|Morton A. Klein|
|Occupation||President of the Zionist Organization of America|
|Spouse(s)||Rebecca (Rita) Klein|
Morton A. Klein is a German-born American economist, statistician, and pro-Israeli activist. He is the president of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) and is regarded as one of the leading Jewish activists in the United States. In 2004, he was named one of the top five Jewish leaders in the US today by The Forward. In 2018, Klein controversially traveled to Qatar on a paid trip and he accepted $100,000 in contributions to the ZOA from Qatar lobbyist Joey Allaham. Also in 2018, Klein referred to a move by Kenneth L. Marcus, the assistant secretary of education for civil rights to open a seven-year-old case brought by the Zionist Organization of America against Rutgers University as a "groundbreaking decision.". The case will examine whether or not Rutgers allowed a hostile environment for Jewish students.
Early life and career
Klein is a child of Holocaust survivors, born in a displaced persons camp in Gunzberg, Germany. At 4 years old, he and his family emigrated from Germany to the United States, where he would grow up in South Philadelphia. He is an economist who served in the Nixon, Ford, and Carter Administrations. He has served as a biostatistician at UCLA School of Public Health and the Linus Pauling Institute of Science and Medicine in Palo Alto, Calif. He has been a lecturer in mathematics and statistics at Temple University.
His father was a Satmar chasid, an Orthodox Rabbi with semicha from Moshe Teitelbaum. Klein said in a Jewish Press interview regarding his father that "In Europe he had a long beard and black hat and was a rosh yeshiva in his early 20s. But he disagreed with the Satmars on Israel. My father loved Israel, so obviously this was transmitted to me."
He was motivated to enter pro-Israel work while watching the signing of the Oslo Accords in 1993, telling Haaretz, “I only went into the work because I thought Oslo was a disastrous mistake and I wanted a podium to express that. I did not intend to do it for more than a year or two, make my case and then go back to normal life. But things kept getting worse, not better.”
Zionist Organization of America
In 1993, while serving as the organization's Philadelphia chapter president, Klein was elected national president.
The ZOA web site quotes the following from Klein's Encyclopaedia Judaica entry: "Klein revived a moribund Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) in the 1990s and made it one of the most outspoken organizations on the American Jewish scene." After the Obama administration abstained from using its veto power to block United Nations Security Council Resolution 2334 which stated that Israeli Settlement in the West Bank is a 'flagrant' violation of international law, Klein called Obama "a Jew-hating antisemite."
Klein has stated his belief that the U.S. should engage in religious 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," he told the Forward. Klein said he would also support profiling of Jews under certain circumstances. "If most terror were committed by Jews I would support profiling Jews."
In February 2012, the ZOA lost its tax-exempt status from the Internal Revenue Service after it failed to file tax returns for three years. The ZOA regained its status in May 2013. Klein said it was a technical "glitch." During the years that the ZOA failed to file tax returns, The Forward reported that Klein's salary increased 38%. In 2014, Steven Goldberg, a Los Angeles attorney and national vice-president of the ZOA, launched a challenge to Klein's presidency, alleging that Klein was mismanaging the ZOA and personally profiting. Klein was later reelected president with 93% of the vote.
Klein is credited with forging relations with Christian Zionists, who were originally isolated by the liberal Jewish establishment. In May 2018 article, the Jerusalem Post said, “Aside from ZOA head Morton Klein, not a single mainstream Jewish leader had the courage to stand up and protest Obama’s bias against Israel and constant bracketing of Israeli defensive actions as morally equivalent to the actions of terrorists.”
In January 2018, Klein went on a paid trip to Qatar at the invitation of the Emir, part of Qatar's public relations efforts to change its reputation within the U.S. Jewish community and the Trump administration. During his visit, he met with a number of senior officials in the country, including the Emir. His visit received "strong criticism from other supporters of Israel, who warned that the Qataris were using 'pro-Israel' names to whitewash their support for Hamas and other terror organizations."
On June 19, 2018, Mother Jones reported that Qatar had donated $100,000 to the ZOA through lobbyist Joey Allaham. Allaham first contributed $50,000 to the ZOA on November 2, 2017, shortly before the group's annual gala on November 17 in which former Qatari diplomat Ahmed Al-Rumaihi was present, at the invitation of Allaham. The second $50,000 contribution from Allaham to the ZOA came on January 23, 2018, a few weeks after Klein visited Doha.
Klein's liaisons with Qatar coincided with the softening of his and the ZOA's tough stance against Qatar. In 2014, for instance, "the organization urged the US government to designate Qatar as a state sponsor of terrorism for 'funding and promoting Nazi-like organizations that want to kill every Jew.' ... In June 2017, Klein's ZOA had renewed its demand for the State Department to brand Qatar terrorists and had called on the Federal Aviation Authority to bar Qatar Airways from flying in the United States." In September 2017, Klein announced that he had refused an invitation to meet with the "pro-Hamas Emir of the State of Qatar" on the sidelines of the 2017 United Nations General Assembly. He added that rather than change any of its "monstrous and evil actions, Qatar may be trying to create the optical illusion of Jewish support to moderate their image by hiring a well-connected PR firm and by having 'secret' meetings with Jewish leaders – which of course won't be a secret, as the whole reason for the meetings may be for the Qataris to point to them as evidence that the 'Jews' (and thus Israel) don't view them as enemies."
