By Ben Sales/(JTA) – Stephen Bannon, the former chief strategist for President Donald Trump, called himself a “Christian Zionist” at the Zionist Organization of America’s annual dinner. Bannon received a standing ovation and loud applause throughout his speech. He was one of many current and former Trump administration officials to attend the event, including Ambassador to Israel David Friedman, who also spoke, former press secretary Sean Spicer and Sebastian Gorka, a former adviser to Trump with ties to the Hungarian far-right. “I am not a moderate, I’m a fighter,” Bannon said. “And that’s why I’m proud to stand with the state of Israel. That’s why I’m proud to be a Christian Zionist.” In his speech, Bannon said Trump’s election victory “would not have come without one other person besides Donald Trump – Sheldon Adelson.” In particular, he said Adelson’s advice helped Trump overcome the release of the “Access Hollywood” tape, in which Trump boasted about sexually assaulting a woman.
Liberal Jewish groups protested Bannon’s appointment to the Trump White House last year because of Breitbart’s links to the “alt-right,” a loose network that includes white supremacists. Bannon has called Breitbart “the platform for the alt-right.” But he has disavowed white supremacists on a few occasions, and has said he is not a white nationalist. A group of protesters from IfNotNow, a Jewish group that opposes Israel’s West Bank occupation, demonstrated against Bannon’s speech outside the dinner, which took place at the Grand Hyatt in New York City. Bannon called Trump “the strongest supporter of Israel since Ronald Reagan,” though Reagan was not unequivocally supportive of Israel as president. And he spoke in militant terms about his fight against establishment politicians and the “global class.” “We’re leading an insurgency movement against the Republican establishment, against the permanent global class in Washington, D.C.,” he said.
That line did not receive applause from the mostly Jewish crowd.