It is “absolutely” possible for Steve Bannon to be pro-Israel and anti-Semitic at the same time, concluded a Huffington Post article about the ex-Breitbart chief who’s now President-elect Donald Trump’s chief strategist.
Several Jewish organizations strongly criticized Bannon’s appointment, announced Nov. 13, on the grounds that he said he had made Breitbart into an online platform for the “alt-right,” the label preferred by contemporary white nationalists and other racists, including anti-Semites.
The site is also an important popularizer of the theory of “globalism,” which describes an enmeshed, worldwide system of elites who control everybody else to achieve their own sinister goals. Globalism can serve as a dog whistle for anti-Semitic conspiracy theorists who see those elites as Jewish.
Jewish groups like the Anti-Defamation League decried the appointment, but Bannon also attracted several defenders among prominent Jewish individuals and organizations.
Bannon’s allies pointed to his Zionism as proof that he couldn’t be someone who hates Jews at the same time, but the Huffington Post piece quoted several Jewish leaders who disagreed.
“There are political, religious and ideological reasons that some have for supporting the State of Israel that have little or nothing to do with support for the Jewish people themselves,” Rabbi Jack Moline, President of Interfaith Alliance, told the website. “The fact that Bannon has won the support of a handful of right-wing American Jews who share his political views does nothing to erase his anti-Semitic remarks or the anti-Semitic nature of the alt-right movement that his website has fostered.”
The Huffington Post piece also cited several Forward articles, including an op-ed by Editor-in-Chief Jane Eisner, who condemned Bannon’s backers for essentially saying that “as long as you support certain policies of the current Israeli government, it’s okay to pal around with people who hate Jews.”
Breitbart itself weighed in on the debate with a piece arguing that Bannon can’t be an anti-Semite because he supports Israel, and employees who observe the Jewish Sabbath.
Helen Chernikoff is the Forward’s News Editor. She came to the Forward from The Jewish Week, where she served as the first web director and created both a blog dedicated to disability issues and a food and wine website. Before that, she covered the housing, lodging and logistics industries for Reuters, where she could sit at her desk and watch her stories move the stock market. Helen has a Master’s of Public Administration from Columbia University and a BA in History and French from Amherst College. She is also a rabbinical school dropout. Contact her at email@example.com and follow her on Twitter at @thesimplechild.