20 February 2017

Anti-Semitism and the Alt-Right - Why Zionists have nothing to say about Trump’s Anti-Semitism

Suzanne Schneider is wrong to say that only right-wing Zionists allied with anti-Semites –Labour Zionism was equally guilty
Steve Bannon - Trump's anti-Semitic advisor
It is a strange thing.  Zionists are usually brilliant at spotting ‘anti-Semitism’ even when it doesn’t exist.  They have been calling Jackie Walker an anti-Semite for months on the basis of omitting one word ‘among’ in a private conversation, i.e. ‘Jews were among the chief financiers of slavery’.  None is better at this than the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism which can even spot anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial in the words of Israel’s first Prime Minister, David Ben Gurion, (when wrongly attributing them to Jackie Walker).

But when it comes to the open anti-Semitism and White supremacism of Trump and his alt-Right supporters, then there isn’t a peep.  Not a squeak.  Like the 3 wise monkeys, they have become blind, deaf and dumb.  When it came to Trump’s Holocaust Memorial Day statement on the Holocaust, which managed to omit Jews altogether, [White House Blocked Holocaust Statement that Explicitly Mentioned Jews ] which in the words of alt-Right leader Richard Spencer ‘deJudified the Holocaust’ the Zionists were silent.  [White Nationalist Leader Praises Trump For 'De-Judification' Of The Holocaust

These are difficult days for America’s Jews, historically the most liberal section of America’s White population.  Despite their support for Israel they don’t want to live there.  Why swap a highly comfortable life in America for the hot house atmosphere of Israel, with a political atmosphere of endemic racism and war? 

Many of America’s Jews aren’t even properly Jewish in Israel.  Those who have been converted according to the Conservative or Reform branches of Judaism in America won’t even have those conversions recognised in Israel.  They are Gentiles.  Non-Jews.
Bannon's Breitbart makes defence of the Confederate flag of the southern slave states the symbol of its fight against 'cultural genocide'
Despite the Zionist belief that anti-Semitism everywhere was eternal and could not be fought, America has, like most of Europe, proven that anti-Semitism was not inherent amongst non-Jews. 
Donald Trump has been elected with the support of the White Supremacist Right.  He has put into the White House as his closest political advisor, Steve Bannon, former CEO of Breitbart News.  

Breitbart, combines being ardently pro-Zionist with anti-Semitism.  Bannon is a White Nationalist.    [Here's Why It's Fair—and Necessary—to Call Trump's Chief Strategist a White Nationalist Champion]  White Nationalism is just a nice way of saying White Supremacism.  Breitbart openly support the call for the display of the Confederate flag of the old slave states of the American south.  Hoist it high and proud:  the Confederate flag proclaims a glorious heritage and opposition to the ‘glorious heritage’ of slavery and lynching is nothing less than  cultural genocide.
Milo Yiannopoulos -  the gay anti-Semite who is a senior editor at Breitbart
Breitbart is the home of the Alt-Right whose luminaries include Richard Spencer, whose main claim to fame was the ‘Heil Trump’ gathering.  Its senior editor Milo Yiannopoulos, is openly anti-Semitic.  He has no problem saying that Jews control the media and own all the banks.  The Alt-Right is based on the idea of racial and ethnic nationalism.  That is why they support Zionism – which they see, not wrongly, as Jewish ethnic nationalism.

The Zionist movement and Israel has welcomed the ascent of Trump.  Not only Benjamin Netanyahu and Israeli’s government, but the Israeli Labour Party and its leader Isaac Herzog have also welcomed Trump to power. [see Israeli Labour Party Leader Isaac Herzog Extends a Warm Welcome to Donald Trump].  It is noteworthy that the Jewish Labour Movement, which is always eager to accuse anti-racists like Jackie Walker of ‘anti-Semitism’ was remarkably shy in condemning the leader of its ‘sister’ party for welcoming Trump.
part of the feminist opposition to 
In the United States itself, the Zionist Organisation of America invited Bannon to its annual Gala dinner in New York.  Owing to a large left-wing Jewish demonstration outside, a demonstration led by Jewish anti-Zionists, Bannon decided not to risk accepting the invitation.  The ZOA’s President Mort Klein was quoted as saying that ‘“I think Bannon was grateful that I defended him against this ludicrous charge of anti-Semitism,”  and not suprisingly because Klein's argument, a favourite of Zionism, is in his own words Bannon and Breitbart: Friends of Israel, not anti-Semites

