Trump-Bannon Protest at the ZOA


Ha’aretz is reporting that a group of 600 demonstrators chased away Stephen Bannon and maybe even Despicable Donald from the ZOA gala at the Grand Hyatt. That’s probably not the case. I’m sure they both had better things to do than schmooze with a bunch of toadies. On the other hand, according to the Forward, Abe Foxman declined to show because the event had become politicized. Be that all as it may, I was happy to have joined up with the protest. The march started at the New York Public Library, momentarily blocking traffic as the demonstration crossed streets to make it to the Grand Hyatt. The police showed up to move everyone along. No one was there to get arrested that night. Everyone continued along a large loop and back to the Library.

One point of possible interest. While Jewish Voice for Peace, along with If Not Now and Teruah, organized the protest, there was very little mention of Israel apart from a sign here or there. There were no chants, not against the occupation and not about apartheid. Israel and Palestine did not define the demonstration in anyway whatsoever. Anti-Zionism wasn’t even on the back burner at the event. There was a mix of one-staters and two-staters. No one seemed to mind the difference between them. This was not the focus –and that should actually cause supporters of Israel the most agita, being ignored as no longer important to what matters to American Jews. If Israel and its rightwing supporters in the United States want to join the Trump bandwagon, sick with neo-Nazis and KKK, then so much the worse for Israel.

Bannon was the main object of animus, the main center of attention. Not quiet, the demonstration drew some attention from people on the street, none of it hostile, most of it curious. We’ll see a lot of this as rightwing Jewish organizations cozy up to the new administration. I’m not sure it “means” anything big-picture wise. The hinei ma tov u’ma’naim sung by the crowd outside the hotel was soft and doleful. But small is also good. Even little demonstrations can notch up some noise and get some notice as they move across a big city. The echoes reverberate off the concrete and narrow streets. None of my pictures came out very well, but I’m posting them anyway.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics.
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