The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) yesterday (Feb. 1) demanded that
Israel's Vice Premier Shimon Peres apologize for calling religious Israelis who protested the planned withdrawal from
Gaza a "bunch of
shlemazels" and formally retract that statement.
Explaining that a shlemazel is a Yiddish term for someone who is "an inept idiot who can't really help
himself," ZOA officials said, "For a Vice Prime Minister to use this ugly epithet to refer to Israeli citizens participating in a huge protest rally, in which approximately 4 percent of Israel's Jewish population attended, is an
The ZOA statement, citing a Jan. 31 report in the Jerusalem Post, also criticized Peres for saying "It is easy to get 120,000 religious Jews to leave their homes; it would have been an achievement to attract 120,000 people.
ZOA President Morton Klein, ZOA Board Chairman Dr. Michael Goldblatt and ZOA National Executive Committee Chairman Dr. Alan Mazurek responded: "Can you imagine the outcry if a leader of any civilized nation dismissed and demeaned a huge non-violent democratic rally because it was made up of 'religious Christians.' Or imagine if former PM (Benjamin) Netanyahu would have criticized a left-wing protest for being made up of 'secular and reform Jews who are a bunch of
If the situation had been turned around in such a manner, Netanyahu "would have been criticized mercilessly and rightly so," the ZOA
statesment said. "Mr. Peres, what you are really saying is that the beliefs of the secular are worth much more than those of the religious. This is religious bigotry. No Jew should accept this, especially in a Jewish country."
The ZOA leaders also contested Peres' estimate of 120,000 Jews at the demonstrations; saying the protest drew 200,000.