“How to Assess the Bannon Appointment”

Special Report

From the publisher of jewishinfoNews. The following article was originally published by Gatestone Institute  and republished with permission by jewishinfoNews on November 17, 2016.

by Alan M. Dershowitz

Alan Dershowitz credit jewishbusinessnews JIN July 13 2016President Elect Trump’s appointment of Steve Bannon as his chief strategist has been criticized on the ground that Bannon is an anti-Semite. There are many reasons for opposing the appointment of Bannon, but anti-Semitism is not one of them. I do not support the Bannon appointment. But neither do I support accusing Bannon of being an anti-Semite, based on the evidence I have seen.

With regard to anti-Semitism, there are three distinct but overlapping issues: (1) Is Bannon personally an anti-Semite? (2) Does his publication, Breitbart, promote anti-Semitic views? (3) Do Breitbart and Bannon have followers who are anti-Semitic?

From what I can tell, the evidence cited in support of the accusation that personally Bannon is an anti-Semite falls into two categories: first, that his wife testified at a hotly contested divorce proceeding that he did not want his children to go to school with “whiney Jews”; and second, that he ran an article describing Bill Kristol as a “renegade Jew.”

Let us consider these items of evidence in order. Senator Harry Reid tried to strengthen the first accusation against Bannon by saying that it appeared in a court document, thus suggesting that it had the imprimatur of a judge. But that is not the case. The claim was simply made by his former wife in a judicial proceeding, thus giving it no special weight. Bannon has rigorously denied making the statement and said that he and his wife were fighting over whether his children should attend Catholic school, rather than a secular school.

On the other side of the ledger is the testimony of Jewish individuals who have worked closely with him for years. These include my former research assistant, Joel Pollak, an orthodox Jew who wears a kippah and takes off all the Jewish holidays. He is married to a black woman from South Africa who converted to Judaism. Joel assures me that he never heard a single anti-Semitic utterance or saw an anti-Semitic action in the four years they worked together. The same is true of numerous other Jewish individuals who work with him, some of whom thoroughly disapprove of Bannon’s politics and the way he ran Breitbart, but none of whom have reported any events of anti-Semitism.

The second alleged item of evidence is the following headline that appeared on Breitbart: “Bill Kristol: Republican Spoiler, Renegade Jew.”[1] I am advised, however, that this article and the headline were written not by Bannon but rather by David Horowitz, a right-wing Jew who was upset with Kristol for his refusal to support Trump. Horowitz deemed that a betrayal of the Jewish people. While I fundamentally disagree with that appraisal and also of the article, I find it hard to characterize Bannon as an anti-Semite because Breitbart ran it. Breitbart has also personally attacked me,[2] but that doesn’t change my views.

I keep an open mind waiting for more evidence, if there is any, but on the basis of what I have read, I think it is wrong to accuse Bannon of one of the most serious forms of bigotry. So I will not join the chorus of condemnation that employs this radioactive term against Bannon without compelling evidence. The Anti-Defamation League has now commendably acknowledged that there is no evidence of anti-Semitism by Bannon: “We are not aware of any anti-Semitic statements from Bannon.”

As to whether Bannon promotes the alt-right, and whether the alt-right includes anti-Semites, I think the answer to that is yes.[3] Both Bannon and Breitbart have made bigoted statements about Muslims, women and others, which I do not condone. That is why I do not support Bannon, even though I do not think he’s an anti-Semite. Bigotry against any group should be disqualifying for high office. But let’s put this criticism of Bannon and Breitbart into context. Haaretz certainly serves as a platform for the alt-left in Israel. Though it features a wide range of commentary, primarily from the center-left, it also features hard-left writers such as Gideon Levy, who supports academic, cultural and economic boycotts against Israel and its “criminal” regime, as well as Amira Hass, who encourages Palestinians to throw stones and engage in “violent resistance” against Israel. These writers have certainly been accused, and with some justification, of promoting hatred not only against the current Israel government, but against the very nature of Israel and Zionism.[4] Their hateful writings are often quoted gleefully by anti-Zionist and anti-Semites.[5]

This is not to compare Breitbart with Haaretz, but it is to suggest caution in holding a publication responsible for all the views expressed by its writers. To be sure, Haaretz‘s general orientation tends to be center-left, whereas Breitbart is hard-right, but both serve as platforms for extremes on either side. The same can be said of J Street, which is a center-left organization which serves as a platform for, and includes among its active members and contributors, BDS supporters, anti-Zionists and opponents of Israel’s existence as the Nation State of the Jewish people.

Or consider Black Lives Matter, an organization with a commendable goal, that has promoted anti-Semitism by singling out one country for condemnation in its “platform”: calling the Nation State of the Jewish People an “apartheid” and “genocidal” regime. In an article in Above the Law, Joe Patrice attacks me for my critique of Black Lives Matter, claiming that “it’s certainly possible someone in the movement also has sympathy for Palestinians.” But there is an enormous difference between “sympathy for Palestinians” (which I share) and accusing the entire nation state of the Jewish people of “genocide” (which I believe is anti-Semitic).

Anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism are prevalent both on the hard-right and on the hard-left. The Trump election has brought hard-right anti-Semitism into public view, but the bigotry of the hard-left is far more prevalent and influential on many university campuses, both in the United States and in Europe. A single standard of criticism must be directed at each. We must judge individuals on the basis of their own statements and actions, and we should be cautious in judging publications and organizations on the basis of who they publish, who their audience is and who supports them.

