The ZOA had publicized that Bannon would attend the Sunday evening dinner in New York, which was attended by politicians from Israel and the United States as well as hundreds of guests. But as of 9 p.m., as the dinner was wrapping up, Bannon had not arrived.
Bannon, appointed last week as chief strategist to President-elect Donald Trump, is the former chairman of Breitbart News. Bannon called his website “the platform for the alt-right,” a loose far-right movement whose followers traffic variously in white nationalism, anti-immigration sentiment, anti-Semitism and a disdain for “political correctness.”
Bannon has said that he is not an anti-Semite and does not support white nationalism, but is rather an “economic nationalist” who opposes globalism.
ZOA, which opposes the creation of a Palestinian state and supports the expansion of Israeli settlements, is one of two Jewish organizations to endorse Bannon’s appointment, citing Breitbart’s pro-Israel views. A handful of Jewish groups have opposed his appointment, including the Anti-Defamation League, the Reform and Conservative movements and a coalition of 12 left-wing groups.
Morton Klein, ZOA’s president, told JTA Bannon was never offered an official invitation, but rather had asked the group if he could attend the dinner.
“He asked us to come,” Klein said. “We never invited him. Of course, an important guy like him says he wants to come, I say yes.”
Outside the dinner, a protest of Bannon and the ZOA organized by IfNotNow, a Jewish group that opposes the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, drew several hundred people. The protest was dispersed shortly after arriving at the dinner’s location and continued in a nearby park.
Dignitaries including Cong. Ed Royce (R-Calif.), the chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, Israeli United Nations Amb. Danny Danon and Israeli Education Minister Naftali Bennett attended the dinner. At the event, ZOA honored Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz, as well as Home Depot co-founder Bernie Marcus.