Shalom ZOA Members, Friends and Supporters of Israel,
Last week, the Jewish Exponent newspaper published an op-ed written by our co-presidents, Lee Bender and Kevin Ross, and our executive director, Steve Feldman, that was sharply critical of the Foreign Policy Research Institute (FPRI) and its president for an event they had recently giving a platform to a PLO official. The PLO official, in his remarks, delivered a pack of lies and repeated his earlier calls for ethnic cleansing of Jews. You can read our op-ed for yourself at http://jewishexponent.com/2017/04/26/think-tanks-hosting-plo-rep-grave-assault-liberty/ .
We received an email about our op-ed from one of our members (also an FPRI member) attacking Greater Philadelphia ZOA for our op-ed. The member also sent his email to the Jewish Exponent, which opted to publish an abbreviated version of the email in its edition today. But the Exponent would not give us an opportunity to refute the scurrilous attacks against ZOA in the same edition. So for the sake of clarity, we want you – our members, supporters and friends – to see our reply to the accusations leveled against us. We have omitted the name of the person who sent us the email.
Here is our response:
Thank you for writing and for your membership in and support of ZOA. Thank you also for your annual trips to Israel to volunteer at IDF bases. Obviously, you have a deep love and concern for Israel and her people. This is all the more reason why your email was so troubling.
In a nutshell: FPRI gave a platform to Maen Rashid Areikat, a representative of the PLO (Palestine Liberation Organization), a group designated by the U.S. in 1987 as a terrorist organization. The PLO has been murdering Jews — mostly Israeli Jews – and Americans for more than 50 years. Their policies of demonization, incitement, violence and murder continue to this very day. They continue to glorify terrorists by naming schools, parks, and teams after terrorists who have murdered Jews. Those murderers who are jailed receive a “pension” from the PLO in a “pay to slay” policy. Further, the PLO deprives its own people of democracy and other basic freedoms that any civil society enjoys. And you feel we are in the wrong for criticizing the FPRI for hosting such a speaker?
Sadly, many do not see the enormous harm they are doing — whether wittingly or unwittingly– by enabling and legitimizing those who wish us dead and Israel destroyed.
To pro-actively give a public platform and all the legitimacy that goes with it to a representative of terrorists is in no way mitigated by relying on people’s intellect or people’s ability to interpret what he says. Would you have been content had FPRI invited David Duke or Louis Farrakhan to speak so that the public could better understand either of them?
Regarding your claim that we “offended” your “First Amendment rights”: No one forbade FPRI nor the museum from hosting a representative of a terrorist group. No one from the ZOA interrupted the event or shouted down the speaker. “Congress shall make no law… abridging the freedom of speech,” thus, this is not a First Amendment issue. We did ask the FPRI to disinvite the PLO’s representative, or at the very least to have an Israeli official participate in the forum and be given equal time to debunk the absurdities and propaganda we knew Areikat would spew. Opposing Jew-haters and Israel-bashers is consistent with ZOA’s mission to fight bigotry and anti-Semitism.
The audience in attendance — regardless of their religion — should have been duly insulted by the FPRI invitation of a PLO official. They should have been further insulted to be lied to for the better part of an hour. One of Areikat’s claims: Hamas is not anti-Semitic. Its charter calls for the murder of all Jews! Another of his claims: Israel is the intransigent party. Israel has sacrificed and made offers that no other nation would make in the quest for peace.
These are just two of the outrageous lies offered up by FPRI’s guest which went unchallenged by interviewer Alan Luxenberg. Areikat evaded nearly every question, blatantly lied in his responses and demanded that hundreds of thousands of Jews — Jews like yourself and Alan Luxenberg — be uprooted from their homes, and that all of us be forbidden from living in towns and communities that we have been associated with and lived in for millennia. Since when are there places that Jews are banned from living in, and since when is that acceptable discourse — let alone policy?
Were all of that not bad enough, he further said that Jews would be forbidden from visiting some of the most significant and holiest sites in Judaism: The Machpela, Rachel’s Tomb. Joseph’s Tomb, Shiloh, Gilgol and elsewhere — until the PLO would determine when in the future it would permit Jews to visit. Luxenberg should have challenged Areikat’s blatant Jew-hatred, demand of ethnic cleansing and outright racism.
ZOA in no way sought to “make headlines.” But we did want to alert the community to another low in the dangerous and growing trend of the mainstreaming of anti-Semitism and anti-Semites. There is no “intellectual” value to be gained in giving voice and respectability to a PLO official. Anyone who has for even a minimum amount of time been following the Arab and Muslim war against the Jewish People knows full well the PLO’s goal of wiping out Jewry from Eretz Israel by any means necessary. After trying multiple times with violence to do so and failing, in recent decades they have cleverly made great strides to achieve their goal through “diplomacy” and by corrupting the UN and other forums.
It is FPRI that owes an apology: to the survivors of those murdered by the PLO these past decades, and to those who through the grace of G-d managed to survive terrorist attacks but endure great pain from PLO attacks.
Alan Luxenberg and the FPRI made a mistake by hosting such a nefarious speaker. Jew hatred is Jew hatred, and calling out bigotry and evil is neither partisan nor extremism. If defending one’s People and one’s homeland amounts to “extremism” today, it is indeed a sad day. Nevertheless we are proud to do so and will unapologetically and vigorously continue to do so.
Steve Feldman – Executive Director
Lee Bender – Co-President
Kevin Ross – Co-President