Mort Klein Interview: Challenge is Cultural, Not Land Legacy
ZOA in the news
April 1, 2009


MARCH 13. 2009

ZOA’s Mort Klein:
Challenge is Cultural, Not Land Legacy

Mort Klein, well known in Washington for his strong support of Israel, shown here in front of the capital.


For decades, Mort Klein has been an ardent and astute commentator in support of Israel. His long term leadership of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) has helped create a major forces on behalf of Israel. He has a deep understanding of the effects of “on the ground” reality in the political worlds of both the United States and Israel. Speaking with Klein always provides insights into current albeit somewhat right-of-center Zionist thinking. Not surprisingly, we began our conversation speaking about the current political situation in Israel.

From the Jewish Voice: Interesting times in Israeli politics these days. Though only a minority winner in the popular vote, Benjamin Netanyahu has been directed to form a government by Israeli President Shimon Peres. Interesting…

Klein: “Do you remember a time when Israeli politics weren’t? Netanyahu can unquestionably form a government. He has 65 seats from center to right-of-center. “Rabin only had 61 when he pushed through OSLO,” he reminds. The question is, can he form a government with parties from the left? It is perplexing why Netanyahu would join either Kadima or Labor in the government when their baseline policies would likely clash.

Odds are high that Netanyahu will remain in power for the next several years if not longer. “I believe that Netanyahu will be much more careful about making one sided concessions.” Livni would “almost certainly have difficulty promoting ‘Bibi’s’ policies. Even if she is willing to make supporting statements, there would be no credibility—coming from her.” Klein has similar opinion regarding Barak and his views—views clearly at odds with those of Netanyahu. Klein says “there would be no credibility.”

Mr. and Mrs. Mort Klein with President Bush and First Lady Laura Bush

Both of these possible partners are “too far apart on critical issues to form a unified stance on foreign policy issues— except where it comes to Iran,” says Klein. He worries about President Obama’s understanding of the serious danger of Iran and is concerned about Israel being put in the position of “stalking horse” for the United States. “Time is running short… The President must recognize that Iran is a serious danger to the US and the West—Israel would simply be hit first; the rest close behind… Iran would have no problem using them (nuclear weapons) to promote jihadist activities.

The Jewish Voice: Asked if he believed political change in Iran would bring about change its policy, Klein responded saying that an alternate government “could be more dangerous… no one running would—could—transform the hateful policies of Iran.” There is no time for a revolution in time to stop development of nuclear weapons. “The ZOA executive feels that preventing installations from moving forward “is still doable,” and expressed the hope that the United States, Israel and the west would work together. “Israel and the United States must do what’s right—it is truly painful that Western Europe still does not appreciate the danger of Iran.”

Klein: Speculating about what Israel might do, believes a military action is an option. “I thought Israel would act last year. I would hope that Israel will do whatever is deemed necessary—and that does not exclude military action.” He noted that Israel “no longer had the luxury of a single site to target.”

Mort Klein (on right), with Mort Zuckerman, Publisher of the Daily News.

Jewish Voice: Asked his take on the recent meeting of Jewish leaders with Pope Benedict, Klein noted that the only twenty four (24) members of the Conference of Presidents had actually attended, (the rest “were guests and private citizens.” Klein was adamant: “One Hundred is a big lie—the major organizations were not at the conference in Israel. AIPAC, the American Jewish Congress, Abe Foxman (Anti-Defamation League) came only for the meeting with the Pope; David Harris (AJC) was not at the meeting in Israel.”

Klein expressed strong opinions regarding the actions of Pope Benedict, Klein says “Jews should understand what Holocaust denial is about: not ignorance or innocence. Holocaust deniers are nothing less than Jew-haters, Israel-haters, who want to act as if Jews were capable of monstrous lies.” “The Pope should have unequivocally banished Williamson from any official position in the Catholic world. Anything less is deeply troubling, including the failure to dismiss Williamson. The Pope and the Catholic Church should make it clear that lying about the Holocaust would not be tolerated. “Praise of the Pope by many Jewish organizations has given his action validation… a much stronger negative position should have been taken… Jewish organizations should say ‘No, it not enough.’”

ZOA, the Zionist Organization of America, has done just that, sending a letter to the Pope explaining why his positions are “not enough.”

The Jewish Voice: Were the positions taken by the Pope encouraging the rise of anti-Semitism in Western Europe? “The Pope’s message is not the “biggest factor, not of enormous significance.” According to Klein, the significant increase in anti-Jewish Muslims throughout Europe is a much more important component. He believes this growing population is “becoming much more active, with ample funding from major Arab countries. Activities are well organized, including organized demonstrations—often displaying similar, prepared signage. “Western countries’ fear (of radical Islamic terrorism) encourages them to side with Muslims thinking, hoping that this will reduce the likelihood of homeland terror. It will not. Western countries need for oil and concern about the “oil spigot being stopped,” encourages tolerance of anti-Jewish activity. “Jews throughout history have never been a favored people,” says Klein.

