Challenging anti-Semitism and the Trump presidency

Middle EastUS Politics
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President-elect Donald Trump has selected Stephen Bannon, the former head of Breitbart News, the online home of the alt-right – a neologism for white nationalism – to be his chief strategist. Bannon had made Breitbart a home for a host of reactionary and intolerant beliefs. But this choice in particular has brought to the surface the antisemitic undercurrent of Trump’s reactionary populism.

Previously antisemitism has been a social phenomenon mostly public on the comment section of Stormfront and the mutterings of geriatric bigots. In odd ways its renewed prominence is both new and old. What is old is what this zombie bigotry does for power. What is new is that Jews are not, or at least not in the same way, the vulnerable shtetl-dwellers and working-class that were the victims of centuries of European antisemitism. Nor are we so closely associated with communism. Indeed, if any ideology claims to represent Jews these days – and it is a false and dangerous representation – it is Zionism, an ideology and movement not of the powerless but of the powerful.

But to claim that antisemitism exists does not explain how to fight it. It dictates neither prescriptions nor alliances. And how we go about explaining the phenomenon goes some way towards guiding us as to how to mobilize against it.

Antisemitism is not a just the blight of individual intolerance, to be cured through liberal tolerance. Antisemitism is the creation of antisemites, and they create it for a reason. In this case, it is the “socialism of fools,” in the words of Augustus Bebel. Political antisemitism blames Jews for financial manipulation and usury, rather than viewing finance as part of capitalism – a rational machine of social domination.

Various movements have deployed antisemitism in the past, but in the present – with all disrespect to endless op-ed writers anguishing about the “new leftist antisemitism” in order to attack the anti-racist movement for Palestinian rights – it is a movement and a sentiment of reaction, of the Right. From the fascist Jobbik in Hungary to the US-allied Saudi regime, antisemitism is a class project which seeks to harness anger and fury at the way things are, and to redirect it to Jews.

For the Saudis, blaming a “Jewish Lobby” for US aggression in the region distracts from the fundamental alignment between Saudi policy and US policy.

For Trump, it is a part of a plan to “make American great again.” His anti-immigrant rhetoric is coupled with a vision of a national economy, renewed protectionism, and domestic renewal and growth. It is a classic populist agenda. It seeks to create a partially imaginary “shared interest” between the millionaire and billionaire supporters of Trump’s campaign, and the white middle-classes where he found his strongest support. One mortar to cement together such social blocs is nativism – a rejection of the foreign Other. Hence the vicious attacks against immigrants, especially Muslims.

Another mortar is antisemitism. Antisemitism works to deflect unease with capitalism to nebulous “global power structures.” The effectiveness of such a ploy is not its falsity. It is that it is partially true. There is a power structure. And George Soros, for example, prominent in Trump’s demonology, does play a powerful role in contributing to that structure. What is false and dangerous is the reduction of the structure to the religion of those playing such roles.

Trump is not a fascist, but underneath him are the germs of a fascist movement, awaiting the appropriate avatar. The policies of capitalism and state racism create a resentful white underclass. As the center collapses – and the center is collapsing the world over – elites are embracing everywhere right-wing populism. In the absence of a genuine left-wing or anti-capitalist alternative, that populism will be the politics of some portion of that underclass.

We are conditioned to associate antisemitism with Nazism. For that reason it is important to keep things in perspective. Jews are not very much oppressed as a people in the United States, despite the intolerable rhetoric coming from Trump and his supporters. The first victims of Trump are those who have seen their prayer rooms vandalized, who fear going outside alone, as racists attempt to deny them public space.

This does not mean that things could not get uglier. It means a repetition of 1930s and 40s-levels of ugliness is extremely unlikely. Jews have a right to feel afraid and to react politically to that fear (they also have the right, like Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, to gush over the election of Trump in anticipation of services rendered to the colonial Zionist movement). But that fear ought not to lead to the embrace of the Democratic Party. Economically shattering the county for 40 years, and for 24 years pushing the Republican Party as the evil to be defeated at all costs, created a domestic underclass desperate for an alternative, and alienated the Democratic Party’s core support base. Right-wing populism is the child of the center-right drift of the Democrats.

It isn’t just that lesser-evilism birthed a greater evil, but that it was a disaster on its own terms. It was under the Clinton-Obama Democrats that deportations hit record levels and US contra-wars, sanctions, and no-fly zones destroyed much of the Middle East. Trump’s threat is to bring home the state of lawless mayhem that the US creates abroad, as well as among the Black and Brown populations in the United States. In the post-Nazi reckoning, Aimé Cesaire wrote of liberals aghast at the Third Reich. But the camps, roundups, and massacres were nothing new to the colonial victims of European liberalism. What was new were the locations and identities of the victims. Cesaire wanted badly for people to understand that Nazism was the product of a sick and “indefensible” Europe, much as Trumpism is the product of a US social and political order that was neither reformable nor defensible.

