A modern-dress Haman is now known as Bannon

There is a new Haman in the palace. His name is Steve Bannon.

The philosopher George Santayana wrote, “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

That is not just a warning to us to avoid the traps of those who would do us evil, for Santayana’s warning works for them as well.

The new Haman surrounds himself with Jewish acolytes who are fooled by his smooth talk, especially regarding the State of Israel. His actions, however — or rather the words and lack of deeds that come from his “King Ahasuerus” — tell a much different story.

Especially since Bannon took over running the Trump campaign, and then was named senior adviser to the president, the virulently anti-Semitic white nationalist/white supremacist movement has been enthusiastic in its support. Bannon, they crow, is the answer to their prayers.

To David Duke, former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard, Holocaust-denier, and perpetuator of anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, Trump’s choice of Bannon was an “excellent” one, because Bannon is now in a position to “[create] the ideological aspects of where we’re going.” To Peter Brimelow, founder of the racist website VDare, the appointment is nothing short of “amazing.”

When White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer reamed the media for its supposedly biased coverage of the inauguration, here is how “The Daily Stormer,” an obvious would-be successor to the Hitler-era Der Stürmer, reported on the outburst:

Spicer, the story reported, “utterly annihilated the lying Jews….Wow just wow….What a way to start the era. He makes it clear that these Jews are all liars, and that their lying trickery will not be tolerated. He slams their lies over the numbers at the inauguration, which are completely faked….But the filthy lying kikes just lied about it. As usual.”

By “Jews,” of course, the Daily Stormer means the media. As everyone who is an anti-Semite knows, but the rest of us have serious doubts about, we Jews control the media

Bannon/Haman knows where his votes come from, and he is not about to allow his “king” to step on those toes.

A case in point was the statement Trump’s White House released to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day — a statement that did not even contain the word “Jew.” According to news reports, the White House rejected the statement drafted by the State Department’s Office of the Special Envoy on Holocaust Issues that did specifically mention Jewish victims.

Generalizing the Shoah is classic Holocaust denial, which is why Trump’s statement was hailed by the Daily Stormer. The president, it said, was “exceeding expectations in pushing back against Jewish supremacy.”

The statement proved too much even for an ardent Trump supporter like Mort Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America. “I and ZOA are compelled to express our chagrin and deep pain at President Trump,” Klein said in a statement.

Bannon’s influence is being felt even more in the White House’s tepid response to the raging flood of anti-Semitism we are experiencing.

At first, Spicer, clearly influenced by Bannon’s politics-over-everything philosophy, could not even bring himself to use the word “Jewish” in half-heartedly condemning the attacks. As reported by the daily newspaper Haaretz, Spicer’s statement, like the Holocaust statement earlier, “again failed to mention that the target of the threats have been Jews.”

The president, whose busy fingers do the talking about fake news and Meryl Streep’s acting abilities, has never thumbed a word about a single anti-Semitic incident.

In fact, at one point, before his speech to Congress, Trump even tried to deny there was any outbreak of anti-Semitism. He told a group of visiting state attorneys general that these acts actually may be the work of people who want “to make others look bad,” presumably meaning himself and Bannon, and that “the reverse can be true.”

To Pennsylvania’s attorney general, Josh Shapiro, saying “the reverse can be true” sounded as though Trump was saying Jews themselves were to blame. If so, it was a tactic straight out of the anti-Semitic playbook.

The Daily Stormer shared Shapiro’s assessment. Trump’s remark, it said, “may cause the Jewish culprits to quit while they’re ahead.”

When finally pushed to the wall, the president did begin speaking about the spate of attacks. In his remarks to Congress late last month, Trump referenced the attacks and said they should “remind us that…we are a country that stands united in condemning hate and evil in all its forms.”

Rather than cheering the president for what he did say, jeer him for what he did not say. Again to quote the Daily Stormer, Trump’s remark was “thankfully quick and vague.”

Consider statements made by two other chief executives — New York’s Governor Andrew Cuomo and New Jersey’s Governor Chris Christie.

“Given the wave of bomb threats targeting Jewish community centers and disturbing vandalism at Jewish cemeteries nationwide, I am directing the state police to immediately launch a full investigation into this matter,” Cuomo said. He added, “New York has zero tolerance for bias or discrimination of any kind, and we will always stand united in the face of anti-Semitism and divisiveness.”

Cuomo then left for Israel, saying, “To those people who want to destroy our relationship with the Jewish community, I say we’re going to make our relationship stronger and we’re going to fortify the bonds.”

Christie, attending last Friday’s rally at the Kaplen JCC on the Palisades in Tenafly, assured the crowd that New Jersey would “prosecute to the full extent of the law and send to prison” the perpetrators of bias crimes. He announced a $10,000 reward for information leading to the arrest of the hatemongers. He also announced that both the state police and the Office of Homeland Security and Preparedness were increasing patrols at synagogues and other houses of worship.

Trump has issued no such orders. Politics über alles Bannon would not want him to. After all, to “launch a full investigation into this matter,” and to “prosecute to the full extent of the law and send to prison” the perpetrators of these heinous acts would be to go after the very people who think Steve Bannon standing at the right hand of Donald Trump is “excellent” and “amazing.”

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” Santayana warned.

There is a new Haman in the palace. We may try to blot out the name of the old one, , but remember him we must, all year round.

About the Author
Shammai Engelmayer is rabbi emeritus of Congregation Beth Israel of the Palisades. He hosts adult Jewish education classes twice each week on Zoom, and his weekly “Keep the Faith” podcast may be heard on Apple Podcasts, iHeart Radio, and Stitcher, among other sites. Information on his classes and podcast is available at www.shammai.org.
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