In the 1930s, the great Zionist Ze’ev Jabotinsky traveled throughout Europe, warning Jews to flee to Israel from the Nazi “volcano that will soon spew out its flames of extermination.” The Jewish Left rewarded Jabotinsky’s efforts to save European Jewry by calling Jabotinsky “a Nazi.” Absurd? Horrible? Of course. Jabotinsky’s death may have been hastened by this undeserved abuse.
Again, today, those who are dedicated to all the Jewish people’s safety are being rewarded with undeserved abuse.
Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) President Morton A. Klein and ZOA’s staff, board and activists, give heart and soul to combat myriad threats against the Jewish people, from both the Left and the Right. Many of us, including Klein, are children or grandchildren of Holocaust survivors. Our many Sephardi members’ relatives survived pogroms and violent expulsions against Jews in the Middle East. Motivated by love, we’ve led numerous battles to protect all our fellow Jews, Israel – and Americans of all races.
Our reward is that a Boston-JCRC committee issued a ludicrous report claiming that it had “concerns” that ZOA “elevates white supremacists.” In order to reach this ridiculous wrongful conclusion, the committee report primarily relied on the false, previously debunked claim that Dr. Sebastian Gorka has Nazi ties. Then the report invoked “guilt by association” to claim that Morton Klein’s appearances on Gorka’s television show, to promote pro-Israel and Jewish causes, “elevate white supremacists.”
Gorka in fact loves Israel and the Jewish people. He leads pro-Israel tours, spoke at the Jerusalem Post conference, and promotes pro-Israel and pro-Jewish policies. Gorka hates Nazis and is immensely proud that his father fought against both the Nazis and totalitarian communists. He was imprisoned and tortured for doing so. Hungarian Jews honored Gorka’s father for protecting Jews from the Nazis. Prominent New York Rabbi Heshie Billet thoroughly investigated Gorka and wrote an article in 2017 titled “End the Gorka Calumny!” debunking the falsehoods against Gorka. Billet found that the Left even resorted to splicing a tape to make it appear that Gorka said the opposite of what he actually said. Billet concluded, “The efforts to tar [Gorka] . . . are not based on any evidence at all. To smear an innocent man is immoral and politically dishonest.”
Smearing Klein and ZOA for appearing on Dr. Gorka’s television show to promote pro-Israel and Jewish causes is likewise immoral and politically dishonest.
In any event, ZOA’s job is to speak in forums that help us disseminate our pro-Israel, anti-BDS and combating antisemitism message, even when the forum is one that we vehemently disagree with. Thus, ZOA has spoken and debated on Al Jazeera, Turkish television, Russian television, and hostile U.S. media outlets. We are promoting our message; we are not endorsing or elevating or amplifying the media outlet’s views.
THE BOSTON-JCRC committee report also expressed “concern” about innocent ZOA retweets. The retweets were for their content; and did not endorse the initial maker of the tweet. For instance, on Veterans Day, Klein looked for a nice picture of a veteran to retweet. He found and retweeted a heartwarming picture showing an elderly U.S. veteran saluting Veterans Day, previously tweeted by Congressman Steven King. Klein’s retweet was about Veterans Day – not the congressman. Incidentally, King was a great friend of Israel for years. He also rehabilitated himself by voting for a strong congressional resolution condemning his own words on white supremacy.
It’s important to note that ZOA and Klein also have a long record of combating real white supremacy, neo-Nazis and Nazis. Klein testified in Congress about hate crimes in 2019, and began his testimony by recalling how the Nazis murdered his grandparents and other relatives. Klein then urged,
Neo-Nazism must not be written off as marginal. Most of us correctly treat neo-Nazis and white supremacists as beyond the pale. But history reminds us that we cannot write neo-Nazism off as a marginal phenomenon. There is a plethora of sickening neo-Nazi, white supremacist internet sites, fomenting hatred and violence, primarily against Jews and blacks, but also directed towards LGBTQ, women, feminists, and Muslims. We need to determine who is funding and behind this. . . .
ZOA also successfully campaigned to deport real Nazi war criminal Jakiw Palij from the United States. To our knowledge, the Boston-JCRC folks who wrongly claimed that ZOA “elevated white supremacists” never assisted our important anti-Nazi campaign.
