Zionism in the age of Trump: it is becoming increasingly clear to more people that the Israeli state’s officially defined ideology is, at its very core, an anti-Jewish one. It sounds counter-intuitive. How can the “Jewish State” or the Zionist movement be anti-Semitic? But several of US President Donald Trump’s appointments have made it clearer than ever. He leads the most pro-Israel US administration in history, even while appointing key figures with anti-Semitic ties as his most important advisers.
Much has been made of chief White House strategist Steve Bannon, who before joining the Trump team ran Breitbart News which Bannon described as a “platform for the alt-right.” The so-called alt-right is little more than neo-Nazism dressed up in suits and Pepe the frog memes.
This month it had been reported that Bannon may be on his way out of the White House after being sidelined by Trump for falling out with his son-in-law. That remains to be seen. But Trump’s pro-Israel and anti-Jewish appointments go further.
The figurehead of the so-called alt-right is Richard Spencer, so famously punched in the face by an anti-fascist during the Trump inauguration in January. An email obtained by The Electronic Intifada in February showed that a senior Trump advisor used to work directly with Spencer when the pair were at Duke University a decade ago.
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The advisor, Stephen Miller, played a central role in authoring Trump’s failed attempt to ban nationals of seven predominantly-Muslim countries from the US – the so-called “Muslim Ban.” Spencer denies being a neo-Nazi, and calls his advocacy for a “peaceful ethnic cleansing” of non-white people from the US a kind of “white Zionism.”
The links go further.
Last month the Jewish Daily Forward published an important investigative article on Sebastian Gorka, President Trump’s top counter-terrorism advisor. The publication uncovered extremely convincing evidence that Gorka had sworn allegiance to, and is still an ongoing member of, a Hungarian far-right group which historically collaborated with the Nazi Holocaust in eastern Europe.
The group, Vitezi Rend, is virulently anti-Semitic, and was established as a loyalist group by hard-right Hungarian leader Miklos Horthy, whose regime collaborated with the Nazis – including by deporting hundreds of thousands of Jews into Nazi hands.
While Gorka was not even alive in the days of Hitler, it is highly disturbing that he would belong to an organisation with such a history. Indeed, as late as 2007, when he tried and failed to break into Hungarian politics, he appeared on Hungarian TV to defend the formation (by two other far-right parties) of a fascist-style militia. The so-called “Hungarian Guard” was banned by Hungarian courts two years later, after it was implicated in anti-Roma violence – including the killing of a five-year-old.
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Gorka himself has basically ignored these revelations. He did not reply to the Forward’s requests for comment. His only defence, such as it was, has been to issue a weasel-worded video statement to Breitbart News, in which he justified publicly wearing a medal often associated with Hungarian Nazi collaborators, as a mark of “remembrance” for his anti-Communist father. Omitted from the video was any mention of the fact that his father was also part of the anti-Semitic Vitezi Rend.
And what has the reaction of Gorka’s defenders been? To clarify his full support for Israel! They do not deny his membership of an anti-Semitic group. Zionist Organization of America president Mort Klein claimed that, “Dr. Gorka is a proud American patriot and fighter against radical Islamic terrorism, and a faithful friend of the State of Israel and the Jewish people.” It is such disturbing associations as these that have long led Jewish anti-Zionists to conclude that Zionism is itself anti-Semitic.
Both Palestinian and Jewish forms of anti-Zionism are as old as Zionism itself. Indeed, until the Nazi Holocaust wiped out most of Europe’s Jews, most Jews were anti-Zionists. Jews were not won over to Zionism by argument and debate: most of Europe’s Jews (the majority of whom were anti-Zionist) were physically destroyed by European anti-Semitism’s most horrific historical expression: the Nazi regime.
Meanwhile, most committed Zionists were, of course, in Palestine establishing their colonial entity, which would ultimately expel the vast majority of the Palestinian people in 1948. And as Ken Livingstone correctly – if controversially – stated last year, the German Zionist movement even directly collaborated with the Nazi regime’s earlier 1930s project of deporting German Jews to Palestine. Palestinian-American history professor, Joseph Massad, made the history of all this clear in his seminal 2013 column, “The Last of the Semites.”
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Zionist extremists were so outraged at Massad’s definition of Zionism as ultimately an expression of European anti-Semitism, that they successfully pressured Al Jazeera English to delete the essay from its website. After The Electronic Intifada exposed this censorship and reposted the essay, the website reversed its decision and reposted it (Al Jazeera would go on to delete another controversial Massad piece in 2014).
Re-reading Massad’s essay now is to witness just how much it has stood the test of the last four years. It does not contain new information so much as newly revealed information, and an incisive political and historical analysis. But as Massad himself makes clear, it is something that has always been clear to Palestinians.
As he wrote:
The Palestinian people and the few surviving anti-Zionist Jews…are, as the last of the Semites, the heirs of the pre-WWII Jewish and Palestinian struggles against anti-Semitism and its Zionist colonial manifestation. It is their resistance that stands in the way of a complete victory for European anti-Semitism in the Middle East and the world at large.
Anti-Zionist Jews may now be in a minority in the West, but in recent years they have been an ever-growing and substantial voice. The most recent comprehensive poll of British Jews’ views on the subject suggests the figure could be as high as 41 per cent: 31 per cent state they do not describe themselves as Zionist, with a further 10 per cent unsure.
Zionism and European anti-Semitism have a unity of cause: to remove European Jews from their home nations and compel them to become colonists in occupied Palestine. We need to resist both.