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October 21, 2014 / 27 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘ZOA’

Schumer Cites Hagel’s Tears, but Smears Jewish Conservatives

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

As evidence continues to mount about why former Nebraska Senator Chuck Hagel is so high on the dance card of Iranian regime supporters and so low on the dance card of most pro-Israel supporters, the politicians supporting Hagel have begun to sound desperate.

New York’s senior senator, Chuck Schumer, may have just relocated this debate from the staid halls of congress and plopped it directly onto the high school dramatics level of bathos.

Schumer, who initially attracted attention when he publicly stated he was not sure about the Hagel nomination, then had an intimate tête á tête (multiply the last digit by many orders of magnitude) with Hagel in the White House.

It was during that bull session that the former Nebraska senator – perhaps with some assistance from others present – apparently convinced Schumer that Hagel was the right man to head the department of defense.

In the weeks since Hagel received Schumer’s hecksher, instead of soaring, Hagel’s star faltered as it grew ever more tarnished, with multiple revelations of anti-Israel and anti-American slurs.

But Hagel’s poor performance at his confirmation hearing was sufficient to convince enough congressional members to block the nomination’s movement to the full senate for a vote there.

There was concern in particular about documents that had not been turned over addressing compensation from potential worrisome sources.  In addition, some were uncomfortable with Hagel’s inability to field questions put to him during the vetting process. And then there were the questions of where the former senator stood with respect to various players in the Middle East, based on earlier comments and votes.

Now, while the senate is on a brief hiatus, revelations continue.

And just to show how low Hagel’s star has fallen, we learned that Wednesday morning, while Schumer was giving a talk to some business groups in Manhattan, he shared with them some of the details about the famous conversation he had with Hagel, the one that moved him onto the pro-Hagel for secretary of defense team.  Those details were not discussed previously, as they had been described as confidential.

What did Schumer learn? He learned that deep down, Hagel is an uber sensitive guy.  All Schumer had to do was explain why it was so hateful to Jews for Hagel to refer to them as the “Jewish lobby,” to share the pain of the double standard Jews have had to endure, and Hagel was cured!

According to Schumer, the scales fell from Hagel’s eyes.  And Hagel repented.  He felt their pain.  How do we know that?

We know that because Schumer brought his Wednesday morning audience into that intimate space with him, and told those listening what he felt.  “And he really, you know, he almost had tears in his eyes when he understood. So I believe he will be good.”

Schumer provided inaccurate information about other matters Wednesday morning.  He said that “there is not a major Jewish organization against Hagel.”

That’s not true.

The Zionist Organization of America and the Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET) have been on record opposing the nomination of Chuck Hagel since President Obama first named him as his choice for secretary of Defense.

The centrist American Jewish Committee has been at least softly opposed to Hagel’s nomination even before the nod was officially given by the president.  Back in December, the AJC’s president, David Harris said, “what message would it send to have a Pentagon chief who has very different views on strategies for dealing with Iran, the central foreign policy challenge of our time, than the White House has had to date? Or questions the designation of Hezbollah as a terrorist group at the same time the Administration is urging the European Union to add the group to its terrorism list?”

And the politically centrist, Democratic Party-leaning Anti-Defamation League joined the AJC in strongly questioning the nomination after information about some of Hagel’s comments, in particular that he was recorded as saying that the “U.S. State Department is an adjunct of the Israeli Foreign Ministry,” at a speech at Rutgers University in 2007.

AIPAC NOT TAKE POSITIONS ON NOMINATIONS
Much has been made of the lack of opposition by the powerful American Israel Public Affairs Committee, but AIPAC never takes a position on a political nomination.  The absence of one in this situation should give no comfort to Hagel supporters, or signal anything else to those who have questions and are looking to organizational leadership for direction.

Brooklyn College BDS Event: Just One Example of ‘Hostile Environment’?

