Sharp Dressers, Tons of Food and Heaps of Right-wing Hyperbole at ZOA Gala in N.Y.

Ted Cruz starred and Barack Obama was tarred in an evening of what used to called crazy talk but is increasingly mainstream in both Israel and the U.S.

Chemi Shalev
Chemi Shalev
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Sheldon Adelson, Miriam Adelson and Morton A. Klein at the 2014 ZOA gala dinner.
Sheldon Adelson, Miriam Adelson and Morton A. Klein at the 2014 ZOA gala dinner.Credit: David Drimer
Chemi Shalev
Chemi Shalev

The gala dinner of the Zionist Organization of America (Z0A) held in Manhattan on Sunday night was meticulously organized, well-attended, lavishly-catered and marked by over-the-top, right wing rhetoric that blasted the terrorist Palestinians, a fickle world and, most of all, U.S. President Barack Obama.

“Barack HUSSEIN Obama,” as ZOA president Mort Klein pointedly said, while the crowd erupted in cheers. “A Chamberlain in the White House,” as Home Depot founder Bernie Marcus opined, garnering wild applause. “The most anti-Semitic president ever” as the founder of Christian United For Israel (CUFI) founder Pastor John Hagee asserted, bringing the audience close to rapture.

Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas speaks in Washington, Sept. 26, 2014.Credit: AP

The superstar of the evening, however, was conservative Texas Senator Ted Cruz, who received several standing ovations accompanied by sustained cries of “Go, Ted, Go” and “Cruz, 2016.” Cruz devoted much of his speech to his own accomplishments in defense of Israel, but he also played to his crowd’s sentiments by stating, contrary to the assessment of Israel’s own security chiefs, that “the threats to Israel have never been greater.” At such times, he noted, “we do not need leaders who speak empty words of support, we need leaders who will act” and everyone understood who was the former and who, god-willing, will one day be the latter.

The other stars of the night were the ubiquitous Las Vegas casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and his wife Miriam, whose generous contributions to ZOA have helped lift the organization out of the doldrums and into the spotlight and the fast lane. Klein gave Adelson a gift mezuzah for his new Las Vegas home (in which “God himself would be happy to live if he could afford it”] then Miriam Adelson told the audience “how I fell in love” with Hagee “the most effective Christian Zionist in the world” and then Hagee described the Adelsons as “the greatest citizens of America.” And the crowd kvelled.

Along with Adelson came what can be described as his travelling band of affiliated sidekicks, including “Kosher Sex” Rabbi Shmuley Boteach and Harvard professor emeritus Alan Dershowitz. The noted jurist described himself as “liberal, Zionist and Democrat” but sat quietly as the crowd booed and jeered Barack HUSSEIN Obama, entertained the crowd by denouncing J-Street and said that Cruz’s decision in September to walk out of an “In defense of Christianity” conference because he was being heckled on Israel “is worthy of a new chapter in John Kennedy’s ‘Profiles in Courage’.”

TV and radio commentator Glenn Beck at the 114th Anniversary Justice Louis Brandeis award Dinner given by the Zionist Organization of America in New York, Nov. 20, 2011.Credit: AP

About 1100 people attended the sardine-packed ballroom at the Grand Hyatt near Grand Central Station in Manhattan, of which almost a quarter were students who had been invited to come to the event at a heavily subsidized rate. Nonetheless, the relatively large number of young participants, dressed to the nines, stood in sharp contrast to many events of other Jewish groups that have an increasingly older profile. It was testament to the clout afforded by Adelson’s largesse, as was the case in the recent inaugural convention of the Adelson-funded Israeli-American Council convention in Washington; but it also points to the growing legitimacy and mainstream support for the kind of radically right, arch-conservative, take-no prisoners, the-whole-world-is-against-us rhetoric and mentality that is on the ascendant in Jerusalem - and that Klein has been steadfastly promoting ever since he took over the ZOA 21 years ago.

The feisty Klein was born in 1947 in a displaced persons camp in Germany. He served in several U.S. administrations as a health economist, before joining the ZOA in 1991. He was a fierce and uncompromising opponent of the 1993 Oslo peace process from the outset, often locking horns with the powers that be in the Jewish establishment: “the attack dog of the Jewish thought police,” the ADL’s Abe Foxman once said of him.

For many years, however, Klein was thought to be a fringe player at the head of the once-prominent ZOA. He suffered from the ZOA’s dwindling membership and dearth of funds, until he was rescued by right wing philanthropist and East Jerusalem settlement financier Irwin Moskowitz and then catapulted even higher in recent years, both financially and politically, by Adelson. In the famous March tussle over New Jersey governor Chris Christie’s use of the term “occupied territories” during a Las Vegas weekend organized by the Republican Jewish Coalition – also funded by Adelson - it was Klein who confronted Christie and essentially forced him to apologize for using what he described as “hostile language.”

Klein was as uncompromising and unequivocal as ever on Sunday night as well. He said that Mahmoud Abbas was a terrorist like his predecessor Yasser Arafat and that Hamas was “a Nazi like terrorist group whose charter calls for the murder of every Jew.” He castigated Barak HUSSEIN Obama and shouted “Shame on you” at the American president for supposedly comparing Jewish victims of terror to Palestinians killed in Israel’s “just wars.” He gave the obligatory “this is 1938 Czechoslovakia” analogy. He asserted, “Every Jewish home in Judea and Samaria is legal, proper and moral.” And he summed his views by going all the way back to the creation of monotheism, the crucifixion of Christ, the blood libels, the Dreyfus affair etc. in order to drive home his basic premise: “there have been many cases in which only the Jews were right and the whole world was wrong.”

Klein apologized in advance for his speech impediments, telling the crowd that he suffers from a mild form of Tourette’s syndrome. This gave Cruz the opening he needed to describe Klein as a man “with the heart of a lion and the voice of Moses,” a description that befitted an evening that was short on objective analysis and understatement but long on excess, overkill and hyperbole, hysterical, and otherwise.

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