Then as now, the point was not to finger-wag, to say I told you so. It is to consider the criticism of liberal tolerance for far-off murder, and close-up murder of the poorer and the darker, as an invitation to join a more inclusive movement – one big enough for all of us, except for those who insist that others pay the price for their safety.

For to turn anti-Trumpism into more yearning for the days of the Democrats is to create and accept that old division between those whose safety we insist upon as a precondition for our own and those whose safety may be sacrificed so long as we are secure, a security that is ever-fleeting in any case, tenuous, on the verge of withdrawal – almost a bribe. I do not recommend accepting it. What power gives power can also take.

About Max Ajl

Max Ajl is an activist with the International Jewish anti-Zionist Network and an editor at Jadaliyya and Viewpoint. Follow him on Twitter: @maxajl.

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44 Responses

  1. Keith
    November 14, 2016, 7:42 pm

    MAXAJL- “Right-wing populism is the child of the center-right drift of the Democrats.”

    I would add that this drift of the Democrats was/is probably inevitable in view of the structural changes to the global political economy. Neoliberal globalization has no crumbs for liberal Democrats to parcel out to their supporters leaving liberalism but an empty shell of rhetoric. The global financial system is devouring the planet. The final elite objective seems to be a reversion to a neo-feudal rentier economy. How Trump’s election will effect that is anyone’s guess. In any event, the environment is in such bad shape and getting worse fast that even if we avoid nuclear war, the future looks bleak. Overall, a good article. Congrats.

    • Citizen
      November 15, 2016, 1:44 am

      “The global financial system is devouring the planet. The final elite objective seems to be a reversion to a net-feudal rentier economy.”

      Yes, this is the macro of it all. When the Alt-Right tweeted the pic 3 of the biggest players involved in this global financial system, the tweet was criticized as anti-semitic because all 3 were Jewish, although the tweet said 0 about their ethnicity or religion.

  2. David Green
    November 14, 2016, 9:36 pm

    Max, given Trump’s son-in-law, not to mention Sheldon Adelson, don’t you think that Bannon’s anti-Semitic affectation will be rather easily dispensed with? In so far as nationalist populism has a racist hook, aren’t Islamophobia/anti-immigrant attitudes at the center of that?

    In spite of your correct historical analysis of A-S as a right-wing phenomenon, hasn’t support for Israel among the Christian Right etc. drained any practical political utility from A-S?

    I’m just not seeing anti-Semitism as having any political legs in the neolib/neocon U.S. of 2016. But I do see it as a potential cynical ploy by Democrats to demonize Trump, as if there are not more authentic ways to do so.

    In any event, I of course agree about not turning back to the Democrats.

    • Citizen
      November 15, 2016, 1:58 am

      Actually, 3 of Trump’s adult kids have Jewish spouses, and the 4th is dating a Jewish person. His last kid is only 13. Trump also has many Jewish people in top spots in his organization, two of them forming as special liaison with the Jewish community regarding anything involving Israel. If anyone has rational fear due to Trump’s ascendance, it’s (1) the entire Muslim-American community, and to a lesser extent both in quality and quantity, (2) the American-born, mostly Mexican, children who have undocumented parents. It’s not accurate to suggest the Jewish community has rational fear equivalent to those two groups–but it is accurate to suggest that Jewish Americans most in fear of Trump reign are worried his negotiation skills might ultimately result in Israel being put in the full spot light to settle for peace with less offered to Israel then in time past. With Hillary there was no such fear.

      • Mooser
        November 15, 2016, 12:37 pm

        Apart from discriminatory laws which would be illegal, is anybody’s place near the top of the social hierarchy guaranteed? I don’t think so.

      • hophmi
        November 15, 2016, 7:26 pm

        “But it is accurate to suggest that Jewish Americans most in fear of Trump reign are worried his negotiation skills might ultimately result in Israel being put in the full spot light to settle for peace with less offered to Israel then in time past.”

        It is not accurate to suggest that at all.

      • Mooser
        November 16, 2016, 10:57 am

        “It is not accurate to suggest that at all.”

        “Hophmi” I am very glad to see (it’s been quite apparent) you have taken my advice about “hits”, “UPVs” and “sessions”. One or two sentences and you are out.

