Netanyahu built his career on the idea that only he can protect the Jewish people. Yet his silence in the face of Trump’s disregard for rising American anti-Semitism speaks volumes.
One year ago, former president Barack Obama delivered a speech on International Holocaust Remembrance Day in which he declared, “We are all Jews.” This is a far cry from the statement issued by the Trump Administration last week, which made no mention of Jews or anti-Semitism at all. White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus has since said that he does not regret the omission, but that “obviously” all of the Jewish people were “affected in the miserable genocide.” Apparently so obvious it does not warrant mention. White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer went on to call the widespread backlash from both Jewish groups and Democrats as “pathetic” and added that “the president went out of his way to recognize the Holocaust.”
It is hard to say whether the omission was a deliberate calculation that, as Virginia Senator Tim Kaine and others have already deemed, “soft-core Holocaust denial,” or simply an incredibly insensitive and disingenuous oversight. But what I can say is that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s silence on the matter is resounding. The Israeli leader who never misses an opportunity to invoke the Holocaust, anti-Semitism, or the threat of the elimination of the Jewish state has remained utterly silent on this matter.
This is the same prime minister who never missed an opportunity to criticize or outright undermine Obama. Yet in this case he seems to be going out of his way to avoid any criticism of Trump. When asked for comment, Netanyahu spokesperson David Keyes told me, “I don’t have anything on that.” Netanyahu’s silence is even more deafening considering that staunchly conservative, pro-Trump, pro-Israel hawkish groups like The Republican Jewish Coalition, and the Zionist Organization of America broke ranks and criticized the White House statement.
At Yad Vashem on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, Netanyahu implored: “Any person of conscience should speak out about resurgence of same attitude that decades ago openly said we are out to destroy Jewish people…. As prime minister of Israel I will not be silent, I have not been silent.” He only mentioned Europe and “the East.” When it comes to growing anti-Jewish rhetoric in the U.S., he has been deafeningly silent.
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