NEW YORK – Over 500 people attended the Zionist Organization of America’s (ZOA) National Dinner on Sunday, November 24 at the Grand Hyatt Hotel in New York City. Philippe Karsenty, a journalist, deputy mayor of Neuilly, France, and President of Media-Ratings, delivered a major address and was this year’s recipient of the ZOA’s Ben Hecht Award for Journalism. An address was also delivered by Professor Anne Bayefsky, an international law and human rights scholar and activist who is Senior Fellow at the Hudson Institute, a prestigious Washington-D.C. based think tank. Professor Bayefsky, who is also a former Columbia University Law Professor, edits the web-site, Eye on the UN.
This year, the Louis D. Brandeis Award, the ZOA’s highest honor, was bestowed upon Isaac ‘Yitz’ Applebaum, a partner in Opus Capital, which funds Israeli-based investments, as well as head of the California-Israel Chamber of Commerce. Also, Ronn Torossian, the President of 5W, the fastest growing public relations firm in America, was honored with the ZOA’s Young Leadership Award. U.S. Congressman Anthony Wiener (D-NY) also addressed the Dinner, as well as ZOA National President Morton A. Klein.
In his remarks, Rep. Weiner noted as is his custom that he comes from and represents “the ZOA wing of the Democratic Party.” He emphasized that America had a duty to protect its best ally, the state of Israel, and commended ZOA for playing a leading, crucial role in that task and who takes positions exposing the truth about the Palestinian Authority and Saudi Arabia that others ignore.
Beverly Baker, an officer of ZOA’s Michigan Chapter, introduced Karsenty, who was honored for his indispensible work in bringing to light the hoax regarding the alleged killing by Israel Defense Forces (IDF) of a Palestinian boy, Muhammad al-Durah, on September 30, 2000 at Netzarim junction in the early days of the Palestinian terror war launched against Israel. Al-Durah’s alleged death was filmed by a local Palestinian cameraman, Tala Abu Rahma, and the mere 55 seconds of selected footage from his 27 minutes of filming became the basis for a story by France-2’s correspondent, Charles Enderlin, who had not been present on the scene at the time. The broadcast, basing itself on Abu Rahma’s words, claimed, but did not actually show, that the boy was shot by Israeli troops. Enderlin’s story, which France-2 provided free of charge to the rest of the international media, led to world-wide accusations against Israel that the boy had been deliberately killed by IDF during a shoot-out with Palestinian Authority (PA) forces. The fabricated incident led to the ferocious lynching of two innocent Israeli reservists who mistakenly entered Ramallah a few days later and was also a factor in producing anti-Jewish riots by Israeli Arabs. To this day, the alleged shooting is depicted in postage stamps throughout the Arab and Muslim worlds, including Jordan. It has been depicted on a permanent monument in Mali, Africa, and has been used in Al-Qaeda recruiting films inviting Muslims to fight because Israelis supposedly murdered this Palestinian boy. The video-taped murder of Wall Street Journal journalist Daniel Pearl also took place against a backdrop that included a poster of the alleged slaying of Al-Durah, while images of Al-Durah were prominently on display on large posters at the Durban anti-racism conference in 2001, which became a festival of anti-Semitic hatred.
Mr. Karsenty commenced his address by recounting the long and terrible history of anti-Jewish blood libels before placing the al-Durah incident in this perspective. He noted that just as earlier vile allegations of Jewish criminal acts had always served as a pretext to attack Jews collectively, so too, the alleged killing of Al-Durah had been fabricated to create a wave of international revulsion and pressure against Israel and to swell the ferocity of Palestinian hatred and violence against Israel.
Mr. Karsenty recounted the history of his efforts to have the Enderlin story, with its numerous inconsistencies and unanswered questions, investigated. He paid tribute to Klein and the ZOA who, he said, were first to come out and support him at a time when even the Israeli government, with the exception of former government spokesman, Daniel Seaman, had not taken up the battle. Dinner participants were provided with a DVD containing Mr. Karsenty’s documentary on the subject. The documentary includes never before seen footage showing Al-Durah moving his arm and leg, with no sign of any blood or bullet wounds visible after he is alleged to have been killed, despite the claims of the Palestinian cameramen that hundreds of bullets were fired at Al-Durah and his father over a 45-minute period.
ZOA National Chairman of the Board, Dr. Michael Goldblatt, introduced Brandeis Awardee, Yitz Applebaum, reminding the audience of the insights and mainsprings of Louis Brandeis’ own Zionism. Goldblatt cited Brandeis’ view that “To be good Americans, we must be better Jews, and to be better Jews, we must become Zionists.” Yitz Applebaum spoke of the successful activities in which he has been involved to build up Israeli start-up companies, especially through the Los Angeles-Israel Chamber of Commerce. Applebaum said that the greatest joy stemming from commercial success was the ability to give tzedakah that helped the up-building of Israel.
