Everyone agrees that Sean Spicer’s trivializing reference to Nazi death camps as “Holocaust centers” was inexcusable; that his comment “Hitler didn’t sink to using chemical weapons” was beyond ignorant. But now, after the White House Press Secretary has offered a full mea culpa, the question is what’s next?
For eight years, the State of Israel—and the Jewish people by extension—suffered from an undisguised enemy in the White House. While President Barak Obama seemed to have no difficulty staging Chanukah menorah lightings and the like, these ceremonial nods to the Jewish people were hardly a panacea to the damage being done to Jews worldwide by the continual vilification of Israel at the hands of the President and his staff. Everyone from Obama himself to his Secretaries of State took continual shots at the State of Israel and its Prime Minister fanning anti-Israel sentiments and allowing them to flare up as history’s most recent “reason” for anti-Semitism.
With the Trump presidency, we have experienced a new opportunity. No one should be naïve enough to believe that we have an actual “friend” in this president—at least not yet—because we have witnessed how quickly his policies change, how rapidly mandates like a U.S. embassy in Jerusalem erode. But there is a vast chasm between what we have now and what we survived—with G-d’s help—these last eight years. It does not appear that President Trump means to do the Jewish people nor the State of Israel intentional harm. That should come as a huge relief.
This does not excuse Sean Spicer’s comments. Neither does it excuse President Trump’s failure to mention the Jewish people—the real victims of the Holocaust—several months ago on Holocaust Remembrance day. But it is quite possible that our President has surrounded himself with less-than fully competent advisors on certain matters.
I repeat: It’s possible.
The question, then, boils down to whether or not things are said—or not said—out of malevolence or witlessness.
Ignorance of the law is no excuse. And ignorance of historical facts often condemns us to repeat mistakes. But history also teaches this: better a foolish King Ahasuerus than a wicked Hamen.
The responsibility, then, falls on us—as it did on Mordechai—to be vigilant. But that has always been our lot.