Morton Klein and ZOA deserve an apology from the Jewish leaders who called them 'racist'

The ZOA called out BLM's antisemitism and Jewish leaders condemned the messenger. Opinion.

Rabbi Bernard Rosenberg ,

Black Lives Matter protest
Black Lives Matter protest
Miriam Alster/Flash90

In an absurd, irrational and false manner, certain Jewish leaders have claimed that Morton Klein, head of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), when accurately calling a racist, antisemitic, Israel-hating organization “antisemitic” and “anti-Israel” was a “racist” and an “Islamophobe” who promotes “hate.”

We are waiting for them to realize their error and apologize as antisemitism by BLM. is becoming more and more pronounced.

Just last week, the National Council of Young Israel (NCYI) called on elected officials and leaders in the African-American community to condemn the linkage of the Black Lives Matter movement to the antisemitic BDS movement, after protesters chanted anti-Israel and anti-Semitic phrases at a march that took place last week in Washington, DC.

The event, which was held in connection with a “Day of Rage” that was called for by the Palestinian Authority to protest Israel’s desire to extend sovereignty over Judea and Samaria, saw protestors carrying Black Lives Matter and Palestinian Liberation Organization signs side by side, as they said, “Israel, we know you, you murder children, too.”

Thus, the attacks by head of the Reform Movement, Rick Jacobs, and others.are grotesquely misplaced. They never give any reasons why Mr. Klein’s criticism of the BLM group’s antisemitism is wrong or false or inaccurate. That is, of course, because it is woefully accurate.

They provide no facts to back up their name-calling or disparagement. Jacobs and others simply call Mort Klein names, with no explanation.

Moreover, these inappropriate public attacks on Mr. Klein by certain Jewish leaders may be endangering Mr. Klein and his family. Mr. Klein has already received threatening phone calls to him and his family. This is intolerable and frightening. In this era of raw sensitivities and heightened antisemitism, inappropriate attacks and name-calling, such as those leveled at Mr. Klein by Rick Jacobs, et al. against a Jewish leader, must not be tolerated, must stop and also be retracted.

We believe that these attacks are intended to silence, censor, demonize and marginalize Mr. Klein and ZOA for its strong pro-Israel political views, which are fiercely opposed by the Union forReform Judaism (URJ), Mr.Jacobs, and the letter’s leftwing signatories.


It is well known that Morton Klein fought for Black civil and voting rights, attended numerous sit-ins and rallies for Black voting and civil rights, helped register Black voters, and was arrested in Mississippi for doing so.
We believe these signatores want to diminish the credibility of ZOA and Mort Klein, while appeasing the Israel-hating BLM group. We believe they are cravenly afraid to criticize the BLM organization, fearing this will antagonize them and provoke them to more hostile actions against Jews. But as history shows, appeasement always fails.

Journalist Melanie Phillips noted that in “an atmosphere redolent of the 17th century Salem witch trials,” those, such as Mr. Klein, who criticize BLM’s anti-Jewish, insurrectionist side, are called “racist“ and “a Twitter mob then assembles to strip such people of their reputation, platform or job for the crime of telling the truth.”

The attacks on ZOA and Mr. Klein also violate the rules of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, which URJ and the letter’s signatories agreed to.

Rick Jacobs/URJ’s name-calling is patently ridiculous, but it is also dangerous and misleading. It is well known that Morton Klein fought for Black civil and voting rights, attended numerous sit-ins and rallies for Black voting and civil rights, helped register Black voters, and was arrested in Mississippi for doing so.

As a child of Holocaust survivors born in a displaced persons camp in Germany, who lost most of his family, including his grandparents, to the worst hatred and racism in history, Morton Klein knows first-hand the tragic results that unbridled hatred and racism can cause, making him acutely sensitive to hatred and racism.

Condemning the antisemitic BLM organization is not a condemnation of Black people’s lives or of the fact that black people's lives certainly matter — it’s a condemnation of the BLM group’s antisemitic platform. Black people’s lives do matter, immensely.

ZOA and Morton Klein condemned the horrific killing of George Floyd and racism with all their hearts, and promoted police reform.

ZOA and Mr. Klein also appropriately condemned the attacks on innocent police officers; the widespread looting and riots; and the Black Lives Matter-led pogrom with its destruction of numerous Jewish businesses, and defacing and damaging of about a dozen synagogues and Jewish schools in Los Angeles, including painting the words “F— Israel, Free Palestine” on synagogue walls. What does that have to do with black issues?

It’s time to stop demeaning and falsely accusing ZOA and Morton Klein for simply having the courage to stand up against the antisemitism of BLM.

ZOA accordingly demands that the signatores apologize to ZOA and Mr. Klein, and join them in condemning BLM’s hateful platform, dangerous demonization of Israel and hateful activities.

After the antisemitic pogrom in Los Angeles, it’s long-past time for left-leaning and all other Jewish organizations to join ZOA and Morton Klein in combatting all forms of antisemitism – instead of attacking and trying to vilify them for standing up for the Jewish people and Israel.

Rabbi Bernard Rosenberg is Rabbi Emeritus of Congregation Beth-El, Edison, N.J. and received his ordination and Doctorate of Education from Yeshiva University in New York. He is a prolific author and has received many awards, including the Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Humanitarian Award.



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