        Glad to see you apprehend an accurate estimation of what your comments are worth to Zionism. I look forward to a lot less of you from now on.http://mondoweiss.net/profile/hophmi/?keyword=fall+away

    • John O
      November 15, 2016, 11:31 am

      Trump referred to his own daughter as “a piece of ass”. Does anyone really think he would have any respect for her adopted religion, or that of his son-in-law?

      • echinococcus
        November 15, 2016, 11:54 am

        Isn’t she? I suppose it’s a matter of personal taste.
        At any rate, what’s that got to do with respect?

      • Mooser
        November 15, 2016, 12:25 pm

        “Trump referred to his own daughter as “a piece of ass”

        Hey, that was my favorite description for an attractive woman one day, for a couple of hours, a long, long time ago, between the time I learned it, and said it at home and got slapped by my Dad. And talked to about it. I might have been 11 or 12.
        Hadn’t thought about that little contrempts for many years.

      • Atlantaiconoclast
        November 20, 2016, 10:25 am

        Wrong. He responded to a crude statement from Howard Stern. Trump just said, yeah.

      • Mooser
        November 20, 2016, 4:22 pm

        “Wrong. He responded to a crude statement from Howard Stern”

        He should have slapped Stern. Trump was, or should have been, fighting for the lady’s honor.

  3. pabelmont
    November 14, 2016, 9:41 pm

    If any substantial acted-out antisemitism should begin to occur in he USA (and Trump seems the leader to encourage it or permit it), it will be interesting to see if American Jews (who have defended imperial settler-colonial Israel — originally thought of as a safe haven for Jews) start emigrating to Israel, to that safe haven. My guess is that it will take a great deal of such acted-out antisemitism to cause even a little such emigration.

    • Keith
      November 15, 2016, 12:30 am

      PABELMONT- “and Trump seems the leader to encourage it or permit it”

      Surely you jest. Between his daughter’s conversion, his son-in-law, his subservience to AIPAC, and his relationship with Bibi, anti-Semitism is not even remotely possible. Islamophobia, perhaps, but not anti-Semitism. We live in a society where the lack of significant philo-Semitism is considered as de facto anti-Semitism.

    • Citizen
      November 15, 2016, 2:02 am

      There is no historically aware person who rationally believes Trump is Hitler and the USA is fertile ground for a Nazi take-over.

      • Sibiriak
        November 15, 2016, 2:51 am

        No end to ridiculous Hitler analogies:

        History Teacher Removed From Classroom For Comparing Trump To Hitler

        Navarro, who is a Holocaust scholar, said his lesson was based on facts. Both Trump and Hitler, during their rise to power, vowed to deport foreigners and make their country “great again,” he noted.

        http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/trump-to-hitler-comparison-teacher-suspended_us_58286a2be4b060adb56edd4e

      • Keith
        November 15, 2016, 11:51 am

        SIBIRIAK- (quote)- “Both Trump and Hitler, during their rise to power, vowed to deport foreigners and make their country “great again,” he noted.”

        Wow, I didn’t know they had so many things in common! And while Obama has deported over 2.5 million illegals, he at least had the decency to keep it quiet. Make America great again? Freaking Nazi!

  4. Kay24
    November 15, 2016, 7:07 am

    This is unbelievable. As one article says they want Beavis and Butthead to get security clearance. The Trump family has no clue as to how to run this country, their experience is very limited when it comes to politics and policies, and we are in the hands of the naive and dangerous.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/trumps-team-seeks-top-secret-clearance-for-his-children_us_582a5092e4b02d21bbca643f

  5. echinococcus
    November 15, 2016, 12:03 pm

    Kay,

    What has that got to do with Palestine? OK, there’s a family you don’t like, we already know that. Now please show where the children’s clearance impacts Palestinian resistance.

  6. RobertHenryEller
    November 15, 2016, 2:00 pm

    Stop focusing on the anti-Semitism of Trump and Bannon, and start focusing on the anti-Semitism of Zionist “champion” Sheldon Adelson, and “Orthodox Jews” Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump.

    We Jews are “really smart people.” Except when the subject is being Jewish. And then, apparently, we are the stupidest people on Earth.

    • Mooser
      November 15, 2016, 2:58 pm

      “Stop focusing on the anti-Semitism of Trump and Bannon, and start focusing on the anti-Semitism of Zionist “champion” Sheldon Adelson, and “Orthodox Jews” Jared Kushner and Ivanka Trump.”

      I don’t know about Ivanka, but I’d be pretty sure Trump and Bannon dislike exactly the same Jews as Adelson and Kushner do.

