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Klein, Morton

  • Zionist Organization of America: President

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Morton Klein is the president of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), a right-wing “pro-Israel” advocacy organization. A virulently anti-Palestinian ideologue, Klein is also a staunch critic of other “pro-Israel” organizations, including the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC).

Klein is strongly opposed to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and advocates the Israeli annexation of the West Bank, which he refers to as “Judea and Samaria.”[1] “Statehood will only promote the Palestinians’ terrorist agenda. Statehood is not the answer. It will only make things worse,” Klein told the Times of Israel in 2012.[2]

Klein has referred to the concern over Israeli settlements in occupied Palestinian territories as a “fake issue.”[3] He is also a member of the “International Board of Governors of the College of Judea and Samaria,” which is located on a settlement in the occupied West Bank.[4]

Klein has argued that the United States should attack Iran if it does not “dismantle” its nuclear program, and that if the United States is not willing to do so, it should support Israel in doing so. “There needs to be a credible military threat against Iran if it does not dismantle its nuclear program and if the US won’t pose a threat, then it must support an Israeli attack, if necessary,” Klein has proclaimed.[5]

Since the election of Donald Trump, Klein has been criticized by observers, including Jewish leaders, for his cozy ties to the administration and support of administration figures who are perceived to be anti-Semitic. [6]

ZOA President

Klein’s presidency of the ZOA has been fraught with controversy. In March 2014, the Jewish Voice reported that ZOA’s membership under Klein has been in “free fall.” Jewish Voice added: “Although the ZOA’s website dishonestly represents that it has more than 30,000 members, the ZOA’s list of members includes fewer than 10,000 names. Of that group, the ZOA has e-mail addresses of only 1100, and approximately 25% of those e-mail addresses are no longer valid. Thus, at most, the ZOA has approximately 800 members. Such a pitifully small constituency is less than the critical mass necessary for an organization to have any relevance.”[7]

As of early 2015, the ZOA’s website stated that the organization had over 25,000 members, though according to the Times of Israel, Klein himself has estimated the number of members to be around 10,000.[8]

Under Klein’s leadership, the ZOA also lost its tax-exempt status in March 2012 after failing for three years to file Form 990 documents with IRS.[9] In October 2012, the ZOA announced that it had cancelled its annual fundraising gala because of its loss of tax status.[10] Between February 2012 and when it regained its tax-exempt status in May 2013, donations to ZOA were directed to an outside organization.[11]

Despite these hardships, in October 2012, Forward reported that Klein was among the most highly compensated top executives among Jewish advocacy groups. “Of the 19 Jewish nonprofits that pay their top executives over $400,000,” wrote Josh Nathan-Kazis, “the Republican Jewish Coalition and the Zionist Organization America are the only two that have total expenditures of less than $10 million a year.” Nathan-Kazis noted that Sheldon Adelson has been a major funder of both groups.[12]

Forward also reported that Klein received a 38 percent raise even as ZOA lost its tax-exempt status and its revenues declined.[13]

According to the Jewish Voice, Klein received a salary of $1,245,851 in 2008, which was more than half of ZOA’s total received donations ($2.4 million) for that year.[14] Jewish Voice also noted that 2008 was the first year ZOA failed to file a Form 990 with the IRS, meaning Klein’s income for that year was not publically disclosed at that time.[15]

In 2014, Klein faced the first challenge to his presidency of ZOA in the 20 years he has been at the helm. His challenger was Steven Goldberg, a Los Angeles-based lawyer and former ZOA board member who launched his bid because of what he claimed was ZOA’s “steep decline” and “falling donations, dwindling membership and poor employee morale.”[16]

“Mort Klein runs the ZOA like it’s his personal candy store,” Goldberg said shortly before the election. “I would not have gotten involved in this organization had I known that it’s a sham, that it’s run by cronies and that it’s a rubber-stamp operation.”[17]

The election, which Klein won, drew enormous criticism. “[Klein] and his supporters on the ZOA Board had an iron grip on the machinery for the selection of the next president at the convention, and Goldberg never had a chance,” noted a March 2014 Jewish Voice editorial. “The Board’s failure to fulfill its fiduciary duties enabled the ZOA’s disintegration. Perhaps one day the Attorney General of New York will investigate and hold the culpable parties responsible.”[18]

