Jewish Groups Soften Antisemitism Allegations Against Bannon
JNS.org — Jewish organizations that had been at the forefront of antisemitism allegations against Stephen K. Bannon, President-elect Donald Trump’s recently appointed chief strategist and special counselor, softened their stance Thursday in the face of counter-evidence.
The Anti-Defamation League (ADL), one of the fiercest critics of Bannon, issued a new backgrounder on the former chairman of Breitbart News, stating, “We are not aware of any antisemitic statements made by Bannon. In fact, Jewish employees of Breitbart have challenged the characterizations of him and defended him from charges of antisemitism. Some have pointed out that Breitbart Jerusalem was launched during his tenure.”
Previously, ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt had said that it is “a sad day when a man who presided over the premier website of the ‘alt-right’ — a loose-knit group of white nationalists and unabashed antisemites and racists — is slated to be a senior staff member in the ‘people’s house.’”
The ADL’s revised language refers to Bannon as the “chief curator for the alt right,” and claims it was “under his stewardship, [that] Breitbart has emerged as the leading source for the extreme views of a vocal minority who peddle bigotry and promote hate.”
Nancy Kaufman, CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women (NCJW), told JNS.org that her organization initially called out Bannon based on “a great deal of research on Breitbart” and information drawn from the ADL, but “will be hesitant to use the word antisemite going forward,” given the clarifications issued by Greenblatt’s group. She said she will use “other words” to describe Bannon.
The NCJW is one of a number of American Jewish organizations that charged Bannon with being an antisemite due, in large part, to a claim by his ex-wife during divorce proceedings that he said he did not want to send his children to schools with Jews — a statement Bannon has unequivocally denied making.
The Horowitz headline
Jewish groups also cited alleged antisemitic overtones in a controversial Breitbart.com headline for a story written in May of this year by David Horowitz, the Jewish founder of the conservative David Horowitz Freedom Center. The piece, entitled “Bill Kristol: Republican Spoiler, Renegade Jew,” was non-commissioned and Horowitz has claimed sole responsibility for the headline.
The article criticized Kristol, a neoconservative political analyst, for being among the Republican activists who vocally opposed Trump’s presidential candidacy — the so-called “Never Trump” group.
Horowitz wrote last week that he had written the piece because, “Kristol and his friends betrayed the Republican Party, betrayed the American people, and betrayed the Jews when he set out to undermine Trump and elect the criminal Hillary Clinton.”
Speaking to Breitbart, Alan Dershowitz — a Harvard University emeritus law professor, pro-Israel advocate and a Democrat — said the “Renegade Jew” headline was “ill-advised,” but that it “doesn’t suggest to me antisemitism. It suggests to me a degree of carelessness.”
He added that he “hasn’t seen any evidence of personal antisemitism on the part of Bannon.” On the contrary, Dershowitz said, his former researcher — an Orthodox Jew and a committed Zionist — has worked closely with Bannon, who “has been supportive of Israel.” The respected lawyer also said, “I don’t think anybody should be called or accused of being antisemitic unless the evidence is overwhelming.”
Dershowitz warned that it is “not legitimate to call somebody an antisemite because you might disagree with their policies,” Breitbart reported.
Matt Brooks, the Republican Jewish Coalition’s executive director, echoed that statement at the recent General Assembly of the Jewish Federations of North America.
“The people who have worked with Bannon…said there’s absolutely not an inch of an antisemitic bone in Steve Bannon’s body…[and] we know that Breitbart has been unabashedly pro-Israel in their writings…under Bannon’s leadership,” said Brooks, who has never met Bannon.