People of good will, Jews and non-Jews, must condemn with equal vigor all manifestations of bigotry whether they emanate from the hard alt-right or hard alt-left. That is why I cannot support Bannon’s appointment, even though he is strongly pro-Israel. But that is also why I can’t support those on the hard-left who advocate good causes, while at the same time promoting anti-Semitism and the delegitimization of Israel.

Alan M. Dershowitz, Felix Frankfurter Professor of Law, Emeritus and author of “Taking the Stand: My Life in the Law” and “Electile Dysfunction.”


[1]Bill Kristol: Republic Spoiler, Renegade Jew,” by David Horowitz, 15 May 2016.

[2] See Adrian Otto, “Alan Dershowitz Hangs Up Over Clinton College Scandal,” Breitbart, Nov. 4, 2016; the article was originally published with the title “Dershowitz Goes Berserk.” The article falsely claimed that Laureate University received money from the State Department, when Hillary Clinton was Secretary of State.

[3] See Allum Bokhari and Milo Yiannopoulos, “An Establishment Conservative’s Guide to the Alt-Right,” Breitbart, March 29, 2016.

[4] David Lev, “Amira Hass: I’ve Had it With the Jews,” Israel National News, September, 10, 2011. To Levy, Israel can never do any good. In an op-ed titled “Real Leftists Won’t Go to the Ceremony for Yitzhak Rabin,” he writes, “Peace was murdered with or without Rabin because Israel didn’t want it. It never seriously wanted it because it includes the end of the occupation, which it has never agreed to give up. No ceremony will change that.” Gideon Levy, “Real Leftists Won’t Go to the Ceremony for Yitzhak Rabin,” Haaretz, Nov. 3, 2016.

[5] For instance, Hass is favorably cited by Norman Finkelstein, MondoWeiss, and Democracy Now. Gideon Levy has been praised by the dean of anti-Zionist intellectuals, Noam Chomsky, as “an early Jewish prophet.” Johann Hari, “Is Gideon Levy the Most Hated Man in Israel or just the Most Heroic?“, Independent, Sept. 23, 2010.

The article printed above does not necessarily reflect the views of the publishers of jewishinfoNews

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SEVENTY YEARS LATER -

OVER SEVENTY YEARS LATER – “Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose” | “The more things change, the more they stay the same”

Friday, November 11 2016. Remembrance Day. A personal message.

This article was updated on November 26, 2016
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Once again, in an official capacity, I have been given the honour of participating at the Remembrance Day service at Toronto’s Old City Hall where I will be laying wreaths on behalf of the Jewish War Veterans of Canada and CIJA, the Centre for Israel and Jewish Affairs.

by Alan Simons

I have a debt of gratitude in attending this significant event honouring our military war veterans. During WWI, my grandfather, Louis Cohen, served in the British Army fighting in the trenches in Belgium. He somehow managed to survive, never to speak of his ghastly experiences until a few hours before he died in the 1970s.

My great uncle David Wienburg, born in Merthyr Tydfil, Wales, served in the 1st Bn. Border Regiment. Uncle David died aged 23 on Thursday, April 11 1918. He is remembered with honour at the Ploesgsteert Memorial, Hainaut, Belgium.

During WWII my father served in the Royal Air Force. His brother served in Europe and North Africa where he was a tank driver. Both survived.

My sister’s partner, flew the Hampden, known as the flying suitcase, which alongside the Whitley and the Wellington was the backbone of Bomber Command at the outbreak of war in 1939 . He was shot down on three separate occasions over enemy territory and captured. As a POW he escaped three times, was sent to Peenemünde, Stalag Luft III, where he played an active part in Operation Escape 200 (The Great Escape),  Oflag IV-C (Colditz) and finally he was sent to Bergen-Belsen. He survived.

Many years later he found a photo of the Hampden at an aircraft museum. My sister had it framed after her partner wrote on the back of the photo:

The last of 20 bombing operations over Germany. Operation Wilhelmshaven. Delayed action pencil slim armour piercing bomb, a Barnes Wallis experiment. We didn’t make it. ‘Jerry’  was waiting for us with flak and a Me 109.

canadian-vet-november-2016With exception of my uncle David, they all withstood the horrors of war, all in their own way, all with their thoughts and memories remaining shut to their family and friends for most of their lives. Our heroes.

Lest We Forget.

As a young boy living in London, England, I always accompanied my father and his brother to the Remembrance Day Service and Parade held each year by AJEX, The Association of Jewish Ex-Servicemen & Women. Literally thousands. Proud Jews. Proud to be British. Proud of serving their country. There they were, all together, men and women of rank and file, with the VC, the GC, the DSO, the MM and DFM as well as a plethora of Croix de Guerre and Légion d’Honneur recipients.

Lest We Forget.

Today in Toronto, when I lay the two wreaths on the steps of the Cenotaph, I will not only be thinking of my family members who served their country proudly and with distinction, but I will be honouring all of our vets and civilians in gratitude for their sacrifices. 

Lest We Forget. 

I will also be thinking about our grandchildren.  Those far too young to have personal knowledge of the ravages of war. Elie Wiesel once said: “Mankind must remember that peace is not God’s gift to his creatures; peace is our gift to each other.”

As we remember today, on November 11 those who died for us, let us reflect on Elie Wiesel’s message and recognize that all our children and grandchildren are part of our innermost self. Lest We Forget.

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