Thursday, February 7th, 2013

Tonight’s anti-Israel event sponsored and endorsed by the Brooklyn College political science department will take place on that school’s campus, but it now appears certain that the atmosphere of intimidation and distrust generated by that academic department did not begin, and will not end, with this event.

The BDS program tonight will be a one-sided session in which two leaders of the economic and political warfare movement known as BDS (Boycott of, Divestment from, and Sanctions against Israel), will promote that effort as a force for good.

Brooklyn College’s chapter of the anti-Israel organization Students for Justice in Palestine is the organization that brought the event to campus, but despite the disingenuous claim by the head of the BC political science department Paisley Currah, his department is not only co-sponsoring the event, it has endorsed it.

The school’s administration has steadfastly supported the event by describing it as the right of the students and the political science department’s exercise of “academic freedom.”  Brooklyn College’s president, Karen Gould, defined that concept in a letter she sent to the school community.  It is unclear how tonight’s one-sided event fits her definition.  She wrote,

As an institution of higher education, it is incumbent upon us to uphold the tenets of academic freedom and allow our students and faculty to engage in dialogue and debate on topics they may choose, even those with which members of our campus and broader community may vehemently disagree. As your president, I consistently have demonstrated my commitment to these principles so that our college community may consider complex issues and points of view across the political and cultural spectrum.

The head of the undergraduate student government rejected the administration’s understanding of the term.  Abraham Esses explained in an open letter to the BC community, that just as “the right to free speech, academic freedom rights are not unbounded; the department has basically yelled “fire” on campus, and locked the doors to their department after doing so. By doing so, it has failed to accomplish one of the main benefits of academic freedom rights, that is, the approach of all ideas and issues with an open mind. Such a failure constitutes a gross abuse of such rights.”

In an entry in the Chronicle of Higher Education, Currah rejects the notion that two sides to a story needs be presented in order to satisfy the rigors of academic freedom.  His view is that “debates have their place, but thoroughly understanding an argument requires sustained and concentrated attention.”  And just to be clear about where he and his department stands, Currah encouraged other academics to fight against full picture presentations, writing that “it’s important to argue against mandates that both sides (or all sides) of an issue be represented simultaneously.”

The anti-Israel event has been a magnet for commentary beyond the school community as well.  One practically needs a score card to keep all the players and their positions straight.

There are three main positions: first, that the event can take place on campus and the political science department’s sponsorship and endorsement is fine; second, that the event is permissible and can take place on campus but there should not be an endorsement of or sponsorship by an academic department; and third, the event should not take place on this publicly funded university at all.

In the first category we find the BDS event co-sponsors, endorsers and the school administration, as well as the broader BDS world.  Add New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg to this group, as well as the New York Times, and of course the ubiquitous circus act Max Blumenthal.

The second category’s supporters reject the overt participation of and endorsement by the BC political science department.  In their view that endorsement and sponsorship creates an inappropriate and perhaps hostile environment for BC students who support the existence of Israel.  In this category are the BC student government leadership and thousands of students who signed an on-line petition, Prof. Alan Dershowitz, and the Anti-Defamation League. Also in this group is the Jewish Community Relations Council of New York, which  issued this strongly worded statement last week:

The Jewish Community Relations Council of New York strongly condemns the decision of Brooklyn College’s Political Science Department to lend its name and imprimatur to an event featuring individuals who espouse extremist and hostile views. While we vigorously defend academic freedom, we believe that these freedoms do not extend to faculty and academic bodies exploiting their association with the university to enhance their biased and hateful agenda. At the very least, academic integrity requires a balanced forum representing diverse views. Since that is not the case, we call upon the Political Science Department to remove its name from this one-sided propaganda event.

Pro-Israel student activist Chloé Simone Valdary is also in this category, but she is calling upon the students and the larger community to speak out against tonight’s event in a cri de coeur, here.

