The man described as the “most dangerous political operative in America” gave an interview recently where he rejected the accusation that he was an anti-Semite. His comments said a lot about the current debate on the issue and why known anti-Semites from the far-right have been singing Israel’s praise.
Speaking to the Haaretz newspaper, former White House strategist and godfather of the US alt-right, Steve Bannon insisted he was not anti-Semite because Breitbart News – where he spent a long spell as the executive chairman – has “consistently” supported the state of Israel. In his rejection, Bannon said he was a “Christian Zionist” while pointing out that the founder of the right-wing news site was himself Jewish along with many writers employed by the platform. “Support for Israel,” he asserted, “has always been consistent, loud and unapologetic.”
Bannon’s comments echo remarks made earlier this week by white supremacist Richard Spencer who spoke in glowing terms about Israel’s nation state bill which critics have said institutionalises apartheid in the Jewish state. “I have great admiration for Israel’s nation-state law,” Spencer tweeted over the weekend. “Jews are, once again, at the vanguard, rethinking politics and sovereignty for the future, showing a path forward for Europeans,” he said.
Despite attempts to distance himself from Spencer, Bannon and the white supremacists view on Israel is hard to separate. Both laud Israel for its success in creating an ethno-religious state. Israel’s prowess in building a powerful state based on religious and ethnic exclusivity strongly appeals to them.
But perhaps what unites Israel, Bannon and Spencer more than anything else is their animosity towards the liberal left, Islam and global institutions like the UN which prioritises a global order based on the rule of law over assertive nationalism.
The current crop of Israeli leaders and their advocates around the world fully subscribe to the Bannon blueprint to remake the western world. In the eyes of Bannon there is a civilisational clash between Judeo-Christian culture and Islam. The conflict began with the inception of Islam, when it began to spread. He told Haaretz: “We in our time are heirs to the same challenge Charles Martel faced when he blocked the Muslims from conquering Europe in the year 732 at the Battle of Tours. The challenge has since changed form, and may now appear in the guise of mass immigration, but the essential conflict has not disappeared, and we cannot afford to let our guard down.”
He is now on a mission to radicalise Europe and do to the continent what he has done to America. In a recent four month tour he has been spreading the gospel of the “national populist revolt” in an attempt to unite all the far right parties in opposition to the existing order. Migration, Islam and the Europe’s Muslims are their enemies around which he hopes to galvanise a new European crusade against the global order.
The narrative peddled by this new alliance of anti-Semites and anti-Muslim no longer need terrorism as a rationalisation for their extreme policies. Islamophobia is finding new justifications, Peter Beinart points out. It doesn’t rely on Daesh or Al-Qaeda detonating bombs in London or Chicago. The mere presence of Muslim and their culture is an issue. In the eyes of anti-Muslim bigots, the problem with letting Muslims into the US or Europe is a threat to the Western civilisation. As far as they are concerned, Muslims committing terrorism is just a symptom of a much greater Muslim malaise which the West needs to confront, violently if must.
Despite the somewhat paradoxical nature of their marriage, Israel and the likes of Bannon and Spencer have been fused through their shared hostility to Islam. It explains why Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has been cosying up to notorious anti-Semites recently. It also explains why members of the far right like Tommy Robinson can rely on pro-Israel conservative think tank to bail him out when he gets done for anti-Muslim bigotry.
Perhaps more than anything else, Bannon allowed the mask to slip when he insisted that he was not an anti-Semite because of his affiliation with Brietbart. The news platform is widely regarded as the media arm of the alt-right fascist organisations, a favourite news source of neo-Nazis, white nationalist which reflects anti-Semitic views. This is the prism through which Bannon’s defence against the accusation that he is an anti-Semite should be looked at. Bannon is another example of a right-wing ideologue whose love for Israel has allowed his anti-Semitic views to go under the radar.
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Monitor.