According to Peter Beinart, the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), which I head, is a mostly unknown, “heavily” Orthodox organization that supports President-elect Trump’s “takeover” of the GOP, invited Trump strategist Steve Bannon to address our recent Annual Dinner and “peddles” “anti-Muslim bigotry” (‘Trump Era Heralds Final Collapse of American Jewish Center,’ Nov. 30). To quote Winston Churchill, “I should think it was hardly possible to state the opposite of the truth with more precision.”
The “unknown” ZOA, the oldest American Zionist organization (established 1897), is certainly known to the Wall Street Journal, which described us as “the most credible advocate for Israel on the American Jewish scene today.” The Forward has named me personally among the top 50 Jewish leaders eleven times; the Jewish Exponent, one of the top ten Jewish activists of the century. Less than 10% of our board are Orthodox. We did not invite Steve Bannon to address our Dinner. Mr. Bannon asked to attend, was not asked to speak and did not in fact attend (ditto Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer). Liberal Democrat Alan Dershowitz was invited and given an award.
ZOA doesn’t endorse candidates, but we do praise or critique candidates’ positions of relevance to our mission, and have done both in respect of Donald Trump. Indeed, we were critical of Mr. Trump’s initial plan for a blanket ban on entry to Muslims, but we do oppose permitting entry to those Muslims from jihadist conflict zones whom, as admitted by senior Obama Administration officials, cannot be properly vetted. Far from being “bigots,” ZOA opinion pieces have appeared in moderate Muslim publications like Muslim World Today (whose late editor, Tashbih Sayyed, also addressed the ZOA). We have also consistently and unequivocally condemned the fortunately rare cases of anti-Muslim terrorism in Israel.
Morton A. Klein
National President, Zionist Organization of America
This letter was published by Haaretz and may be found here.