- The Washington Times - Tuesday, February 21, 2017

President Trump denounced Tuesday a recent rash of anti-Semitic incidents across the U.S., calling the bomb threats and vandalism “horrible” and “painful,” but the strong words didn’t satisfy critics who accuse him of fomenting bigotry and white supremacism.

The president’s remarks followed 11 bomb threats Monday at Jewish community centers across the country and vandalism over the weekend at a Jewish cemetery in St. Louis, where as many as 200 tombstones were toppled.

It was the fourth wave of hoax bomb threats targeting Jewish community centers that began Jan. 9 and now total 69 incidents in 27 states and one Canadian province, according to the Jewish Community Center Association.

“The anti-Semitic threats targeting our Jewish community and community centers are horrible and are painful and a very sad reminder of the work that still must be done to root out hate and prejudice and evil,” Mr. Trump said.

Making the remarks after a tour of the National Museum of African American History in Washington, the president said the museum was “a meaningful reminder of why we have to fight bigotry, intolerance and hatred in all of its very ugly forms.”

Mr. Trump has bristled at being accused of fostering anti-Semitism and racism, allegations that dogged him throughout the presidential race. He also has been chided for not speaking out sooner about an apparent spike in anti-Semitic incidents that crisis say coincided with his election.

The Anti-Defamation League began sounding alarms about rising anti-Semitism during the presidential campaign by citing a 3 percent rise in incidents in 2015 over the previous year, with 941 cases reported.

The organization’s data, however, showed a 22 decline in anti-Semitic incidents since 2009, when there were 1,211 threats or attacks against Jews in the U.S. That year, ADL described the number of anti-Semitic incidents as remaining at a “sustained and troubling” level.

Another 1,239 incidents were recorded in 2010, and 1,080 in 2011 before dropping to 927 in 2012 and 751 in 2013. The number of incidents then ticked up to 912 in 2014.

The ADL did not respond to questions Tuesday about anti-Semitism trends in the U.S.

Mr. Trump’s critics scoffed at his denunciation of anti-Semitism.

“President Trump’s acknowledgment Tuesday that anti-Semitism is ‘horrible’ rings hollow,” said Jonathan Boyarin, director of Jewish Studies at Cornell University.

He said the president could best fight anti-Semitism by firing White House strategist Stephen K. Bannon, a former Breitbart News executive who has been accused of giving a platform to white supremacist elements of the alt-right.

Steven Goldstein, executive director of the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect, said in a statement posted on Facebook that Mr. Trump’s “sudden acknowledgement is a Band-Aid on the cancer of Antisemitism that has infected his own Administration.

“His statement today is a pathetic asterisk of condescension after weeks in which he and his staff have committed grotesque acts and omissions reflecting anti-Semitism, yet day after day have refused to apologize and correct the record,” he said. “Make no mistake: The Antisemitism coming out of this Administration is the worst we have ever seen from any Administration.”

In response, White House press secretary Sean Spicer said that that president’s statement was “unbelievably forceful” and that he wished the Anne Frank Center would recognize Mr. Trump’s leadership on those issues.

“It’s ironic that no matter how many times he talks about this it is never good enough,” said Mr. Spicer.

The FBI and Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division are investigating the threats to the Jewish community centers for potential civil rights violations.

No arrests have been made.

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