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Five Tips for Jewish Resistance: How to Be Bannon's Worst Nightmare

While AIPAC and other groups are dithering, or, like the ZOA, bending over backwards to present their every opening to Bannon and his man, the list of U.S. Jewish groups engaging in active resistance grows by the day.

Bradley Burston
Bradley Burston
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People protest against the appointment of alt-right media mogul Stephen Bannon as chief strategist by president-elect Donald Trump, Los Angeles, California, U.S., November 16, 2016.
People protest against the appointment of alt-right media mogul Stephen Bannon as chief strategist by president-elect Donald Trump, Los Angeles, California, U.S., November 16, 2016.Credit: David McNew, AFP
Bradley Burston
Bradley Burston

Not anymore, Jews. Not anymore.

We are, all of us, on new and uncertain ground here. The post-Holocaust period of the Jewish people is suddenly over. The Jewish People, as we came to know it after the Holocaust, is over as well. And so is that Israel that was the stuff of dreams, both left and right.

Not anymore, Jews. Not anymore. It's over. The American Jewish community you knew. The America you knew.

It's been coming for decades. But election night 2016 put an end to all of it.

The incoming Trump-Bannon administration has served notice: American Jews are fair game for attacks by extremists, provided the extremists are pro-Trump. Also fair game are women in general, Muslims in particular, all people of color, all immigrants who are nonwhite, all people who are disabled. All leftists. Any Republicans who are not pro-Trump, particularly if they are Jewish.

In its embrace of Trump-whisperer-in-chief Steve Bannon – doula of the alt-right movement – and in its silence over the worst outbreak of public and political anti-Semitism in America since the Hitler period – the Israel of Benjamin Netanyahu has served notice, as well. The deafening silence of a customarily loquacious-to-a-fault Israeli government, confirms that Israel will do nothing, say nothing, in defense or support of American Jews under attack – if the government deems those Jews insufficiently pro-West Bank settlements, insufficiently opposed to the Iran nuclear deal. Insufficiently pro-Netanyahu.

President-elect Donald Trump's chief strategist Stephen Bannon.Credit: Carlo Allegri, Reuters

Not anymore, Jews. Not anymore. The line, it is drawn. Whether you see yourself as a progressive or a moderate, the hardline organs of the Israeli and American Jewish right – whether simply Trump-friendly, like AIPAC, or drunk-on-Trump, like the Zionist Organization of America – have just set you free.

Go for it. Listen to the wise and loving and fierce voices of a new Jewish world. Listen to Rabbi Sharon Brous:

"To my daughter, who becomes bat mitzvah in a time of moral crisis for our nation: Practice resistance. Step up. Speak out. Don’t cozy up to power; don’t forget that your inheritance is willful opposition.

"Honor your moral intuition and remember that this is not normal."

Listen to Jill Jacobs of T'ruah: The Rabbinic Call for Human Rights, and Daniel Sokatch of the New Israel Fund:

"Jews know that when one minority is vulnerable, we all are vulnerable. If American Muslims will be targeted and those entering the country from elsewhere forced to 'register,' if immigrants will be torn from their families and their homes, if women are assaulted as access to justice disintegrates, policies that attack Jews could be next. Jewish history and values demand that we step up and act in opposition."

Listen to my colleague and IDF army buddy Larry Derfner:

"To hell with Jewish peoplehood. There are millions of Jews, especially in the Jewish state, who are my enemies and I am theirs. I feel as much kinship with them as I felt for my fellow Americans the KKK. To hell with the whole idea of the Jewish people, we're not on the same side, we're on opposite sides, and I don't ever, ever want to be on the same side with them."

Hundreds protest against Steven Bannon outside a ZOA gala in Manhattan on November 20,2016.Credit: Karen Ezra

I know what side I'm on. I'm on the side of the hundreds of Jews who protested Sunday night against an expected appearance by Steve Bannon as the unofficial guest of honor of ZOA's annual gala dinner.

ZOA had hoped that even Trump himself would appear for a cameo. In the end, amid the strength of the demonstration outside the gala's New York Grand Hyatt Hotel venue, neither showed.

Not anymore, Jews, Not anymore. When Trump enthusiast and alt-right ideologue Richard Spencer cries "Indeed, one wonders if these people are people at all, or instead, soulless Golem, animated by some dark power," listen to him, as well.

Be the Golem. Be the alt-right's worst nightmare. Be the Golem, animated by the dark power of which Bannon is so publicly proud.

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And be your own master, your own Maharal of Prague. Join the "#JewishResistance. Be the worst nightmare of Steve Bannon.

Here are five ways:

1: Be sharp. Learn from the failure of the left here in Israel. Don't let Trump and Bannon use you. Do not insult the people who voted Trump. Be respectful to individuals. But by all means, convert the waste products of your rage and your fear – despondency, desperation, despair – into a renewable energy resource. Join your people – your people – in raising voices and shining light. How?

2: While AIPAC and other Jewish groups are dithering over what to do, or, like the ZOA, bending over backwards to present their every opening to Bannon and his man, the list of American Jewish groups engaging in active resistance grows by the day.

Along with the groups prominent in demonstrating against Bannon this week – among them If Not Now, T’ruah, Jews for Racial & Economic Justice and Jewish Voice for Peace – many others declared support in a strong statement addressed to Trump.

Get to know them: Ameinu, Americans for Peace Now, J Street, the Jewish Labor Committee, Hashomer Hatzair, Habonim Dror North America, NCJW, New Israel Fund, Partners for Progressive Israel, The Workman's Circle, Truah, Uri L’Tzedek: The Orthodox Social Justice Movement.

From the start, the Anti-Defamation League has taken a particularly courageous and pioneering role in standing up to the alt-right and its enablers.

Worthy of special recognition as well: On Wednesday, the ZOA issued a strong statement urging Trump to condemn Spencer's words in much sharper, uncompromising terms.

3: Take another lesson from the failure of Israel's left, which collapsed entirely in despair and disarray after the 1995 assassination of Yitzhak Rabin, and Benjamin Netanyahu's election victory the next year:

Go to work now on supporting Democratic and allied independent candidates in the mid-term elections of 2018. A powerful showing in 2018 could well translate into momentum for the 2020 presidential race.

A poor showing in 2018, on the other hand, could contribute to what a crowing Bannon has said could be a half-century-long hardline lock on power.

4. Make common cause with people working in other spheres of activism, such as climate change, women's reproductive rights, access to health care, gun control, police-minority relations, migrant rights. You're on the same side.

5. The most radical thing a Jew can do these days is the most radical thing a Muslim can do: Talk with each other, face to face, as human beings. Synagogues and mosques can arrange get-togethers and discussions. So can community centers.

You're free. Make way for something new. Make Jewish resistance your cause, resistance to expressions of bigotry, hate, supremacy. Make it yourself. Make it out of clay, out of nothing. Make it up as you go along. Be your own master.

The Maharal would approve.

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