    • Jane Porter
      November 15, 2016, 3:22 pm

      to roberthenryeller

      Yes quite! Such imbeciles, also Netanyahu and co….
      as in all human communities exist, but the strange thing is
      that the morons who govern us respect these people,not
      the brillant, intelligent and good and sensitive people of the Jewish
      community….like phil Weiss, Karl and the Marx Brothers etc etc…..

  7. Jane Porter
    November 15, 2016, 3:05 pm

    to Keith,
    And don’t forget that the new antisemitism is actually Anti-arabism The real semites, and by extension islamophobia, between the European and American christians, because Christians always need somebody to hate ,without any complex to utter it as this is not socially forbidden.
    There never was a Nuremberg to condemn France for example for the millions of Moslems they killed to conquer North-Africa….plus the ones the police and the population regularly insults harasses or kills in France during the whole 20th century until now.
    But a law was proposed by pres. Hollande, and M.Valls to fine or put in jail as ‘anti-Semite’ anybody who publicly speaks against zionism.

  8. Elizabeth Block
    November 15, 2016, 10:38 pm

    Trump himself may or may not be anti-Semitic. (Maybe he just has his favorite Jews, as some of the Nazis did.) But he is enabling, not to say encouraging, anti-Semitism in his followers. I think people who believe that criticizing Israel is the same as classic anti-Semitism are going to have a shock.

  9. Maghlawatan
    November 15, 2016, 11:26 pm

    Trump is Caligula 2.0

    The very first pogrom started during Caligula’s reign

    Trump plays off Liberal Jews and Cossack Jews and they are powerless to stop the manipulation.
    Bannon is going to the ZOA dinner
    The ADL and AIPAC are now on different sides. Ma sha Allah

    Riots again erupted in Alexandria in AD 40 between Jews and Greeks.[93] Jews were accused of not honoring the emperor.[93] Disputes occurred in the city of Jamnia.[94] Jews were angered by the erection of a clay altar and destroyed it.[94] In response, Caligula ordered the erection of a statue of himself in the Jewish Temple of Jerusalem,[95] a demand in conflict with Jewish monotheism.[96] In this context, Philo wrote that Caligula “regarded the Jews with most especial suspicion, as if they were the only persons who cherished wishes opposed to his”.[

  10. Maghlawatan
    November 15, 2016, 11:44 pm

    The ADL is running a conference on pre Trump BS antisemitism

    neverisnow.org/einatwilf

    while tweeting like a demon about the real thing because the Wolf is at the door and has been appointed Strategy Chief

  11. biggerjake
    November 16, 2016, 11:00 am

    Phil,

    Why did you print this?

    If there is a salient point here it is well disguised.

  12. Brewer
    November 18, 2016, 11:52 pm

    Don’t you just love it. Steve Bannon is being pilloried as an anti-Semite because of articles published by Breitbart. Top of the list is an article entitled “The Renegade Jew”.
    Written by………wait for it…………

    David Horowitz.

    http://www.breitbart.com/2016-presidential-race/2016/05/15/bill-kristol-republican-spoiler-renegade-jew/
    Holding my sides.

    • Mooser
      November 19, 2016, 11:23 am

      “Holding my sides.”

      “Brewer” you’ve been around here a while. Ever seen any love lost between Orthodox-Zionist Jews and all the other Jews?
      And now they may have the ear of the US government? This is their moment! Renegade Jews, watch out, watch what you say, watch what you do.

      • Brewer
        November 19, 2016, 2:50 pm

        Seems like forever Mooser. So long your question reminded me of Richard Witty!
        There has always been an internecine element in this battle which is why I have always looked at Mondoweiss as a kind of “Cheers” local bar where you can watch the friends and rellys battle each other.
        I still read everything MW has to offer but offer less comment because the debate has changed a great deal. Back in the Witty days we used to argue the History. Nowadays it seems the “orthodox Zionists” have abandoned any pretense to a justified History and are pushing a more ideological line a la Jabotinsky/Benny Morris (“forget right and wrong, we conquered it, it is ours”). I have no answer to “end justifies means” but I think it has pitted the secular against the tribal as your question suggests.
        The Trump phenomenon is a lurch into the unknown but it seems to have opened some of the fault lines, one of which is the legitimacy of identity politics and labeling, the main weapon of the orthodox Zionist.
        There is a germ of truth in this obscene rant:

        See also Pie before the election:

      • Mooser
        November 19, 2016, 4:09 pm

        “Nowadays it seems the “orthodox Zionists” have abandoned any pretense to a justified History and are pushing a more ideological line a la Jabotinsky/Benny Morris (“forget right and wrong, we conquered it, it is ours”). I have no answer to “end justifies means”

        Yeah, there’s absolutely no answer to that. When 2 billion people unite (except for a few self-haters, who will be dealt with shortly) for a common purpose, right and wrong go out the window. Especially when those 2 billion people have few other attractive choices.

