Letters to the Editor: Bannon and the ZOA, the Palestinian's 'Choice' and Living in Exile

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Richard Spencer: "I don’t think Steve Bannon is an alt-right thinker."Credit: Mike Segar, Reuters

‘Bannon was never invited to address the ZOA’

According to Peter Beinart, the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), which I head, is a mostly unknown, “heavily” Orthodox organization that supports President-elect Trump’s “takeover” of the GOP, invited Trump strategist Steve Bannon to address our recent Annual Dinner and “peddles” “anti-Muslim bigotry” (‘Trump Era Heralds Final Collapse of American Jewish Center,’ Nov. 30).

To quote Winston Churchill, “I should think it was hardly possible to state the opposite of the truth with more precision.” 

The “unknown” ZOA, the oldest American Zionist organization (established 1897), is certainly known to the Wall Street Journal, which described us as “the most credible advocate for Israel on the American Jewish scene today.” The Forward has named me personally among the top 50 Jewish leaders eleven times; the Jewish Exponent, one of the top ten Jewish activists of the century.

Less than 10% of our board are Orthodox. 

We did not invite Steve Bannon to address our Dinner. Mr. Bannon asked to attend, was not asked to speak and did not in fact attend (ditto Democratic Senator Chuck Schumer). Liberal Democrat Alan Dershowitz was invited and given an award. 

ZOA doesn’t endorse candidates, but we do praise or critique candidates’ positions of relevance to our mission, and have done both in respect of Donald Trump. Indeed, we were critical of Mr. Trump’s initial plan for a blanket ban on entry to Muslims, but we do oppose permitting entry to those Muslims from jihadist conflict zones whom, as admitted by senior Obama Administration officials, cannot be properly vetted.

Far from being “bigots,” ZOA opinion pieces have appeared in moderate Muslim publications like Muslim World Today (whose late editor, Tashbih Sayyed, also addressed the ZOA). We have also consistently and unequivocally condemned the fortunately rare cases of anti-Muslim terrorism in Israel. 

Morton A. Klein
National President
Zionist Organization of America

The Palestinian ‘choice’ to remain refugees

In response to “The war isn’t over yet,” Haaretz, November 30

“The conscious Arab choice to continue to be refugees and not to be rehabilitated during all the decades that have passed since the end of the war was and remains a clear political statement, which means not recognizing the outcome of the war that centered around the Jewish people’s right to self-determination, at least in part of its homeland,” Einat Wilf and Adi Schwartz write.

The reader wonders: Whose deliberate choice was it to remain refugees? The Palestinian refugees’? Who, in fact, doesn’t want to be rehabilitated, the Palestinian refugees? Those who could rehabilitate themselves have done so. Numerous Palestinian refugees have successfully built their lives again and many of them are famous worldwide for their professional achievements and activity, especially in Western states – the United States, France, Canada and Latin America, for example. 

Some 700,000 Palestinians who were evicted and fled in 1948 settled in the neighboring states of Lebanon, Jordan and Egypt, where rehabilitation was no easy feat. Then and now those countries aren’t as economically developed as Israel and did not have the ability and desire to absorb and rehabilitate the Palestinian refugees, whose number has meanwhile risen to millions, making their rehabilitation even more difficult.

The Arab states have almost no interest at all in the Palestinians’ wretched fate and have no desire to contribute resources to rehabilitate them. So the writers’ claim that the Palestinians made a conscious choice to remain refugees only to harm Israel, to show the world its brutality and lead to the end of its existence, is intended to strengthen the excuse “there’s no one to talk to” and “there’s no chance of peace.”

Uri Or
Kiryat Tivon

Their exile and ours

Einat Wilf and Adi Schwartz refer to the Palestinian refugee problem with astonishment. In a period that saw several “forced population swaps” that were considered “a necessary step in securing peace” , all the other population swaps, they say, turned out well.Relocation. Only those Palestinians turned the refugee problem into a “political statement,” and are using it to “prevent the Jewish people from realizing its right of self-determination “in its homeland.” (In its homeland, but also in their homeland, right?)

The Palestinians are the “side that opened the war, and lost it,” write the authors. So what?  The Second Temple’s destruction and the Roman exile started with the Jews’ rebellion against the Romans. We started the war and lost it. That does not deny us, as we see it, our right of return.

The Declaration of Independence describes 1,900 years of exile and longing. “After the nation was forcibly exiled from its land it remained faithful to itin all the diaspora countries, and never stopped praying and hoping to return to its country and renew its political freedom in it.” 

So similar it makes you want to cry, or shout. 

Haim Lotner