by Isi Leibler December 4, 2014
It has been reported that American Jews still voted overwhelmingly for the Democratic Party in the recent midterm congressional elections. At the same time, there is mounting evidence that increasing numbers of American Jews at the grassroots level have become disillusioned and in many cases outraged by the shabby manner in which the Obama administration has treated Israel over the past six months. This, despite the fact that the American Jewish leadership establishment, including the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, had failed to criticize the biased and frequently hostile remarks against Israel personally expressed repeatedly by President Barack Obama.
Yet in contrast to the establishment, the Zionist Organization of America has emerged over the last year as the front-runner of American Jewish organizations, which consistently condemned the administration with respect to its Israel policies.
This has resulted in many rank-and-file American Jews, disappointed by the embarrassing silence of their leaders, no longer considering the ZOA to be a marginal or extremist group.
The credit for much of this lies with the organization’s indefatigable leader, Mort Klein, who succeeded in transforming what had become an almost bankrupt organization into a dynamic political machine. Klein was always nonplussed at being dismissed as an extremist and radical right-winger.
Today, his followers are comparing him to Hillel Kook and the Bergson Group, who in the 1940s orchestrated a public campaign to pressure the U.S. government to adopt action to save Jews being murdered during the Holocaust. Initially, he too was condemned by the Jewish establishment as an extremist. In what is now regarded as a permanent blemish on the reputation of the American Jewish leadership, Rabbi Stephen Wise, then head of the Jewish community, warned against antagonizing the Roosevelt administration and introduced the most extreme measures to try to muzzle Kook -- even seeking to deport him............
In this context, the ZOA can no longer be dismissed as a fringe or extremist group and is emerging as a genuine and vigorous component of the Jewish political mainstream. Indeed, due to the apparent paralysis and unwillingness of the Jewish establishment to speak up, the ZOA today represents the principal organization speaking out on behalf of committed Jews and pro-Israeli forces.
Klein says, “We are frequently called right-wing” but “the ZOA is not right-wing. We are simply right.”