Under the banner of "Jewish Resistance," hundreds of protesters rallied outside of Manhattan's Grand Hyatt hotel on 42nd St. Nov. 20, where the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) annual gala was being held—with a featured speaker announced as Steve Bannon, the "alt-right" mouthpiece just appointed top counselor to president-elect Donald Trump. CBS News reports that Bannon did not show at the event, for unexplained reasons. But protesters were plenty outraged that he was invited. Solidarity between Jews and Muslims was a central theme of the angry rally, with the most common chant being:
WHEN MUSLIM COMMUNITIES ARE UNDER ATTACK
WHAT DO WE DO? STAND UP, FIGHT BACK!
The rally was called by three progressive Jewish organizations: If Not Now, Jews for Racial and Economic Justice (JFREJ), and Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP). But others had a visible presence, including an encouragingly named Muslim-Jewish Anti-Fascist Front (MuJewAntifa), who carried a banner reading "MUSLIMS AND JEWS AGAINST WHITE NATIONALISTS."
The protesters were obviously a mix of anti-Zionists and left-wing Zionists, uncharacteristically getting along (for the moment). Some of the chants had anti-Zionist content, such as:
ALL THE WALLS HAVE GOT TO GO, FOM PALESTINE TO MEXICO!
But one sign read: "WHITE NATIONALISM IS ANTI-ISRAEL."
Is it? Even the white nationalist right is divided between a pro-Zionist current that sees Israel as the frontline state against the Arab and Muslim menace, and an anti-Semitic current that sees Arabs and Jews alike as enemies. And these currents overlap, bleed into each other. As we stated upon Bannon's appointment: We will now see how much overt Nazism conservative Jews and Zionists will be able to stomach in exchange for an aggressively pro-Israel position.
The Zionist establishment is also divided on whether to take the "alt-right" bait. The Algemeiner quotes ZOA president Morton A. Klein: "Bannon is not an anti-Semite at all. He's never said or written anything that is anti-Semitic. If he was an anti-Semite in any way, shape or form, I'd be screaming." In contrast, Anti-Defamation League (ADL) president Jonathan A. Greenblatt said in a statement that Bannon's Breitbart is "the premier website of the 'alt-right,' a loose-knit group of white nationalists and unabashed anti-Semites and racists." In a counter-statement, the ZOA hailed "Mr. Bannon's and Breitbart's friendship and fair-mindedness towards Israel and the Jewish people. To accuse Mr. Bannon and Breitbart of antisemitism is Orwellian. In fact, Breitbart bravely fights against antisemitism."
Use of the word "Orwellian" here is what is Orwellian. Yes, it is true that in David Horowitz's headline calling fellow neocon Bill Kristol a "Renegade Jew" (the most-touted case of Breitbart anti-Semitism), his actual intent was bait Kristol as a traitor to the Jews for not supporting Trump. But that isn't exactly "fighting anti-Semitism," to say the least. It is perpetrating the absurdity that Jewish interests lie with the white nationalist right—easily dispelled by the most cursory reading of 20th century history.
The march organizers are plugging the Southern Poverty Law Center petition for Trump to fire Bannon, stating "Stephen Bannon Has No Business in the White House." We see a danger in appealing to Trump for anything. The legitimacy of his presidency should be denied outright.