Klein, Morton

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KLEIN, MORTON (1947– ), president of *Zionist Organization of America. Klein revived a moribund Zionist Organization of America (zoa) in the 1990s and made it one of the most outspoken – and often controversial – organizations on the American Jewish scene. Klein has periodically angered governments in Israel because of his vehement opposition to their policies and upset the pro-Israel lobby groups he has challenged with his own aggressive lobbying on Capitol Hill. However, he has also made zoa one of the most visible Jewish organizations in the United States; his crusade to focus U.S. policy on American victims of Palestinian terrorism was widely credited as a success.

Klein was born in Gunzberg, Germany, in a displaced persons camp; his family immigrated to the U.S. in 1950 and settled in Philadelphia. Klein received an undergraduate degree and an M.B.A. from Temple University. In a varied career, he worked as a high school math teacher, a government economist on health policy issues, and a biostatistician for the Linus Pauling Institute of Science and Medicine.

Klein became active in Jewish life in 1990, first as an activist with the local chapter of camera, a pro-Israel media watchdog group. In 1992, he was elected president of the Philadelphia chapter of zoa and in 1993 as national president. In the campaign, Klein, an opponent of the Oslo peace agreement signed earlier that year, argued that the group should not refrain from criticizing the policies of the government of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin; longstanding zoa policy discouraged criticism of Israeli governments.

In 1994, Klein organized opposition to the appointment of former Time magazine columnist Strobe Talbott as deputy secretary of state because of what the new zoa leader claimed were the anti-Israel views expressed in some Talbott columns. Two years later Klein led an opposition to scholar John K. Roth as first director of the Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies for very similar reasons.

Early in his tenure, Klein also challenged the dominance of the *American Israel Public Affairs Committee (aipac) in lobbying Congress for pro-Israel causes, objecting to aipac'S support for the Oslo agreement. The issue of lobbying against Israeli government policies was a factor in the decision by several local zoa chapters, including Baltimore and Pittsburgh, to disaffiliate from the national group. In 1994, Klein created a Peace Accord Monitoring Group in Congress to focus on Yasser Arafat's violations of the Oslo Accords.

Klein was particularly effective in highlighting the issue of Americans killed by Palestinian terrorists, pressing for a more active State Department role in investigating and prosecuting such crimes and legislation spotlighting the issue.

After President George W. Bush put U.S. policy behind creation of a Palestinian state in 2002, Klein's zoa began a vigorous campaign of documenting Yasser Arafat's violations of the conditions the president had set for statehood.

While most major Jewish and pro-Israel groups supported Israel's withdrawal from Gaza under Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Klein and zoa waged an extensive campaign against the unilateral action in Israel and in the United States.

Under Klein's presidency, zoa president term length limits were removed. Also zoa opened a Washington office in 1996 and a division for campus activities in 2001. The group also created a Center for Law and Justice, which uses the courts to force implementation of pro-Israel provisions in the law.

[James D. Besser (2nd ed.)]