On January 20, 2018, shortly after Klein's paid trip to Qatar and just three days before the second $50,000 payment Allaham gave to ZOA on behalf of Qatar, Klein expressed to Haaretz a new, open attitude to dialogue with Qatar. In a subsequent March 2018 interview, Klein then praised Qatar for flying an Israeli flag at a recent handball tournament and said the emir told him that "last summer they stopped funding terrorist groups."
On June 6, 2018, the day a federal judge ruled that Joey Allaham "must turn over any records showing ties to the government of Qatar," which would expose later that month his contributions to the ZOA using Qatari money, Klein denounced Qatar for having "taken some alarming steps backwards" and said that he "plan[s] to discuss these serious concerns with my contacts with Members of the House and Senate and the Administration."
Allaham told The Jerusalem Post on June 21 that he is "proud of the work that Mort Klein has done and all the other Jewish leaders working in collaboration with the Emir and other members of the Qatari Royal Family."
Conflict with Rutgers
On September 11, 2018 it was reported in the New York Times that Kenneth L. Marcus, the assistant secretary of education for civil rights reopened a seven-year-old case brought by the Zionist Organization of America against Rutgers University, saying the Obama administration, in closing the case, ignored evidence that suggested the school allowed a hostile environment for Jewish students. In a statement on the decision, Klein and Susan B. Tuchman, the director of its Center for Law and Justice noted:
“It took a leader like Kenneth Marcus to finally decide the ZOA’s appeal and to also make it clear that O.C.R. will finally be using a definition of anti-Semitism that makes sense and that reflects how anti-Semitism is so frequently expressed today, particularly on our college campuses,” they wrote. “Hate groups like Students for Justice in Palestine try to convince others that their attacks on Zionism and Israel are legitimate political discourse. But as the State Department definition of anti-Semitism recognizes, these attacks are often a mask for Jew-hatred, plain and simple.”
On September 12, 2018 in the Tampa Bay Times, again while addressing the decision to reopen the case, Klein stated: "It's really a breakthrough. Israel bashing and anti-Zionism can cross a line when it becomes anti-Semitism."
- "THE FORWARD 50; Lead Players on a Global Stage". bechollashon.org. Retrieved 2018-08-29.
- Wakin, Daniel J. "PUBLIC LIVES; In Favor of the War, and Enjoying a Good Fight". Retrieved 2018-08-29.
- "National President Morton A. Klein". ZOA.org. 2010-12-14. Archived from the original on 2010-12-02. Retrieved 2010-12-14.
- "Morton Klein: Bibi Sent Wrong Message,Elliot Resnick, Jewish Press Staff Reporter". Jewishpress.com. 2009-06-24. Retrieved 2010-08-12.
- June 26, '09, p. 10
- "Steve Bannon's Best Jewish Friend: Morton Klein's Rise to Prominence in the Trump Era". Haaretz. 2017-12-06. Retrieved 2018-08-08.
- Popper, Nathaniel (2006-04-14). "ZOA Pressed by Former Officials Over Guard's Pay – The Jewish Daily Forward". Forward.com. Retrieved 2010-08-12.
- "4819-ZOA Report FL08.p5" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2011-06-05. Retrieved 2010-08-12.
- Peter Beaumont, Israel rejects 'shameful' UN resolution amid criticism of Netanyahu,' The Guardian 24 December 2016.
- ZOA Leader Supports Trump’s Call for Profiling Muslims The Forward, June 20, 2016
- "ZOA's Uncertain Status". The Forward. Retrieved 2017-02-09.
- Ghert-Zand, Renee. "Alleging mismanagement, VP bids to oust longtime head of US Zionist group". The Times of Israel. Retrieved 2017-02-09.
- "ZOA's Mort Klein Gets 38% Pay Hike". The Forward. Retrieved 2017-02-09.
- "Morton Klein reelected ZOA national president". The Times of Israel. Retrieved 2017-02-09.
- "The disintegration of American Jewry". The Jerusalem Post | JPost.com. Retrieved 2018-08-28.
- "Why Did ZOA's Morton Klein Go to Qatar? 'I Talked With the Emir About Hamas and Al Jazeera'". Haaretz. January 30, 2018.
- "ZOA president: I went to Qatar for Israel and the Jewish people". The Jerusalem Post. January 30, 2018.
- "Mike Huckabee Praised Qatar Without Revealing He Was Paid $50,000 by Qatar". Mother Jones. June 19, 2018.
- "How the King of New York Kosher Restaurants Helped Qatar Win Over American Jewish Leaders". Mother Jones. June 13, 2018.
- "ZOA's Klein Does Not Accept Invitation to Meet with Qatar's Pro-Hamas Emir". Zionist Organization of America. September 12, 2017.
- "Qatar Doubles Down on PR Campaign Appealing to U.S. Jews and D.C. Insiders". Haaretz. January 20, 2018.
- "Trump's Friend Elliott Broidy to Get Information in Case Against Qatar". Bloomberg News. June 6, 2018.
- "ZOA: Qatar's Giant Steps Backwards to Becoming a Member of the Family of Civilized Nations". Zionist Organization of America. June 6, 2018.
- "Key figures in Gulf crisis sever ties with Qatar". Politico. June 7, 2018.
- "Qatar's Efforts to Influence American Jews Continue to Unravel". Tablet. June 13, 2018.
- "How Qatar's Jewish strategy backfired". The Jerusalem Post. June 21, 2018.
- ‘We want to expose the truth’: ZOA leader Morton Klein rallies support for Israel in meeting at Beth Tikvah in Naples, Naples News, Feb. 14, 2011