Alan Dershowitz Ludicrously Defends White Nationalist Stephen Bannon Against Anti-Semitism, Racism Charges

While defending Bannon, Dershowitz called Black Lives Matter an anti-Semitic group and smeared Rep. Keith Ellison.

Photo Credit: a katz / Shutterstock.com

Alan Dershowitz, an emeritus law professor at Harvard University known for levying baseless accusations of anti-Semitism and bigotry at critics of Israeli human rights abuses, took to the media circuit this week to defend the white nationalist Trump appointee Stephen Bannon.

Speaking with Aaron Klein, a writer for the Jerusalem bureau of the white nationalist publication Breitbart, Dershowitz said, “I think we have to be very careful before we accuse any particular individual of being an anti-Semite. The evidence certainly suggests that Mr. Bannon has very good relationships with individual Jews... So, I haven’t seen any evidence of personal anti-Semitism on the part of Bannon.” He added, “it is not legitimate to call somebody an anti-Semite because you might disagree with their policies.”

While declaring that "I just don't think you should toss that phrase [anti-Semitism] around casually, unless there's overwhelming evidence," Dershowitz proceeded to equate the "hard left" with the white supremacist far-right: "They hate Jews," he claimed. "They generally hate Israel. They generally hate America."

Before he was appointed as the chief strategist and senior counselor of Trump's White House and the manager of Trump's presidential campaign, Bannon was the head of Breitbart media. In an interview with Mother Jones reporter Sarah Posner at the Republican National Convention, Bannon boasted, “We're the platform for the alt-right.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center describes the alt-right as “a set of far-right ideologies, groups and individuals whose core belief is that ‘white identity’ is under attack by multicultural forces using ‘political correctness’ and 'social justice' to undermine white people and ‘their’ civilization.”

A safe space for racism

Throughout his career, Bannon has developed the outlet into a home for anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic, white nationalist, misogynist and anti-gay rhetoric. He published the work of extremists including Islamophobes Pamela Geller and Robert Spencer, who were banned in 2013 from entering the United Kingdom because, according to the British government, their presence is “not conducive to the public good.”

Just weeks after a massacre of African-American parisioners at the the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston by an avowed white supremacist, Breitbart published an article calling to “hoist [the Confederate flag] high and fly it with pride.” The outlet has published articles titled, "Would You Rather Your Child Had Feminism or Cancer?" and “Political Correctness Protects Muslim Rape Culture.” 

Under Bannon's tenure, Breitbart fervently defended the white nationalist movement known as the "alt-right." It has referred to infamous white supremacists Jared Taylor and Richard Spencer as "intellectuals," and said that they are merely "accused" of racism. Noting that Breitbart has been a key factor in spreading the extremist trope of rising black racial hate crimes against whites, the Southern Poverty Law Center noted that the outlet "has been openly promoting the core issues of the Alt-Right, introducing these racist ideas to its readership."

Breitbart editor Katie McHugh, who was hired by Bannon, has frequently busied herself with racist, xenophobic Twitter rants. "Funny how Europeans assimilated, unlike Third Worlders demanding welfare while raping, killing Americans," McHugh tweeted during the second presidential debate this year. 

Another Breitbart editor who gained infamy under Bannon's watch, Milo Yiannopoulos, was banned from Twitter this June for orchestrating an online campaign of racist and sexist abuse directed at "Ghostbusters" actor Leslie Jones. In a speech following Trump's victory at a conference of far-right provocateur David Horowitz, Yiannopolous urged fellow rightists to "wade into the bastions of the enemy like universities, black neighborhoods, and Silicon Valley to engage." 

Rocky J. Suhayda, Chairman of the American Nazi Party, told CNN of Bannon’s appointment: "Perhaps The Donald IS for 'REAL' and is not going to be another controlled puppet directed by the usual 'Wire Pullers,' and does indeed intend to ROCK the BOAT?”

