The frantic and fearful response by prominent Jewish leaders to Donald Trump’s election and to his appointment of Steve Bannon as senior advisor is unreasonable, irresponsible, and is damaging to our community. As Alan Dershowitz and the Zionist Organization of America explain, there is no reason whatsoever to think Steve Bannon is an anti-Semite. Quite the contrary: Bannon is a proud Zionist who has vigorously fought Israel’s detractors. Donald Trump, no matter your opinion of his policies, has a Jewish daughter, a son-in-law whom he entrusts to run his businesses, and Jewish grandchildren.
As Alan Dershowitz, himself a fervent supporter of the Democratic Party, says, we should not let political differences allow us to smear people with the brush of anti-Semitism, an act which “demean[s] the term ‘anti-Semitism.’” Dershowitz wisely adds:
…[H]ow [do] you assess a person who himself might not have negative characteristics, but who has widespread appeal to people who do: (this) is a problem that exists on the right and the left. I think there are left-wing candidates who appeal to some of the worst bigots on the hard left. Anti-Semites on the hard left. Anti-Israel people on the hard left. And I think the same thing is probably true of some very right-wing conservatives who appeal inadvertently to people whose values they probably themselves don’t agree with.
ZOA president Morton Klein released a similar statement this past Monday:
It is painful to see Anti-Defamation League (ADL) president Jonathan Greenblatt engaging in character assassination against President-elect Trump’s appointee Stephen Bannon and Mr. Bannon’s company, Breitbart media. ADL/Greenblatt essentially accused Mr. Bannon and his media company of “anti-Semitism” and Israel hatred, when Jonathan Greenblatt/ADL tweeted that Bannon “presided over the premier website of the ‘alt right’ – a loose-knit group of white nationalists and anti-Semites.”… Stephen Bannon joined ZOA in fighting the anti-Semitic rallies at CUNY by requiring his Breitbart reporters to call CUNY officials and Gov. Cuomo aides urging them to do something about it.
We at APT urge all in the Jewish community to follow President Obama’s guidance: “…[E]nsuring a smooth transition [of power] is so important. …[I]t is one of those norms that are vital to a functioning democracy.”