US President Donald Trump's administration has faced a myriad of accusations throughout the president's first hundred days in office regarding what has been perceived by some as the White House's insufficient stance on the battle against antisemitism. Such accusations arose again on Friday following recent reports that the president is seriously considering nixing the State Department post of Special Antisemitism Envoy as part of Trump's much-debated plan to pursue significant budget cuts. The Office to Monitor and Combat Antisemitism is part of the US State Department Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor Affairs and is devoted to combating antisemitism worldwide. "It is deeply concerning that President Trump reportedly has no plans to name a Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat antisemitism, particularly during a time of increasing antisemitic incidents at home and abroad," Congresswoman Nita. M Lowey, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, stated on Friday. "From his reluctance to disavow David Duke [American white nationalist, politician and antisemitic conspiracy theorist] during the early days of his presidential campaign through his chief spokesman's recent attempt to minimize the horrors of the Holocaust, President Trump has sent mixed messages regarding his commitment to combating antisemitism," she added. Lowey's statement referred to the controversial incident that took place this Tuesday when White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer contrasted Syrian President Bashar Assad's use of chemical weapons against his own people with the conduct of Nazi Germany leader Adolf Hitler. Spicer condemned Assad's use of sarin gas against Syrian civilians and said that "someone who is despicable as Hitler... didn't even sink to using chemical weapons." Spicer has since apologized profusely for his statement, which drew the ire of Jewish leaders and captured headlines worldwide. However, many expressed skepticism over his apology and claimed that by denying the Nazi regime's infamous use of the Zyklon B gas to murder millions of Jews in extermination camps during World War II, Spicer had not simply erred but rather committed Holocaust denial.
The spokesman's blunder comes amid growing concerns that senior staff at the White House as well as the president himself are not occupied enough with the prevailing antisemitism in the US. In late February, reports alleged that the president was not taking the JCC bomb threats that had plagued the US for several months seriously. After scores of Jewish community centers were forced to evacuate following bomb threats, Trump had reportedly said during a meeting with state attorneys-general that the bomb threats were possibly false accusations that were simply intended to "make others look bad." Claims against the president's lack of concern for world Jewry were repeated in January, when during International Holocaust Memorial Day, the president released a statement honoring the day and spoke about the Holocaust, but made no mention of Jews whatsoever. While some are convinced that Trump and senior members of his staff are prone to antisemitic views, others have repeatedly dismissed the accusation, noting the president's warm relationship with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and especially his family background. Trump's daughter Ivanka is married to Jared Kushner, an Orthodox Jew who serves as a shadow diplomat in Trump's administration, and has converted to Judaism herself. The two are known to observe many Jewish traditions, and just this past week the traditional Passover Seder meal was held at the White House. In a statement made on Friday that could easily be interpreted as a confident rebuttal of antisemitism accusations, the president recognized Passover during his weekly address. "This week Jewish families across our country and around the world celebrate Passover and re-tell the story of God's deliverance of the Jewish people," Trump said. Michael Wilner contributed to this report.
Asked about antisemitism, Trump says he will try to stop "long-simmering racism" (credit: REUTERS)