Trump's top adviser Bannon: Both anti-Semite and pro-Israel?

Trump's top adviser Bannon: Both anti-Semite and pro-Israel?
Profile: Steve Bannon, Trump's chief strategist, continues to stir controversy, as the former CEO of alt-right website Breitbart has been accused of anti-Semitism.
3 min read
20 January, 2017
Steve Bannon's appointment as chief strategist and senior counselor has been widely criticised [Getty]

The chief strategist appointed by Donald Trump days after being elected US President continues to stir controversy in the US, particularly among American Jews, some of whom accused him of being an anti-Semite white nationalist, while others defended him as pro-Israel.

Steve Bannon's appointment as chief strategist and senior counselor, a coveted position that gives him immense influence over the Trumps' decisions in all areas, had been widely criticised by civil rights organisations of all religious backgrounds and political leanings.

The chairman of Trump's campaign had served as executive chairman of conservative news platform Breitbart, a favorite news source of the so-called "alt-right," an offshoot conservative movement that embraces a mixture of populism, racism and white nationalism.

Under his leadership, Breitbart News has produced some of the most racist, Islamophobic, misogynistic and anti-Semitic content since its inception in 2010.

Shortly after Bannon came under the spotlight, media outlets dug out years-old statements by his ex-wife, Marie Louise Piccard, accusing him of being anti-semitic.

The New York Daily News first reported that in a 2007 court declaration, Piccard said that Bannon did not want his kids to attend the Archer School for Girls in Los Angeles, because he was concerned about the amount of Jewish students enrolled.

"The biggest problem he had with Archer is the number of Jews that attend," Piccard said in her statement signed on 27 June 2007.

"He said that he doesn't like the way they raise their kids to be 'whiny brats' and that he didn't want the girls going to school with Jews," Piccard wrote.

Bannon also asked the director of another school he was checking why there were "so many Chanukah books in the library", according to Piccard.

'It's a joke'

When asked in November by the Wall Street Journal about the antisemitism allegations, Bannon questioned the accuracy of the accusatory headlines, saying, "these claims of anti-Semitism just aren't serious. It's a joke."

Bannon indirectly argued that he was, in fact, pro-Israel, by saying referring to his website Breitbart News, which he said had a presence in Jerusalem.

"Breitbart is the most pro-Israel site in the United States of America," he told WSJ.

He went on to claim that Breitbart's presence in Jerusalem has held a leading role in fighting the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel.

Many consider that Bannon's anti-Semitism does not contradict his support for Israel and Zionism as a nationalist secular movement. If Zionism's goal is to ecnourage Jewish migration from Europe or the US, towards a Jewish homeland, that is not wholly inconsistent with anti-Semitic goals, some argue.

Jewish and Zionist institutions responded differently to Bannon's appointment in the White House.

Bannon's appointment has created tensions among Jews in the US, even as the "Jewish consensus on Israel has begun to fall apart", Luai Allarakia, political science lecturer at Houston University, told The New Arab.

Those who are more interested in the US stance on Jews were dismayed by Bannon's appointment, while pro-Israel Zionist bodies, such as the Zionist Organisation of America, defended the decision, ignoring anti-Semitism accusations.