      • Annie Robbins
        November 20, 2016, 10:50 am

        brewer, that jonathan pie video is hysterical.

    • Atlantaiconoclast
      November 20, 2016, 10:32 am

      what is wrong with being a renegade? What is anti Jewish about identifying someone as Jewish, especially when that person heavily identifies as Jewish?

      • andrew r
        November 21, 2016, 12:44 am

        It’s when you get to the mischlinge that it becomes a thorny issue. Might want to drag out Himmler’s corpse and ask him about that.

  13. Atlantaiconoclast
    November 20, 2016, 10:13 am

    “Political antisemitism blames Jews for financial manipulation and usury, rather than viewing finance as part of capitalism – a rational machine of social domination.” – See more at: http://mondoweiss.net/2016/11/challenging-semitism-presidency/#sthash.J7ovuUrF.dpuf

    Why is it anti Jewish to recognize a pattern of Jewish financial manipulation? The Left does not hesitate to call out the Christian right, so why is it wrong to call out the Jewish establishment? Even David Duke does not say all Jews are bad. Patterns should not be ignored, just as no one should assume all members of a group are bad.

    • Mooser
      November 20, 2016, 2:34 pm

      “Why is it anti Jewish to recognize a pattern of Jewish financial manipulation? The Left does not hesitate to call out the Christian right, so why is it wrong to call out the Jewish establishment? Even David Duke does not say all Jews are bad. Patterns should not be ignored, just as no one should assume all members of a group are bad.”

      And there you go! I had a feeling you would deliver the goods. Thanks. In “Atlanta” the idols seem to be indestructible.

      • Atlantaiconoclast
        November 21, 2016, 6:50 pm

        Your point? Care to take issue with my logic, or lack thereof? I don’t mind a challenge, but be fair in your response.

      • Mooser
        November 21, 2016, 7:09 pm

        “Care to take issue with my logic, or lack thereof?”

        Not at all. It speaks very well for itself.

      • Sibiriak
        November 21, 2016, 7:33 pm

        Atlantaiconoclast: Why is it anti Jewish to recognize a pattern of Jewish financial manipulation? The Left does not hesitate to call out the Christian right…
        —————–

        The problem with that analogy is this: The Christian Right has an identifiable, explicit ideology/practice which is therefore subject to critique as such . You can easily point to Christian Right texts, statements, policy prescriptions etc.

        On the other hand, there is no identifiable Jewish financial ideology/practice. You cannot point to any specifically Jewish financial theories, policy prescriptions etc. Financial manipulators, free market ideologues etc. all share the same basic ideas/actions no matter what their ethnic or religious background, and they exist all around the world. So while there certainly is a global pattern of financial manipulation that some Jews are involved in, there is no pattern of specifically “Jewish financial manipulation.”

      • Mooser
        November 22, 2016, 11:52 am

        Thanks, “Sibiriak”. And it’s true, too. If we forget about Zionism, but I doubt that is what “Atlantaiconoclast” (Smash those idols!) is talking about.

      • Mooser
        November 22, 2016, 12:32 pm

        “Atlantaiconoclast”, don’t let us razz you. All you need to do is read some Edmund Burke and you’ll be able to argue into the ground. Go for it!

  14. amigo
    November 20, 2016, 1:24 pm

    The new antisemitism ala the dersh.

    “All of a sudden it’s not so terrible to be anti-Semitic. Suddenly it’s excusable as long as you hate Muslims and Arabs and “love Israel.” The Jewish and Israeli right has issued a sweeping amnesty to anti-Semitic lovers of Israel – yes, there is such a thing, and they’re en route to taking power in the United States.

    So now we know: Not just pornography but also anti-Semitism is a matter of geography and price. Right-wing American anti-Semites are no longer considered anti-Semites.

    The definition has been updated: From now on, anti-Semites are only found on the left. Roger Waters, a courageous man of conscience without stain, is an anti-Semite. Steve Bannon, a declared racist and closet anti-Semite who has been appointed chief strategist in the Trump White House, is a friend of Israel.Gideon Levy

    read more: http://webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?q=cache:http://www.haaretz.com/opinion/.premium-1.754073

    • Atlantaiconoclast
      November 21, 2016, 6:49 pm

      As someone who voted for Trump, trust me, most of his supporters are philo Semitic. It is nauseating. Not cause I have a problem with “the Jews,” cause I don’t, but because I am not into worship of one tribe in particular.

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