The Jewish Voice also reported that despite strong protestations, the election was held in Klein’s hometown of Philadelphia. ZOA members who voted were “locals approved by Klein and his friends pursuant to an antiquated and byzantine set of rules that were interpreted in ways designed to ensure that Klein would retain his grip on power.” Jewish Voice concluded: “The ZOA will go through the motions of an active organization, but Mort Klein’s loss of credibility is irreversible. Now that the truth is out, it is impossible to take him seriously again.”[19]

Close Relationship With Trump Administration

The election of Donald Trump provided Klein with an opportunity to bring the ZOA back to prominence, in part because of with his relationships with key Trump advisers. Klein has drawn criticism from the mainstream Jewish community for his defense of leading alt-right figures such as Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka, both of whom are widely regarded as anti-Semitic. He said: “The idea that Bannon could be an anti-Semite is nonsense. The same goes for Gorka. The Jewish media and the entire media has gone on a surge of character assassination and lying about people whose policies they disagree with.” [20]

“As a Jew and as an American Zionist, and as someone who realizes and who fears the danger of the scourge of radical Islamic terrorism, I thank God every day that Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka have important positions in the Trump administration,” Klein said. [21]

“The ZOA is doing more than any other Jewish organization to cozy up to the Trump administration, Syndicated columnist Douglas Bloomfield says. “I don’t think the white supremacy and hate-mongering have been impediments for Mort. He sees them as access to the White House. J Street had the ear of the White House under Obama and he wants to be the equivalent now.”[22]

Klein offered congressional testimony on the question of moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem just a few weeks before President Trump decided to make the controversial move. In his testimony, he asserted, counter-factually, that “If the eastern portion of Jerusalem was surrendered to a Palestinian Arab state, religious repression would reign as it did under Jordan’s illegal occupation. … Jews would be cut off from their holiest places, including the Western Wall – which are located in the old city of Jerusalem. Jewish sites in PA-controlled territory have already become virtually inaccessible to Jews.” [23]

Klein claims to have strong relationships with White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, U.S. Ambassador to Israel David Friedman and Mideast envoy Jason Greenblatt and that “he is in regular touch with both Friedman and Greenblatt about Israel-related policy issues.” [24]

Klein has also voiced support for racial profiling of Muslims. “In an era in which the vast majority of terrorism is committed by Muslims, in order to protect American citizens, we should adopt the same profiling policies as Israel and be more thorough in vetting Muslims,” Klein told the Forward.[25]

Klein was among 19 figures listed as people Jews should worry about by the Jewish publication, The Forward due to his ties to figures like Bannon and Gorka.[26] He is now a frequent columnist at the right wing news outlet, Breitbart. [27]

2015 Netanyahu Speech Controversy

The ZOA stood out amongst “pro-Israel” advocacy organizations in its support for controversial plans to have Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu address the U.S. Congress in March 2015, which were made without any advance discussion with the White House. Despite widespread condemnation of the plans, Klein stated that his organization would publically condemn “any Democrats who don’t show up for the speech.”[28]

Klein also attempted to link the refusal of some Jewish organizations to support Netanyahu’s speech to the failure of Jewish leaders during the 1930s in condemning the Nazi threat. “We cannot afford to again act like the Jewish leaders of the 1930’s-1940s who opposed life-saving efforts to save their European brothers and sisters from extermination. The ZOA begs fellow Jewish leaders to join with the ZOA in a unified effort to support Prime Minister Netanyahu’s address before Congress, and to support ensuing efforts to impose sanctions and all other necessary steps to stop the existential threat to Israel, America, and the entire world posed by Iranian nuclear weapons,” Klein stated.[29]

 

[1] ZOA, “ZOA President Klein addresses Knesset about the importance of language in fighting BDS,” July 3, 2014, http://zoa.org/2014/07/10249460-video-of-zoa-president-morton-klein-addressing-knesset-about-the-importance-of-language-in-fighting-bds/.

Renee Ghert-Zand, “ZOA’s Morton Klein says he’s still the best man for the job,” The Times of Israel, March 5, 2014, http://www.timesofisrael.com/zoas-morton-klein-says-hes-still-the-best-man-for-the-job/.

