The appointment of Steve Bannon to US President-elect Donald Trump’s White House transition team has been extremely revealing.
The reaction to the appointment has vindicated the argument that anti-Zionists have made for years; that Zionism often allies itself with, and even relies on, anti-Semitism to achieve its objectives. This is because Bannon is both pro-Israel and anti-Jewish.
Although that may look bizarre, there is no contradiction. After all, both anti-Semites and Zionists share a belief that “the Jews” should leave their countries of origin and move to Israel. This was recognised by the father of political Zionism, Theodor Herzl, more than 100 years ago.
This is a conjunction of different racisms. While nothing new, it is becoming much starker at the beginning of the Trump era. Until he joined Trump’s electoral team, Bannon ran the ultra-right-wing, white nationalist website Breitbart News. Bannon himself has said that he wanted this to be “the platform for the alt-right.”
Members of the so-called alternative right are nothing more than modern day neo-Nazis masking themselves in suits, or behind frog avatars on Twitter. The same fanatically racist hatred is apparent in their bile spewed out against Muslims and Jews alike.
The movement’s leading figure is Richard Spencer; he has publicly questioned the Jewish people’s very humanity: “One wonders if these people are people at all, or instead soulless golem.” This is the same man who recently led a meeting of his white extremist movement using Nazi slogans while some in the crowd gave him Nazi salutes. And yet Spencer has said that he aims to bring about “a sort of white Zionism.”
Bannon’s pushing of anti-Semitism has been no problem for both Israeli government ministers and for some of the most famous pro-Israel figures in the US, who have defended him. These include Alan Dershowitz, the celebrity lawyer and high-profile apologist for Israeli war crimes; Yossi Dagan, a member of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s ruling Likud Party; Israeli agriculture minister Uri Ariel; Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, a right-wing celebrity rabbi; and Sheldon Adelson, the ultra-rich pro-Israel funder.
This proves, once again, that the usual refrain of the Israel lobby — which claims that pro-Palestinian and left-wing groups are anti-Semitic — is nothing more than a bad faith fabrication. When genuine, visceral, potentially violent anti-Semitism arises from pro-Israel sources, the pro-Israel groups actively welcome their support.
While Trump’s victory is a setback for justice and human rights in America and, indeed, the rest of the world, it should be remembered that he appealed to more than just base racist sentiments. He would not have been able to win the presidential election otherwise.
As Rolling Stone put it back in February, racist themes “comprise a very small part of his usual presentation [on the election trail]. His speeches increasingly are strikingly populist in their content.” Trump’s “pitch is: He’s rich, he won’t owe anyone anything upon election, and therefore he won’t do what both Democratic and Republican politicians unfailingly do upon taking office, i.e., approve rotten/regressive policies that screw ordinary people. He talks, for instance, about the anti-trust exemption enjoyed by insurance companies, an atrocity dating back more than half a century, to the McCarran-Ferguson Act of 1945.”
I wrote back in March that, “Trump’s surge in support represents a populist, isolationist rebellion against the ultra-capitalist Republican establishment, who are too arrogant to realise how despised they are. A large part of Trump’s appeal to his supporters is their feelings (both real and imagined) that they are being screwed over by the political elite. And the Democratic establishment has too often been on board with the same neo-liberal agenda for decades.”
While this illusion of fighting for “the common man” helped Trump to win the election, there is no doubting the stark reality of his appeal to the most extreme racist, white nationalist and outright neo-Nazi forces in America. Bannon’s appointment to power in the White House only cements this.
Although it is dismaying to see Bannon get support from anyone, this rise in apologetics from Zionists at least has the advantage of a certain clarifying honesty. For anti-racists, the battle lines ahead are thus drawn, with Zionism clearly on the racist side, where in truth it has always stood.
As PLO leader Yasser Arafat put it in his famous speech to the UN General Assembly way back in 1974, Zionism is “united with anti-Semitism in its retrograde tenets and is, when all is said and done, another side of the same base coin.” His observation remains as true today as it was then.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.