National Review Whitewashes Breitbart’s Role In The Rise Of Anti-Semitism, Instead Blames “Leftist Anti-Zionists”
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In a February 17 column titled “Who’s Encouraging Anti-Semitism?,” National Review contributor Jonathan S. Tobin whitewashed President Donald Trump and White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon’s history of promoting anti-semitic content and white nationalist voices, and blamed “leftist anti-Zionists” for the “increase in anti-Semitic incidents on college campuses.”
Though Tobin initially admitted “Trump is guilty of being tone-deaf … and of turning a blind eye to the way the alt-right has interpreted his stands,” Tobin falsely declared “neither [Stephen Bannon] nor [Breitbart.com] has been guilty of anti-Semitism,” adding Breitbart.com “hasn’t published any anti-Semitic articles”:
Trump is guilty of being tone-deaf about the way his comments are perceived, and of turning a blind eye to the way the alt-right has interpreted his stands. It’s also possible to assert that his silence about hate groups at times — especially during last year’s primary campaign — is a cynical strategy that encourages some on the far right to believe that Trump is on their side.
But even if we were to concede all of this, the case for Trump or even senior aide Steve Bannon (who is viewed by many liberals as the evil genius plotting to promote hate from his new lair in the West Wing) being an anti-Semite doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. While the new administration can be fairly blamed for a multitude of shortcomings, the notion that Trump is the one who opened the Pandora’s box of Jew-hatred sweeping across the globe is simply wrong.
Part of the reason why Trump is associated with anti-Semitism stems from the modern trope in which everything and everyone that some on the left dislike can wind up being called Hitler. Classic anti-Semites on the right who promote forms of traditional Jew-hatred have gained more notice in the last year because of their connection with an invigorated alt-right. But such people have no role in the Trump administration, nor are they likely to. His use of the slogan “America First” has a historical precedent in pre–WWII isolationism, which was compromised by anti-Semitism, but that is something that has meaning for some in the Jewish community and few others. Attempts to link his immigration executive orders to the Holocaust are specious and a partisan effort to confuse policy differences with prejudice. Bannon and the Breitbart website bear some blame for the encouragement of the worst elements among Trump’s backers, but neither the man nor the publication has been guilty of anti-Semitism. Like Trump, Breitbart has a record of support for Israel, and it hasn’t published any anti-Semitic articles.
More importantly, what those who are wringing their hands about the rise in anti-Semitic incidents forget is that the primary factor behind such hate crimes isn’t the things Donald Trump says or doesn’t say. If there is a “rising tide of anti-Semitism,” as the Obama State Department noted in recent years, sweeping across Europe and now seeking footholds in the United States, it is not driven by the alt-right but by Islamists and leftist anti-Zionists who seek to single out Jews and supporters of Israel for opprobrium and violence. The BDS (boycott, divest, sanctions) movement, which seeks to wage economic war on the state of Israel, has been directly responsible for an increase in anti-Semitic incidents on college campuses. Its support comes from the left and has a connection to the increasingly vocal and influential wing of the Democratic party that is deeply critical of Israel and willing at times to engage in speech that singles out Jews as part of an alleged cabal of Zionists seeking to manipulate American foreign policy against the best interests of the United States.
Tobin’s defense of Bannon ignores Bannon’s prior boast that Breitbart News is “the platform for the alt-right,” referring to a movement created and defined by anti-semitic white nationalists. Tobin also neglected to mention claims made by Bannon’s ex-wife in a sworn court declaration in which she alleged Bannon had criticized The Archer School for Girls for “the number of Jews that attend,” had told her “he doesn’t like jews and … the way they raise their kids to be ‘whiney brats,” and declared Bannon “didn’t want the girls going to school with Jews.”
Under Bannon’s editorial leadership, Breitbart.com has employed a white nationalist reporter that complained “in this country we have 50 rabbis in the Guardian saying if we don’t accept millions [of refugees] we’re Hitler,” as well as a columnist that planned to speak at a white nationalist conference.
Bannon’s Breitbart.com is additionally responsible for headlines like “Bill Kristol: Republican Spoiler, Renegade Jew,” and an author’s decision to attack Washington Post columnist Anne Applebaum by declaring “hell hath no fury like a Polish, Jewish, American elitist scorned.”
Furthermore, Tobin neglected to mention Trump’s constant courtship of the white supremacist movement which has included the Trump campaign giving interviews to white nationalist radio, giving press credentials to white nationalist outlets, and Trump and his surrogates’ continuous retweeting of white nationalists on Twitter.