Stephen Bannon and disarming Israel

The exposed roots of Zionism in anti-Semitism are now a matter of factual evidence for the whole world to see.

Steve Bannon at Trump Tower
Chief political strategist and senior adviser for US President-elect Donald Trump, Steve Bannon, makes a phone call outside Trump Tower on December 9 [Aude Guerrucci/EPA]

What is the deadliest weapon at the disposal of the Israeli settler colony? No, it is not the 200-plus nuclear weapons that are all, according to former US Secretary of State Colin Powell, aimed at Iran – nor is it whatever other weapons of mass destruction it can continue to procure over the next 10 years and beyond with the $38bn US taxpayers’ dollars that Barack Obama took away from hungry children in the US and sent with a lovely Hallmark greetings card to Benjamin Netanyahu.

The deadliest weapon at the disposal of Israel is not a weapon of mass destruction, of which it has plenty. It is in fact a weapon of mass deception that has long been at its disposal: the charge of “anti-Semitism” that its legion of propaganda officers readily level against anyone daring to question the armed robbery of Palestine.

Anti-Semitism was and remains a quintessentially European and by extension US-based white supremacist disease, with horrid manifestations from pogroms through the Crusades down to the Holocaust.

No other people anywhere else in the world ever heard of this disease or perpetrated such heinous crimes against humanity as the Nazis did. But the Zionist propaganda machinery continues indiscriminately to throw this vile charge at anyone remotely critical of Israel.

Now, believe it or not, of all people, Donald Trump, even before taking office, has just taken that deadly weapon away from Israel. You may wonder how?

Who is Stephen Bannon?

The appointment of Stephen Bannon by Trump as a chief adviser to his White House is a momentous development that for ever robs Israel of its deadliest ideological weapon: charging and seeking to silence its critics with the nasty stigma of “anti-Semitism”.

As has been thoroughly documented, Bannon, a “white supremacist and anti-Semite” Zionist, the chief architect of a sensational “news” outlet for like-minded bigots and a loud and unconditional supporter of Israel, is now the chief strategist (propaganda officer) for Trump in his soon-to-be up-and-about White House.

Bannon is the mastermind behind a fringe but loud and pestiferous neo-Nazi outfit that calls itself “alt-right”. Led by a young man named Richard Spencer, it is being groomed as the propaganda “Stormtroopers” of the next president of the United States, an organised gang of trolls set in motion with a quick tweet from their leader in the Oval Office.

As soon as the fully documented charges of anti-Semitism against Bannon became public knowledge, the Zionist cabal rose to defend him, arguing, as Robert Mackey has summarised in The Intercept, that he “cannot possibly be an anti-Semite, as his ex-wife told a court, since the site he ran until August strongly supports Israel and its far-right, nationalist government”.

This assertion belied the fact that, again as Mackey put it, he had “made Breitbart a space for pro-Israel writers and anti-Semitic readers”. If you think this a jarring phrase, you have been sold the lie that Zionism is against anti-Semitism. It is not. Quite to the contrary: It banks and thrives on it.

Put simply, the ZOA is defending anti-Semites against the expressed concerns of Jewish people, in order to safeguard the insatiable appetite of Zionism for land theft in Palestine.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) first condemned Bannon as anti-Semitic, but soon the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) countered ADL and pronounced Bannon and Breitbart innocent of any such charges, citing the strong Zionism of the accused as evidence. ADL backed down and downgraded Bannon’s anti-Semitism.

The fact that this notorious Zionist has frightened the American Jewish community, however, and quite rightly so, is now fully documented.

When the ZOA endorsed Bannon, it was “flooded” with phone calls and faced an “enormous backlash for its enthusiastic defence of Bannon” by people objecting to this reckless act.

“We did not survive the Holocaust,” people objected. “We did not found the State of Israel, just so that less than two generations later we could cozy up to neo-Nazis.”

Put simply, the ZOA is defending anti-Semites against the expressed concerns of Jewish people, in order to safeguard the insatiable appetite of Zionism for land theft in Palestine.

Responsible observers were of course crystal-clear about their assessments of Bannon’s anti-Semitism: Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, for example, speaking for “The Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism … held Bannon responsible for running a platform for ‘anti-Semitism, racism, misogyny and xenophobia’.”

