The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) spoke out against the nomination of Dianne Lob as the next chairwoman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations (COP). Lob was previously the chairwoman of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society (HIAS), which has worked with anti-Israel groups such as the Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR).
A letter from the ZOA to the COP warned that Lob’s appointment would “undermine and create multiple serious conflicts with the COP’s mission to help Israel and the Jewish people, and would damage the COP’s relationships with US federal, state and local governments and the Israeli government and people.”
The ZOA leadership stated that Lob has not previously been active in the COP and worried that Lob’s views could be “the same as those of HIAS.” The officials warned that it is “reasonable to be skeptical if views Ms. Lob may have expressed to the COP nominating committee differed from HIAS’s positions and actions under her chairpersonship.”
The letter called HIAS’s work with other groups “inimical” to the COP’s mission, pointing to joint projects with Islamic Relief, CAIR and MPAC. Islamic Relief has been banned in Israel for terrorist activities. The UAE also declared the group a terrorist organization.
In 2017, HIAS signed a letter alongside Jewish Voice for Peace, If Not Now, J Street, the New Israel Fund and T’ruah defending anti-Israel activist Linda Sarsour.
The ZOA letter also spoke out against HIAS’s involvement in lawsuits against the US federal, state, local and Israeli governments, including lawsuits against the travel bans of US President Donald Trump’s administration. This involvement “directly conflicts with the COP’s mission to ‘advance the interests of the American Jewish community…aid endangered Jewish communities, fight antisemitism, combat terrorism at home and abroad, strengthen domestic security, and safeguard American Jewish institutions.'”
HIAS has also opposed state and local governments’ ability to control resettlement in their areas. The organization has also represented illegal Eritrean migrants in Israel and opposed attempts by the Israeli government to repatriate them.
The ZOA stressed that HIAS itself does not consider itself a Jewish organization as it dropped the word “Hebrew” from its name as being “exclusionary” in 2014. The organization also has primarily Muslim clients. The ZOA expressed fears that HIAS’s work to help Muslims immigrate from Middle Eastern countries could put American Jews at risk, citing the ADL Global 100 Antisemitism Index which found that in 16 Muslim-majority Middle Eastern countries, 74% to 93% of the population is antisemitic.
The letter argued that the chairmanship of the COP is viewed as the “highest honor in the American Jewish community” and that it should not be bestowed on a person “who lacks experience in the larger organized Jewish community and remains closely associated with an organization that promotes policies that conflict with the Conference’s mission to fight for Jews and Israel.”
The ZOA called for an “experienced” nominee who has “at least a centrist background,” adding that this was especially important with the current administrations in Washington and Israel. The letter expressed fears that Lob’s election could cause harm to the COP’s relationships with the US and Israel.
The officials recommended that Lob’s nomination be withdrawn, that current chair Arthur Stark remain and that the election be postponed until at least the end of 2020 until the coronavirus outbreak is resolved and COP members have an opportunity to meet Lob face-to-face. The letter additionally recommended that a meeting be held to vote on the timing of the election and that an election not be held with only one candidate, as Lob is currently the only candidate.
This article was originally published in the Jerusalem Post.