New York Times columnist Bret Stephens is outraged that Breitbart News executive chairman Steve Bannon spoke at the Zionist Organization of America dinner on Sunday night. So outraged, in fact, that he is wiling to disgrace himself by hurling the same baseless accusations of antisemitism that have been aimed at Bannon since he was named CEO of the Trump campaign last August — and by embracing anti-Israel propaganda in the process.
Stephens, borrowing from the anti-Israel left, is at pains to separate support for Israel from support for Jews. He accepts that Bannon is pro-Israel — but supporters of Israel, he says, should not want Bannon’s support.
Why? He claims that Bannon has “well-documented links to anti-Semitic white nationalists.” His “proof” is that Bannon claimed last summer that Breitbart News was “the platform for the alt-right.” But Bannon later clarified: “Our definition of the alt-right is younger people who are anti-globalists, very nationalist, terribly anti-establishment.” He noted that Breitbart News — owned and run, disproportionately, by Jews — has “zero tolerance” for antisemitism.
That won’t do for Stephens, who tries to link Bannon, via the alt-right reference, to neo-Nazi Richard Spencer. He links to Milo Yiannopoulos’s March 2016 article on the alt-right, claiming that “Breitbart has sung the praises of Spencer.”
But the only reference to Spencer is as follows: “The media empire of the modern-day alternative right coalesced around Richard Spencer during his editorship of Taki’s Magazine. In 2010, Spencer founded AlternativeRight.com, which would become a center of alt-right thought.” (Did Stephens hope no one would check?)
Stephens then goes on to classify Bannon, with the actual Nazis, as “anti-Semitic Zionists.” In the process, he claims: “The Nazis initially endorsed the idea of getting German Jews to shove off to Mandated Palestine” (original link). That is a gross distortion of history — one favored by anti-Israel propaganda, which often exaggerates arrangements made by desperate Jews fleeing a murderous regime to argue that the Zionists were secretly in cahoots with Hitler.
Stephens does not seem to care that he is lending undue weight to anti-Israel propaganda. In the effort to marginalize Bannon, Breitbart, and — the real target — President Donald Trump, sacrifices must be made.
The dishonesty of Stephens’s accusation is evident in the fact that he completely ignores the voluminous evidence of Bannon’s affinity for Jews — not just Israel, but Jews themselves.
There is, first of all, the firsthand testimony of the many Jews (including myself) who have worked with Bannon for years, not just at Breitbart but elsewhere. Bannon’s hand-picked aide at the White House was former Breitbart News reporter Julia Hahn — also Jewish. There are also rabbis who have met with and vouched publicly for Bannon — including Shmuley Boteach, among others. Then there is Bannon’s track record in helping to Jews from antisemitism on college campuses. The list goes on.
Stephens pretends he is saving the pro-Israel movement from association with Bannon, the way the anti-Israel movement has been tarnished by its association with radical bigots like Linda Sarsour.
In fact, he is risking the credibility of the pro-Israel movement by lashing out at supporters of one of the most pro-Israel presidents in American history. He is also trashing his own credibility with false, hateful, and easily disproved allegations.
Joel B. Pollak is Senior Editor-at-Large at Breitbart News. He was named one of the “most influential” people in news media in 2016. He is the co-author of How Trump Won: The Inside Story of a Revolution, is available from Regnery. Follow him on Twitter at @joelpollak.