Opinion

Why Is Adelson-backed Zionist Organization of America Defending Israel's KKK Slime?

To be clear, I am not suggesting that Mort Klein immigrate to Israel. Nor Sheldon Adelson. But if they lose their Bibi, where is their Zionism of America going to put them?

Sheldon Adelson being recognized by President Donald Trump during a Medal of Freedom ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, November 16, 2018.
Andrew Harnik/AP

Hands down, the press releases I love the best are those which begin with a whopping lie the size of a sewage treatment plant.

But this week, when the Zionist Organization of America at long last formulated its response to Benjamin Netanyahu's embrace of virulently, violently, unashamedly racist Kahanist Otzma Yehudit (Jewish Power) party as a key element of the prime minister's re-election campaign, the statement by the slobberingly pro-Trump and pro-Netanyahu ZOA easily exceeded even the highest expectations of dishonesty.

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"Note:" began the press release by ZOA head Mort Klein and other senior officials, who happen to be lawyers, "The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) does not endorse candidates or political parties in the United States, Israel or anywhere else."

Then, hedging bets because of what's about to follow, the statement says "This article should not be deemed to be an endorsement of any party, large or small, or of any individual."

ZOA needed to say that, because the statement went on to blast as "strange, troubling and hypocritical" the condemnations by the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), AIPAC, the American Jewish Committee (AJC) and the Israel Policy Forum (IPF) of Otzma Yehudit - which the ZOA identified only as one of "two small right-wing pro-Israel political parties" who have agreed to merge.

Mort Klein will tell you that they're not defending Otzma Yehudit. After all, the statement – which spends nearly 5,000 fiery, notated words denouncing Israel's Arab parties, and by extension, the Palestinian Israelis who vote for them - meekly insists, "ZOA has not been able to locate an Otzma Yehudit platform."

Mort Klein's right. He and his ZOA are not defending the Kahanist slime which, thanks to Netanyahu and his patron Sheldon Adelson, now has a fair shot at being part of Israel's next government.

No. Mort's defending what really matters to him: Benjamin Netanyahu's hold on power, as well as major ZOA donor Sheldon Adelson's every wish. 

Calling opposition to Netanyahu's efforts on behalf of Otzma "much ado about nothing," Klein's statement slammed the criticism of the Kahanist party as "Nazi name-calling against Jewish candidates."

And who are these just-folks Jewish candidates? Well, for starters, Mort wants us to know what they are NOT:

"ZOA hopes that ADL, IPF, AIPAC and AJC will review the dangerous actions and statements of the Arab parties and their Knesset candidates discussed in this article, and direct their condemnation to those who oppose the State of Israel, and are truly racist and reprehensible, and a danger to the Jewish people and the Jewish State." 

Not racist. Not reprehensible. Just one more small pro-Israel party.

Led by, among others:

- Baruch Marzel – In 2000, on the sixth anniversary of the Hebron massacre in which Kahane disciple Baruch Goldstein machine-gunned 29 Muslim worshippers to death in the city's sacred Cave of the Patriarchs, Marzel helped organize a Purim party at the grave of Goldstein, who was beaten to death by survivors of the attack.

"We decided to make a big party on the day he was murdered by Arabs," Marzel told the BBC.

- Michael Ben-Ari – Declaring that "There are no innocents in Gaza," Ben-Ari told followers at the time of a 2012 IDF Gaza incursion "Why is it that after 200 assaults only 15 were killed? It should be 15 assaults and 2,000 killed!"

In 2011, Ben-Ari called leftist groups "traitors," "germs," and Israel's enemies, whom he equated with Hamas and Hezbollah.

Just another small pro-Israel party, which Mort Klein believes can save Benjamin Netanyahu, and maybe the settlements for which he stands, and maybe, if Bibi can stay in office, maybe even the Evangelicals and therefore the Republican Party and therefore Donald Trump.

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Which brings us to Sheldon Adelson himself.

One of the most frequently and fervently propounded of Otzma's positions – one expressly quoted by the ZOA statement - is the principle that Jews who live outside of Israel have no business interfering in Israeli politics.

Let's hear that again, in the words of Otzma leader Itamar Ben-Gvir:

"We urge the people of AIPAC not to interfere in the elections of the state of Israel – let them immigrate here and lend a shoulder together with the (Jewish) People which lives in Zion," Ben-Gvir told Israel Channel 12 News on Sunday.

"And let them pay a price for the terror attacks, for the blood that is spilled - and they can then express their opinion."

But in Otzma's Zion, there is no problem with Sheldon Adelson.

- Who lives in Las Vegas. Seven thousand three hundred and thirty one miles from here.

- Whose Israel Hayom was so closely coordinated with Benjamin Netanyahu's messaging, that the prime minister spoke with the paper's editor well over once a week between 2012 and 2015, a period in which Netanyahu also spoke with Adelson some 160 times.

- And who lost a total of $190 million from 2007-2014 alone, just in printing and giving away Israel Hayom. Since 2007, Adelson's paper has spearheaded a series of successful political operations in Israel, first to install Benjamin Netanyahu, and then to help him to re-election twice more.

It's why the paper exists.

Mort's statement neatly aligns the ZOA with the position of Israel Hayom, whose opinion editor Dror Eydar was among the first to openly and fiercely advocate for Netanyahu's embrace of Otzma.

Some of Eydar's arguments ("Cooperating with more moderate ideologies will moderate the extremists among us.") have been taken up by Netanyahu's defenders.

This week, perhaps taken aback by slipping polls and the adverse reaction to Netanyahu's brokering the "koshering" of Otzma, Adelson's paper opened with a fire-engine red banner front-page headline explicitly attacking AIPAC for "irresponsibility in getting itself dragged into the political turmoil."

The headline was lifted from an Eydar op-ed, which declared that "we must smash once and for all the equation of the enslaved," a reference to the right, which according to Eydar is subject to de-legitimization by a hypocritical left.

The only "racism" here is in the malign imagination of the left, Eydar suggests.

"Let them go crazy and call us names. They did it to Menachem Begin and (right-wing ideologue) Ze'ev Jabotinsky, and even to (National Religious Party moderate) Zevulun Hammer. As far as the Left is concerned, we've always been fascists, neo-Nazis, messianic, and a bunch of other curses." 

In September, entirely incidentally, Netanyahu named Eydar as Israel's next ambassador to Italy.

For its part, the ZOA concludes its statement with a nearly 5,000 word denunciation of Israel's "terror-fomenting, hatred-spewing anti-Israel, Arab party leaders and parties running for Knesset," who, the ZOA says, "engage in outright treacherous conduct" and who, the ZOA concludes, in a direct echo of the drumbeat incitement of Netanyahu's campaign talking points, "seek Israel's destruction."

The ZOA thus becomes along with the modern Orthodox National Council of Young Israel one of only two major U.S. pro-Israel organizations who have sided with Netanyahu in the corrosive debate across the Jewish world over Otzma.

Otzma's views and support for those of slain extremist Meir Kahane have spurred comparisons to the Ku Klux Klan, even moving prominent Orthodox Rabbi Benny Lau to tell worshippers in a Shabbat sermon in Jerusalem that voting for the merged Otzma-Habayit Hayehudi slate was akin to backing Nazi Germany’s anti-Semitic Nuremberg Laws.

To be clear, I am not suggesting that Mort Klein immigrate to Israel. Nor Sheldon Adelson.

I feel for them. If this Otzma stuff keeps up, and if their bosom buddy Trump – who coincidentally also doesn't live in Israel - spills his peace plan all over this election, they may lose their Bibi, and then where is their Zionism of America going to put them?