Omri Boehm writes: For weeks now, Jewish communities across America have been troubled by an awkward phenomenon. Donald J. Trump, a ruthless politician trafficking in anti-Semitic tropes, has been elected to become the next president, and he has appointed as his chief strategist Stephen K. Bannon, a prominent figure of the “alt-right,” a movement that promotes white nationalism, anti-Semitism, racism and misogyny. Though Bannon himself has expressed “zero tolerance” for such views, his past actions suggest otherwise; as the executive chairman of Breitbart News for the past four years, he provided the country’s most powerful media platform for the movement and its ideologies.
Still, neither the United States’ most powerful Jewish organizations nor Israeli leaders have taken a clear stance against the appointment. In fact, they have embraced it.
Immediately after Trump appointed Bannon, the Zionist Organization of America prepared to welcome him at its annual gala dinner, where he was to meet Naftali Bennett, Israel’s minister of education, and Danny Danon, the country’s ambassador to the United Nations. (Bannon didn’t show up.) Ron Dermer, Israel’s ambassador in Washington, publicly announced that he was looking forward to working with the entire Trump administration, including Bannon. And Alan Dershowitz, the outspoken Harvard emeritus professor of law who regularly denounces non-Zionists as anti-Semitic, preferred in this case to turn not against Bannon, but against his critics. “It is not legitimate to call somebody an anti-Semite because you might disagree with their politics,” he pointed out.
The alliance that’s beginning to form between Zionist leadership and politicians with anti-Semitic tendencies has the power to transform Jewish-American consciousness for years to come. In the last few decades, many of America’s Jewish communities have grown accustomed to living in a political contradiction. On one hand, a large majority of these communities could rightly take pride in a powerful liberal tradition, stretching back to such models as Louis Brandeis — a defender of social justice and the first Jew to become a Supreme Court justice — or Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel, who marched in Selma alongside the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. On the other hand, the same communities have often identified themselves with Zionism, a political agenda rooted in the denial of liberal politics. [Continue reading…]