OPINION: Stephen Bannon and the old/new anti-Semitism

Jessica Rosenblum, vice president of communications at the NGO J-Street, also said it is “completely appropriate” to apply the term anti-Semite to people like Bannon who “routinely aid and stand with white supremacists in demonising Jews and other religious and ethnic minorities”.

Even more to the point, Rabbi Jack Moline, President of Interfaith Alliance, told The Huffington Post: “A person can ‘absolutely’ be pro-Israel and anti-Semitic at the same time. Moline identifies as both a Jew and Zionist. But he cautioned that it was dangerous to conflate these two identities.”

Meanwhile Naomi Zeveloff of Forward wrote a detailed piece with the title “How Bannon and Breitbart News Can Be Pro-Israel and Anti-Semitic at the Same Time”. The article adds: “There is actually ‘little correlation’ between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism, according to Steven M Cohen, a sociologist at the Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion … Many people who dislike Jews like Israel and many people who are critical towards Israel are affectionate towards Jews.”

All these bold, responsible, principled, and clear pronouncements finally poured on to the streets of New York when “500 Jewish protesters”, according to Haaretz, managed to “scare Bannon away from a pro-Israel Gala” held by ZOA.

Before Bannon: Trump himself

The concerted efforts of Zionist Americans, led by ZOA, notwithstanding the traumatic impact of Trump’s victory for the Jewish communities, are undeniable: “Trump’s election triggers old nightmares for Holocaust survivors in America,” as Haaretz wrote.

“The dramatic increase in anti-Semitism and hate crimes since election day is a horrifying flashback for veteran Jewish Americans. As one says, ‘I lived through one Hitler, I don’t want to live through another.'”

Trump, of course, did not have to wait to get elected to expose his pro-Israeli, anti-Semitic proclivities, evident in an infamous ad that “traffics in conspiracies of control and destruction identified with classical anti-Semitism”, leading to the obvious admission that being “Pro-Israel is not incompatible with peddling negative Jewish stereotypes.”

Even more empathically, as Ian Buruma put it in The New York Times, “The last ad of the Trump campaign attacked what Joseph Stalin used to call ‘rootless cosmopolitans’ in a particularly insidious manner. Incendiary references to a ‘global power structure’ that was robbing honest working people of their wealth were illustrated by pictures of George Soros, Janet Yellen and Lloyd Blankfein. Perhaps not every Trump supporter realised that all three are Jewish. But those who did cannot have missed the implications.”

Any shadow of doubt about Trump actively partaking in anti-Semitic sentiments and tropes was cleared from the start. His campaign had staged his anti-Semitism chapter and verse, or as David Remnick put it succinctly in the New Yorker: “Trump began his campaign declaring Mexican immigrants to be ‘rapists’; he closed it with an anti-Semitic ad evoking ‘The Protocols of the Elders of Zion’.”

As early as July 2016, Trump’s use of anti-Semitic tropes signalling Hillary Clinton’s support was fully on display “when he tweeted a graphic critical of Hillary Clinton that featured a six-pointed star, a pile of cash and the words ‘most corrupt candidate ever’.”

OPINION: The prospect of the US as a ‘banana republic’

None of these facts had, however, dissuaded Sheldon Adelson, a staunch Zionist supporter of Israel, to write an opinion piece for The Washington Post enthusiastically endorsing Donald Trump, or contributing millions of dollars to his campaign. Nor indeed had any such incontrovertible fact of Trump freely trafficking in anti-Semitic sentiments prevented the chief Israeli lobby AIPAC members giving him repeated standing ovations and thunderous applause when he went to their gatherings to pledge allegiance to Israel.

The exposed roots of Zionism in anti-Semitism are now a matter of factual evidence for the whole world to see as it is liberating for an entire generation of principled and progressive Jewish activists who have now in full force joined other emancipatory movements around the US and indeed around the globe – to which they will lend an entire history of their noble struggles against racism, anti-Semitism, and bigotry, and from which they will learn the emerging terms of a defiant moral agency beyond any disabling identity politics.

Hamid Dabashi is Hagop Kevorkian Professor of Iranian Studies and Comparative Literature at Columbia University in New York.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial policy.


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