Hotel Owner who Kicked Jews Out Hosting Anti-Jihadists

Friday, January 25th, 2013

In 2012 the Jewish Press reported on the successful lawsuit against the Muslim owner of a swanky Santa Monica hotel who, while exclaiming, “Get the [expletive deleted] Jews out of my pool,” had her employees do just that.  The plaintiffs had been at the hotel at a fundraiser they hosted for a pro-Israel organization, the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces (FIDF).

The jury found the hotel and its owner, Tehmina Adaya, had committed “particularly reprehensible” acts of discrimination against the plaintiffs, and specifically, that Adaya had acted with “malice, oppression and fraud,” slapping her with punitive damages.

When word got out about what Adaya had done to the FIDF volunteers, members of  the Los Angeles office of the ZOA planned a protest in front of the hotel.  Adaya met that public relations protest by sending an underling to promise the activists she would host an event for them at her expense within a year in exchange for cancelling the protest.  They accepted the offer and called off the protest.

When the trial ended and the jury returned its verdict finding that Adaya had discriminated against Jews, she and the ZOA group issued their agreed-upon statements.  In hers, Adaya said she was opposed to anti-Semitism.  Adaya also claimed she had not done any of the things she had been accused of, or had been found liable for.  The ZOA LA statement included, “we believe that her statement exhibits the Jewish value of teshuva, repentance.”

As Miles Lozano, the Shangri-La public relations manager told the Jewish Press at the time, “the steps Adaya is taking are intended to address the Shangri-La’s public relations issues, whereas the court case dealt only with the legal issues.”

Adaya is still working with a bifurcated plan: on the legal front, she has appealed the ruling by the jury that she committed particularly reprehensible acts of discrimination against Jews, and at the same time, she is footing the bill for an event which is now a fundraiser for the new organization of the former ZOA director, Orit Arfa (Arfa was fired by the ZOA in the fall).  Strikingly, that event is headlining two of the world’s most renown and controversial anti-Jihadi activists, Pamela Geller of Atlas Shrugs.com, and Robert Spencer, of Jihadwatch.com.

Geller garnered a great deal of attention over the past several months by running a series of ads in New York City, San Francisco, and Washington, D.C. transit systems which state: “In any war between the civilized man and the savage, choose civilized man.  Support Israel. Defeat Jihad.” Muslim groups such as Council on American-Islamic Relations, Islamic Society of North America, Muslim Public Affairs Council and others were outraged and pushed back hard.  In September, Mona Eltahawy, an Egyptian-American activist, was arrested for vandalizing one of Geller’s posters in New York.

When asked how she felt about being hosted by someone who had engaged in such reprehensible acts of discrimination against Jews, Geller told the Jewish Press,

“The public renunciation by Adaya of one of the most egregious and monstrous acts of anti-Semitism in modern times is something to celebrate.  She is underwriting the cost of a gala costume ball honoring two of America’s leading critics of Islamic anti-Semitism, and at a Purim event, perhaps this is Haman avenged!  ‘Cause it’s the same hate, different era.”

When one of the plaintiffs in the case against the hotel was asked about the Shangri-La Purim party, the response was not as enthusiastic.  The plaintiff told the Jewish Press that she and the other plaintiffs found the response to Adaya and the Shangri-La Hotel by some in the pro-Israel community to be “deeply disappointing.”  Why?  The plaintiff gave several reasons:

First, despite what the ZOA director wrote at the time, there was no teshuva by Adaya – she is still claiming not to have done anything wrong and everyone knows the steps for teshuva are first, acknowledgement that one acted wrongly, and second, apologizing to the one wronged.  To this day Adaya and her hotel have not apologized to the plaintiffs.  But second, given that the FIDF was the wronged party, why isn’t Adaya having a fundraiser for the FIDF?  Instead, the Purim Gala is to help promote a new organization created by the former ZOA employee who falsely claimed Adaya had done teshuva.