[2] Renee Ghert-Zand, “ZOA’s Morton Klein says he’s still the best man for the job,” The Times of Israel, March 5, 2014, http://www.timesofisrael.com/zoas-morton-klein-says-hes-still-the-best-man-for-the-job/.

[3] Renee Ghert-Zand, “ZOA’s Morton Klein says he’s still the best man for the job,” The Times of Israel, March 5, 2014, http://www.timesofisrael.com/zoas-morton-klein-says-hes-still-the-best-man-for-the-job/.

[4] Elly Bulkin and Donna Nevel, “Follow the Money: From Islamophobia      to Israel Right or Wrong,” October 3, 2012, http://www.alternet.org/world/follow-money-islamophobia-israel-right-or-wrong.

[5] Renee Ghert-Zand, “ZOA’s Morton Klein says he’s still the best man for the job,” The Times of Israel, March 5, 2014, http://www.timesofisrael.com/zoas-morton-klein-says-hes-still-the-best-man-for-the-job/.

[6] Adelle Nazarian, “ZOA’s Morton Klein: ‘Sebastian Gorka Is a Great Friend of Israel’,” Breitbart, March 21, 2017, http://www.breitbart.com/national-security/2017/03/21/exclusive-zoas-mort-klein-says-sebastian-gorka-is-a-great-friend-of-israel/

[7] JV Staff, “Mourning the Legacy of ZOA,” The Jewish Voice, March 12, 2014, http://jewishvoiceny.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=6907%3Amourning-the-legacy-of-the-zoa&catid=101%3Ajv-editorial&Itemid=284.

ZOA, “About the ZOA,” http://www.zoa.org/content/about_us.asp.

[8] Renee Ghert-Zand, “ZOA’s Morton Klein says he’s still the best man for the job,” The Times of Israel, March 5, 2014, http://www.timesofisrael.com/zoas-morton-klein-says-hes-still-the-best-man-for-the-job/

[9] JTA, “ZOA loses tax-exempt status,” September 11, 2012, http://www.jta.org/news/article/2012/09/11/3106631/zoa-loses-tax-exempt-status.

[10] Josh Nathan-Kazis, “ZOA Cancels Annual Fundraising Dinner,” Forward, October 24, 2012, http://forward.com/articles/164825/zoa-cancels-annual-fundraising-dinner/.

[11] Renee Ghert-Zand, “ZOA’s Morton Klein says he’s still the best man for the job,” The Times of Israel, March 5, 2014, http://www.timesofisrael.com/zoas-morton-klein-says-hes-still-the-best-man-for-the-job/.

[12] Josh Nathan-Kazis, “Adelson Funds Big Salaries,” October 2, 2012, http://blogs.forward.com/forward-thinking/163651/adelson-funds-big-salaries/#ixzz29ihr44iJ.

[13] Josh Nathan-Kazis, “ZOA’s Mort Klein Gets 38% Pay Hike,” Forward, September 28, 2012, http://forward.com/articles/163407/zoas-mort-klein-gets–pay-hike/.

[14] JV Staff, “Mourning the Legacy of ZOA,” The Jewish Voice, March 12, 2014, http://jewishvoiceny.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=6907%3Amourning-the-legacy-of-the-zoa&catid=101%3Ajv-editorial&Itemid=284.

[15] JV Staff, “Mourning the Legacy of ZOA,” The Jewish Voice, March 12, 2014, http://jewishvoiceny.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=6907%3Amourning-the-legacy-of-the-zoa&catid=101%3Ajv-editorial&Itemid=284.

[16] JV Staff, “Mourning the Legacy of ZOA,” The Jewish Voice, March 12, 2014, http://jewishvoiceny.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=6907%3Amourning-the-legacy-of-the-zoa&catid=101%3Ajv-editorial&Itemid=284.

[17] Renee Ghert-Zand, “ZOA’s Morton Klein says he’s still the best man for the job,” The Times of Israel, March 5, 2014, http://www.timesofisrael.com/zoas-morton-klein-says-hes-still-the-best-man-for-the-job/.

[18] JV Staff, “Mourning the Legacy of ZOA,” The Jewish Voice, March 12, 2014, http://jewishvoiceny.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=6907%3Amourning-the-legacy-of-the-zoa&catid=101%3Ajv-editorial&Itemid=284.

