Many years ago I had the privilege to meet Mort Klein, President of the Zionist Organization of America. It didn''t take long to realize that Mort is, without doubt, one of the heroes of present-day Jewry. Almost singlehandedly Mort Klein took the ZOA, a once prestigious Jewish organization which had, over the years, declined, to the forefront of true Jewish patriotism in the United States. Standing virtually alone amongst major Jewish organizations in the U.S., Mort refused to keep quiet in the face of continued Arab terror and oppresion against the state of Israel. Many other organizations, for one reason or another, refused ''to buck'' policies of the Israeli government, irrespective of their consequences to the Jewish people and the Eretz Yisrael. Israeli state policy was, as far as many were concerned, the equvilent of ''gospel.''
Mort Klein, realizing the dangers inherent in Oslo, the Hebron and Wye Accords and the planned expulsion from Gush Katif, refused to sit quietly by the side. He stood tall and proud and made his brilliant voice be heard, representing true Zionism in the name of the Zionist Organization of America. Frequently he found himself standing alone, with other Jewish leaders of major Jewish organizations almost abandoning their brethren in Israel, in order to tow the line of Prime Ministers Rabin, Peres, Netanyahu, Barak and Sharon, on the road to forsaking their land, their people and their beliefs.
Despite its seeming isolation, the ZOA has played a major role influencing policy in Washinton, with a permanent presence in the House of Representatives and the Senate. When the ZOA visits Washington for its annual major lobby mission on the Hill, Washington takes notice. Major senators and congressmen welcome ZOA representatives from around the United States, while others address hundreds at the organization''s conference.
Lately, Mort has come under attack as a result of seeming financial questions and expendatures. My response to friends who bring this up:
It is possible/probable that reforms are necessary in the ZOA. But throwing him out, for a person who is a literal unknown, isn''t the way to do it.