By: Morton A. Klein
November 20, 2007
Renowned Historian Benzion Netanyahu Honored At ZOA Dinner
Netanyahu: “The greatest Zionist meeting since Jabotinsky”
Irwin Hochberg, Mort Zuckerman, Cong. Berkley & Wiener,
Steven Alevy participated
NEW YORK — 700 people attended the Zionist Organization of America’s (ZOA) National Dinner on Sunday, November 18 at the Marriot Marquis Hotel in New York City. This year, there were two recipients of the Louis D. Brandeis Award, the ZOA’s highest honor, Prof. Benzion Netanyahu (father of former Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu), renowned historian and veteran Zionist leader, and Irwin Hochberg a past chairman of the Board of UJA-Federation of New York, a former member of the Board of Governors of The Jewish Agency for Israel, and a former national campaign chairman of State of Israel Bonds. U.S. Congresswoman Shelley Berkley (D-NV) was this year’s recipient of the ZOA’s Defender of Israel Award, and Steven Alevy was honored with the ZOA’s Young Leadership Award. U.S. Congressman Anthony Wiener (D-NY) also addressed the Dinner.
Martin Gross, the distinguished Jewish leader and businessman, introduced Cong. Shelley Berkley (D-NV). In accepting the Award, Cong. Berkley stated her opposition to the Bush Administration-proposed Annapolis summit, “I am also opposed to the [upcoming] Annapolis Conference … [Mahmoud] Abbas and [Salaam] Fayyad have both publicly stated that they will not recognize Israel as a Jewish state. So what’s the point?” She also told the crowd that she had spoken with Secretary of State Rice on this point, telling her that this was “the worst possible time” for a Palestinian state. Cong. Berkley also criticized the proposed $20 billion arms package for Saudi Arabia, saying it makes no sense to give such weapons to a state that didn’t recognize Israel’s right to exist and which uses so many billions in financing the forces that are fighting America. She also explained her leadership role in pushing for Abbas to renounce the Fatah Constitution calling for Israel’s destruction and the use of terrorism and also her opposition to further funding of the PA. “If they need money, it seems to me, they should find Arafat’s widow and get some.” Turning to the work of ZOA, Cong. Berkley said that “if ever anyone deserved a Defender of Israel Award, that person would be Mort Klein.” Cong. Berkley said that she had sought a career in Congress because she not only wanted to repay America, which had taken in her family at the time of the Nazi Holocaust, but because “I also wanted to be in a position of power so that if anything threatened the Jewish people, I would be there to stop it … If Israel had existed 60 years ago, Auschwitz would not have happened.”
Ernst Michel, the executive director of the Jewish Federation of New York for 25 years, introduced Irwin Hochberg. Mr. Hochberg has spent decades dedicated to the cause of Zionism, which extended well beyond his leadership roles with UJA, the Jewish Agency and Israel Bonds to being a founding trustee of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, a past president of the American Friends of the Open University of Israel, and a chairman of the Executive Committee of the Middle East Forum. Hochberg praised the efforts of ZOA to inform the American public, media, Congress and White House of the dangers of appeasing violent Middle Eastern forces and for taking up unpopular but vital causes and positions. He urged the audience to subordinate consideration of all other policy issues to that of fighting radical Islam and to think next year at election time of “who will deal best with the scourge of terrorism.”
Congressman Anthony Weiner also addressed the Dinner, noting that both he and Shelley Berkley “come from the ZOA wing of the Democratic Party.” Weiner noted that one of the best ways to support American interests was to defend and protect its best ally, the state of Israel, before adding that ” no organization in Washington works at the grassroots doing the work that ZOA does. More so than any other organization, they do really important work.” Cong. Wiener placed on the record his opposition to the proposed Saudi Arms package as being “ridiculous … ZOA knew instantly what to do, which was to oppose this deal, while other organizations hemmed and hawed. ZOA stood with me and Shelley [Berkley] in fighting against this in Congress. Thanks for helping us in Congress. There is only one person helping us like this and that is Mort Klein .”
