ZOA opens first Jerusalem office

Director of new office, Jeff Daube

Old Jerusalem 224.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Old Jerusalem 224.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Jeff Daube, the director of the newly established Israel office of the Zionist Organization of America, has not let being arrested shortly after settling in Jerusalem deter him from staying in the country. On Sunday, Daube gave his first press conference in his new capacity, officially announcing the establishment of the ZOA office. Daube, who has participated in numerous pro-Israel demonstrations in the US, was one of three people taken into custody for distributing a booklet to foreign journalists covering US President George W. Bush's visit to Israel. The booklet, "Fatah as Moderate: A Hard Look Post-Annapolis," was written by Arlene Kushner and published by the Jerusalem-based Center for Near East Policy Research. On Sunday, Jerusalem Center for Public Affairs President and former ambassador to the United Nations Dore Gold, who has a longstanding and warm relationship with ZOA, came by briefly to address the press conference en route to the the International Conference of the Global Forum for Combating Anti-Semitism. Gold said that real peace in the Middle East had to be based on Palestinian compliance - the monitoring of which is one of ZOA's key activities. "It's one thing to reach an agreement on paper," he said, "but it's another to apply and implement it on the ground." Regardless of any agreements Israel might strike with her neighbors, said Gold, there is currently a dangerous delegitimization of Israel in the world, especially in Europe. In the last decade, he noted, Israelis have forgotten to talk about their fundamental rights to the land and the right to restore their ancient commonwealth. The ZOA could play a pivotal role picking up that task, he said. Taking up that theme, ZOA President Morton Klein said the situation had become much worse since the Oslo accords. Israel was never as concessionary as it has been since Oslo, he said, yet despite "extraordinary concessions, there has been a wild increase of anti-Semitism in the world." Klein cited the number of swastikas defacing cemeteries and synagogues across America, stating that never before had so many been seen. "In Europe, it's an epidemic," he added. He was even more concerned by the number of academics calling for Israel's destruction. "You never heard this before Oslo. Even Jewish scholars talk about it. This shows you how devastating Oslo, the road map and the legitimizing of terrorists are." Klein also contended that prior to Oslo there had been no talk of Israel returning to the 1967 borders. He said he was profoundly bothered by a new Fatah poster with an emblem featuring a map of the area with Israel covered by a keffiyeh, alongside a Kalashnikov rifle framing a portrait of former PLO chairman Yasser Arafat. This, said Klein was authorized by Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas, "the moderate great peacemaker" who also called for three days of mourning following the death of arch-terrorist George Habash and who sent a condolence book to the US Congress for people to sign. "Annapolis will go the same way as Oslo. We're doing all the same mistakes," Klein predicted. He also drew attention to the Palestinian National Charter, almost every section of which directly or indirectly calls for the elimination of Israel. "Which self-respecting country negotiates with an entity that calls for its destruction?" he asked. Both Klein and Daube made the point that Congress does not demand that Israel make special concessions. "Israel doesn't have to worry about Congress," said Daube. This was one of the messages he wanted to drive home to Knesset members, who he said were not all aware that Congress would stand behind Israel. In fact, according to Klein and Daube, many members of Congress have asked them why Israel didn't take stronger action against incitement. The ZOA also wants to give some 200,000 US citizens living in Israel a feeling of involvement. Too many of them feel disenfranchised, said Daube, who hopes to enlist them in ZOA activities. ZOA does not yet have a permanent address in Jerusalem. For the time being, it operates out of Daube's apartment in the city's Katamon neighborhood. Asked why it took so long for ZOA, established in 1897 as one of the pioneer Zionist organizations in America, to open an office in Israel, Klein answered, "We didn't have the money."