The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations veers to the right

JVL Introduction

Hias works around the world to protect refugees who have been forced to flee their homelands because of who they are, including ethnic, religious, and sexual minorities.

Founded as the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society in 1881 to assist Jews fleeing pogroms in Russia and Eastern Europe, Hias has since 2000 broadened its work to support refugees everywhere.

So, when its former Chair, Dianne Lob, was chosen as chair of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, this proved too much for the ultra-Zionists. They rebelled over the appointment because Lob is the chair of HIAS which, they charged, was “not a Jewish organization”, “having “primarily non-Jewish (especially Muslim) clients” .

That right-wing Jewish organisations behave in this way is unsurprising, What upsets Philp Weiss and so many of the younger generation of American Jews is how liberal Jewish organisations capitulated…

This article was originally published by Mondoweiss on Tue 28 Apr 2020. Read the original here.

Liberal Jewish orgs stay in Islamophobic umbrella group, for the sake of Israel

Liberal and centrist orgs stood up for Lob; but – the Conference folded. On Sunday night it announced that Lob’s appointment would be deferred for a year. She will serve as chairperson-elect till 2021.

It’s a complete folding to the rightwing. As IfNotNow puts it: “ICYMI: The Conference of Presidents caved into @ZOA_National‘s islamophobic and xenophobic smear campaign against Dianne Lob and @HIASrefugees. The American Jewish community should not be represented by this sort of moral cowardice.”

Haaretz reported on the power of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) in shutting down the Lob appointment. ZOA’s power derives from Sheldon Adelson.

ZOA President Klein and Chairman Mark S. Levenson wrote a fiercely-worded letter accusing HIAS, under Lob’s leadership, of collaborating with organizations that are anti-Semitic and “hostile to Israel.” It also charged that HIAS was “not a Jewish organization,” “has primarily non-Jewish (especially Muslim) clients” and has ignored European Jews fleeing anti-Semitism.

In recent years, the relationship between ZOA and HIAS has been strained, as HIAS has become increasingly high-profile in challenging Trump’s immigration policies. ZOA’s major financial backers include Sheldon and Miriam Adelson, who were counted among Trump’s biggest campaign donors in 2016, and continue to back pro-Trump PACs.

And of course in the ritualistic unfolding of this scandal, Dianne Lob issued a statement pledging her devotion to Israel and describing anti-Zionism as antisemitism.

The delegitimization of Israel continues to be a threat we must counter, as is the reprehensible BDS Movement, which we must continue to strongly oppose. I believe that we must also re-focus on fighting the new and old antisemitism, which is more acute than it has been at any time since World War II, as well as anti-Zionism, which is simply a modern form of Jew hatred.

Of course any organization has a perfect right to be as rightwing as they would like; and the Conference of Presidents has continually deferred to the furthest rightwing elements in Israel, refusing to criticize the slaughter of Palestinians and the expansion of settlements.

The wonder here is that liberal organizations that constitute the Conference of Presidents go along with this program. They are they paying the salaries of the leaders who time and again side with the right wing and Islamophobes. Among these groups are: the Union for Reform Judaism, Workmen’s Circle, Women of Reform Judaism, the ADL, Ameinu, the National Council of Jewish Women, and Americans for Peace Now.

All these groups could be taking stands against Islamophobia and settlement expansion by getting out of the Conference now and starting their own umbrella group. And IfNotNow which is dedicated to smashing the Jewish establishment over its support for occupation ought to be focusing its fire on these liberal organizations, not the Zionist Organization of America.

But these liberal groups go along meekly with the firebreathers out of core Zionist convictions: American support for Israel is an existential issue; the only way to maintain that support is through the lobbying of Zionist organizations in Washington; and Jewish Zionist lobbyists will be ineffective unless they speak in one voice. That’s how a special interest maintains its power, by speaking for a small community on one issue. If the community divides, the lever disappears.

So out of concern for the very existence of Israel, the liberal Zionists join forces with their extremist brothers and sisters. They side with Sheldon Adelson so as to defeat the evil anti-Zionists, many of whom are young Jews… They might say that they are moderating the Conference, but what do they have to show for it? Conference executive vice chair Malcolm Hoenlein cheers the pro-annexation Trump peace plan inside the White House…

Hoenlein and Netanyahu in February 2015

The only pressure these liberal groups get inside the Jewish community is from an anti-Zionist like me and non-Zionist youth group IfNotNow. But we are forces the liberal groups feel they can ignore…

Comments (2)

  • Mike Cushman says:

    What is is particularly shameful is that the murderous attack on the synagogue in Pittsburg was linked to its support for HIAS. By attacking Lob, which many saw saw as an act of solidarity after that attack, the ZOA have lined themselves up with murderous antisemites.

    This stance for a very narrow perimeter around whose rights are to be respected they have displayed a vicious Islamophobia at odds with an ethic, which I thought to be a Jewish one, of a universalistic approach to rights in the footsteps of the Jewish author of the Universal Declaration, René Cassin.

    The Universal Declaration of Human Rights is a better monument to the victims of the Holocaust than all the memorials and statement buildings. It is a global way of saying never again – but this is too wide a vision for the ZOA and Adelson

  • The Zionist movement has long been unhappy with HIAS. During the Soviet Jewry campaigns there was also a vociferous campaign to ensure that Soviet Jews only went to Israel. Begin even went to the US to lobby Reagan not to allow Soviet Jews into the USA. Hias came under massive pressure not to provide aid or help or advice even to Soviet Jews who refused to go to Israel. This campaign eventually culminated in direct flights from Rumania to Israel. Vienna had caused difficulty by giving people options as to where to go. Hias buckled at times and stood up to the pressure at other times, mindful of the fact that the Orthodox anti-Zionist Rav Tov organisation was actively helping those who were ‘drop outs’ (the terminology for Soviet Jews who didn’t want to go to Israel.

    THere has always been a tension between purely humanitarian/philanthropic organisations and the Zionist movement. The Zionist movement in the 1930’s saw groups like JDC as siphoning off contributions that properly belonged to them and saw general welfare appeals as distracting from the JNF and Keren Hayesod’s efforts.

    Clearly Hias’s efforts with refugees today is anathema to the ZOA. But we should bear in mind that the ZOA has no problem with Christian Zionists who are anti-Semitic such as Stephen Bannon who was its guest of honour at its annual gala dinner. Even Sebastian Gorka, another Trump adviser and a paid up member of Hungarian fascist groups, was a guest of the ZOA.

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