December 23, 2020
News Press Release

ZOA Urges HIAS: Stop Misleading Statement That HIAS Is “Jewish Refugee Agency” and That “HIAS’ Board is 100% Jewish”

HIAS Falsely States Its Partner “Islamic Relief” Is “Apolitical Humanitarian Group” When IR Is On Israel’s and UAE’s Terrorist Lists

The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) released the following statement: 

The ZOA urges HIAS and HIAS’ President, CEO, and Board member Mark Joseph Hetfield to stop falsely stating that “HIAS’ Board is 100% Jewish”; to stop misleadingly implying that Hetfield is Jewish and speaks for Jews as a Jew; to stop misleadingly claiming that HIAS is a “Global Jewish Refugee Agency,” when in fact approximately 99% of HIAS’ refugee clients are non-Jews (largely Muslim); and to stop falsely stating that HIAS’ partner, “Islamic Relief,” is an “apolitical humanitarian group.”  In fact, Israel, the UAE, and others designate Islamic Relief as a terror organization.

Hetfield’s and HIAS’ “100% Jewish Board” and “Jewish Refugee Agency” Untruths:

ZOA and other groups and journalists recently revealed that approximately 99% of HIAS’ current refugee clients are non-Jewish and are largely Muslim.  (E.g., The U.S. State Dept. Refugee Processing Center database reveals that only 38 Jews were resettled in the U.S. in all of 2019; HIAS has thousands of non-Jewish clients, and admitted in its legal papers that “many” of its clients are Muslim.)  In response, HIAS’ President, CEO, and Board member Mark Joseph Hetfield misleadingly tried to show that HIAS is still a “Jewish organization” and “the Global Jewish Refugee Agency,” by (falsely) stating in the L.A. Jewish Journal that “HIAS’ Board is 100% Jewish.” 

Hetfield’s statement that “HIAS’ Board is 100% Jewish” was a falsehood because Hetfield – who is a member of the HIAS Board as well as HIAS’ president and CEO – is himself not Jewish.  

ZOA is absolutely, unequivocally not complaining that HIAS’ head is not Jewish. ZOA has no problem whatsoever with a non-Jew heading HIAS. We are not criticizing Hetfield’s faith. The issue is that Hetfield and HIAS falsely state that HIAS’ Board is 100% Jewish, and continues, in op-eds and elsewhere, to misleadingly imply that Hetfield is a Jew and speaks for Jews.

Another concern is that HIAS’ and Hetfield’s false statements have the potential to mislead Jews and Jewish donors into helping HIAS under the false impression that HIAS is primarily helping Jewish refugees. ZOA strongly supports helping properly vetted refugees — ZOA’s Mort Klein and his parents themselves were refugee survivors of the Holocaust. The issue is that Jews and others should help HIAS with the full and accurate knowledge of HIAS’ activities and agenda. 

Hetfield Misleadingly and Wrongly Claims His Views are “Torah Exhortations”:

It is also troubling that Mark Hetfield, a non-Jew, misleadingly gives the impression that he is speaking as a Jewish adherent to the Torah, when, in essence, Hetfield demands that we admit into the U.S. a significant number of un-vettable people who may very well be new Jew-hating, Israel-hating Ilhan Omar types based on ADL polls.  In recent articles in both the JTA and the Jewish Exponent, Mark Hetfield explains his immigration views by saying “We are exhorted in the Torah.”  It is wrong for Mark Hetfield to thus mislead people into thinking he is a Jew or that his views are Torah exhortations that he has a religious obligation to follow, which as a non-Jew, he does not. In fact, admitting un-vettable refugees from Mideast Muslim countries, where the ADL Global 100 Antisemitism Index found that 75% to 93% of the population is antisemitic, violates the over-arching Torah value of protecting Jews and Americans from hatred and worse. 

Hetfield and HIAS Falsely State that Islamic Relief, Which is on Israel’s Terrorist List and Which HIAS Partners With, Is an Apolitical Humanitarian Group:

Hetfield’s “100% Jewish” falsehood was accompanied by Hetfield’s false statement that HIAS’ acknowledged “partner” designated terror group Islamic Relief, is “a completely apolitical humanitarian organization.”  In fact, Islamic Relief’s terror ties are extremely well documented.  Israel, the UAE, Bangladesh, several banks, and others designate Islamic Relief as a Hamas-and-Muslim Brotherhood-linked terror group/financier.

Hetfield and HIAS Take Positions Harmful to the Jewish People While Claiming to Speak As a Jew and for Jews, Including Praising and or Defending Jew-Haters & Israel-Bashers Ilhan Omar and Linda Sarsour:

The falsity of HIAS’ and Hetfield’s claims is important because, in the name of a Jewish organization, HIAS and Hetfield: (1) sued President Trump to allow un-vettable refugees from terrorist-infiltrated countries that Trump banned; (2) wronglyclaim that it’s a “Jewish value” to bring large numbers of likely antisemitic Middle Eastern Muslim refugees into the country whom bi-partisan experts agree cannot be vetted and pose a danger to Jews and Americans; (3) praised Jew-hater, BDS-supporter, terrorist-sympathizer and Israel-hater Ilhan Omar as “an inspiration to refugees around the world” (Omar called Israel “evil” and demanded lower sentences for convicted ISIS terrorists); and (4) Hetfield and another HIAS official signed a letter, along with leaders of radical hostile-to-Israel groups J Street, Bend the Arc, IfNotNow, and others, defending and demanding an end to “maligning” infamous Israel-hating Jew-hating, terrorist-praising, BDS-promoting Linda Sarsour, and pledging to “stand in solidarity” with Sarsour and to “work alongside her [Sarsour] for a more just and equal society.” 

Sarsour has proclaimed that Zionists are prohibited from joining her rally, calls throwing rocks at Israelis “the definition of courage,” and stood with and praised Rasmea Odeh, a convicted murderer of Jews.  

It’s time for Mark Hetfield and HIAS to apologize; to stop more than implying that HIAS’ chief executive is Jewish and its Board is 100% Jewish; and that as long as HIAS claims to be a “Jewish Refugee Agency,” in the interest of transparency, needs to make it clear to donors and all concerned that less than 1% of HIAS’ refugee clients are Jewish; and to end HIAS partnership with Islamic Relief, a group that Israel and others designate as a Hamas-linked terror organization.