Progressive Jewish advocacy groups released a statement Thursday condemning right-wing extremist Morton Klein and his pro-Israel group Zionist Organization of America—a source conservatives on Capitol Hill have called on for expertise on white nationalism and hate crimes—for his latest round of bigoted attacks, this time against Black Lives Matter.
In light of protests and calls to action after a white Minneapolis police officer was filmed killing George Floyd, a black man, Klein asserted that Black Lives Matter should be considered a “hate group” and retweeted calls for the group to be considered a terrorist organization. “BLM is a Jew hating, White hating, Israel hating, conservative Black hating, violence promoting, dangerous Soros funded extremist group of haters,” Klein tweeted on June 6.
The joint statement denounces Klein’s remarks and states that his comments and 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.” Last year, the conference issued its first-ever written warning to Klein for violating rules against attacking and insulting member groups and their leaders.
The statement, authored by J Street, the New Israel Fund, Partners for Progressive Israel, Reconstructing Judaism, The Reconstructionist Rabbinical Association, and T’ruah, and co-signed by former National Council of Jewish Women CEO Nancy Kaufman reads:
This is far from the first time that Klein has launched vicious attacks against minorities, people of color, Palestinians or his fellow Jews — and we know it will not be the last. In recent years, he has attacked the Jewish refugee group HIAS for “resettling Muslim Jewhaters in America,” amplified an accusation that George Soros “helped the Nazi extermination system by identifying Jews” and slandered President Obama and two Muslim congresswomen as supporters of terrorism. There is nothing he will not say to malign anyone who dares to criticize Israeli government policy or support Palestinian rights. There is apparently no limit to the extent that he will go to dehumanize and otherize Muslims, Palestinians and people of color.
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. 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.
Klein was called on by Republicans to testify on Capitol Hill in 2019 at a hearing on hate crimes and white nationalism, during which he falsely stated that a white supremacist manifesto left by a man who murdered 51 Muslims at two New Zealand mosques proved the killer was a “left-wing” terrorist. At the same hearing, Klein alleged that a large portion of American Muslims are anti-Semitic and that Muslim anti-Semitism was a more immediate threat than white nationalism. Quartz reports that Kleins remarks drew gasps from several people in the hearing room.
Tablet magazine reported last year that ZOA “receives a reliable $1 million a year from Republican kingmaker Sheldon Adelson, often accounting for between 1/5th and 1/6th of the group’s annual income.” Klein receives preferential treatment from Capitol Hill Republicans and influential GOP activists.
Yesterday @ZOA_National President Mort Klein, Chairman Mark Levenson, and I had a good discussion about the Senate’s ongoing efforts to combat the anti-Israel BDS movement and the importance of U.S. recognition of Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights. pic.twitter.com/hSdxluEi5x
— Tom Cotton (@SenTomCotton) February 7, 2019