Anti-Semites feted by Zionist Organization of America

A who’s who of professional Palestinian haters and extreme right-wingers attended Sunday’s gala dinner for the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) in New York.

Abettors of white nationalism and anti-Semitism such as Steve Bannon mingled with advocates of an ethnonationalist Israel, among them Morton Klein, the ZOA president, who offered his anti-Muslim and anti-Palestinian views to the subcommittee on national security in the US House of Representatives just last week.

Ron DeSantis, the subcommittee’s chair, was among those attending the ZOA event – and among those members of Congress who stayed quiet last week as Klein directed his hatred at Muslims and Palestinians.

White nationalist sympathizer and self-professed Christian Zionist Steve Bannon was arguably the best-known guest at the gala. After working as a chief strategist in Donald Trump’s White House, Bannon is back running Breitbart News, a favorite website for white supremacists.

Men like Bannon are now the political partners of the ZOA and the crowd of supporters that turned out on Sunday. If you’re pro-Israel in these circles, then any form of bigotry goes.

Nazi sympathizer Sebastian Gorka – who worked alongside Bannon in the White House – was there despite his connections to anti-Semitic leaders in Hungary.

Alan Dershowitz, the lawyer who has advocated such war crimes as the destruction of Palestinian villages, was there.

Applause for bigots

Newsweek reported other right-wingers who were present. Trump’s former spokesperson, the Holocaust minimizer Sean Spicer, was there.

Conspiracy theorist Jack Posobiec of Pizzagate infamy was also there.

So, too, was Islamophobe and conspiracy theorist Laura Loomer who self-describes as “a Jew who actually admits that globalist Marxist Jews run the media.”

Sheldon Adelson was absent but sent a message of support. The billionaire funder of the Republican Party declared in 2013, “There’s no such thing as a Palestinian.”

Batya Ungar-Sargon, opinion editor with The Jewish Daily Forward, noted that Gorka and Spicer got the two biggest rounds of applause during the evening. She wrote that the audience was excited about Gorka’s presence but “at one time in the not so distant past, belonging to what is officially considered an anti-Semitic organization would lead to being shunned by Jews.”

Not on this evening. Sunday, at the ZOA event, support for Israel and hatred of Palestinians were enough to bring together Bannon and Dershowitz, anti-Semites and Morton Klein.

Complicated?

Understanding this seems likely to be complicated, but it is not. For years, politicians on the right and left have received a pass for anti-Palestinian bigotry and efforts to stymie Palestinian freedom.

Organizations such as the ZOA go searching for examples of alleged left-wing anti-Semitism – often criticism of Israeli human rights abuses and the boycott, divestment and sanctions campaigns which seek to do something about such abuses – while ignoring the real right-wing anti-Semitism staring them in the face and being feted at their own galas.

Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO of the Anti-Defamation League, took a similar approach this past weekend.

He excoriated Rebecca Vilkomerson, executive director of Jewish Voice for Peace, and the Palestinian American activist Linda Sarsour for leading a panel on anti-Semitism at The New School in New York scheduled for later this month.

He tweeted that it’s like “Oscar Meyer leading a panel on vegetarianism. These panelists know the issue, but unfortunately, from perspective of fomenting it rather than fighting it.”

He claimed “there’s not a single Jewish organization that studies this issue and/or fights this disease (such as @adl_national) would take this panel seriously, let alone the institution that put it together.”

It is deeply troubling that Greenblatt indicates such strong advocates for equal rights for Palestinians should be disqualified from discussing anti-Semitism.

Meanwhile, Greenblatt tweeted nothing about sympathizers of white supremacists and Nazis celebrating with the ZOA. Perhaps that is due to the collegiality that comes with both organizations being members of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, which has defended bigots such as Avigdor Lieberman – now Israel’s defense minister – in recent years.

Prominent advocates for Palestinian rights like James Zogby, Yousef Munayyer and the aforementioned Vilkomerson all pushed back on Greenblatt’s tweets.

Sadly, many Democratic politicians scarcely know what to do with the ZOA-Bannon-Gorka alliance because they too are accustomed to demeaning Palestinians and lauding right-wing Israeli politicians who oppose Palestinian freedom.

Change in Washington is slow. Some 200 protesters, however, rallied outside the ZOA event at the Grand Hyatt in Manhattan.

The appalling alliances cemented during the Trump administration are not going unnoticed. Nevertheless, they grow, in part because much of the so-called resistance in Washington fails to raise the alarm.

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Michael F. Brown

Michael F. Brown is an independent journalist. His work and views have appeared in The International Herald Tribune, TheNation.com, The San Diego Union-Tribune, The News & Observer, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, The Washington Post and elsewhere.