DONNA RACHEL EDMUNDS
Progressive Jewish groups have accused Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America of ‘bigotry’ and ‘hatred’ for his opposition of Black Lives Matter.
Palestinians walk past graffiti of George Floyd painted on a section of the separation wall in the West Bank city of Bethlehem, on June 8, 2020. / (photo credit: WISAM HASHLAMOUN/FLASH90)
A coalition of Jewish and pro-Israel groups have called for Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, to be expelled from Jewish umbrella groups, accusing him of “bigotry” and “hatred” following a number of tweets by Klein in which he accused Black Lives Matter (BLM) of antisemitism and promoting violence.
“As progressive pro-Israel organizations and members of the American Jewish community, we are appalled and outraged by the bigotry and hatred expressed and promoted by Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), at this painful and important moment of reckoning for our country,” the signatories wrote. “Klein’s latest outbursts and long track record of bigotry should make him unwelcome in any mainstream Jewish communal spaces and should lead to his expulsion from organizational umbrella groups such as the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.”
The statement was jointly issued by Jewish student group J Street, the New Israel Fund, Partners for Progressive Israel, Reconstructing Judaism, The Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association and T’ruah, and joined by Nancy Kaufman, past CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women.
On June 6, Klein urged the Southern Poverty Law Center to put Black Lives Matter on their list of hate groups, tweeting: “BLM is a Jew hating, White hating, Israel hating, conservative Black hating, violence promoting, dangerous Soros funded extremist group of haters.”
Morton Klein @MortonAKlein7
In another, posted two days earlier, Klein accused Black Lives Matter leaders and supporters of being “filled with hatred against Jewish people & Israel.”
Amber Ashley James @amberashleyj
“Our community, of course, can and must be open and receptive to a wide variety of views, with plenty of space for strong debate and disagreement, the statement reads. “Yet the fundamental dignity of people of color and the legitimacy of their struggle for equal rights cannot be called into question. The continued presence of Klein and the ZOA in important umbrella groups is an affront to Jews of color and all people of color, and to the overwhelming majority of all American Jews. It undermines any pro-Israel, pro-peace advocacy and damages the collective reputation of our community.”
They conclude: “If we are serious about confronting systemic racism in our nation and our community, and if we are serious about playing a constructive role in securing a peaceful future for Israelis and Palestinians, we can start with a full-throated repudiation of Morton Klein and the ZOA.”
The statement is the latest salvo in a war of words raging between left and right-wing Jewish organizations, sparked by the Black Lives Matter protests currently taking place in cities worldwide.
In late May Klein wrote an op-ed for the Jewish News Syndicate in which he accused J Street themselves of being Soros funded, after they tweeted in support of Nabka Day, the Palestinian term for the founding of the State of Israel, which in Arabic translates as ‘catastrophe.’
This is not the first time that Black Lives Matter has stirred up factionalism between Jewish organizations. In 2016, Black Lives Matter sparked a similar battle of words with the publication of their platform in which Israel was accused of “genocide” and of being an “apartheid state.”
“The US justifies and advances the global war on terror via its alliance with Israel and is complicit in the genocide taking place against the Palestinian people,” they wrote in their policy document, adding: “Israeli soldiers also regularly arrest and detain Palestinians as young as 4 years old without due process. Everyday, Palestinians are forced to walk through military checkpoints along the US-funded apartheid wall.”
Following the publication, Jewish Voices For Peace issued a statement in support of Black Lives Matter including the statements about Israel, saying “We call on the US Jewish community to end its legitimization of anti-Black racism through its combined attacks on the Black Lives Matter Platform and U.S. Palestine solidarity.” Conversely, Klein at the time called for the American Jewish community to redirect its time and money toward fighting antisemitism.
Commenting in an op-ed on the Temple Bethel Springfield website, Rabbi Amy Wallk Katz suggested a middle line be found, writing: “We need to affirm our obligation to advocate for justice for everyone regardless of race, religion, ethnicity and gender. But we must realize that advocacy for everyone includes advocacy for ourselves.”