Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America, apologized Friday for comments he acknowledged could be regarded as offensive regarding actress Natalie Portman, and for remarks he made about a female ZOA executive.
“I now realize that my comment [about Portman] could be construed as offensive and I sincerely apologize for it,” he said in a statement. “I do not retract my criticism of Ms. Portman’s decision not to go to Israel and accept the [Genesis] award, but I should have focused solely on her decision, without any reference to gender or appearance,” he added.
Furthermore, Klein said, he made a reference in an interview with JTA on Thursday to Susan Tuchman, a woman executive at the ZOA, in which “I unfortunately didn’t choose my words carefully and thoughtfully and regret my comments. I apologize to Susan, to all the other women who work at the ZOA, and to all our employees, women and men, who fight hard for Israel and the Jewish people every day… I did not intend to offend, hurt or denigrate any of our employees or the work we are so proud to be doing at the ZOA. To all of them, I sincerely apologize.”
Klein issued the apology a day after he spoke to JTA about criticism he was getting on social media for posting a tweet blasting Portman for her refusal to accept the Genesis prize in Israel because it would mean sharing a space with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, whom she apparently holds responsible for the killing of Palestinian protesters on the Gaza Strip border.
“Natalie Portman’s absurd, uninformed, inaccurate, dangerous views on Israel, while ignoring the anti-Semitic, pro-terrorist views/actions of Hamas and the Palestinian Authority gives credibility and legitimacy to the ludicrous, false, nonsensical belief that beautiful women aren’t too bright,” Klein had tweeted.
The reaction, JTA noted, was pretty fast and also furious, and included accusations of misogyny, which Klein had dismissed by referring to Tuchman.
“To call me a misogynist is totally absurd,” Klein had said. “Susan B. Tuchman,” who directs the ZOA’s Center for Law and Justice, “works for me, and she is a very attractive woman and she’s smart.”