Khaled Meshaal, the leader of Hamas who recently toured Gaza, will address congregants at Fairview’s Sinat Chinam Synagogue on March 12. The Hamas leader is expected to speak on the topic, “How Hamas plays a beneficial role in Jewish life.”
“We are very excited about having nabbed such a distinguished speaker,” said Natan Heben, the synagogue’s president. “We know he’s a bit controversial, but ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend,’ and since he has no use for Mahmoud Abbas [the Palestinian Authority president] and neither do we, we thought it was a good fit for us.”
Heben acknowledged that Israel would also like to nab Meshaal, whom it does not see in the same way, but, “We’re not in Israel, we’re in Fairview. The Israel government should stay out of our domestic affairs. How dare they tell us what to do? Besides, we’ve been telling Israel for years what it should do with the territories, and it still hasn’t listened. So fair is fair,” he said.
Meshaal refused to return phone calls for this report. A Hamas spokesman, however, told The Jewish Substandard that the organization helps to unite Jews much better than any Jewish institution does. “They all hate us, so it gives them something they can agree on,” she said.
Bonnie Lass, the incoming president of the Jewish Confederation of Garden State North (JCGSN), was also critical of the synagogue’s decision to invite Meshaal. “How dare they consider something like this without first checking the community calendar?” she said. “We have three fundraisers scheduled for that day. And there’s a preschool program in HoHoKus that is having a birthday party for one of its kids. This will definitely have a serious impact on all of these.”
Weekday Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s office issued a statement decrying the speech. “We decry the speech. Nothing more needs to be said,” the 3,000-word statement said in its opening paragraph.
Bennett is prime minister on weekdays, in a rotation arrangement worked out in the wake of January’s election results. The weeknight prime minister, Avigdor Lieberman, had no comment. In addition to the two week prime ministers, Binyamin Netanyahu is weekend prime minister, except for 4 to 6 p.m. on Saturdays, when the post is held by Yair Lapid. Israel’s Justice Ministry is still trying to determine what his title will be.
Heben said he was unmoved by the Israeli government’s position on the speech. “I don’t tell them what to do at their Wall, they don’t tell me what to do in my hall,” he said. “This is my bayit yehudi [Jewish home]; they have their own.”