There are other ways to divine the sincerity of Adaya’s gesture.  Court papers filed by her new attorneys on January 7, offered several reasons to justify Adaya being given a new trial.  Much emphasis was placed on the “fact” that one of the jurors hid that she was Jewish.  According to the filed papers, Adaya is claiming that one of the jurors “failed to disclose her religious background, Jewish,” during the jury selection process.  Two problems with that: there’s no legal bar to a Jewish juror sitting on a case about anti-Semitic discrimination, and Adaya’s lawyers never asked the juror whether she was Jewish during the jury selection process.

ZOA Loses Tax Exemption Status, Will Apply for Reinstatement

Wednesday, September 12th, 2012

The Zionist Organization of America has lost its 501(c)3 tax exemption status, due to failure to file tax returns for the last three years.

In an interview with JTA, ZOA president Morton Klein confirmed the loss, and stated that his organization has hired a tax attorney to help them bring their files up to date and apply for reinstatement of their status.

According to Klein, the error in filing was due to the failure of a ZOA-funded school in Ashkelon to provide correct information in time, as well as a misunderstanding on the part of the ZOA as to the amount of time it had left to file for an extension.

Jury Said Hotel Owner Is Anti-Semitic, But She Insists: ‘Some of My Best Friends Are Jewish’

Sunday, August 26th, 2012

The Santa Monica hotel owner recently found liable by a jury for dozens of counts of anti-Semitic discrimination has issued a press release in which she claims she deplores anti-Semitism.  Not only that, but, to replay one of her losing defenses at trial, some of her best friends are Jews. And, she claims, she never did or said the things the jury determined she did.

On August 15, the jury in a discrimination lawsuit returned a verdict against Tehmina Adaya, owner of the Shangri-La Hotel in Santa Monica, finding that she had repeatedly violated the California Civil Rights Act and committed various other acts of discrimination against a group of 18 plaintiffs.  The plaintiffs had attended a July, 2010 Friends of the IDF charity fundraiser for a program that sends to summer camp the children of Israeli soldiers who were killed while serving.  That charity event was held at the pool area of the Shangri-La Hotel.

According to sworn testimony presented at trial, when the hotel owner saw the FIDF banner and literature, she shouted, “get those [expletive] Jews out of my pool,” at which point her staff forced everyone in the pool with a blue FIDF wristband to get out, took down the FIDF banners and literature, and attempted to remove from the premises all of those attending the pro-Israel charity event.

The Western Region ZOA office planned a public protest to take place on August 26th, in front of the Shangri-La Hotel.  The protest was planned, according to Orit Arfa, executive director of that ZOA office, as part of the ZOA’s mandate – “to take stands against anti-Zionism.”

In response to publicity about the protest, a representative for Shangri-La spoke with ZOA leadership.  When Adaya agreed to issue a public statement condemning anti-Semitism, announcing donations to two Israeli charities, and hosting a future ZOA pro-Israel event at her hotel, the protest was called off.

“I care deeply about the hurt, anger and misunderstanding that has resulted and I want the Jewish and pro-Israel community to know I condemn anti-Semitism,” Adaya wrote in her press release.  She continued, “I pride myself on having close Jewish friends and senior staff, employees representing 12 countries, and we welcome guests from around the world. While I regret I didn’t publicly address this sooner given my belief in my innocence, I support Israel and seek to enhance relationships with people of all backgrounds.”

In addition to sharing what she described as her “sensitivity to Jewish groups and Israel,” Adaya, a jet-setting, multi-millionaire, announced she was donating $3600 each to two Israeli charities, the Koby Mandell Foundation, which supports victims of terrorism, and the Zahal Disabled Veterans Organization.

James Turken, the plaintiffs’ lawyer in the discrimination lawsuit, was not moved by Adaya’s efforts.  Although Adaya spent much of her release extolling her sensitivities and trumpeting her donations, she also claimed she had not said and done what the jury determined was the case.  What’s more, she mischaracterized what the jury said and found in a way that, at least for legal experts, goes beyond mere spin.

According to her statement, Adaya “never made any disparaging comments to anyone who attended an event here.”  That’s true, but no one claimed she had.  In fact, on the day the Jews were rounded up and removed from her pool, and throughout the hours-long effort to salvage the event, Adaya refused to talk to or meet with the plaintiffs and only dealt with them through her intermediaries.

