WASHINGTON D.C. - The White House statement for International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which included no reference to Jews or anti-Semitism, was denounced on Sunday by two leading U.S. right-wing Jewish groups, both of which strongly supported President Donald Trump during his campaign. Their denunciations signal a growing level of anger within the American Jewish community over how the White House handled the issue in the face of public criticism.
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The Republican Jewish Coalition, which is heavily funded by casino mogul Sheldon Adelson, said that the fact that the White House statement made no mention of the suffering of the Jewish people during the Holocaust was "an unfortunate omission."
"History unambiguously shows the purpose of the Nazi's final solution was the extermination of the Jews of Europe," the group said.
The Zionist Organization of America, another group that rallied behind Trump's campaign and received access to the new president's transition staff in the last two months, found the White House statement to be unacceptable as well. Mort Klein, the organization's president, said: "Especially as a child of Holocaust survivors, I and ZOA are compelled to express our chagrin and deep pain at President Trump, in his Holocaust Remembrance Day message, omitting any mention of anti-Semitism and the six million Jews who were targeted and murdered by the German Nazi regime."
Klein's organization was one of the leading Jewish groups to attack Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for making a similar omission in his own Holocaust Remembrance Day statement last year. While the language of their response to Trump's omission was less harsh, it was still unusual for the group to directly criticize the White House. In the two months since the election, ZOA has criticized some of Trump's cabinet picks, including Secretary of Defense James Mattis and UN Ambassador Nikki Hailey, for their support of a two-state solution, but until now it hasn't gone directly after Trump.
It should be noted that the statements by the RJC and ZOA came out only after the White House doubled down on the controversial omission over the weekend. Asked by CNN why the president didn't mention the Jewish people or anti-Semitism in his statement, White House spokeswoman Hope Hicks said: "Despite what the media reports, we are an incredibly inclusive group and we took into account all of those who suffered."
CNN added that Hicks also sent the network a link to an article on HuffPost U.K., which explained that besides the six million Jews who were murdered in the Holocaust, the Nazi regime also killed millions of other people. Past statements by U.S. presidents commemorating the Holocaust have usually included a clear reference to the Jewish people, anti-Semitism, the Yad Vahem memorial site or other Jewish aspects of the Holocaust.
ZOA called on Trump to immediately direct his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, to "rectify this painful omission." Priebus himself, however, has also been hit with criticism for saying in a television interview on Sunday morning that "everyone suffered during the Holocaust, including the Jewish people," a remark that is usually heard from nationalistic parties in Eastern Europe that try to promote a false equivalence between the suffering of Jews during the Holocaust and that of other peoples.