In Berkeley, ZOA leader calls road map a disaster

Morton Klein, national president of the Zionist Organization of America, called the recently proposed "road map" to peace "a disaster" that appeases terrorists and said Israel should stop all negotiations with the Palestinians.

"It is biased against Israel," Klein said last week of the internationally backed road map. "Would America allow Russia to be involved in determining its fate?"

During a May 8 speech to about 50 people at Lehrhaus Judaica in Berkeley, Klein said there should be no negotiations with the Palestinians until militant groups such as Hamas and Hezbollah are outlawed and disarmed. The peace initiative released by the Bush administration last week calls for both sides to take conciliatory steps to secure a Middle East peace treaty and aims to establish a Palestinian state within three years.

"This road map is a disaster. It cannot and will not work. It's further appeasing terrorism," Klein, a leading U.S. activist for Israel, said in a speech entitled "Israel and the Arabs: Is Peace Possible?"

Klein also decried the recent appointment of Palestinian Prime Minister Mahmoud Abbas. He compared the appointment of Abbas, a longtime aide to Yassar Arafat, to putting Saddam Hussein's No. 2 man Tariq Aziz in charge of Iraq or offering control of Germany after World War II to Hitler's closest adviser.

Granting the Palestinians a sovereign state after the recent surge in suicide bombings will make Israel more vulnerable to attack by other Arab countries and "gives the message that terror works," said Klein. He emphasized that any possibility of establishing an independent Palestinian state would have to follow an unspecified period of autonomy in which there are no attacks against the Jewish state.

"They're not interested in making a better life for themselves," said Klein of the Palestinians. "They want to destroy Israel."

Klein began his talk by holding up a map of the Middle East to illustrate that Arab countries amount to 1,000 times the land mass of Israel. He stressed that Israel captured what he called the "disputed territories" of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in the 1967 war, which he described as a "defensive war."

"It's important to remember how Israel got this land," said Klein. "It wasn't a drive to take land from another country." Nevertheless, he said, there are strong religious and historical arguments that Jews have a greater claim to the territories. "This was the original homeland of the Jewish people."

He argued that Israel has already given up control of almost half of the West Bank, which he called Judea and Sumaria, and nearly all of the Gaza Strip, yet no stability has been achieved.

"Why didn't they set up a state before 1967 in Gaza and the West Bank?" asked Klein. "Their interest is not Judea, Sameria and Gaza. It's Israel itself."

The biggest roadblocks to peace, he said, lie in the racist messages conveyed in Palestinian newspapers, sermons in mosques and in school textbooks that deny Israel's right to exist and encourage terrorist attacks against the Jewish state. He showed examples of "martyrdom cards" that glorify suicide attackers being traded among Palestinians like baseball cards.

"It's a religious edict," said Klein, a son of Holocaust survivors. "It's horrifying."

The new road map to peace requires Israel to end settlement activity in Palestinian territories, gradually withdraw its troops from those areas and to negotiate the division of Jerusalem.

Klein called prohibitions against further Israeli settlements in the West Bank "ethnic discrimination" and said that Arabs are building in the West Bank at 10 times the rate of the Jews. He also called any Arab claim to Jerusalem "one of the incredible propaganda myths," noting that the city is mentioned 700 times in the Bible but not once in the Koran. Mecca and Medina, Klein argued, are the true capitals of Islam.

Speaking for nearly two hours, Klein sprinkled his defense of Israel with funny anecdotes about Winston Churchill, the high price of real estate in the Bay Area and his years working as a biostatistician for Nobel Prize-winner Linus Pauling in Palo Alto, leading one audience member to call him "a conservative Woody Allen."

In an often heated question-and-answer session following his speech, Klein was quick to cut off people who disagreed with his views, saying: "I don't accept alternative speeches. I want questions. I am the speaker tonight."