Steve Goldberg, distinguished Los Angeles attorney and ZOA Vice-President, introduced Morton Klein. In his address to the crowd, ZOA National President Morton A. Klein, warned that the upcoming Annapolis summit would end in failure, because the same mistakes of ignoring Palestinian violations, hate education and terror while offering huge concessions that Israel made at Oslo were being made again. Klein underlined the point that the destruction of the Jewish state, not the creation of a Palestinian state, remained the Palestinian goal.
Klein emphasized the absurdity of accepting Abbas and Fatah as peace partners when the Fatah Constitution remained unchanged for over 40 years. In addition, Abbas has praised terrorists as “heroes”; promised to fulfill Arafat’s goals; refused to condemn terror against Jews as a crime; signed an agreement with Hamas calling for more terror and paid grants to families of suicide bombers. Klein also pointed out that only ZOA, among the major Jewish groups, has lobbied against the creation of a Palestinian state — “we all know that this would end up being a terrorist state,” yet others have deluded themselves into thinking that giving Palestinians statehood will make them peaceful and accepting of Israel. “Remember: Iran, North Korea and Syria — they’re all states. Are they lovely and peaceful? We must end terror states, not create new ones.” Klein also noted, “how can there be peace when the culture of the Palestinians is drenched in violence, hatred and murder? Former CIA Director R. James Woolsey said last year in addressing the ZOA that it might be decades before they’re ready for statehood. All Jewish leaders must speak out against such a state. I beseech all of them to do so.” Klein also quoted from the Torah and Talmud to remind the audience of the Jewish tradition to physically fight evil forces, if need be, not to appease them. He also dissected the Arab/Muslim claim to Jerusalem, noting that the city is mentioned nowhere in the Quran, never served as an Arab or Muslim capital and was never visited by an Arab leaders other than Jordan’s King Hussein when it was under Jordanian control.
Klein also referred to the book against the pro-Israel lobby written by John Mearsheimer and Stephen Walt. “I’m proud to tell you that in their book they mention ZOA a dozen times as one of the most politically influential Jewish groups. Mearsheimer and Walt said, ‘It is easy to identify groups that are part of the lobby — such as the Zionist Organization of America” and “unfortunately, left-wing groups lack the financial resources and influence of AIPAC, American Jewish Committee, ADL, the Conference of Presidents, and the Zionist Organization of America.’ Also, every incident in which they describe ZOA’s involvement in a particular matter is false.” Klein concluded that, among the major Jewish groups, only the ZOA had fought against Oslo, Arafat, the Gaza withdrawal, the Roadmap, and further releases of Palestinian prisoners. ZOA had also correctly predicted that Egypt could not be counted to stop the smuggling of weapons into Gaza once Israel relinquished control of the Gaza/Egypt border.
Klein also spoke of the battle the ZOA waged in many spheres, making particular reference to the various divisions of ZOA, all working to further understanding of ZOA concerns and opposing anti-Israel forces. He made special mention of the Law & Justice division’s work under Susan Tuchman to obtain a new ruling by the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights that anti-Zionism does constitute anti-Semitism; the vital work undertaken by the ZOA’s Department of Government Relations on Capitol Hill under Daniel Pollak, Joshua London and Ali Lederer and the crucial contributions made by the Campus Division, headed by Julie Sager and Dalia Lockspeiser, and the Centre for Middle East Policy headed by Dr. Daniel Mandel.
