You may have seen this ongoing story, and it’s awful. One of the most powerful Jewish political organizations in the country, the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, last week named Dianne Lob as its next chairwoman. Then rightwing member organizations rebelled over the appointment because Lob is the chair of HIAS, a Jewish organization that supports refugees, and has helped a lot of Muslim refugees.
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 fire-breathers 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…
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…