President Donald Trump issued a statement Friday on Holocaust Memorial Day that referred to “Nazi terror” — but not Jews or anti-Semitism.
“It is with a heavy heart and somber mind that we remember and honor the victims, survivors, and heroes of the Holocaust,” read the statement from the White House Press Office. “It is impossible to fully fathom the depravity and horror inflicted on innocent people by Nazi terror.”
The omission was noted as conspicuous by Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League.
— Jonathan Greenblatt (@JGreenblattADL) January 27, 2017
Previous White House statements marking the observance mentioned Jews and anti-Semitism, and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau drew criticism last year when he neglected to mention both in his own statement.
“It’s not hard to understand what the Canadian premier was trying to do,” wrote Yair Rosenberg for Tablet. “His intention was not so much to erase Jewish suffering as it was to draw out the ecumenical lessons of it. But in doing so, Trudeau fell prey to the false choice between depicting the Holocaust as either a universal warning against the human propensity for prejudice or as a particular one against the especial evils of anti-Semitism. In reality, it’s both.”
Trudeau quickly and publicly corrected his omission, and Rosenberg hoped Trump would do the same.
“Individuals or communities who pick only one of these takeaways from the Holocaust, rather than taking both to heart, risk misunderstanding the tragedy’s lessons,” Rosenberg wrote last year. “Those, including Jews, who view the Shoah as a purely particularist portrait of the perils of anti-Jewish prejudice may fail to confront such hatred when it is being faced by non-Jewish communities. At the same time, those like Trudeau who focus solely on the Holocaust’s universalist implications may come to underrate the uniquely murderous threat that anti-Semitism has and continues to pose for Jews—or even erase those Jews as inconvenient accessories in the story of their own persecution.”
Trump may sign an executive order as early as Friday pausing the admission of refugees from Syria and six other Middle Eastern and African countries.