What kind of Jewish organization would host white/Christian supremacist Steve Bannon as a featured speaker at their national gala event? The same racist embarrassment to all Jews who care about human rights and social justice that “honors” outrageous Right-wing figures every year: the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA).
The ZOA’s annual local Philadelphia gala is tonight, September 12, and its national gala will be held in New York in November. Along with Bannon on the bill at that NYC event are Dr. Miriam and Sheldon Adelson, who supported the Trump campaign with a $25 million donation, and tacked on another $5 million for the inauguration expenses (the largest single donation ever made to an incoming president's inauguration).
Remember those hateful bus ads in Philadelphia promoting anti-Muslim conspiracy theories? On April Fool's Day 2015, after similar campaigns in New York and San Francisco, anti-Muslim extremist Pamela Geller and her tiny, foolish organization American Freedom Defense Initiative (AFDI) paid for 84 SEPTA buses to run month-long ads linking Islam to Nazism and inciting violence against Muslims. Philadelphia's Jewish, Christian, and Muslim clergy and community members came together to oppose the ads. The city held its breath in fear of the potential outcomes of AFDI's inflammatory fear-mongering. The Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled AFDI a "hate group." Geller has been identified by the Center for American Progress as among the ringleaders of an "Islamophobia network" of right-wing funders and activists working to foment irrational hatred of Muslims across the country.
Pamela Gellar was the Philadelphia ZOA chapter's honored speaker at their 2012 gala and, in 2015, ZOA was the only Jewish institution in Philly to maintain support and allegiance with Geller and AFDI. In a statement to The Jewish Exponent, the ZOA’s Morton Klein refused to condemn the ads and instead sympathized with Geller’s position.
This year at the ZOA Philadelphia gala, the honorees include: the senior online editor of the neo-conservative monthly Commentary; a major donor we can assume is a big supporter of the ZOA (who else would accept an award from these extremists?); a couple who are leaders in the field of messianic Christian Zionism; and a fundamentalist rabbi who they quote in their gala literature as saying "Israel was given to us before 1948. It was a gift from G-d. It doesn't matter what UNESCO says."
People in Philadelphia, especially its Jewish community, should understand clearly that the ZOA is a far-Right, racist organization that uses the cover of being "pro-Israel" to spread anti-Muslim messages while welcoming white supremacists and Christian fundamentalists. Shame on them!