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Stern leaves ZOA Washington office

WASHINGTON, Nov. 2 (JTA) — The first and only head of the Zionist Organization of America’s Washington office has left the group after six years due to “considerable policy . . . and stylistic differences” with the group’s leadership. The departure came the day after the House of Representatives passed the Syria Accountability Act, a major ZOA priority. Many in Washington say Sarah Stern, the soft-spoken but forceful advocate for Israel at the ZOA’s Washington helm, added a lighter touch to the often hard-line statements of the ZOA and its president, Morton Klein. Stern said the ZOA’s New York office has not appreciated that an “understated and reserved” approach can be more effective than an “acerbic” one. Klein did not return a telephone message last week seeking comment. Stern also said the organization needs to be more “nuanced” in its criticism, instead of seeing everything from a “black-and-white” perspective. She cited the group’s criticism of President Bush as an example. While the president may occasionally say things Israel supporters find fault with, Stern said, he has been “very good to Israel” and “has many considerations when he makes a statement” on the Middle East, such as “not wanting to be perceived as starting a holy war.” Among her accomplishments as ZOA’s woman in Washington, Stern cites bringing to Congress’ attention both the Palestinians’ continued violation of the Oslo Accords in the late 1990s and Yasser Arafat’s support of terrorism when he spoke in Arabic around the same time. Regarding her future, Stern said she is “weighing a whole lot of options,” but promised to her “dying breath” to “work for our people.”