(JTA) — What, exactly, makes Jared Kushner a “globalist”?
Stephen Bannon, the chief strategist for President Donald Trump, reportedly applied the term to Kushner, the president’s increasingly busy senior adviser, who is Jewish. The Daily Beast reported on the name-calling in an article on the latest White House palace intrigue, which has seen Bannon’s stock fall while Kushner’s has been rising.
“Globalist” is one of Bannon’s favorite insults, and he uses it in opposition to “nationalist,” the outlook he claims to represent.
“They’re corporatist, globalist media that are adamantly opposed to an economic nationalist agenda like Donald Trump has,” he complained in an appearance at the Conservative Political Action Conference in February.
The term “globalist” has also been used as an anti-Semitic dog whistle and echoes pernicious anti-Jewish conspiracy theories.
“‘Globalist cabal’ is an anti-Semitic dog whistle of the first order,” Wall Street Journal columnist Bret Stephens complained in October after a Fox News Channel contributor used the phrase. “Fox News should act.”
In a report about Breitbart News, the right-wing website Bannon headed before joining the Trump campaign, the Southern Poverty Law Center noted that a “focus on ‘globalist elites,’ traditionally an anti-Semitic dog whistle used by the radical right and a core appeal embraced by right-wing populists both in the US and in Europe today, was a ‘rolling narrative’ covered extensively by Breitbart.”
Here’s how Bannon usually uses the term, why it’s made Jews and others uncomfortable, and how it fits in with the Kushner-Bannon feud.
The word “globalist” isn’t itself a slur on Jews. But it echoes anti-Semitic tropes.
Globalist isn’t an explicit ethnic slur that demeans Jews. According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, it means “a national policy of treating the whole world as a proper sphere for political influence.”
But that definition recalls one of the most widespread anti-Semitic stereotypes: that a Jewish cabal secretly controls the world from behind the scenes. It’s a smear popularized by “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” a turn-of-the-20th-century anti-Semitic Russian forgery purporting to detail how Jews will use socialism, international institutions and control of the media to take over the world.
After the United Kingdom voted to leave the European Union last year, former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke called it a victory over the “Jewish globalist agenda.” “Jewish globalists” are likewise a favored topic of The Daily Stormer, an anti-Semitic site.
So even if Jews are never mentioned, anti-Semites tend to see screeds against “globalism” as code for condemnations of Jewish influence. The link is even stronger when globalist is applied to a Jewish person.
Bannon usually uses the word in an economic context.
To be clear, Bannon denies being an anti-Semite, has been critical of anti-Semitism within the “alt-right” movement and has never singled out Jews when railing against globalism. He has used the term to differentiate from “economic nationalism,” which emphasizes border controls and domestic manufacturing over a reliance on international trade and supranational government institutions like the United Nations or European Union.
“I’m not a white nationalist, I’m a nationalist. I’m an economic nationalist,” he told the Hollywood Reporter last November. “The globalists gutted the American working class and created a middle class in Asia. The issue now is about Americans looking to not get f***ed over.”
Bannon may feel that Kushner embodies the “corporatist” tendencies he despises. Kushner and his wife, Trump’s daughter Ivanka, are widely seen as a moderating influence on the president, urging him to abide by the office’s traditional norms and rules of decorum. Bannon, meanwhile, is seen as the architect of some of Trump’s most controversial policies, like his attempted ban on refugees.
Trump himself is also a fan of railing against globalism, sometimes veering into territory that critics have called anti-Semitic. He has long used the slogan “America First,” which was the name of an anti-Semitic isolationist group in the run-up to World War II. A speech he gave in October decrying “a small handful of global special interests rigging the system” bore similarities to passages from the “Protocols.” A campaign ad that aired a couple of weeks later rehashed those themes while flashing photos of three prominent Jewish financial figures.
This isn’t Bannon’s first run-in with Jewish sensitivities. I
But Bannon and the Jews have something of a complicated history. Before joining Trump’s team, Bannon headed Breitbart News, the site he once called “the platform for the alt-right,” a loose far-right network that includes anti-Semites. A handful of articles on the site have also been flagged as anti-Semitic and its comment sections sometimes feature Jew-hatred. The site’s defenders note its staunch pro-Israel stance, senior Jewish staff and office in Jerusalem as proof that it isn’t anti-Semitic.
In 2007, Bannon referred to the American Jewish community as “enablers” of jihad in a treatment for a documentary screenplay. The same year, his ex-wife’s testimony from their divorce proceedings alleged that he made derogatory comments toward Jews.
Bannon’s strongest defender in the Jewish world is perhaps Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America. According to Klein, “ZOA’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. To accuse Mr. Bannon and Breitbart of anti-Semitism is Orwellian. In fact, Breitbart bravely fights against anti-Semitism.”
Observers note that the term globalist means many thing to different factions on the right, although all agree it signals an ideology that believes American interests have been subordinated to other countries and outsiders.
“Anti-globalism is a very efficient net to unite disparate parts of the right” from the mainstream to the extreme, Brian Levin, the director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, told The New York Times last November.
Globalism, he said, is “the defining folklore and narrative for the racist right,” but said it had also “become a convenient boogeyman to explain the various declines that the United States is perceived to be in.”