Mortimer Zuckerman, a former chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, publisher of U.S. News and World Report and the New York Daily News and a former recipient of the ZOA’s Brandeis Award, introduced Professor Benzion Netanyahu, who delivered the keynote address. In it, he focused on the genocidal plans of the Iranian regime and its president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Professor Netanyahu observed that “It seems that the Holocaust of 6 million wasn’t enough for him; he wants to add another 6 million. Yet he was not met with a storm of protest.” Speaking of Ayatollah Khomeini’s plan to unite Muslims under the Shiite banner, Netanyahu said Khomeini had established Hizballah to remove Israel from southern Lebanon and then to attack Israel itself. One of those he inspired was Ahmadinejad … when Columbia offered him a platform, its choice was defended on the ground of free speech. Baruch Spinoza knew the value of free speech, yet he said that there are circumstances when free speech has to be arrested. Ahmadinejad’s defense of his plans essentially means that he would be giving a justification for murder, a crime no one needs to explain to understand its evil. Yet Columbia gave bewildering explanations for its actions.” Netanyahu also paid tribute to the ZOA’s work, “I know you are working against heavy currents towards dissolution and dismemberment [of Israel] and this occurred in the days of President Truman. We had to work hard then to overcome opposition, lack of interest, and the disbelief of American Jews. You too have experienced this situation and you have managed to overcome the first obstacle which is always the worst. I hope you will not falter. Compared to the past, your task is considerably easier … It is vital not to tolerate a [Palestinian] terrorist state in any way or form. This is first in importance. This is why your president must first concentrate on the fulfillment of this commitment, without which we cannot solve any issue.” Netanyahu received a standing ovation. Of the ZOA Dinner itself, Netanyahu said, “This is the greatest Zionist meeting I have ever attended since the days of Jabotinsky. It was something to see such enthusiasm for Zionism from the crowd. It made me more optimistic.” In a conversation today with Morton Klein, former Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said, “my father strongly praised the dinner as a great event and said the speeches made were all outstanding.”
Steven Alevy, who is a major real estate investment professional and philanthropist who supports many Torah and Israeli causes, was honored with the ZOA’s Young Leadership Award. Alevy said the ZOA was doing vital work in defense of Israel at a critical time in the country’s history. He also spoke about the mistakes Israel was making with respect to Annapolis and the Palestinian Authority.
Other highlights of the evening included the marvelous music-making of the Shoresh Klezmer Orchestra. Numerous distinguished guests from the Jewish world attended, including the Hon. Asaf Shariv, the new Consul-General of Israel in New York; Malcolm Hoenlein, chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations; Ken Abramowitz, president of American Friends of Likud; Rabbi Shmuely Boteach, well-known rabbi and author; Ami Eden, News Editor, Jewish Telegraphic Agency; Katya Karsenty, wife of Philippe Karsenty, the French media analyst fighting France 2 TV over fabricating the Mohammad Al-Durah killing in 2000, which was viewed globally and which attracted great criticism of Israel; Dr. Ben Chouake, president of NORPAC; Neal Sher, former executive director of AIPAC and head of the U.S. government’s Nazi hunting unit, who said after the Dinner to a number of ZOA leaders that, “I am so pleased your Dinner was such a success and that I had an opportunity to be there. In particular, I must say that Mort Klein’s presentation was absolutely superb, passionate, articulate, enlightening and persuasive. As you know, I have attended and participated in countless events in our community. Mort’s speech was, hands-down, one of the best speeches I have ever heard.”
Almost one hundred college students attended the dinner, which was co-chaired by Robert Guzzardi and Mel Dubin. Rabbi Yehoshua Balkany, the Dean of Brooklyn’s Beis Yacov School and a renowned scholar, rabbi and political activist, delivered an inspiring invocation. Most of the ZOA Board attended, lead by Chairman Dr. Michael Goldblatt. Dr. Dan Dyckman led the audience in singing the national anthems of the U.S. and Israel. ZOA Executive Director Stan Kessock and the entire ZOA staff worked hard on all aspects of the Dinner. Alan Mazurek, chairman of ZOA’s Executive Committee, was the Master of Ceremonies and presided over the Dinner with eloquence, enthusiasm and humor.
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