On Thursday night, I appeared on CNN to debate my old nemesis and friend Peter Beinart about the Trump administration and particularly Stephen K. Bannon.
The segment was inspired by a tweet I sent of a picture of myself with Steve.
— Rabbi Shmuley (@RabbiShmuley) December 8, 2016
Rarely have I seen such an outpouring of hate directed toward me , which undermined the premise of the haters — namely, that they were objecting to Steve Bannon promoting hatred on the Internet.
CNN’s Don Lemon asked me if Steve Bannon is an anti-Semite. I said that Bannon has opposed the Iran nuclear deal in defense of Israel; has fought BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions), the attempt to destroy Israel economically; and had opened a Jerusalem bureau for Israel to get its message out.
Does that sound like an anti-Semite?
I added that I was far more concerned about Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khameini and his promises to annihilate Israel.
I had met Bannon at Trump Tower. He was generous with his time as I made the case to him that the new administration should distinguish itself as a leading voice for human rights. He listened, and we had a substantive conversation.
Yes, Americans are tired of being caught in quagmires in the Middle East, and we’re sickened of seeing American boys die in countries that don’t appreciate them, and where American gains are quickly erased. We also should be nation-building at home, especially in light of our crumbling infrastructure.
I get all of that.
But it doesn’t always take armies to advance the cause of freedom. With rare exceptions, Ronald Reagan did not deploy vast numbers of American troops around the world to advance freedom. But he did call the Soviet Union an “evil empire” — and in so doing, he hastened its demise.
Before him, President John F. Kennedy utilized the English language to proclaim liberty, most famously in his unforgettable 1961 inaugural address: “Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or ill, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of liberty.”
It was Kennedy who famously said of Winston Churchill that when Hitler threatened the freedom of the world, “He mobilized the English language and sent it into battle.”
President-elect Trump has started well in condemning the brutality of the Fidel Castro regime, while so many other world leaders humiliated themselves by sucking up to the dictator.
Upon Castro’s demise, Trump said:
Today, the world marks the passing of a brutal dictator who oppressed his own people for nearly six decades. Fidel Castro’s legacy is one of firing squads, theft, unimaginable suffering, poverty and the denial of fundamental human rights. While Cuba remains a totalitarian island, it is my hope that today marks a move away from the horrors endured for too long, and toward a future in which the wonderful Cuban people finally live in the freedom they so richly deserve.
Language like that, affirming human rights while condemning dictatorships, is exactly what is needed.
I’ve been amazed on Twitter at how many people have disgraced themselves since I posted that picture of me and Steve. Some are even calling him a neo-Nazi, and Hitler.
One-and-a-half million Jewish children were gassed in the Holocaust. Four and a half million Jewish adults were shot & incinerated. Have people no shame?
Bannon stood with the Jewish community in opposing the Iran nuclear agreement. which gives the world’s largest state sponsor of terror $150 billion with which to blow people up. Bannon stood with the Jewish community by fighting the BDS movement and the Israel haters, who ignore the gassing of Syrian children while trying to boycott tomatoes grown in Shiloh.
For all my friends who are supporters of the foreign policy of President Obama: Where was your outrage when he wouldn’t even impose a no-fly zone to stop Arab children from being gassed from the air?
Fake human rights activists are those who never hold President Obama accountable for allowing 500,000 Arabs to be murdered in a near-genocide with next to no action.
Comparing Bannon to Hitler is vile, stomach-turning, and nauseating; makes a mockery of the Holocaust; and enables all those who supported the Iran deal — together with Khameini’s threats of Jewish annihilation — to distract us from the real threats to America and the Jewish people.’
Bannon and those close to President-elect Trump are uniquely situated to introducn a new American language of human rights that was sorely ignored by President Obama as he cozied up to dictators, making a mockety of American values.
I trust they will use their influence to help restore America to its founding principles.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi,” whom Newsweek and The Washington Post call “the most famous rabbi in America,” has just published The Fed-Up Man of Faith: Challenging G-d in the Face of Tragedy and Suffering. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.