An endless record of false anti-Semitism smears

In a separate conversation with Steve Kornacki of MSNBC on Tuesday, Dershowitz deflected from allegations of Bannon's racism by smearing Rep. Keith Ellison (D-MN), the first Muslim elected to Congress. The veteran torture defender and former counsel to OJ Simpson said of Ellison: “Many of his supporters hate Jews -- many people who applaud his nomination.” 

He then attacked racial justice organizers, falsely stating: “I love the concept of Black Lives Matter, but they are an anti-Semitic group.” (Kornacki did not challenge Dershowitz's slanderous characterization.) 

Dershowitz has accused the Movement for Black Lives of “blood libel” for criticizing Israeli genocide and compared Judge Richard Goldstone to the Nazi Joseph Mengele for his 2009 report on Israeli atrocities in the Gaza Strip. 

Here are a few others Dershowitz has accused of anti-Semitism or smeared:

--Former President Jimmy Carter, whom he accused of "anti-Judaism." (Activist Omar Baddar has produced a comprehensive video compilation detailing Dershowitz's lengthy history of slandering Carter and other ideological foes).

--Noam Chomsky, whom Dershowitz falsely described in his book, "The Case Against Israel's Enemies" as a Holocaust denier.

--Academic and author Norman Finkelstein. Dershowitz played an influential role in denying Finkelstein tenure at De Paul University, largely on the grounds of his writings about Israel, and (as Baddar demonstrated in his video) falsely accused him of seeking to participate in a Holocaust denial conference Finkestein actually denounced and refused to attend.

--The liberal pro-Israel organization J Street, which Dershowitz called "a major anti-Israel organization"

--President Barack Obama, accusing him of "hypocrisy" and demanding he apologize to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

--Jews who supported Obama's passage of the Iran deal, accusing them of a "ghetto mentality."

--International relations professors and "The Israel Lobby" co-authors Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer.

--Palestinians, whom he accused of "celebrating" their own "self-inflicted wound." Dershowitz was referring to their mass expulsion in 1948 at the hands of Zionist militias.

--Tel Aviv University academics who denounced their government's official discrimination against Palestinians. Dershowitz urged "patriotic students" to "stand up to propagandizing professors." He was later condemned by Tel Aviv University faculty for statements "bordering on incitement."

The pro-Israel right rallies for Bannon

Dershowitz is far from the only prominent pro-Israel campaigner or organization defending Bannon against charges of anti-Semitism. Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) President Morton A. Klein proclaimed this week that his group’s “own experience and analysis of Breitbart articles confirms Mr. Bannon’s and Breitbart’s friendship and fair-mindedness towards Israel and the Jewish people.” Klein criticized the Anti-Defamation League, which has spoken out against Bannon. 

Dershowitz was joined by "Rabbi" Shmuley Boteach in his defense of Bannon. Writing in The Hill, Boteach claimed, "I don't quite know what the alt-right is." He then pronounced Bannon free of any extremist taint, writing, "I don’t think even the most hostile media can point to a single reason to consider him anti-Semitic."

As Rob Bryan reported for Alternet, Boteach's first charitable venture was shut down for fraud. The "rabbi," who was formally castigated by his original rabbinical teachers, now pays himself exorbitants sums through a non-profit that he promotes as a charity, but which appears to be a personal fundraising and public relations vehicle. Boteach's primary donor is Sheldon Adelson, the Republican casino kingpin who has used his fortune to support the political careers of Netanyahu and Trump.

Bannon is reportedly slated to attend the annual ZOA’s awards gala on Sunday, where Dershowitz will be honored alongside Adelson and Congressman Ed Royce.

Sarah Lazare is a staff writer for AlterNet. A former staff writer for Common Dreams, she coedited the book About Face: Military Resisters Turn Against War. Follow her on Twitter at @sarahlazare.

Max Blumenthal is a senior editor of the Grayzone Project at AlterNet, and the award-winning author of Goliath, Republican Gomorrah, and The 51 Day War. He is the co-host of the podcast, Moderate Rebels. Follow him on Twitter at @MaxBlumenthal.

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