December 15, 2016
News Press Release

ZOA: Groups Boycotting Azerbaijan-Hanukkah Party Hurt Both U.S-Israel & Muslim Azerbaijan Relations

The 11 Boycotters Were: ADL, American Jewish Committee, HIAS, Union for Reform Judaism, Hadassah, Central Conference of American Rabbis, Americans for Peace Now, Ameinu, Workmen’s Circle, Jewish Women International, and National Council of Jewish Women
ZOA President Morton A. Klein

Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) President Morton A. Klein released the following statement:

Eleven Jewish organizations have hurt and embarrassed the President-elect and Azerbaijan – a friendly Muslim country with an excellent relationship with Israel and Azerbaijan’s local Jewish population who this week hosted Israeli PM Netanyahu– when those 11 organizations boycotted the Hanukkah party co-hosted by Azerbaijan and the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.  The party took place at the new Trump International Hotel in Washington DC on Wednesday evening (December 14).  Azerbaijan is an important ally:  Azerbaijan reportedly granted Israel permission to refuel in Azerbaijani airbases to enable Israel to destroy Iran’s nuclear weapons facilities – until the Obama administration leaked and scuttled Israel’s and Azerbaijan’s plans.  (“Azerbaijan Allows Israel To Use Its Air Bases Near Iran Border,” Israel Hayom, Mar. 29, 2012.)  The boycotting organizations may have harmed the U.S.-Israel and Israeli-Azerbaijani relationships.  The boycotting organizations owe Azerbaijan an apology.                                                                              

This action may also have harmed these boycotters’ own mission to strengthen relations between Israel and the US Administration. The Trump Administration may well be offended by the Jewish boycotters’ opposition to holding the Hanukkah event at a Trump Hotel. This opposition should never have occured given that the Trump platform is the most pro-Israel in history and his aides are among the most extraordinarily supportive of Israel in history. An apology to Trump is also in order.

The 11 boycotters were: the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), American Jewish Committee (AJC), HIAS, Union for Reform Judaism (URJ), Hadassah, Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), Americans for Peace Now, Ameinu, Workmen’s Circle, Jewish Women International, and National Council of Jewish Women.

“The boycotting groups seem to care more about displaying their partisan anti-Trump animus than about the serious mistake of offending the next president of the United States, which would negatively impact their duty to promote strong U.S.-Israel relations as as promote relations with moderate Muslim countries like Azerbaijan. . . I doubt these groups would have complained if we had booked a ‘Clinton’ hotel after a Hilary Clinton victory.”  

The boycotting organizations attempted to justify boycotting the Hanukkah party by complaining about Azerbaijan’s human rights record and the party’s location in a Trump hotel.   Yet, many these same organizations have traveled overseas to countries and to meet with leaders with terrible human rights records.  For instance, ADL leaders have visited Saudi Arabia and even met with Yasser Arafat – who was responsible for murdering and wounding thousands of Jews.  The New York branch of the Jewish Federation is planning at least two trip to Cuba in 2017 – despite the Cuba regime’s horrendous human rights record of slaughtering, incarcerating, torturing and making disappear thousands of Cuban citizens.  And despite the Cuban regime’s horrors, the Union of Reform Judaism co-sponsors youth trips to Cuba advertised as an opportunity “to learn about Cuba’s national identity and commitments to education, public health, and social and economic justice.”

In addition, the 11 boycotter groups (and the other 39 groups that together comprise the 51-member organizations of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations) participated in and never protested or boycotted the Conference members’ trips to Turkey, Qatar (which is a major funder of Hamas and has been charged with severe exploitation of its migrant workers) and to many other Muslim countries with problematic human rights records. 

The boycotters’ complaints about the party’s location are also inappropriate.   The Trump hotel was chosen due its proximity to the White House, the hotel’s ability to provide kosher food, and for the convenience of invitees who were also attending the White House Hanukkah party the same day. 

As ZOA President Morton Klein previously stated to the press, the boycotting “groups seem to care more about displaying their partisan anti-Trump animus than about the serious mistake of offending the next president of the United States, which would negatively impact our joint duty to promote strong U.S.-Israel relations as well as promote relations with moderate Muslim countries like Azerbaijan… I doubt these groups would have complained if we had booked a ‘Clinton’ hotel after a Hilary Clinton victory.”  (SeeAnti-Trump Boycott of Azerbaijan-Hosted Hanukkah Party Will Harm Muslim-Jewish Ties, Leaders Say,” by JNS.org, Algemeiner, Dec. 13, 2016.)   

JEWISH HISTORY TEACHES…

Jewish history teaches that embarrassing someone at a party can have negative consequences.  Such a situation was the seed of the destruction of the Second Jewish Temple in Jerusalem in 70 CE, and the accompanying slaughter and dispersions of countless Jews.  Briefly, the party host’s servant mistakenly delivered a party invitation to a man named Bar Kamtsa instead of the similarly named Kamtsa.   When Bar Kamtsa arrived at the party, the party host embarrassed and ejected Bar Kamtsa from the party.  Bar Kamtza was so hurt that he slandered the Jews to the Roman authorities, who destroyed the Second Temple.  (See Kamtza and Bar Kamtza: The story that destroyed the Holy Temple,” by Rabbi Shraga Simmons, Aish.com.)   

ZOA is pleased to see that there are Jewish leaders that are standing with ZOA in condemning the boycott of the Hanukkah party. 

National Council of Young Israel’s Farley Weiss noted: “It was very kind of the Embassy of Azerbaijan to pick the Trump Hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue for the convenience” of these invitees.  (SeeAnti-Trump Boycott of Azerbaijan-Hosted Hanukkah Party Will Harm Muslim-Jewish Ties, Leaders Say,” by JNS.org, Algemeiner, Dec. 13, 2016.)   

Simon Wiesenthal Center associate director Rabbi Abraham Cooper said: “It sounds like Purim rather than Hanukkah.  In the Purim story, everything is turned upside down — and here we have an important Muslim country reaching out with a friendly gesture to the Jewish people, and these Jewish organizations turn around and boycott them.”   (Id.)

Renowned Rabbi David Wolpe (leader of Los Angeles’ Sinai Temple) said: “I think the boycott is misconceived.  I’ve visited Azerbaijan. It is not a perfect place, granted, but they have wonderful relations with Israel and the Jewish community there feels secure and esteemed.” (Id.)

ZOA President Morton Klein had definitely planned to attend the Azerbajian-Conference Hanukkah party, but was unfortunately detained due to all day ZOA Executive and National Board meetings in New York.