ZOA also canceled our young professionals’ involvement in an event when ZOA learned that the event would be held at a club whose president bragged that he was a consultant for a Nazi-friendly German political party. Klein stated: “I’ve removed ZOA from having our name associated with said event.” (“Pro-Israel Group Cuts Ties With GOP Club Over Support of Nazi-Friendly AfD Party,” by Davis Richardson, Observer, 04-09-19)
ZOA has of course consistently, in the strongest possible terms, condemned attacks by white supremacists, ranging from the Tree of Life synagogue shooting of innocent Jews to the New Zealand mosque shooting of innocent Muslims.
ZOA successfully battled for six years to apply federal Civil Rights protections to Jewish college students. To date, Students for Justice in Palestine (SJP) and anti-Israel professors have been the primary perpetrators of harassment, discrimination, and/or physical attacks against Jewish students. However, the civil rights protections that ZOA fought would apply equally to white supremacists’ attacks on Jewish students. ZOA’s free legal services are available to Jewish and pro-Israel students who are victims of such civil rights violations.
It’s possible that the JCRC-Boston committee was not aware of ZOA’s full record. We’ve thus asked the committee to retract their statement.
THIS ENTIRE matter was sparked by another “reward” for our hard work defending Jews and Israel: A far-left group filed a falsehood-filled petition with the Boston-JCRC, falsely accusing ZOA of racism. These left wing petitioners were led by anti-Israel organizations including:
- J Street, which proudly announced that its national conference will feature and honor Israel-haters Jimmy Carter and MK Ayman Odeh (who opposes the Jewish state’s existence and promotes violent “resistance”).
- New Israel Fund, which grants millions of dollars to nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that defame Israel throughout the world, promote anti-Israel boycotts, harass the IDF, and defend Palestinian Arab Jew-killers.
- Keshet’s CEO, a former official of NIF’s Israel arm SHATIL; and Workers’ Circle, which signed a statement with anti-Israel hate group Jewish Voice for Peace (JVP) promoting anti-Israel boycotts and co-sponsored a JVP event that obscenely likened the neo-Nazi shooting of innocent Jews at the Tree of Life synagogue to Israel shooting victims and alleged Gazan “victims” of Israel.
In fact, ZOA and Klein clearly oppose racism. Klein grew up in a black neighborhood where virtually all of his buddies were black. Klein fought for black civil rights, and was arrested in Mississippi for helping black Americans register to vote. ZOA strongly condemned the killing of George Floyd and former ZOA president Rabbi Stephen Wise helped found the NAACP.
ZOA’s recent gala featured black pro-Israel friends Ice Cube and former top State Department official Dr. Kiron Skinner. These prominent individuals would never appear together with a racist. They know well that ZOA and Klein oppose racism.
But ZOA does not tolerate antisemites or terrorists of any color. Thus, we condemned the BLM organization, BLM’s parent Movement 4 Black Lives (M4BL), and certain of its leaders, including those who instigated, at the scene, a Kristallnacht-style pogrom against the Los Angeles Fairfax Jewish community, burning and defacing synagogues and Jewish schools, and smashing and looting Jewish businesses with screams of “Kill the Jews.” We condemned the BLM/M4BL platform (which was never retracted), social media posts and “days of rage” that falsely accuse Israel of genocide and ethnic cleansing and promote anti-Jewish boycotts. We condemned BLM/M4BL’s collaborations with Marxist designated-terror organization PFLP (Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine), and promotion of PFLP front groups Al-Haq’s and DCI-Palestine’s agendas. Just recently, major BLM activist Marc Lamont Hill declared that BLM’s goal is to “dismantle the Zionist project” (destroy Israel).
When we condemn white supremacy or antisemitic groups, we are not condemning all whites. Likewise, when we condemn BLM’s antisemitism, we are not condemning all blacks.
THE REAL motivation behind the false petition against ZOA (which the Boston-JCRC will bring to a vote on April 27) is J Street’s, NIF’s, etc. desire to cancel their political opponents. Indeed, the petitioners were in the same left wing organizations that unsuccessfully attempted to cancel at least five right-leaning and centrist organizations from the American Zionist Movement last year.
Thus, if the Boston-JCRC decides to expel the ZOA on April 27, so be it. But the Boston-JCRC should do so without defaming us. It should be honest that the real reason is that the Boston-JCRC has no room in its tent for strong Zionist organizations such as ZOA.
Liz Berney, Esq. is the Director of Special Projects, Zionist Organization of America (ZOA).
This article was originally published in The Jerusalem Post on April 19, 2021, and can be viewed here.