Alan Dershowitz waded into the debate this week over Steve Bannon, President-elect Donald Trump’s pick for chief White House strategist, dismissing charges of anti-Semitism directed at the aide and throwing back those allegations at the political left.
“I think we have to be very careful before we accuse any particular individual of being an anti-Semite,” Dershowitz told the ‘alt-right’ Breitbart News on Tuesday. “The evidence certainly suggests that Mr. Bannon has very good relationships with individual Jews.”
He said that Bannon, the former head of Breitbart, might appeal to anti-Semites, but that does not necessarily qualify him as one.
“I think the larger problem – and it’s a very complicated one today – is how you assess a person who himself might not have negative characteristics, but who has widespread appeal to people who do,” he added.
Bannon’s appointment has drawn condemnations from civil rights groups like the Anti-Defamation League and the American Civil Liberties Union. With Bannon at the helm, the site called neoconservative Bill Kristol “a renegade Jew” for opposing Trump’s candidacy, published an article that dismissed the existence of anti-Semitism and defended caricatures that had stereotypically Jewish features.
Dershowitz also lobbed charges of anti-Semitism against mainstream politicians in the Democratic Party, criticizing Minnesota Rep. Keith Ellison and Black Lives Matter as anti-Semitic in a separate Tuesday interview on MSNBC.
“Many of his supporters hate Jews. Many people who applaud his nomination,” Dershowitz said of Ellison, a leading candidate to become the new chair of the Democratic National Committee.
“I love the concept of Black Lives Matter, but they are an anti-Semitic group,” he continued, citing the organization’s accusation that Israel is committing genocide against Palestinians as evidence.
Dershowitz said that both right and left camps should examine their followers for anti-Semitism.
“I have to tell you, the only thing the hard left and the hard right have in common, they hate Israel and America,” he concluded.
Daniel J. Solomon is the Assistant to the Editor/News Writer at the Forward. Originally from Queens, he attended Harvard as an undergraduate, where he wrote his senior thesis on French-Jewish intellectual history. He is excited to have returned to New York after his time in Massachusetts. Daniel’s passions include folk music, cycling, and pointed argument.