So the Zionist Organization of America asked Trump’s close advisor, Steve Bannon, to dinner Sunday. (Apparently he was a no-show, but not for lack of an invitation.) I have one question for the ZOA: What the hell were you thinking? Bannon didn’t just run Breitbart, he proudly laid out the welcome mat for the alt-right there. You do know that alt-right is Newspeak for white supremacists in all their many forms, right? You remember those guys: They hate blacks, Muslims, homosexuals, immigrants. JEWS. If you don’t believe me, believe the ADL.
But it’s not just the ZOA. There are too many on the Jewish right who are making conciliatory noises toward the Trump administration. These noises generally fall into two categories. First, the Trump administration will be very pro-Israel, and second, left-wing anti-semitism is worse. My response is — ARE YOU KIDDING? It’s time to wake up and smell the foul, anti-semitic sewage.
First off, the whole “anyone who is a friend of Israel is a friend of ours” thing has contributed mightily to getting us into this mess. In order to understand just how fallacious this reasoning is, you have to understand that the heartland’s support for Israel is rooted in religion — not Judaism, but evangelical Christianity. The Israel lobby couldn’t rush to hug right-wing Christian “Zionists” fast enough, despite the fact that their “Zionism” was predicated on an end-time theology that advocated a Jewish state in order to hasten the Second Coming, after which we Jews get what’s coming to us. Hello, hellfire and eternal damnation! But the Jewish right cozied right up to these extremists because they were raising an awful lot of money for Israel — blood money, a down payment on our future, when Christians get raptured away and we’re left to the miserable, apocalyptic Tribulation.
It doesn’t matter, the Israel lobby insisted. It won’t actually happen. Who cares about end-time theology? It’s all make-believe. Well, it matters because the movement that views that story as God’s own truth — literally — pops out Trump voters like rabbits popping out baby bunnies (with apologies to cute little bunnies). According to exit polls, 80 percent of evangelical Christians voted for Trump, whose vision of the world included ideas about grand, global economic conspiracies designed to keep regular folk — i.e. white Christians — down. It was a vision of the Jews ripped straight from the pages of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. To the uninformed, to be pro-Israel is to be pro-Jew, but this is a naive mistake. Christian Zionism does not obviate anti-semitism; it merely makes Israel part of its grand, universal plan for ultimate Christian salvation. When Trump and his cronies pander to their base, they loudly proclaim their support of Israel — while dog-whistling anti-semitism.
Motivations matter. Ideology matters. Theology matters. A problematic belief may happen to favor your pet cause this week, but that belief doesn’t operate in a vacuum, and your pet cause isn’t the only thing that exists. It was entirely predictable — to sensible people, at any rate — that the belief system of white, right-wing evangelical Christians, which is not theologically favorable to Jews in the long term, would come back to bite us in our Mosaic asses. It’s time to face facts: Christian, right-wing America’s support for Israel does not inoculate us from anti-semitism. Quite the opposite.
You know what else matters? History, which teaches us that there is a relationship between evangelical Christianity and the most hideous forms of racism and anti-semitism. Remember the guys in the white hoods and their ilk? White supremacism, both the old-fashioned KKK flavor and the newer patriot militia movement — critical segments of the alt-right audience to which Bannon’s Breitbart panders — identifies itself as a Christian movement. To be clear, many evangelicals sincerely renounce those movements. Many do not. But when the right-wing Israel lobby climbed in bed with John Hagee, official peddler of snake oil to the Jews, who said the Holocaust was God punishing the Jews for failing to perform their assigned role in Christian theology, they were asking for big trouble. Don’t act surprised at how it’s all turning out, and don’t try to convince us that this new, Trump-branded snake oil will cure what ails us if we just give it some time. For shame.
And then there’s the other thing: “But left-wing anti-semitism is worse!” The Jewish right would like us to view the embrace of the alt-right by the White House as being less alarming than the anti-semitism of some misguided leftist campus movements. You know, the kind that, in the interest of making common cause with oppressed Palestinians, conflate Jewishness with Zionism. (Let’s take a moment to savor the irony. If you like Zionism, as the Christian right does, you separate it from the Jews, who are still bad, what with their war on Christmas, their control of the media, and their nefarious global domination. If you hate Zionism, as the radical left does, you conflate it with the Jews, what with their oppression of Palestinians, their control of the media, and their nefarious global domination. All roads lead to the same unhinged conspiracy theories because…well, history.) The anti-semitic, radical left constitute a small minority of voices within respected institutions of higher education that support them only to the extent of defending their academic freedom, while repudiating much of what they have to say, and even censuring where appropriate. That’s what we’re supposed to be terrified of?
Trump apologists are urging liberals, which include most Jewish voters, to empathize with frustrated, angry white Christian voters in the heartland who have lost their jobs and fear for their future, and who therefore elected a megalomaniacal blowhard who doesn’t even bother dog-whistling his bigotry. Well, how about those guys learn to empathize with frustrated, frightened blacks, Latinos, LGBT people, Muslims, and others who experience discrimination and worse on a daily basis? But no, let’s just knock down that straw man altogether. Neither side gets to defend anti-semitism or any other bigotry based on their personal grievances and nutty conspiracy theories. That kind of crap should be called out wherever it rears its ugly head. But don’t try to tell me that anti-semites at the very seat of American power are not worse, more threatening, more alarming than anti-semites wielding little to none. And don’t ask me to make nice with a president elect who has, by his words and his deeds, given me every reason to fear the worst.
I suppose I can’t close without mentioning Jared Kushner, the Orthodox Jewish son-in-law who has the orange one’s ear. How can the Trump administration be anti-semitic, we are asked, when one of Trump’s closest advisors — a family member, no less — is a strongly identified Jew? Maybe Jared Kushner actually has a plan up his sleeve. Maybe he’s going to be the Esther of our generation, keeping himself close to the ruler of the land and interceding on our behalf in the moment of our greatest need. More likely, he will simply be another shanda fur di goyim, trading ethics for power. I suppose time will tell, but I’m not holding my breath.