But of greater concern to Turken was Adaya’s public relations claim that “While the jury found that the hotel did not have proper business protocols in place, they did not claim or believe she made discriminatory comments to any of the plaintiffs.”

Turken told The Jewish Press: “This is an effort at spin control that ignores reality.  The entire proceeding is a public record, as are the verdicts.  The jury found multiple violations of the Unruh Act – that is a civil rights act which can only be violated by acts of discrimination.  Further, the jury awarded treble damages which are only triggered when there is a finding that a defendant’s actions were “particularly reprehensible.”  In addition, Turken explained, “the award of punitive damages was only legally permissible because the jury found Adaya had acted with malice, oppression and fraud.”

Jewish Mega-Philanthropist Backing Gingrich, Drawing Critique

Friday, January 27th, 2012

Republican US presidential hopeful Newt Gingrich’s relationship with Jewish megabillionaire and foremost donor Sheldon Adelson has raised the ire of critics, who say Gingrich’s very public support for Israel is an exchange for support.

Gingrich reiterated his belief that the Palestinians are an “invented” people at a CNN Republican debate in Florida ahead of Tuesday’s primary, promising to issue an executive order moving the US embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, in accordance with a law passed by Congress in 1995 which has been waived by every US President since.

View statements to the Republican Jewish Coalition in June 2011 by Gingrich, posted by his campaign on YouTube:

At the time the Jerusalem Embassy Act, which stated that “”Jerusalem should be recognized as the capital of the State of Israel; and the United States Embassy in Israel should be established in Jerusalem” as an “undivided city”, was passed, Gingrich was Speaker of the House of Representatives. It was during that tenure that Gingrich met Sheldon Adelson, wealthy casino resort magnate and staunch advocate for Israel.  To assist in promoting the law, Adelson arrived in Washington to talk to leaders about the matter on Capitol Hill.  Gingrich introduced the legislation, and Adelson and Gingrich’s relationship grew.  Ultimately Adelson became a big sponsor of the work Gingrich did prior to his candidacy, and then the foremost supporter of the campaign itself.

Adelson, who grew up as the son of poor Ukrainian Jewish immigrants to Boston, scratched his way to the top in business, first selling toiletries and ultimately becoming owner of 3 successful Las Vegas casino hotel s and convention centers, as well as contracts for casinos in Macau and Singapore.  He is now the 8th wealthiest person in the United States, according to Forbes’ most recent ranking, behind George Soros and ahead of Jim Walton.

Since making his billions, Adelson has earned a name as a pre-eminent Jewish philanthropist, giving $100 million to the Birthright Jewish identity-building project taking youth on trips to Israel, $25 million to the Yad VaShem Holocaust Memorial in Israel, and donated a new headquarters to the Israel lobby in Washington, AIPAC, despite his reservations that the organization is overly pro-Palestinian.  Adelson is against a two-state solution which would give the Palestinian Authority control over lands historically belonging to the Jewish people, and has supported Gingrich’s remarks on the subject of Palestinian nationhood.

Adelson also started the free daily newspaper distributed in major Israeli cities called Israel HaYom (Israel Today), which espouses views leaning more toward Likud than Labor.

Adelson’s wife, Miriam, is an Israeli-born doctor specializing in the treatment of addictions.  Together, they have opened treatment centers in Las Vegas and Tel Aviv.  The pair have made many of their contributions in tandem, with Miriam donating $5 million of the $10 million the couple have thus-far given to Gingrich’s campaign.

While media speculations that Gingrich’s pro-Israel outlook was bought by Adelson, Gingrich told the Associated Press that he has only promised Adelson to “seek to defend the United States and United States allies,” with Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) President Morton Klein telling the AP that Gingrich has been known as “one of the few politicians who has had the courage to tell the truth about Israel,” saying that is probably why they formed a relationship.

