President Donald Trump condemned anti-Semitism on Thursday during a reception marking Hanukkah at the White House, saying that it was the nation’s duty to stop such hostility.
“Throughout history, the Jewish people have suffered unthinkable repression and terrible violence, yet in the face of this hardship, the Jewish people have endured, overcome and thrived. Thrived like few, that I can tell you,” the president said, before mentioning the deadly attack at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh in late October.
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Eleven Jewish Americans were killed there on Oct. 27 by Robert Gregory Bowers, who posted anti-Semitic remarks online before the shooting. It was the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the U.S. Anti-Semitism in the country has worsened during the past several years, with reported episodes increasing nearly 60 percent from 2016 to 2017, according to the Anti-Defamation League.
“In the aftermath of that wicked assault, we reaffirmed our solemn duty to confront anti-Semitism everywhere it occurs,” Trump said on Thursday. “We must stamp out this vile hatred from the world.”
The president has been criticized for enabling white nationalists, although he has denied being racist.
At the reception, Trump reaffirmed his commitment to Israel and said his administration would always stand with its “cherished friend and partner.” The president also brought Holocaust survivors to the stage.
Trump went on to say that he had left the “horrible” Iran nuclear deal because he could not “let the world’s leading sponsor of terror, a regime that chants death to America and threatens Israel all of the time with annihilation and constantly screams out ‘Death to Israel,’ to possess the deadliest weapon on earth. We will not allow that to happen.”
The president was also met with cheers after he noted that he had recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel and moved the U.S. Embassy there from Tel Aviv.
“Exactly one year ago today, at my direction, the United States recognized the true capital of Israel,” Trump said. Those gathered at the White House broke into a chant of “four more years!”
“Thank you very much. That is actually six more,” Trump responded. “I’ve actually never heard four more years. … We’ll go for six and then we’ll all be in very good shape.”
After the menorah was lit, Vice President Mike Pence closed the ceremony by praising the administration’s relationship with Israel.
“It is the greatest honor of my life to serve as vice president to the most pro-Israel president in American history,” Pence said.