President Donald Trump’s spokesman said complaints about the president’s omission of Jews from a Holocaust commemoration statement were “pathetic” and “disappointing.”
Sean Spicer, speaking Monday at the White House briefing for reporters, was asked about the complaints about the statement Friday marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which did not mention Jews.
Reporters asked specifically about complaints from two groups otherwise supportive of the Trump presidency, the Republican Jewish Coalition and the Zionist Organisation of America.
In response, Spicer noted the tensions between Israel’s government and the Obama administration, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s praise for Trump.
“There’s been no better friend than Donald Trump, especially after the last eight years, the tremendous respect he’s shown Israel, the Jewish people, and to suggest anything otherwise frankly is a little disappointing,” he said.
“The president went out of his way to recognise the Holocaust and the suffering that went through it, and to make sure America never forgets the people that were affected by it and the loss of life.”
Spicer listed Jews and Roma, gays, the disabled and priests as victims of the Holocaust.
“To suggest that remembering the Holocaust and acknowledging all of the people — Jewish, gypsies, priests, disabled, gays and lesbians — I mean it is pathetic that people are picking on a statement,” he said.
The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, without mentioning Trump, weighed in on the controversy on Monday afternoon.
“Millions of other innocent civilians were persecuted and murdered by the Nazis, but the elimination of Jews was central to Nazi policy,” the statement said.
“As Elie Wiesel said, ‘Not all victims were Jews, but all Jews were victims,’” it said. “The Holocaust teaches us profound truths about human societies and our capacity for evil. An accurate understanding of this history is critical if we are to learn its lessons and honour its victims.”
Spicer said critics were “nitpicking a statement.”
He said the statement was written “with the help of an individual who is both Jewish and the descendants of Holocaust survivors.” Asked if it was Jared Kushner, Trump’s son-in-law and a leading adviser, Spicer refused to say.
Since the United Nations launched the remembrance day in 2005, marking the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz in 1945, Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama have noted in their statements that the principal aim of the Holocaust was the genocide of the Jews.
Jewish critics have said that omitting Jews from Holocaust commemoration statements, wittingly or not, plays into the agenda of groups that seek to diminish the Nazi genocide of the Jews.
While the Nazis persecuted an array of groups because of their ethnic origins, professions, political beliefs and sexual orientation, scholars say only Jews and Roma were targeted for genocide. (There is some dispute about whether to class the mass murder of Roma as a genocide because, unlike with Jews, Nazi policies on Roma varied between regions.)
Since the controversy erupted, Trump administration spokesmen, including his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, have doubled down on the argument that it is better not to single out Jews in order to be “inclusive.”
Thank you for helping to make Jewish News the leading source of news and opinion for the UK Jewish community. Today we're asking for your invaluable help to continue putting our community first in everything we do.
Unlike other Jewish media, we do not charge for content. That won’t change. Because we are free, we rely on advertising to cover our costs. This vital lifeline, which has dropped in recent years, has fallen further due to coronavirus.
For as little as £5 a month you can help sustain the vital work we do in celebrating and standing up for Jewish life in Britain.
Jewish News holds our community together and keeps us connected. Like a synagogue, it’s where people turn to feel part of something bigger. It also proudly shows the rest of Britain the vibrancy and rich culture of modern Jewish life.
You can make a quick and easy one-off or monthly contribution of £5, £10, £20 or any other sum you’re comfortable with.
100% of your donation will help us continue celebrating our community, in all its dynamic diversity...
Being a community platform means so much more than producing a newspaper and website. One of our proudest roles is media partnering with our invaluable charities to amplify the outstanding work they do to help us all.
There’s no shortage of oys in the world but Jewish News takes every opportunity to celebrate the joys too, through projects like Night of Heroes, 40 Under 40 and other compelling countdowns that make the community kvell with pride.
In the first collaboration between media outlets from different faiths, Jewish News worked with British Muslim TV and Church Times to produce a list of young activists leading the way on interfaith understanding.
Royal Mail issued a stamp honouring Holocaust hero Sir Nicholas Winton after a Jewish News campaign attracted more than 100,000 backers. Jewish Newsalso produces special editions of the paper highlighting pressing issues including mental health and Holocaust remembrance.
In an age when news is readily accessible, Jewish News provides high-quality content free online and offline, removing any financial barriers to connecting people.
Voice of our community to wider society
The Jewish News team regularly appears on TV, radio and on the pages of the national press to comment on stories about the Jewish community. Easy access to the paper on the streets of London also means Jewish News provides an invaluable window into the community for the country at large.
We hope you agree all this is worth preserving.