At the ZOA Dinner, It's 1939 Again

Preaching to Choir, Glenn Beck Warns Group of Liberal Threat

Three Zionists Mort Klein, head of the Zionist Organization of America, chats with Glenn Beck and Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann at the group’s gala.
Naomi Zeveloff
Three Zionists Mort Klein, head of the Zionist Organization of America, chats with Glenn Beck and Republican presidential candidate Michele Bachmann at the group’s gala.

By Naomi Zeveloff

Published November 23, 2011, issue of December 02, 2011.
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In July 2010, Beck defended himself against critics who charged he held “the Jews” responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus. Beck stressed to his radio audience that crucifixion was a path Jesus chose for himself, adding, “Well, technically the Romans, yes, carried out the will of the Sanhedrin. The Jews wanted him executed. Now, does that make me all of a sudden anti-Jewish? No! There is no one more pro-Israel and more pro-Jew than I am.”

When several Jewish leaders called Beck an anti-Semite for his depiction of Soros, the ZOA issued a lengthy press release defending him. It was Beck’s “powerful and sincere” love for Israel, Klein told the Forward, that merited him winning the ZOA’s inaugural Dr. Miriam & Sheldon Adelson Defender of Israel Award.

“I invited him to receive the award, and tears came to his eyes,” said Klein, who was making his way toward Beck for a photo in the corner of the Hyatt’s VIP lounge just before the gala was set to begin. “That’s how it happened.”

Soon after the VIP session, Beck was ushered into the main banquet hall for the first course of dinner: a slice of grilled salmon on a bed of greens. Two of Beck’s bodyguards hovered near the place settings for Beck and his wife, Tania, at a table in the center of the room. “It is good to have Mormons who like Israel,” said one attendee who was watching the proceedings. (Beck converted to Mormonism in 1999.)

In another three hours, Beck would take to the dais at the front of the room. In the meantime, Alan Mazurek, president of the Long Island chapter of the ZOA, called the gala to order, asking Ros-Lehtinen to come forward. “The ZOA is one of the few national organizations not afraid to have the word ‘Zionist,’ in its name,” Mazurek said by way of introduction. “Make no mistake about it — anti-Zionism is anti-Semitism.”

Ros-Lehtinen, another award winner, was the first big name of the evening, and she began her speech by pointing out two women in the audience from the settlement of Kedumim, not far from the Palestinian city of Nablus in the West Bank. “You are wondering, what is the true impediment to peace?” Ros-Lehtinen asked as she gestured toward the women. “You know the Palestinians would be negotiating for peace with Israel” were it not for them, she said facetiously. The room quieted. Seeming to gather that the audience didn’t quite get the joke, she added, that the women are “not an impediment, but a solution.”

Moving into more familiar territory, Ros-Lehtinen described the Iranian nuclear threat against Israel and her campaign against the Palestinian statehood bid at the United Nations. After withholding and then eventually releasing U.S. funds to the Palestinian Authority in her role as the chair of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Ros-Lehtinen introduced in September the United Nations Transparency, Accountability, and Reform Act to cut funding to U.N. organizations that recognize Palestinian statehood.

“The U.N. cannot be nudged to reform,” she said. “There must be consequences to inaction.”

Another two award winners later, Bachmann took the stage, lightly chiding Klein for neglecting to mention that she was running for the Republican nomination for president when he introduced her moments earlier. Like Ros-Lehtinen before her, Bachmann focused on the Iranian threat, comparing the Iranian president to Hitler.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Bachmann said — adding an extra syllable to his last name — is “another madman… Millions of Jews are at the precipice of losing their lives today.”

With the proceedings now breaking for the main course, several ZOA attendees made a beeline for Beck, who was sitting between Adelson and his wife, Tania. “The ZOA is now like the Academy Awards!” one onlooker exclaimed. “All these celebrities!” Beck stood for an on-camera interview. “What about Jerusalem?” a reporter asked, adding, “People want to cut it up and give away pieces of it.”

Beck responded: “It is the eternal capital of Israel. It is His capital. Period.”

At a table nearby, a small pile of papers depicting the map of Israel began to smolder, someone having placed the papers perilously close to a votive candle. Another attendee smothered the burning papers with a bread roll.

Just before Beck sat back down for dinner, the Forward squeezed in a question of its own: “Why do you think you are getting this award?” Beck looked pensive.

“Quite honestly, it is a little sad that I would get this award,” he replied. “It shows how alone the Jewish people and Israel are. All I’m doing is speaking the truth. Why is that worthy of an award?”

Contact Naomi Zeveloff at zeveloff@forward.com


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