U.S. President Donald Trump reads an executive order before signing it at Homeland Security headquarters in Washington, U.S.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON – The White House on Monday pushed back against criticism of its decision not to mention Jews or antisemitism in its statement commemorating International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
The statement was roundly criticized by Jewish groups, ranging from nonpartisan organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League to political ones like the Republican Jewish Coalition.
“It is pathetic that people are picking on a statement,” White House press secretary Sean Spicer said in a briefing with reporters. “The president went out of his way to recognize the Holocaust.”
Over the weekend, another spokesman for US President Donald Trump said the decision to omit Jews from the statement was intentional – “inclusivity” was the goal, Hope Hicks said. The president’s chief of staff, Reince Priebus, refused to apologize for the phrasing of the statement or express regret over the wording.
The statement was lauded online by alt-right and racist supporters of the president who deny that the Holocaust claimed six million Jewish lives.
Concerns of Jewish groups were compounded when the president chose, on Holocaust Remembrance Day, to announce a ban on Syrian refugees from entering the United States.
Trump “acknowledged the suffering that existed and wants to make sure it is enshrined in the American people’s memory so that something like this never, ever happens again,” Spicer said, accusing journalists of showing leniency for the former Obama administration in its treatment of Israel and the Jewish community.
“Where were the questions about the UN Security Council resolution?” he asked. “The idea of this unprecedented step that the outgoing administration took as a massive slap in the face of Israel.
Where were the questions then?” Several organizations responded angrily to Spicer’s briefing, including the American Jewish Committee, which issued a statement on Twitter.
“Sorry @PressSec,” AJC’s statement reads, referring to Spicer’s Twitter handle.
“It’s never pathetic to stand up for the memory of the six million Jews murdered in the Holocaust.”
The US Holocaust Museum also published a tweet clarifying what the Holocaust specifically refers to, without referencing the White House row: “The Holocaust was the systematic, state-sponsored murder of six million Jews.”