Dr. Sebastian Gorka speaks at the International Special Training Centre's Military Assistance Course in Pfullendorf, Germany, on May 14, 2015. Photo courtesy of Creative Commons/Eric Steen

Sebastian Gorka is bad for the Jews. And America.

(RNS) Sebastian Gorka, President Trump’s top counterterrorism adviser, is reportedly a member of a Hungarian far-right group that is listed by the U.S. State Department as having been “under the direction of the Nazi Government of Germany” during World War II.

The elite order, known as the Vitézi Rend, was established by Admiral Miklos Horthy, a staunch Hungarian nationalist. He was a self-confessed anti-Semite and Nazi collaborator, who deported hundreds of thousands of Jews into Nazi hands.

Last month, journalists noticed that Gorka has worn a medal affiliated with the group on multiple occasions, and that he has further ties to anti-Semitic groups in Hungary. Gorka said he wears the medal as a tribute to his father.

Three Democratic senators have called for an investigation into whether Gorka, who was born in the United Kingdom, “falsified his naturalization application or otherwise illegally procured his citizenship” by failing to disclose his membership in the banned Hungarian group.

Let's face the historical facts. There has never been any kind of European nationalist movement, especially in central or Eastern Europe, that has been good for the Jews.

Because those groups always define themselves over and against the Jews. The Jews are what they are not. In fact, European nationalists crafted their nationalisms as a deliberately binary way of saying that the Jews are not us.

Now, what do Jewish groups think of Gorka?

As Noah Kulwin reports, those reactions fall pretty much along political lines.

Take centrist and left-leaning Jewish organizations — like J Street, the Anti-Defamation League, and the Anne Frank Center. They have criticized Gorka’s reported links to Vitezi Rend.

What about right-wing groups? The Zionist Organization of America released a statement saying “Gorka is a friend of Jews/Israel.”

The Orthodox Union? For the time being, undecided.

But, in the words of Allen Fagin, its executive vice president: "There are serious people within the community that I’m aware of who have said very, very positive things about Dr. Gorka.”

The Republican Jewish Coalition? Silent.

So, this is what you are wondering.

"Jeff, are you saying that the groups that we would assume to be most defensive of Jewish interests are the most supportive of this man with links to Hungarian fascism?"

Um, yes.

Because ... Israel?

So it would seem.

But, wasn't it people like these right wing ant-Semitic nationalists that made Israel necessary in the first place?


Because here's the real mind scrambler: You can actually love Israel but be totally meh on the Jews.

How is that possible?

It all depends on what you think Israel represents.

Nationalism. Let's say that you support Israel because you are a nationalist — and you don't really care which nationalism it happens to be. Hungarian, Czech, Albanian, an imagined American nationalism — whatever. In that case, you'll admire Israel, because Israel represents Jewish nationalism.

Militarism. Let's say that you admire states that embody strong defense. Since Israel has done admirably well (albeit by necessity) in this regard, you would be likely to admire Israel.

Anti-Muslim or anti-Arab sentiment. Let's say that you hate Islam, Muslims, and/or "Ay-rabs." You assume that Israel embodies your bouquet of bigotries. In that case, you would be likely to support Israel.

Pro-American. This is real simple. You love America; Israel is one of America's closest allies — ergo, you love Israel.

Several years ago, in the wake of Israel's incursion into Lebanon in order to fight Hezbollah, a gentile man in the Deep South, overhearing that I had recently visited Israel, shook my hand and said: "I just want to thank your people for fighting that war for us."

He wasn't wrong; Israel's battle against militant Islamic extremism is, in fact, the first front in that sordid ideology's war against Western values. But, Israel's status as a Jewish state was actually irrelevant to this man.

Yes, Israel needs all the friends it can get. Support for Israel cannot become a restricted ideological country club.

But, let's differentiate "pro-Israelism" from Zionism.

"Pro-Israelism" treats the Jewish state as a football team. We sit in the bleachers and yell: "Hit 'em again — harder, harder."

Zionism is something else altogether. Whatever else it is, Zionism is also about the moral excellence of the Jewish people.

Not only that.

Let's play that traditional Jewish game — "what about the kinder (children)?"

Let's not mess around with this. If young Jews perceive that, say, Gorka, is the kind of person that we snuggle up to, simply because they like Israel, the disconnect will be ferocious.

What will they say, and what will they do?

If Gorka is actually sympathetic to Hungarian fascist nationalism, his ideology is uncomfortably close to alt-right thinking and Breitbart-ism.

How well he fits in with the emerging ideology of the White House.

And how depressing that is.


  1. I would surmise that some might dispute Mr. Salkin’s claim that “Whatever else it is, Zionism about the moral excellence of the Jewish people.” I like to take people, like my martinis’ one at a time. I do not agree that a specific community or class of people can be broadly categorized as innately moral…not even Christians, the community with which I most identify. One can be “moral” within the framework of one’s own system of belief, but outsiders may not be so sanguine. In the Christian worldview (generally speaking) the best of us are still sinners, and by extension, to some degree immoral.
    To the question of Mr. Gorka’s character, regardless of the commemorative that adorns his apparel, time will reveal whether he embraces an anti-Semitic stance philosophically. If and when he ever does, I expect the drumbeat for his dismissal or resignation will sound loudly, often and incessantly.

