The splintering of the American Jewish consensus on Israel continues apace. Liberal Zionists are organizing against Trump, and finding themselves in coalition with anti-Zionists. Rightwing Zionists are backing Trump to the hilt, and aligning with settlers/racists/nationalists of all description.
This week rightwing Rabbi Shmuley Boteach tweeted a photograph of himself with Trump strategist Steve Bannon, inviting widespread scorn. Bannon is an “incredible Zionist,” who “loves Israel,” vouches Jared Kushner, the president-elect’s son-in law (who had me fired ten years ago).
So what. Bannon’s other social values are repugnant to liberal Zionists. J Street is petitioning against Bannon’s appointment. And Peace Now is protesting the decision by the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, of which it is a member, to hold its Hanukkah party in a Trump hotel this coming Wednesday in partnership with Azerbaijan. The Forward reports that eight groups, all stalwart Zionist, will boycott the party.
So Trump is doing what even Netanyahu could not do: shatter the Jewish establishment monolith in the United States. I appealed to Peace Now to break with the Conference of Presidents again and again in the past over settlements and the Iran deal. They didn’t say a word. Though now Peace Now’s leaders tell us they did so privately: “Dear Stephen [Greenberg] and Malcolm [Hoenlein]… We have communicated with you many times in the past about the need to seek consensus among CoP members regarding sensitive decisions and positions.”
The argument is public as never before. On Thursday night on CNN, Don Lemon had to break up a fight between Boteach and Peter Beinart and a Jewish Trump supporter named Andy Dean. All these guys support Israel, but they were at each others’ throats. Dean called Jonathan Greenblatt of the Anti Defamation League a “far left guy” for his criticisms of Steve Bannon. And called the ADL a “far left group.” Even though the ADL opposes Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions (BDS), and has vilified Keith Ellison, it’s far left?
Beinart countered that the reason the ADL opposes Bannon is that it’s “concerned about misogyny, racism and Islamophobia.”
Message: Jews care about other values besides Israel. “I wouldn’t accuse Steve Bannon of being an anti-Semite,” Beinart said. He noted that at his former perch at Breitbart news, Bannon ran a racist piece praising the Confederate flag, ran demeaning articles about women, and anti-Muslim pieces, too. I’m with Beinart on this. There’s no real evidence that Bannon is anti-Semitic, and plenty of evidence that he doesn’t like Muslims. (In this Vatican speech in 2014 he spoke of “long history of the Judeo-Christian struggle against Islam.” He has praised Israel and run lots of pro-Israel articles. It’s become common on the left now to refer to Steve Bannon as an anti-Semite, with reference to the famous Trump ad that pictured George Soros, Janet Yellen and Lloyd Blankfein, among others, as part of Clinton’s global elite that is hurting ordinary Americans. I’m not convinced. Part of the price of taking prominent positions is getting pictured in populist ads.)
Back to my point. The CNN argument shows the shattering of the Jewish establishment brought on by Trump. Peace Now and Beinart too are now aligned with non-Zionist voices Jewish Voice for Peace and IfNotNow over Trump. This breakup of consensus will no doubt lead in time to anti-Zionists getting a hearing in the mainstream. And it could have repercussions in Israel too. So Trump is bad for the Israel lobby, as Yakov Hirsch keeps saying.
P.S. Boteach is trying to kosher Bannon the same way that he once koshered Samantha Power with pro-Israel groups, so that she could become ambassador to the United Nations. He promoted Charlize Theron and Sean Penn in those days too. But I reckon his magic dust won’t work the way it used to.