April 27, 2020
Press Release

ZOA: HIAS Falsely Claims It Doesn’t Work With BDS-Promoters, But HIAS Does!

COP’s Concession to ZOA and Other Groups Delaying HIAS Chair Becoming COP Chair, is Minimal
HIAS SUPPORTERS take part in a pro-immigration rally in Washington last year. (photo credit: TED EYTAN)

Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) President Morton A. Klein and ZOA Chairman Mark Levenson, Esq. released the following statement:

The campaign by ZOA and other pro-Israel organizations has resulted in the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations (the “COP”) agreeing to delay making HIAS Chair Dianne Lob the chair of the COP for almost a year.  The COP’s concession is minimal.  Indeed, false and absurd statements just made by HIAS’s president are a reminder of why HIAS Chair Dianne Lob should also not become COP Chair next year.  We continue to oppose Ms. Lob’s election.  

HIAS President Mark Hetfield falsely denied HIAS’s partnerships with BDS-promoters:

Jewish Insider reported today that HIAS’s president Hetfield stated that “as a matter of policy, HIAS won’t partner with organizations that promote the BDS movement.”  

In fact, disgracefully, HIAS proudly announced that its Clearwater, Florida program “works closely with the Council on American Islamic Relations” (CAIR). The Israel-bashing CAIR is a major promoter of BDS, as well as an unindicted co-conspirator in the Holy Land Foundation trial, for funneling money to Hamas.  It is deeply troubling (to say the least) that HIAS works with terrorist or terrorist-affiliated groups including CAIR and Islamic Relief USA.  IRUSA is the American branch of Islamic Relief Worldwide, which Israel and the UAE designated as a terrorist organization. 

It is also a moral disgrace that HIAS signed joint letters with BDS-promoters CAIR and MPAC (which also opposes Israel’s existence, as well as promoting boycotts of Israel companies), IfNotNow, J Street (which gives platforms to leading BDS promoters), and Truah (which states that it does not reject “targeted” boycotts and divestment, aimed at the 800,000 Jews over living over the artificial old armistice lines).  

HIAS’s primary mission is not to advocate for Israel and Jews, as required to be a member of the Conference of Presidents, but HIAS’ primary mission is to resettle and advocate to bring into the United States more non-Jewish, mostly Muslim refugees, many of whom are from Middle East countries where, according to ADL polls, 74% to 93% of the population is antisemitic.   

No wonder Jew-hating, Israel-bashing, major BDS promoter Linda Sarsour fundraises for HIAS. HIAS has also disgracefully and publicly defended Jew-hating bigot Sarsour.  

Furthermore, HIAS no longer calls itself the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society, but only by its acronym HIAS, claiming to continue to use “hebrew” would be exclusionary and outdated and the name with Hebrew in it “no longer represented the organization.”

Moreover, BDS promoters including MPAC, T’ruah and the American Arab Anti-Discriminations Committee (ADC), each of which filed or co-filed amicus briefs, and CAIR have been supporting HIAS’s multiple lawsuits opposing the current U.S. administration’s efforts to protect Americans’ (especially American Jews’) safety.  As ZOA previously detailed, HIAS’s lawsuits and advocacy in opposition to the U.S. federal, state, local and Israeli governments conflicts with the COP’s mission.  Having a HIAS Chair become COP Chair would likely severely damage the COP’s effectiveness and relationships with the U.S. and Israeli administrations. 

And all of these troubling actions have occurred while Dianne Lob was Chair of HIAS. 

HIAS’s president absurdly and irrationally claimed that not helping Jews is Israel-centric:

Jewish Insider also reported today that HIAS president Mark Hetfield absurdly stated:  “As a Jewish refugee organization, we have an important connection to Israel because the reason we can advocate for refugees who are not Jewish today is because the Jewish refugee problem has essentially been solved by the State of Israel.”   In other words, HIAS is claiming: “we are a Jewish organization because we don’t help Jews!”   

HIAS’s claim would be comparable to the March of Dimes claiming that it is still a “polio organization” even though polio was eradicated and the March of Dimes switched to being an organization that combats birth defects.  Just like the March of Dimes is no longer a polio organization, HIAS is a no longer a Jewish organization.

Moreover, the need to help Jews around the world has not been eradicated.  There are hundreds of thousands of Jews in countries including France, the UK, Sweden, and Germany, where it is dangerous to be a Jew today, because radical Muslims and others perpetrate hundreds of antisemitic attacks on Jews each year.  Israel’s Jewish Agency tries to help those Jews who wish to immigrate to Israel.  HIAS could help also – but doesn’t.  Instead, HIAS campaigns against and files lawsuits against Israel, to try to force Israel to keep illegal, non-Jewish, Eritrean migrants that Israel is trying to deport, especially as many of whom are criminals.  

And what about those Jews, in an increasingly dangerous Europe, who have family in America?  Or who already know English and would have difficulty immigrating to Israel?   Or have other reasons for preferring to move to America?  Unfortunately, HIAS ignores these Jews’ cries for help – while instead helping mostly Muslim non-Jews immigrate to the U.S.   

HIAS’s non-Jewish mission conflicts with the COP’s missions to “advance the interests of the American Jewish community … aid endangered Jewish communities, fight anti-Semitism, combat terrorism at home and abroad, strengthen domestic security and safeguard American Jewish institutions.” In fact, resettling Muslims in America, who ADL has shown have substantial numbers who are antisemitic can harm Americans Jews and the Conference of Presidents mission to lobby for the Jewish State of Israel.  

HIAS can only be a Jewish organization entitled to be a member of the COP, and entitled to have its chair serve as COP chair, if HIAS returns to its former mission of helping Jews around the world again.  

Until then, we must continue to oppose making Dianne Lob the COP Chair.