  2. “To the question of Mr. Gorka’s character, regardless of the commemorative that adorns his apparel”

    If he had a Nazi Iron Cross on his lapel would you say the same thing?

  3. “Anne Frank Center wants Trump’s in-house avowed Nazi to resign”

    Turns out that Gorka is a “sworn member” of Vitézi Rend, having taken a “lifelong oath” of loyalty to the Nazi organization.

    He won’t say whether he lied about this when he emigrated to the USA (these disclosures being part of the normal, extremely thorough vetting that migrants to the USA undergo). Such a lie would open the door to deportation proceedings for Gorka, now, or at any time in the future (there is no statute of limitations on deportation proceedings for migrants who lie or fail to disclose material facts during the
    immigration and naturalization procedure).

    The Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect is now calling for Gorka’s resignation.

    Gorka, who is also a member of the White House’s Strategic Initiatives Group convened by his former boss at Breitbart, Stephen Bannon, has positioned himself as one of the administration’s most combative spokespeople. Last month, he courted controversy after defending the White House’s Holocaust Remembrance Day statement (which failed to mention Jews or anti-Semitism), calling criticism of the statement “asinine” and “absurd.” That statement, when viewed in the context of his membership in an anti-Semitic group that collaborated with the Nazis, raises even more questions about his core beliefs.

    According to Eva Balogh, a Hungarian-born Yale historian of Eastern Europe, Vitezi members must accept the Order’s original goals that were established by its self-described anti-Semitic founder, Adm. Miklos Horthy, who served as Regent of the Kingdom of Hungary between 1920 and 1944.
    Among other things, the goals include the aim “’to secure the lordship of the Hungarian race, which could strike down all subversive, anti-national efforts with formidable force.’ From its inception in 1920, the Order was an irredentist organization, whose slogan is still: ‘I believe in one God, I believe in one country, I believe in the divineeverlasting truth, I believe in the resurrection of Hungary,’ which means the recreation of Hungary according to its pre-1918 borders.” Hungary’s pre-1918 borders include parts of present-day Romania, Slovakia, Ukraine, Serbia, and Austria.

  4. Hate to say it but groups like the Orthodox Union and the ZOA are the ultimate chickenhawk. There main agenda seems hatred of Muslims which is NOT PRO ISRAEL and do they care if this leads to men being sent to fight more wars and provokes arabs and provokes more wars and conflict. Doesn’t seem like it. They are the typical corrupt religious establishment that love sending OTHER MEN to fight endless wars which gives them more to do if other men are away. Many of the Israeli leaders did not see Muslims the way some Americans do who live thousands of miles away and can hate a group that truly is a minority to them.

  5. Interesting question. The other day I was sitting in traffic and a gentleman (I use the term advisedly) rode up beside me on his Harley D. and I noted on the back of his helmet a stencil of a stylized eagle surmounted by an encircled swastika, which of course was a common uniform emblem of the German military during WW2. Beneath the stencil was the phrase, “White Pride.” I experienced a vague but palpable distaste as I viewed it. Apart from the usage of the emblem, I disdain “________ Pride” if based on race, any race. Which is not the same as ethnic pride which is most often framed culturally. If Hispanics are proud of their culture, fine; African-Americans, fine (note that I did not say black); Irish, fine (note that I did not say white). If Mr. Gorka wears the emblem out of mere sentiment in remembrance of his father, who was surely something more to Mr. Gorka than his political views, I will not condemn him on that basis, unless and until that sentiment manifests itself in hostile ways to Jews or anyone else.

  6. In the other post I made, it was clear Gorka is a member of the same Neo Nazi organization. Such membership and lying about it on immigration visa applications are actually grounds for deportation.

    “__ Pride” when one is a minority means one is taking pride in themselves despite years of bigotry making such identity appear shameful and worth hiding/minimizing.

    White Pride is an expression of extolling bigotry as white people are the dominant group in the culture and benefitted from discrimination. Taking pride in dominating others. Hence a popular neo Nazi slogan.

  7. Once again, we fail to see eye to eye, but we can do so amicably I hope. One thing to consider, within the context of our own society under present trends, “White” dominance will soon become a thing of the past culturally speaking as the ethnic demographic continues to change and “whites’ eventually become just one more minority among others.

  8. Most people don’t have parents who were Nazi collaborators. The organization is responsible for the death of many Jews. I wonder who many Germans would wear a swastika in remembrance of their relatives.

  9. For centuries Jews and others have been made to feel less than others. That is why it’s different for a white person to say “white pride.” Notice I didn’t say Irish pride or Italian pride, because they were also made to feel less than. I think there is a book called How the Irish Became White.

  10. Mr. Gorka will have to judged on his own merit or lack thereof based on his actions, not a specific symbol that adorns his apparel. As to your thought regarding Germans I would suspect the number is something above zero. But the Swastika is indelibly stamped on human history in a way that the pin Mr. Gorka wears does not because of its sheer ubiquity. I doubt most people would have recognized the pin if not pointed out by someone with an eagle eye for such details.

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