Why The American Jewish Community Must Condemn Bannon – Huffington Post

 In World
If anything has been made clear since President-elect Trump’s election, it is the telling reactions to his most controversial move yet, in selecting Steve Bannon as his chief strategist in the White House. In the days since, the appointment of Bannon, who has championed white nationalism and trafficked in anti-Semitism, discrimination and misogyny in his role at Breitbart, has elicited the condemnation of Democratic leaders and prominent organizations such as the Anti-Defamation League, Bend the Arc and the Southern Poverty Law Center.  Republican leaders in the House and Senate, who failed to reject Trump throughout the hate-filled demagoguery of his campaign, have feigned ignorance.  But from an array of major American Jewish organizations, there has been deafening silence on Bannon.  A cleavage within American Jewry has existed for some time, along political and ideological lines.  Yet the refusal of a number of major Jewish organizations to even issue a basic statement of disapproval on Bannon’s appointment over the last week signals something larger: these groups are failing in their mission to promote the values and responsibilities with which we, as American Jews, have been inculcated.  In their silence, they certainly don’t represent me, and perhaps they don’t represent a majority of American Jews anymore either.

These organizations, and their leaders respectively, may be deeply troubled by the events taking place in real time, yet they seem to espouse a “wait and see” approach to Trump’s election and the deeper, more sinister problems endemic to it.  The main problem with any “wait and see” approach taken by American Jewish organizations toward Trump’s incoming administration is that it paves the way for acquiescence to what has already occurred as a result of the election. This past weekend, at a conference of the alt-right movement in DC, we got a small taste of how the white nationalist movement, which the incoming White House chief strategist championed while overseeing Breitbart, feels about the election. As Richard Spencer, one of the rising leaders of the movement, spoke in language exhorting Trump filled with anti-Semitic tropes, the audience cheered, at multiple times breaking into Nazi salutes. 

While the alt-right movement perniciously espouses “peaceful ethnic cleansing,” its followers and others around the country may not be as reluctant toward violence.  Since the election earlier this month, there has been an exponential spike in hate crimes reported. It would be foolish to think that Trump’s election hasn’t emboldened racists, anti-Semites and white nationalists, whether in their hate-filled rhetoric or actions.  You don’t need to wait and see with a propagandist like Bannon, who helped disseminate Spencer and his odious ilk through Breitbart, a man who sought and continues to seek to empower other radical, fascist parties in Europe that have threatened Jews, Muslims and other immigrants alike across the Atlantic. To address it directly, if a man like Steve Bannon were to appear in the inner sanctum of 10 Downing Street or the Elysee Palace, would major American Jewish organizations unanimously and roundly condemn it? I would be stunned if they didn’t. 

As an American Jew who proudly supports and loves Israel, I can think of only a couple reasons for why major Jewish organizations here in the United States, as well as their senior leadership, would refrain from explicitly condemning Bannon’s appointment, and the motives involve Israel.  Perhaps they fear that such a condemnation out of the gate would imperil the American alliance with Israel or, perhaps more accurately, their organizations’ credibility in the eyes of the incoming White House on issues related to Israel.  Perhaps they are quietly waiting to see who rounds out President-elect Trump’s national security and foreign policy team, anticipating that a national figure that has demonstrated their commitment to strong U.S.-Israel relations, such as Romney or Giuliani, will join the administration. 

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