Of course if your definition of anti-Semitism is support for Israel then Klein is right.  If anti-Semitism includes a belief in racial separation, that Jews belong with their own kind in their own state then Klein is wrong and Bannon and Breitbart are anti-Semitic.   But Adolf Eichmann too described himself as ardently pro-Zionist.  Indeed nearly all anti-Semites were known for their support for Zionism because it was through a Jewish state that the 'Jewish Question' could be solved.

Where the article below goes wrong is in its suggestion that it was only right-wing Zionists who allied with or supported anti-Semites.  On the contrary these alliances were equally the product of labour Zionism.
Richard Spencer of  the alt-Right's 'heil Trump' speech
It was Labour Zionism which entered into an economic alliance with Nazi Germany, Ha'avara in August 1933, thus breaking the Jewish boycott of Nazi Germany.  It was the Revisionist Zionists under Jabotinsky who opposed them.  It was the Labour Zionist/Haganah agent Feivel Polkes who offered to spy for the Gestapo in return for arms shipments.

It was the Labour Zionist Rudolph Kasztner who reached an agreement, helping to round up Hungarian Jews for the deportation trains in Hungary in exchange for a train out of Hungary with the Zionist elite on board.

The World Zionist Congresses between 1933 and 1939 which failed to unequivocally condemn either Hitler or the Nazis were controlled by the Labour Zionists.  The Revisionists abandoned the WZO after 1933. 

Both wings of Zionism accepted that anti-Semitism was inherent in non-Jewish society.  That the only answer to it was to flee and build a society based on the same principles of race they had escaped from. Their reasoning was that Jews had indeed adopted the anti-social qualities that the non-Jews ascribed to them  They based this reasoning on the fact that they had become estranged from their ‘homeland’ Palestine and that it was only by reuniting Jews with their roots that they could become normalised.  In Zionist jargon this was the ‘Negation of the Diaspora’.

Pinhas Rosenbluth, who later became a Minister of Justice in the first Israeli Labor Government , observed, Palestine was "an institute for the fumigation of Jewish vermin.". [Journal of Israeli History, 8]  The journal of Hashomer Hatzair, the ‘left-wing’ of the Zionist movement, which later formed Mapam in Israel, observed that ‘The Jew is a caricature of a normal, natural human being, both physically and spiritually. As an individual in society he revolts and throws off the harness of social obligation, knows no order nor discipline.’ [Our Shomer, ‘Welstanschaung’ Hashomer Hatzair, December 1936, p.12] cited in Lenni Brenner, Zionism in the Age of the Dictators, pp 22/23].

What American and other Jews are learning is that Zionist groups like the Jewish Labour Movement and Labour Friends of Israel are only interested in ‘anti-Semitism’ if it means opposition to the State of Israel.  Anti-Semitism which is merely about Jew hatred is not their concern.  After all without the push of anti-Semitism there would have been no anti-Semitism.  Or as Herzl remarked ‘‘Anti-Semitism, too, probably contains the Divine will to Good, because it forces us to close ranks, unites us through pressure, and through our unity will make us free. [Diaries p.231]

 Tony Greenstein

Between the congressional hearing for David Friedman, the visit of Benjamin Netanyahu, and President Trump’s refusal to address the rising tide of anti-Semitism, it’s been a tense time within the American Jewish community. For those on the right, Trump’s abandonment of the two-state solution, much like Friedman’s nomination, comes as an assurance that the new administration will firmly commit itself to an expansionist form of Zionism. And along with the presence of Jared Kushner within the President’s inner circle, keeping Friedman and Bibi in the wings is taken by many as a signal that Trump is not really an anti-Semite, despite surrounding himself with figures of questionable persuasion. According to this logic, the strong commitment by Trump and Steve Bannon to Israel undermines any suggestion that they harbor antipathy toward Jews. Yet, for many centrists and liberals, the idea of Jared Kushner and Steve Bannon working together causes endless confusion: How could the descendent of Holocaust survivors find common cause with the ideological leader of the alt-right?

