Even before President Trump signed the guest book at the Yad Vashem Holocaust memorial museum during his visit Sunday, his administration had faced accusations that it was insensitive to the memory of the 6 million Jews murdered by Nazi Germany.
Instead of putting those accusations to rest, the visit to the museum during the president’s one-day visit to Israel threatened to aggravate them: Before arriving, he had faced criticism that the Yad Vashem portion of the trip was slotted for just 15 minutes.
The president ultimately spent a little longer — half an hour — and spoke about “a systematic attempt to eliminate the Jewish people” during a ceremony that included the museum leadership and Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
But Trump’s tweet-like message in Yad Vashem’s guest book has sparked a new round of controversy.
“It is a great honor to be here with all of my friends,’’ he wrote. “So amazing and will NEVER FORGET!”
Many critics found that the words rang adolescent.
Others dug up messages from past presidents. Obama visited the memorial as a candidate in 2008.
“I am grateful to Yad Vashem and all those responsible for this remarkable institution. At a time of great peril and promise, war and strife, we are blessed to have such a powerful reminder of man's potential for great evil, but also our capacity to rise up from tragedy and remake our world. Let our children come here, and know this history, so that they can add their voices to proclaim ‘never again.’ And may we remember those who perished, not only as victims, but also as individuals who hoped and loved and dreamed like us, and who have become symbols of the human spirit.” — Barack Obama, 23 July 2008
President George W. Bush in 2008 was more succinct.
But perhaps the most stinging comparison, given their history, was to a note left by Hillary Clinton during a visit in 2009, when she was secretary of State (the second tweet below).
“Yad Vashem is a testament to the power of truth in the face of denial, the resilience of the human spirit in the face of despair, the triumph of the Jewish people over murder and destruction and a reminder to all people that the lesson of the Holocaust must never be forgotten. God bless Israel and its future” — Hillary Rodham Clinton, March 3, 2009
For the record
An earlier version of this article said Barack Obama visited Yad Vashem as president in 2013. Although he did visit in 2013, the note pictured here was written during a visit in 2008, when he was a presidential candidate.
Mitnick is a special correspondent.
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