[19] JV Staff, “Mourning the Legacy of ZOA,” The Jewish Voice, March 12, 2014, http://jewishvoiceny.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=6907%3Amourning-the-legacy-of-the-zoa&catid=101%3Ajv-editorial&Itemid=284.

[20] Dina Kraft, “Steve Bannon’s Best Jewish Friend: Morton Klein’s Rise to Prominence in the Trump Era,” Haaretz, December 6, 2017, https://www.haaretz.com/us-news/how-morton-klein-went-from-fringe-figure-to-white-house-player-1.5627699

[21] Adelle Nazarian, “ZOA’s Morton Klein: ‘Sebastian Gorka Is a Great Friend of Israel’,” Breitbart, March 21, 2017, http://www.breitbart.com/national-security/2017/03/21/exclusive-zoas-mort-klein-says-sebastian-gorka-is-a-great-friend-of-israel/

[22] Dina Kraft, “Steve Bannon’s Best Jewish Friend: Morton Klein’s Rise to Prominence in the Trump Era,” Haaretz, December 6, 2017, https://www.haaretz.com/us-news/how-morton-klein-went-from-fringe-figure-to-white-house-player-1.5627699

[23] Morton Klein, “Written Testimony of Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) National President Morton A. Klein,” House of Representatives Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, November 8, 2017, https://oversight.house.gov/wp-content/uploads/2017/11/Klein_Testimony_11082017.pdf

[24] Dina Kraft, “Steve Bannon’s Best Jewish Friend: Morton Klein’s Rise to Prominence in the Trump Era,” Haaretz, December 6, 2017, https://www.haaretz.com/us-news/how-morton-klein-went-from-fringe-figure-to-white-house-player-1.5627699

[25] Nathan Guttman, “ZOA Leader Supports Call for Profiling Muslims, Just Like Trump,” The Forward, June 20, 2016, https://forward.com/news/343103/zoa-leader-supports-call-for-profiling-muslims-just-like-trump/

[26] Steven Davidson, “19 People Jews Should Worry About More Than Linda Sarsour, The Forward, August 3, 2017, https://forward.com/opinion/israel/379052/19-people-jews-should-worry-about-more-than-linda-sarsour/

[27] http://www.breitbart.com/author/mortonklein/

[28] Yossi Sarid, “Beware: Republican Jews on the Warpath,” Haaretz, February 8, 2015, http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/.premium-1.641334.

[29] ZOA, “Condemnation of Speaking on Iran Reminiscent of Speech on Nazi Threat,” February 10, 2015, http://zoa.org/2015/02/10275218-condemnation-of-speaking-on-iran-reminiscent-of-speaking-to-congress-on-nazi-threat/#ixzz3RNHlXQVk.

 

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Sources

[1] ZOA, “ZOA President Klein addresses Knesset about the importance of language in fighting BDS,” July 3, 2014,http://zoa.org/2014/07/10249460-video-of-zoa-president-morton-klein-addressing-knesset-about-the-importance-of-language-in-fighting-bds/.

Renee Ghert-Zand, “ZOA’s Morton Klein says he’s still the best man for the job,” The Times of Israel, March 5, 2014,http://www.timesofisrael.com/zoas-morton-klein-says-hes-still-the-best-man-for-the-job/.

[2] Renee Ghert-Zand, “ZOA’s Morton Klein says he’s still the best man for the job,” The Times of Israel, March 5, 2014,http://www.timesofisrael.com/zoas-morton-klein-says-hes-still-the-best-man-for-the-job/.

[3] Renee Ghert-Zand, “ZOA’s Morton Klein says he’s still the best man for the job,” The Times of Israel, March 5, 2014,http://www.timesofisrael.com/zoas-morton-klein-says-hes-still-the-best-man-for-the-job/.

[4] Elly Bulkin and Donna Nevel, “Follow the Money: From Islamophobia to Israel Right or Wrong,” October 3, 2012,http://www.alternet.org/world/follow-money-islamophobia-israel-right-or-wrong.

[5] Renee Ghert-Zand, “ZOA’s Morton Klein says he’s still the best man for the job,” The Times of Israel, March 5, 2014,http://www.timesofisrael.com/zoas-morton-klein-says-hes-still-the-best-man-for-the-job/.

