WASHINGTON - Two weeks after the White House issued a statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day that omitted any reference to the Jewish people or anti-Semitism, the controversy around it continues to grow. On Tuesday, the debate over this unusual omission reached Capitol Hill, where House Republicans blocked an attempt by the Democrats to vote on a resolution that would have acknowledged the Nazi targeting of Jews during the Holocaust and called on the White House to do the same.
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Despite the fact that almost every major Jewish organizations in the United States denounced the Trump administration's statement – including the Republican Jewish Coalition and the right-wing Zionist Organization of America, both of which supported Trump during the last elections – the White House has thus far refused to apologize for the omission, instead insisting that there was some logic behind its issue since not only Jews died during the Holocaust.
The White House's decision to double down on the statement has turned it from a news story that might have lasted a day or two into a constant line of attack by Democrats in Congress. Over the weekend, Rep. Jerrold Nadler, a Democrat from New York, told Haaretz that the Trump White House was "in the camp of holocaust denial" and that there were "anti-Semitic themes" in the statements and explanations coming from the administration.
On Wednesday, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) joined the critics and accused the Trump White House of not honoring the Jewish victims of the Holocaust. "The abominable Nazi 'Final Solution' had as its target the extermination of the Jewish people. This is a fact. And one that must always be remembered," Schumer told Haaretz. "It is troubling and unfortunate," he added, "that the administration did not acknowledge and honor the six million Jews murdered by the Nazi regime in the Shoah."
Schumer is a descendant of Holocaust survivors. His great-grandmother and seven of her nine children were murdered by the Nazis. This family history was brought up by a number of news outlets last week, after Trump mocked Schumer for appearing emotional and on the verge of tears during a press conference in which he attacked the President for his executive order on immigration. Schumer called Trump's executive order "mean-spirited and un-American" during the press conference. The President, in return, ridiculed Schumer on Twitter by calling him "Fake Tears Chuck."
A day before International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Sen. Schumer participated in the #WeRemember campaign, which called on social media users around the world to photograph themselves with signs using those two words. The campaign was organized by the World Jewish Congress, whose president, Ronald Lauder, was the only leader of a major Jewish organization to defend Trump's controversial statement. Lauder, who is considered close both to Trump and to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, explained that "any fair reading of the White House statement on International Holocaust Remembrance Day will see it appropriately commemorates the suffering and the heroism that mark that dark chapter in modern history." No other Jewish organization, however, has joined Lauder's position.
Democrats on Capitol Hill plan to continue raising this issue so long as the White House doesn't change course and admit that it made a mistake by omitting the Jews from the original statement – something that seems less and less likely following the latest developments. "This is going to continue gaining attention, mainly because of how terribly it's been handled by the White House," one Democratic staffer told Haaretz on Wednesday. "When you add this controversy to the anti-Semitic quotes by White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon that are resurfacing, you realize this is something that's going to keep haunting them for a long time."