As for himself, Adelson says that his support for Gingrich comes from an interest in helping his friend win.  “Our means of support might be more than others are able to offer,” Adelson said, “but like most Americans, words such as friendship and loyalty still mean something to us.”

No Retirement In Sight For The ZOA

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2009

ZOA – The Zionist Organization of America hosted its 112th Annual Gala Dinner in New York City last week, and since I happened to be in the “neighborhood,” visiting the tri-State area for an upcoming simcha – I decided to attend.

One of the facts I learned about this venerable organization was that it was launched in 1897 – almost half a century before the creation of the modern State of Israel.

At the time, Jews in various parts of the world were – at worst – being massacred in pogroms, or at best discriminated against, e.g. denied entry into hotels, universities, country clubs and medical schools. In fact some of the best hospitals in North America were built in order to accommodate newly minted doctors who could not get residencies in local hospitals.

The 19th century ideology called Zionism was born – even though for centuries Jewish had been longing for Moshiach and a return to Eretz Yisrael – with the goal of having a Jewish homeland created, where Jews would live their lives with the rights and privileges of full fledged citizens, like their non-Jewish peers in the countries they lived in.

A troubling thought struck me as I looked at the hundreds of guests who robustly joined in the singing of Israel’s national anthem early in the program. Why are we here? Why is there a ZOA hosting a fundraising event? After all, wasn’t the Zionist dream fulfilled over 60 years ago? Haven’t the majority of Jews living today grown up with the reality of a Jewish country called Israel – a country with many colors and favors, peopled by Jews of all nationalities?

Israel has succeeded no doubt beyond the wildest imagination of the Zionists of old – for not only does the State of Israel exist but she more than holds her own in the global community of nations. Indeed Israel surpasses many longer established counties in the uplifting of the arts and sciences, including life-enhancing, cutting-edge innovations in 21st century technology and medical research.

So why hasn’t the ZOA “emptied its desk, shut off the lights and shut the door behind it?”

Because, as speaker after speaker pointed out, including Minority Whip Congressman Eric Cantor (R: VA) and General Moshe Ya’alon, former IDF chief of staff, from the moment the Zionist dream was actualized, it has been forced into an existential nightmare.

War after war was launched against the newborn state, and when she prevailed, despite the overwhelming number of armies bent on wiping her off the map, (how appropriate that the dinner took place during Chanukah) new tactics were used against her residents, including hundreds of acts of terrorism – basically a war of attrition – with civilians (of all faiths and creeds) being randomly murdered a handful at a time.

And in recent years Israel has had to deal with a new battle – a war of words, in which a country willing to slice off chunks of her tiny self in desperate bids for peace is demonized in the court of public opinion. Not just by her long-standing enemies – but by her supposed friends.

And that is why, so tragically, the door of the Zionist organization of America is still open decades after the realization of a Jewish homeland. The battle to defend the Jewish people and the State of Israel’s integrity has not ended – nor is it likely to any time soon. If anything, the growling from the international community grows louder and more threatening and vicious. As the child of Holocaust survivors, I have experienced the births, in recent years, of my late parents’ great-grandchildren with equal dollops of joy and worry.

However, as the story of Chanukah teaches us – we must have faith. AS ZOA president Mort Klein pointed out in a somber but inspiring speech, the State of Israel did not enjoy peace in her the past, nor has she in the present, nor will she in the foreseeable future. However, Israel can exist and thrive without peace – as evidenced by her existence.

The Land of Israel, Klein pointed out, is referred to in the Bible as the “Promised Land” – promised by G-d to the Jewish People.

And the Jewish People are eternal. As we learn from the Maccabees and a review of global Jewish history, we have been marginalized, knocked down, outnumbered, slandered, threatened physically and spiritually, demeaned, degraded, despised and decimated. Yet we overcome, bounce back, fight and prevail.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/magazine/on-our-own/no-retirement-in-sight-for-the-zoa-2/2009/12/23/

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