After a rocky first few months in office, in which his White House was accused of demonstrating a lack of sensitivity and understanding to the Holocaust, President Trump delivered a full address in an attempt to correct this perception.
Trump, the keynote speaker at the Days of Remembrance ceremony on Capitol Hill, sponsored by the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, hit on all the notes mainstream American Jewish organizations typically sound themselves as he delivered a powerful commitment to battle anti-Semitism.
“Today, we mourn, we remember, we pray and we pledge: Never again,” Trump told the audience at the Capitol rotunda. He spoke out forcefully against recent incidents of anti-Semitism directed at Jewish in the United States, across the world, and in Israel. “This is my pledge to you: We will confront anti-Semitism. We will stamp out prejudice, we will condemn hatred, we will bear witness and we will act,” Trump said. “As president of the United States, we will always stand with the Jewish people.”
Trump’s definition of anti-Semitism included campus-related anti-Semitic statements and incidents and calls to annihilate the State of Israel. “As president of the United States, I will always stand with the Jewish people. And I will always stand with our great friend and partner the state of Israel,” Trump said. Anti-Semitic incidents in America have increased more than 80% since he took office in January.
The speech, alongside a proclamation signed by Trump yesterday and a video greeting provided to the World Jewish Congress in commemoration of the Holocaust memorial day, could indicate a concerted effort on behalf of the Trump White House to put an end to the questions that had surrounded his administration’s approach to the Holocaust and to the Jewish people. Trump, who started off his presidency with a Holocaust memorial statement that did not mention the Jewish victims, and who came under fire for a belated response to anti-Semitic incidents and for his press secretary’s stumble when speaking about the Holocaust, seemed eager to turn the page and provide his listener with a comprehensive address of the issue, a strong rebuke of anti-Semitism, and special attention to Holocaust denial, stating that deniers “are an accomplice of this horrible evil” and that America “must never, ever shrink away from telling the truth in our time.”
In speaking at the Days of Remembrance ceremony, Trump followed the footsteps of his predecessors who had all spoken at this commemoration event.
Nathan Guttman staff writer, is the Forward’s Washington bureau chief. He joined the staff in 2006 after serving for five years as Washington correspondent for the Israeli dailies Ha’aretz and The Jerusalem Post. In Israel, he was the features editor for Ha’aretz and chief editor of Channel 1 TV evening news. He was born in Canada and grew up in Israel. He is a graduate of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem. Contact Nathan at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on Twitter @nathanguttman