By M. A. Klein
On Shabbos morning, ZOA folks stood in the freezing cold weather outside of Park East Synagogue in Manhattan, distributing leaflets with the headline: “Ban Ki-Moon is Morally Bankrupt! Hypocrite Mr. Ban Cries About the Past Holocaust, While Legitimizing Murdering Jews Today!!!”
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon spoke at a Holocaust event at Park East Synagogue that morning – just days after Mr. Ban published a scurrilous NY Times Op-ed and made similar despicable statements to the UN Security Council justifying Palestinian Arab terrorism against innocent Jews, as a natural response to “frustration” and “occupation.” The official Palestinian Authority news service, Wafa, is now citing U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon to justify terror attacks on innocent Jews. Notably, every single Park East Synagogue member who commented on ZOA’s leaflets told us that they agreed with ZOA.
Park East members also uniformly told ZOA that they were extremely upset with their Rabbi (Arthur Schneier) for inviting Mr. Ban. All morning long, in addition to repeatedly telling ZOA “I agree with your flyer!,” numerous synagogue members told ZOA: “I’m so upset. I don’t understand why the Rabbi invited him!” One woman was practically in tears about the Rabbi’s decision to invite Mr. Ban. This woman told ZOA, “My mother was a Holocaust survivor. She would roll over if she saw this.” Several synagogue members walked out of the synagogue in protest, and came outside when Mr. Ban spoke. Another gentleman who is a Park East member, Mr. Julius Weil, told ZOA that he had sent a tweet to Park East members beforehand, urging: “Let’s Make This a Moonless Shabbat at Park East Synagogue.”
Park East member Mr. Weil’s excellent, eloquent tweet also stated: “This Shabbat ushers in the blessing of the new moon. Ironically, it is also U.N. International Holocaust Remembrance Shabbat. As American Jews, we cannot be isolationist, we also should not be passive. If you’ve read the news you know there’s a global war on Israel and Jews. The U.N. is the epicenter of this anti-Jewish push. While we still have clout in the U.S., we must stand up and voice our anger. To invite the Secretary-General to speak in a house of God while he ignores condemning Palestinian acts of terror committed on a daily basis against innocent Israelis is just wrong. To do it under the pretext of honoring the six million who perished at the hands of the Nazis makes a mockery of their deaths. I would hope that Ban Ki-Moon would have the good sense and decency to send his regrets. I’m sure he can find some BDS program to speak at.”
(Also see ZOA’s recent press release, prior to Mr. Ban’s synagogue speech: “ZOA Criticizes UN’s Ban Ki-Moon For Immorally Claiming Settlements Cause Pal. Terror; Only Reason For Terror Is Jew-Hatred.”)
Meanwhile, inside the synagogue, Rabbi Schneier introduced Holocaust survivors and made a speech that ended with “we must not be silent.” Hillary Markowitz, a leading member of the Jewish Rapid Action Coalition – JRAC (which ZOA belongs to), took the Rabbi’s words literally, as a direct message to her. After the Rabbi introduced Ban Ki-Moon, and Mr. Moon reached the podium, Ms. Markowitz stood up and loudly said: “You justified terrorism in Israel which is justifying 9/11. There is no justification for terrorism!” Synagogue security then threw Ms. Markowitz out. ZOA praises Ms. Markowitz for not being silent!
ZOA’s leaflet-ers also encountered attempts by Park East Synagogue security to silence our condemnation of Ban Ki-Moon’s legitimization of anti-Israel terror. Park East Synagogue security personnel initially took ZOA’s leaflets from Park East synagogue members and tore up the leaflets.
In a somewhat heated exchange, ZOA’s leaflet-ers explained to the synagogue security head that this interfered with the leaflet-ers’ First Amendment rights. The synagogue security head then instructed the security personnel to stop grabbing and destroying leaflets distributed by ZOA outside the synagogue.
However, Synagogue security stopped JRAC members Ms. Markowitz, Judy Kalish and Charlie Bernhaut from distributing flyers inside the synagogue. These JRAC members were distributing a beautiful Open letter to Ban Ki-Moon from Hillel Neuer, condemning Mr. Ban’s complicity in spreading false reports about Israel. Mr. Neuer’s letter noted that the Torah portion read on the same Shabbat included the verses: “Do not spread a false report . . . Do not follow the crowd to do evil; neither shall you testify in a dispute by siding with the multitude to pervert justice.” (Exodus XXIII)
After Mr. Ban spoke, ZOA’s leaflet-ers saw Mr. Ban exit the synagogue and walk to a waiting car. ZOA Director of Special Projects Liz Berney loudly said so that Mr. Ban could hear: “How dare you justify terrorism against innocent Israelis!”
Morton A Klein is the president of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA).