Donald Trump referenced “Nazis” and “victims” during his lackluster statement on International Holocaust Memorial Day - but he failed miserably by not mentioning Jews. His brief 3-paragraph statement included the line, “It is impossible to fully fathom the depravity and horror inflicted on innocent people by Nazi terror.”
By Trump carefully choosing the term “innocent people” he’s whitewashing the fact that six million Jews were intentionally murdered. “Innocent people” are bystanders - like when a terrorist’s bomb explodes and there’s an indiscriminate loss of life. The Jewish people were not bystanders - they were the deliberate targets of the Nazi regime.
Jonathan Greenblatt, chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, called the omission “puzzling and troubling.” He went on to compare it to Eastern European nationalists who “downplay or disregard the degree to which Jews were targeted for elimination during the Holocaust.”
But maybe the new president meant to include Jews but somehow forgot? Nope. “We took into account all those who suffered,” said White House spokesperson Hope Hicks. “We are an incredibly inclusive group.” Inclusive? That’s an interesting alternative fact since in Trump’s first week of office he and his staff have set into motion the defunding of sanctuary cities, building a 2,000 mile wall and banning 218 million people from seven Muslim majority countries entering the United States.
As we witness Trump in action we need to consider several truths. He never really distanced himself from David Duke while campaigning. He tweeted a meme showing Hillary Clinton with a Jewish star and stockpiles of cash. He named extremist Steve Bannon as Chief Strategist and Senior Counselor. As the Chairman of the right-wing site Breitbart, Bannon provided a platform for the alt-right - a group filled with white racists who espouse Holocaust denial.
On the heels of this insult to the Jewish people, Trump has managed to inflame millions around the world with his Muslim ban - with some refugees caught mid-flight while coming to what was supposed to be their new place of refuge. He’s made it clear that Muslim Syrians are not welcome - instead, he wants to focus on Christian refugees. He offered the alternative fact that it’s harder for Christian refugees to gain entrance to the US - the numbers do not support that claim.
But, there is plenty of support around us - just look at the growing number of “upstanders” - people who say no to bullying. Whether your playground is a schoolyard or the world stage - upstanders can change lives and have an impact on policies. Our upstanders have come in the form of the many protestors who have gathered at universities, property owned by Trump and at the airports where some of the refugees were detained. In fact, there were so many people protesting at LAX that the airport had to temporarily shut down. They held signs and were chanting, “Let Them In” referencing the detainees and “Lock Him Up” referencing Donald J. Trump.
At Trump’s inauguration, Rabbi Marvin Hier of the Simon Wiesenthal Center said, “…a nation’s wealth is measured by her values and not by her vaults.” Let us hope that our values will reflect the sentiment of New York mayor Andrew Cuomo, “We have no tolerance for intolerance.”