A Pro-Israel Anti-Semite? Not as Strange as you Might Think

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President-Elect Donald Trump

While President-elect Donald Trump has made lots of news this week as he begins his transition to the White House, one appointment has stood above the rest. Trump has appointed Steve Bannon, his campaign CEO and executive chairman of the white nationalist and anti-Semitic website Breitbart News, to the position of “chief strategist.” Steve Bannon is an idol of the white nationalist right and holds deeply anti-Semitic views. In addition to dealing in common anti-Semitic tropes on Breitbart News, Bannon reportedly refused to enroll his daughter in a school because of “the number of Jews that attend.” Upon news of his appointment, the head of the Anti-Defamation League immediately and strongly opposed his appointment on the grounds of his virulently racist views. Even the staunchly pro-Israel and right wing AIPAC was “apoplectic” about his appointment. However, the news website Bannon runs  was conceived in Israel, is avowedly pro-Israel (featuring a particularly right-wing Zionist narrative) and even has a Jerusalem bureau.

How can the head of a large and influential “alt-right” (which as the Southern Poverty Law Center points out is merely rebranded white nationalism and often heavily anti-Semitic) website be both anti-Semitic and pro-Israel? A lesson in history reveals that there has always been a strong tie between certain anti-Semites and Zionist organizations, even during the height of Nazi Germany. The following excerpt from Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem describes the temporary cooperation between Zionist organizations and Adolf Eichmann, the architect of the Final Solution, during the 1930s. Such cooperation was based on the shared goal of removing Jewish people from their native countries in Europe to resettle them in Palestine:

Hence, the Zionists could, for a time, at least, engage in a certain amount of non-criminal cooperation with the Nazi authorities; the Zionists too believed that “dissimilation,” combined with the emigration to Palestine of Jewish youngsters and, they hoped, Jewish capitalists, could be a “mutually fair solution.” At the time, many German officials held this opinion, and this kind of talk seems to have been quite common up to the end. A letter from a survivor of Theresienstadt [concentration camp], a German Jew, relates that all leading positions in the Nazi-appointed Reichsvereinigung were held by Zionists (whereas the authentically Jewish Reichsvertretung had been composed of both Zionists and non-Zionists), because Zionists, according to the Nazis, were the `decent’ Jews since they too thought in `national’ terms.

To be sure, no prominent Nazi ever spoke publicly in this vein; from beginning to end, Nazi propaganda was fiercely, unequivocally, uncompromisingly anti-Semitic, and eventually nothing counted but what people who were still without experience in the mysteries of totalitarian government dismissed as “mere propaganda.” There existed in those first years a mutually highly satisfactory agreement between the Nazi authorities and the Jewish Agency for Palestine – a Ha’avarah, or Transfer Agreement, which provided that an emigrant to Palestine could transfer his money there in German goods and exchange them for pounds upon arrival. It was soon the only legal way for a Jew to take his money with him (the alternative then being the establishment of a blocked account, which could be liquidated abroad only at a loss of between fifty and ninety-five per cent).

1389.9 Holocaust A
Adolf Eichmann on Trial in Jerusalem

The result was that in the thirties, when American Jewry took great pains to organize a boycott of German merchandise, Palestine, of all places, was swamped with all kinds of goods “made in Germany.” Of greater importance for Eichmann were the emissaries from Palestine, who would approach the Gestapo and the S.S. on their own initiative, without taking orders from either the German Zionists or the Jewish Agency for Palestine. They came in order to enlist help for the illegal immigration of Jews into British-ruled Palestine, and both the Gestapo and the S.S. were helpful. They negotiated with Eichmann in Vienna, and they reported that he was “polite,” “not the shouting type,” and that he even provided them with farms and facilities for setting up vocational training camps for prospective immigrants.

In contemporary history, many large and influential Christian Zionist organizations are deeply anti-Semitic and support Israel not out of concern for the fate of the Jewish people but about remove Jews from their home countries to gather them in Israel. Also, for some on the right Zionist Israel is “model for white nationalism and/or Christianism.” The purpose of sharing this here is not to equate Steve Bannon with Adolf Eichmann. Nor is it to highlight Bannon’s anti-Semitism over his other many horrible and disgusting views. The point is that being pro-Zionist and pro-Israel cannot whitewash anti-Semitic beliefs or statements. Many have supported Israel in spite of or because of hatred for Jewish people. I encourage you to sign the petition started by the SPLC to oppose Bannon’s appointment to Trump’s White House staff.

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