The answer may lie in the history of the Zionist movement, a history which demonstrates that there is no inherent contradiction between Zionism and anti-Semitism. The two ideologies have in fact often worked in concert to achieve their shared goal: concentrating Jews in one place (so as to better avoid them in others). Even before the modern Zionist movement arose in the late 19th century, Christian philosophers and statesmen debated what to do with the “oriental” mass of Jewry in their midst. As the scholar Jonathan Hess of the University of North Carolina has noted, one “solution” popular among Enlightenment figures who harbored anti-Semitic feelings was to deport Jews to a colonial setting where they could be reformed. Johann Gottlieb Fichte, among the founders of German Idealism, noted in 1793 that the most effective protection Europeans could mount against the Jewish menace was to “conquer the holy land for them and send them all there.”

Indeed, Zionism crystallized as a political movement among European Jews explicitly to solve the problem of political anti-Semitism. For Zionist pioneers like Leo Pinsker and Theodor Herzl, anti-Semitism was an inevitable phenomenon that would occur at any time and place where Jews were a sizable minority. Normal relations with other nations could only be established by moving Jews to a place where they were a majority. Thus rather than pushing contemporary states and societies to devise new ways of accommodating difference, Zionist thinkers of Herzl’s generation ascribed to the logic that the Jewish “problem” could only be settled by removing Jews from European states.
The idea that Jews belong not in their actual place of residence and origin, but in the Holy Land, was of course not a position that all Zionists ascribed to, either then or now. Yet it is not hard to see the very problematic logic that links such assertions to the sort of blood-and-soil nationalism that led to the destruction of European Jewish life. Nazism of course grew out of this context and insisted that Jews could never really be German. The Nazis, however, took this conclusion to a radically new place: it was ultimately extermination, rather than resettlement, that drove the Nazi position.

Though the scope of destruction was not yet known in the 1930’s and early 1940’s, many nevertheless find it astounding that there were attempts by right-wing Zionists during these years to establish ties with Nazi Germany. Numerous scholars have noted the fascist sympathies of certain members of the Revisionist Zionist camp, who bitterly feuded with mainstream Zionists and denounced them as Bolsheviks. The antipathy was apparently mutual, as David Ben-Gurion in 1933 published a work that described Ze’ev Jabotinsky, the founder of the Revisionist movement, as treading in the footsteps of Hitler. The Zionist Right’s flirtation with fascism reached its tragic peak in 1941 when Lehi, Avraham Stern’s paramilitary splinter group, approached Otto Von Hentig, a German diplomat, to propose cooperation between the nationally rooted Hebraic movement in Palestine and the German state. Nazi Germany declined his generous offer, having stumbled across quite a different “solution” to the question of Jewish existence.

It has been with this history in mind that I approach contemporary debates about Donald Trump’s presidency and the alliance it fosters between members of the white nationalist “alt-right” on one hand, and a certain segment of American Jews, on the other. The argument that the latter should work with the former because they all share a commitment to “Greater Israel” belies the fact that not all allies, or alliances, are created equal. When Richard Spencer voices his admiration of Zionism (because, in his understanding, the movement stands first and foremost for racial homogeneity), we should realize that this is not incidental to his suggestion that America might be better off with a peaceful ethnic cleansing of those population segments that are not of white, European descent. Do American Jews really believe that they will pass muster within such a state? And are the swastikas and other acts of intimidation that have been so abundant since Trump’s victory really just peaceful incentives to realize that our true home is in a land far, far away?

The answer must be a resounding “no.”

Jewish life flourishes in pluralistic societies within which difference is not a “problem” to be resolved, but a fact to be celebrated. The alliance of right-wing Zionists and the alt-right should not be viewed as an abnormality, but the meeting of quite compatible outlooks that assert — each in their own way—that the world will only be secure once we all retreat to our various plots of ancestral land. Nationalist thinking of this sort wrought more than its fair share of damage during the twentieth century. Let’s not enact a repeat performance in the twenty-first.

Suzanne Schneider is a historian of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and the Zionist movement, and a director and core faculty member at the Brooklyn Institute for Social Research.

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