the desert,” “only decades removed from the Holocaust.”
The Star of David, he said, was “symbol of Jewish perseverance” and “a monument to unyielding strength.”
“To all of you tonight, who have come from around the world, let it be known, America stands strong with the State of Israel.”
The president also thanked WJC leader Ronald Lauder “for his many years of friendship – and he truly has been my good friend, he even predicted early that I was going to win the presidency – but also for his leadership of this organization.”
Trump is set to deliver the keynote address at an annual Holocaust remembrance ceremony in the United States Capitol Rotunda Tuesday, the US Holocaust Memorial and Museum said on Sunday.
The event — which is part of a week-long Days of Remembrance observance — entails a tradition of having six candles lit by Holocaust survivors surrounded by members of Congress, White House officials and various community leaders.
The gathering also recognizes American veterans who helped to liberate Nazi concentration camps.
Since taking office in January, the Trump administration has repeatedly been forced to fend off claims of insensitivity to anti-Semitism and Holocaust-related matters.
Two weeks ago, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer drew intense criticism for falsely claiming Adolf Hitler never used chemical weapons.
He also referred to concentration camps and death camps as “Holocaust centers.”
The young Trump administration also drew the ire of many in the Jewish community when it released a statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day in January that made no mention of Jews or anti-Semitism.
Several of Trump’s deputies went on to defend the statement amidst outrage from Jewish groups and others.
Trump is the first president with immediate family members who are Jewish. His daughter Ivanka married Kushner, an Orthodox Jew, in 2009.
The two — who observe Shabbat and keep kosher — have raised their three children, the youngest of whom was born last March, Jewish.
Members of his administration, however, have also been accused of links to anti-Semitic groups,including top adviser Stephen Bannon and policy adviser Sebastian Gorka.
Early in the former real estate mogul’s presidency, many Jewish leaders expressed dismay with his administration’s handling of repeated bomb threats being called into Jewish day schools and other institutions and apparent hesitance to speak out unequivocally against anti-Semitism. An Israeli-American teenager has been arrested in connection with the threats and is facing charges both in the US and in Israel.
The president went on to denounce these anti-Semitic attacks in his maiden speech to Congress in February opening that address on the issue.