Jewish umbrella group reprimands ZOA for insulting other members

Confidential warning comes following complaints from ADL, NCJW and HIAS, which slam weak response

Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) president Morton A. Klein (Joseph Savetsky/courtesy of ZOA)
Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) president Morton A. Klein (Joseph Savetsky/courtesy of ZOA)

The Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations issued a confidential warning to the Zionist Organization of America over its attacks on other member groups, the weakest sanction at the umbrella body’s disposal.

The umbrella group’s internal committee listed eight instances of the ZOA and its personnel making “insults, ad hominem attacks and name-calling” in violation of internal conference rules, The New York Jewish Week reported on Tuesday.

“ZOA knew, or should have known, that its repeated, patterned public criticisms of two of the complainants were unnecessarily shrill and personally directed, and that they would be seen as personal or organizational insults as much, or more, than they would be seen as substantive criticisms,” the ruling said.

The Jewish Week said the Presidents’ Conference declined comment on the leaked document.

Among the groups ZOA targeted are the Anti-Defamation League — more than any other group — the American Jewish Committee, the National Council of Jewish Women, the Orthodox Union, the Reform movement, and HIAS, the immigration advocacy group. ADL, NCJW and HIAS brought the complaints.

Jonathan Greenblatt, CEO And National Director of the Anti-Defamation League testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, May 2, 2017, before a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on responses to the increase in religious hate crimes. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Among the insults were accusing ADL of legitimating “despicable, Israel-hating groups” through its work with other civil liberties groups and HIAS of receiving “tens of millions of dollars of government grants to resettle Muslim immigrants in America.” HIAS is one of nine faith-based immigrant advocacy groups that the State Department works with to funnel assistance to refugees. It does not profit from the funds.

The reports of the infighting, revealed earlier this year by JTA, exposed the depth of the acrimony among groups, particularly during the Trump presidency. The ZOA has gained influence with the president and many of the other groups have been outspoken in their criticism of his policies and rhetoric relating to immigration and minorities.

All parties told the Jewish Week they were unhappy with the outcome. Mark Hetfield, the HIAS CEO, speaking on behalf of the complainants, said they had questions as to “how a confidential reprimand fits the litany of violations cited in the decision.” The 51-member Conference of Presidents also may publicly censure a group; may suspend it; or may expel it.

The ZOA’s president, Morton Klein, said the Presidents’ Conference statement “fails to provide any proper support for its inexplicable conclusion” and called for an investigation of the leak to the Jewish Week.

The committee dismissed two complaints brought by the ZOA against other members: one against ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt, allegedly for manhandling a ZOA staffer; and another against Ameinu, a liberal Zionist group, for fundraising literature in which it described ZOA as “discrediting” Zionism as ” a violent, reactionary, anti-democratic movement.”

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