Thursday, December 1st, 2016...9:26 am

Editorial: Neo-Nazis in the White House

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President-elect Donald Trump’s appointment of Stephen Bannon as his chief strategist and senior counsel represents a great danger for the United States. Bannon, who was the chief executive of the Trump presidential campaign, is the former executive chairman of Breitbart News.

Bannon has boasted that the website is “the platform for the alt-right,” which is a euphemism for the extremist fringe of white supremacists and anti-Semites. Breitbart caters to this rough anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim and anti-feminist faction in our politics. With Bannon in the White House, these right-wing bigots will have entrée into the center of American power. It is a frightening development.

A number of Jewish groups have gone on record as opposing Trump’s selection of Bannon to be one of his chief counselors.

“The ADL [Anti-Defamation League] strongly opposes the appointment of Steve Bannon as senior advisor and chief strategist in the White House,” the organization stated in mid-November. “It is a sad day when a man who presided over the premier website of the ‘alt-right’ — a loose-knit group of white nationalists and unabashed anti-Semites and racists — is slated to be a senior staff member in the ‘people’s house.’”

Closer to home, the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota and the Dakotas issued a statement last month that condemned Trump’s appointment of Bannon. Steve Hunegs, the group’s executive director, said he was “deeply alarmed” by the development: “The appointment of Mr. Bannon comes at a time when the nation is deeply divided, not just between Democrats and Republicans, but amongst family members and geographically. Indeed, the level of vitriol during this campaign, especially directed against Jews and other minorities, is deeply disturbing and without recent precedent.”

Sadly, several prominent Jewish groups — including AIPAC and the American Jewish Committee — have been silent about the threat posed by Bannon and his disreputable cohort. Other organizations, like the hawkish Zionist Organization of America, contend that Bannon is “pro-Israel” and deserves support from the Jewish community. ZOA and other groups scream about the anti-Semitism of leftist activists supporting BDS (the anti-Israel boycott, divestment and sanctions movement); but they are mute in the face of the threats emanating from right-wing anti-Semites.

In a recent editorial in the Forward, Jane Eisner quoted the eminent Holocaust historian Deborah Lipstadt on this point: “We need to do a serious reckoning. It’s been so convenient for people to beat up on the left, but you can’t ignore what’s coming from the right.”

It should be noted that Eisner, along with other Jewish journalists, have been on the receiving end of vile anti-Semitic messages adorned with Holocaust imagery from the Breitbart partisans during the recent presidential campaign.

And regarding Bannon’s alleged pro-Israel bona fides, there is no conflict between holding both pro-Zionist and anti-Semitic views.

This strange mentality was explored last month by Naomi Zeveloff, writing in the Forward. She quoted Yael Sternhell, a Tel Aviv University professor of history and American studies: “As long as Jews are in Israel fighting the ‘good fight’ with the Arab world as a bastion of American ideals and values in the Middle East, then they are very useful and admirable allies. Once they are home demanding a multi-cultural democracy, demanding that the country accommodate their religion, their belief and their custom that is a different story.”

Zeveloff also included comments by Todd Gitlin, the Columbia University sociologist, who remarked that the coexistence of anti-Semitism and right-wing Zionism “in Trump’s world make sense…. Anti-Semitism and right-wing Zionism are varieties of ultra nationalism, or, to put it more pejoratively (as it deserves to be put), tribalism. They both presume that the embattled righteous ones need to bristle at, wall off, and punish the damned outsiders. They hate and fear cosmopolitan mixtures. They make a fetish of purity. They have the same soul. They rhyme.”

We don’t really know what policies will emerge from a Trump administration. The president-elect is not a public policy maven, to put it mildly. There likely will be an assault — from the White House and the Republican-controlled Congress — on civil rights, voting rights, abortion rights, LGBTQ rights, free speech and freedom of the press, environmental protections, the Affordable Care Act, Medicare and Social Security.

And in view of Trump’s recent tweets about alleged massive voter fraud in the recent election (“I won the popular vote if you deduct the millions of people who voted illegally”), it seems that the president-elect is suffering from some mental defect that propels him to propound one whopping lie after another. It likely wasn’t a good idea to elect a person with mental issues as president. Not good for the Jewish community, the greater American society or the world.

— Mordecai Specktor

editor [at] ajwnews [dot] com

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