Yes, Trump Should Have Visited Warsaw’s Holocaust Memorial, but He Remains a Great Friend of Israel
WARSAW, POLAND — For the past 10 days, my family and I have visited the horrible killing fields of Auschwitz-Birkenau, the Lodz ghetto, Tykocin and Bialystok, where 2,000 Jews were herded into the main synagogue and burned alive. Accompanying me has been a Torah, which our organization wrote in memory of the victims of the Holocaust and the Rwandan genocide. It can be challenging to confront places of such human savagery.
On the Fourth of July we visited Treblinka, where 800,000 perished, and I thought of the blessing of human freedom and America as a country of liberty that defeated Hitler.
Arriving in Warsaw, and witnessing the brutality that was visited upon Jews in the ghetto, I was greatly uplifted by the knowledge that the president of the United States and leader of the free world was giving a public address — his first in Europe as president — to a city that was nearly wiped off the map by the Nazis.
I have a world of respect for Rabbi Michael Schudrich, the chief rabbi of Poland, who is a modern Jewish hero who is rebuilding Jewish life in Poland and a Jewish leader of the utmost sacrifice and dedication. Rabbi Schudrich has achieved miracles in Poland, miracles that visitors around the world should visit and see.
But I respectfully disagree with his criticism of President Donald Trump’s visit to Warsaw.
He is absolutely correct that it would have been appropriate for President Trump to visit the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising Memorial. I was there on Wednesday with my children; Mordechai Anielewicz, its commander, remains one of my highest sources of inspiration. But the absence of gestures should never be allowed to undermine strong and courageous action.
President Trump has been at the forefront of battling the demonization of Israel at the United Nations, even while UNESCO meets on Polish soil in Krakow this entire week to claim that Hebron, Judaism’s second holiest city and King David’s first capital, is Palestinian and not Jewish. President Trump’s ambassador, Nikki Haley, has been at the forefront of condemning the UN for anti-Israel bias while previous administrations refused to exercise their veto in the UN after Israel was falsely condemned as an occupier.
If there is one message of the Holocaust, it is that “Never Again” must mean precisely that: “Never Again.”
It was President Trump who, after years of American inaction, fired missiles against the air force of Bashar Assad after he gassed innocent children, and it was President Trump who just two weeks ago warned Assad that he dare not attempt to murder his people again or he will again suffer serious consequences.
It was President Trump who put Israel on the first foreign visit of his presidency, and it was President Trump who has populated his administration in senior positions with more openly orthodox, observant, pro-Israel Jews than arguably any president in American history.
It is President Trump who is moving to isolate Iran, with its constant promises to perpetrate a holocaust of six million Jews in Israel, when previous administrations signed nuclear deals with its brutal government and gave it $150 billion by which to sow their terror worldwide.
Finally, it was President Trump who went to Saudi Arabia and told 50 gathered Arab and Muslim leaders that funding terrorism will not be tolerated by the United States. And let’s not fool ourselves. Jews are the foremost targets of the genocidal terrorist organizations like Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic jihad, all of which openly threaten Israel with annihilation just 70 years after the Holocaust.
So, while President Trump should have visited the Warsaw Ghetto Memorial, we should remember that gestures, while extremely important, do not replace grand action.
When it comes to fighting genocide and standing with Israel, President Trump has been admirable and deserves our thanks.
Rabbi Shmuley, whom The Washington Post calls “the most famous rabbi in America,” is the international bestselling author of 31 books including his most recent The Israel Warrior. Follow him on Twitter @ RabbiShmuley.