Discussing Israel’s current geo-political situation, Klein emphasizes that it is “most frightening when one sees missiles hitting Israel, even after 8 years of pleading for the shooting to stop… When Israel does respond—in an effort to protect more than a million of its citizens in Southern Israel—instead of praising Israel for attacking Hamas, a recognized, condemned terrorist organization, not a sovereign or civilized entity, the world still criticizes Israel.

Mort Klein, President of the Zionist Organization of America, is seen here with Senator Arlen Spector, Pennsylvania”s longest serving Senator. Spector, noted for his courage to cross party lines, is a strong supporter of Israel.

The Jewish Voice asked Klein his opinion of the attitude of world leadership towards the Jewish people and the Jewish State. He minced few words, saying a far more adamant condemnation of Hamas terrorists from President Obama is needed.

Klein: The current attitude towards Israel is simply one continuing a 2000 year march: “Increasing, it seems the world only wants Jews to be victims—quite frightening.” Acknowledging that there have been several, significant conferences at which non-Jewish world leaders are speaking out. Klein emphasized the need for the journalists to join together in protest actions taken against Israel.

Negative attitudes towards Jews historically increase when economic conditions worsen. However, enmity towards Jews began to increase several years ago—before economic difficulties. The economic downturn simply exacerbates a situation that was already getting worse.

Asked why attitudes towards other groups don’t denigrate, Klein says “no one can really answer—especially since the Jewish people are among the most productive and least criminal groups in the world.”

The Jewish Voice: There are notable exceptions. What might be the effect of the crimes of Bernard Madoff? Klein acknowledged that “there are criminals among every people—Madoff”s acts were because he acted as a terrible, criminal human, not as a Jew. People invested with a man whose investment strategy was incomprehensible. Charities and organizations and people have been devastated.”

Yet Racism against Jews is found in many quarters. Although The New York Times said “Hillary Rodham Clinton put down the right markers on her first Middle East trip as Secretary of State” Klein has a distinctly opposite opinion. During her recent visit, Clinton became involved in Jerusalem zoning issues.

Klein: ZOA was absolutely appalled by Hilary Clinton’s statements at her press conference with Machmood Abbas, demanding that Israel stop demolishing the illegal Palestinian Arab homes in Eastern Jerusalem—structures being built without permits while stopping construction of legal, permitted Israeli Jewish homes. It is an expression of appalling racist discrimination, and unhelpful towards peace.” Klein noted the stark contrast between Clinton’s positions as Senator from New York: “(She) used to complain about the horrific promotion of hatred and murder against Israel and Israelis… since becoming secretary she has not uttered one word about Arab incitement against the Jews.”

Exemplar of its legislative mission, the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) is planning a One Day Mission to Washington March 26. Forty members of Congress will discuss support for Israel at a formal lunch, followed by an afternoon of one to one lobbying of Congressional members. “The day will be inspiring and thrilling,” says Klein. “The primary purpose is to ask Congress to present the truth about the Arab war against Israel, stop pressuring Israel and to stop the Iranian developing of nuclear technology. ZOA members will demand that the 900 million dollar Gaza aid package be linked to supervised compliance, and demand that the Palestinians fulfill obligations included on the “Roadmap” to end incitement and jail terrorists.”

“There has been a failure to get out the truth of the Arab war against Israel—to make clear that there are 23 Arab countries, 600 times the size of Israel. Israel’s land is religiously and historically hers.” Recounting modern political history proves that land is not the issue, Klein reminds that even the 1937 Peel Commission offer of virtually all the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea ws refused. A post World War II “50/50 split” (actually, about 55/45) proposal led to the 1948 Arab war against Israel’s existence. Barak’s 2000 proposal—95 % of Judea and Samaria, all of Gaza and most of eastern Jerusalem—was also refused by Machmood Abbas and Arafat.

Klein says Israel must make the case that Arab interest is not, in borders but in destruction of Israel entirely. He believes there is a religious was against Israel—a reality that makes things worse than they ever were. “Arabs refuse to accept a non-Muslim entity in their midst—nothing to do with borders or boundaries.”

Queried about possible changes in the Syrian situation, Klein responded, saying “If Assad said he were throwing out the 12 terrorists groups headquartered in Damascus and ending anti-Semitic rhetoric and not facilitating transfer of arms, there could be a belief that they are serious. However they say no preconditions.” “How can you have a civilized state next to Israel when Hamas controls all of Gaza and Fatah controls all of Judea and Samaria? asks Klein. “It’s a fantasy! The goal of the Palestinian state is destruction of Israel. Both the Fatah constitution and the Hamas constitution call for Israel’s destruction and oppose a political solution… state would destabilize the Middle East even more.”

Klein adamantly believes that a transformation of Arab culture must occur so “we could begin to see that they were serious about peace, linking all US aid to full compliance with the 15 year old obligations of Oslo “at least over a period of several years.” He notes that the “Palestinians have received more aid per capita than any other entity, but funds have been used to purchase weapons to destroy Israel—not to build a better infrastructure. As long as children are taught to hate Israel, there is no possibility of peace.”

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