[6] ZOA, “National President Morton A. Klein,” http://zoa.org/about/morton-a-klien/.

[7] JV Staff, “Mourning the Legacy of ZOA,” The Jewish Voice, March 12, 2014, http://jewishvoiceny.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=6907%3Amourning-the-legacy-of-the-zoa&catid=101%3Ajv-editorial&Itemid=284.

ZOA, “About the ZOA,” http://www.zoa.org/content/about_us.asp.

[8] Renee Ghert-Zand, “ZOA’s Morton Klein says he’s still the best man for the job,” The Times of Israel, March 5, 2014,http://www.timesofisrael.com/zoas-morton-klein-says-hes-still-the-best-man-for-the-job/

[9] JTA, “ZOA loses tax-exempt status,” September 11, 2012, http://www.jta.org/news/article/2012/09/11/3106631/zoa-loses-tax-exempt-status.

[10] Josh Nathan-Kazis, “ZOA Cancels Annual Fundraising Dinner,” Forward, October 24, 2012,http://forward.com/articles/164825/zoa-cancels-annual-fundraising-dinner/.

[11] Renee Ghert-Zand, “ZOA’s Morton Klein says he’s still the best man for the job,” The Times of Israel, March 5, 2014,http://www.timesofisrael.com/zoas-morton-klein-says-hes-still-the-best-man-for-the-job/.

[12] Josh Nathan-Kazis, “Adelson Funds Big Salaries,” October 2, 2012, http://blogs.forward.com/forward-thinking/163651/adelson-funds-big-salaries/#ixzz29ihr44iJ.

[13] Josh Nathan-Kazis, “ZOA’s Mort Klein Gets 38% Pay Hike,” Forward, September 28, 2012,http://forward.com/articles/163407/zoas-mort-klein-gets–pay-hike/.

[14] JV Staff, “Mourning the Legacy of ZOA,” The Jewish Voice, March 12, 2014, http://jewishvoiceny.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=6907%3Amourning-the-legacy-of-the-zoa&catid=101%3Ajv-editorial&Itemid=284.

[15] JV Staff, “Mourning the Legacy of ZOA,” The Jewish Voice, March 12, 2014, http://jewishvoiceny.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=6907%3Amourning-the-legacy-of-the-zoa&catid=101%3Ajv-editorial&Itemid=284.

[16] JV Staff, “Mourning the Legacy of ZOA,” The Jewish Voice, March 12, 2014, http://jewishvoiceny.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=6907%3Amourning-the-legacy-of-the-zoa&catid=101%3Ajv-editorial&Itemid=284.

[17] Renee Ghert-Zand, “ZOA’s Morton Klein says he’s still the best man for the job,” The Times of Israel, March 5, 2014,http://www.timesofisrael.com/zoas-morton-klein-says-hes-still-the-best-man-for-the-job/.

[18] JV Staff, “Mourning the Legacy of ZOA,” The Jewish Voice, March 12, 2014, http://jewishvoiceny.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=6907%3Amourning-the-legacy-of-the-zoa&catid=101%3Ajv-editorial&Itemid=284.

[19] JV Staff, “Mourning the Legacy of ZOA,” The Jewish Voice, March 12, 2014, http://jewishvoiceny.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=6907%3Amourning-the-legacy-of-the-zoa&catid=101%3Ajv-editorial&Itemid=284.

[20] Yossi Sarid, “Beware: Republican Jews on the Warpath,” Haaretz, February 8, 2015, http://www.haaretz.com/news/diplomacy-defense/.premium-1.641334.

[21] ZOA, “Condemnation of Speaking on Iran Reminiscent of Speech on Nazi Threat,” February 10, 2015,http://zoa.org/2015/02/10275218-condemnation-of-speaking-on-iran-reminiscent-of-speaking-to-congress-on-nazi-threat/#ixzz3RNHlXQVk.

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Klein, Morton Résumé

AFFILIATIONS

Zionist Organization of America: President
Economist: Nixon, Ford, and Carter Administrations
UCLA: Biostatistician
Linus Pauling Institute: Biostatistician
Temple University: Lecturer

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