ZOA’s Executive Committee Chairman, Dr. Alan Mazurek, introduced the screening of a short documentary recounting the astonishing development of Israeli anti-missile technology and its proven successes in intercepting and destroying incoming Katyusha rockets and other projectiles, including artillery shells. Those working on these issues include Board Members Henry Schwartz and Zalman Shapiro as well as ZOA Israel Office Director Jeff Daube.
Dinner Co-Chair Ken Abramowitz introduced Professor Anne Bayefsky, while also offering this encomium to National President Morton A. Klein: “Mort represents the best of the bunch defending Israel, and we salute you for that.” Professor Bayefsky, who stood in to deliver her address at short notice as a result of last-minute, urgent Knesset and campaign matters that kept in Israel featured speaker, Likud faction chairman, Deputy Speaker and Member of Knesset, Gideon Saar, noted in opening that it was auspicious for her to be delivering this address on the eve of the annual United Nations Day of Solidarity with the Palestinian People. This event was once described by former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan as a “day of mourning and a day of grief.” Professor Bayefsky noted that the UN has always gone out of its way to give this event the highest visibility and was always attended by the Secretary-General and the President of the General Assembly. In contrast, no celebration of partition is observed by the UN, nor is Israel‘s flag flown.
Professor Bayefsky also spoke about a UN exhibition ‘Palestinians – 60 years of struggle and hope’ which glorified Palestinian ‘struggle’ when in fact it was a celebration of successive wars launched against the Jewish state. She said, “The United Nations has become the largest global purveyor of anti-Semitism today.” She also noted that the UN event was being held under the auspices of the UN Committee for Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People, a body that owes its existence to the since-reversed infamous 1975 General Assembly Resolution equating Zionism with Racism. She said, “Seventeen years after the UN rescinded that resolution, the organization created as a result of it continues on.” She also noted that the UN was due to pass four resolutions critical of Israel the next day, adding to the more than twenty that have already been passed against Israel in the last year alone. That made Israel the most criticized country in the UN, with Sudan, a nation experiencing genocide, a distant second.
Lastly, Professor Bayefsky spoke of the upcoming Durban II Anti-Racism conference which, she said, was likely to surpass the single-minded anti-Israel festival that the 2001 Durban Conference had been. She noted the absurdity of this, observing that Israeli Arabs have more rights than their fellow Arabs living in Arab countries. So far, the US has yet to pull out of this conference, as it did in 2001. She observed that, other than ZOA, no American Jewish organization was working actively to call for the United States government to boycott Durban II, as a result of which it was looking likely that the incoming Obama Administration would attend. Professor Bayefsky also expressed concern over the fact that several of President-elect Obama’s advisers, including Zbigniew Brzezinski, Madeleine Albright and Thomas Pickering, were urging him to run much more of US policy through the UN.
Following Professor Bayefsky’s eloquent address, Board Member Eli Hertz introduced Ronn Torossian, the Young Leadership Awardee, who has been involved in Zionist causes since his youth and when he was president of Betar, the youth movement founded by Ze’ev Jabotinsky. Mr. Torossian spoke about the magnificent battle ZOA wages on behalf of Israel, sometimes alone, and the privilege it was to be involved at the level of the next generation of leadership, in furthering the work of the ZOA.
In introducing National President Klein, ZOA Vice-President Steve Goldberg said that “Mort Klein has done the good thing of telling the truth. Because of what he has done over 14 years, ZOA is, as the Wall Street Journal has said, ‘the most effective group advocating for Israel on Capitol Hill.'”
Mort Klein opened by speaking of the existential threat to Israel posed by Iran, should the present regime come into possession of nuclear weapons. He spoke of the tendency in international affairs to seek appeasement asking, “Have we learnt nothing from history?” Proclaiming that “G-d and Torah are our guide and strength,” he spoke of the unpopularity that comes with ZOA’s work, reminding the audience of President Harry S. Truman’s line, “I just tell the truth and they think it’s hell.”
Klein spoke of ZOA’s efforts to have Google Earth delete gratuitous, anti-Israel content from the Google Earth site, which is meant to be a neutral portal allowing internet users to see in detail any part of the world. Because of ZOA’s work, much of this content has now been removed. Another of ZOA’s campaigns was concerned with an Encyclopedia of Racism that scandalously included an entry on Zionism, alone among national movements around the world. At first, Macmillan, the publishers, had wanted to preserve the article and merely offer alternative information, but ZOA has insisted that this too was unacceptable and is still working on the issue: thus the absurd situation that “even the UN says that Zionism is not racism, but Macmillan says it is.”
Klein commended the ZOA Government Relations team, Dan Pollak and Josh London, for their work in obtaining the signatures of 80 members of Congress for a letter calling upon Palestinian Authority (PA) president Mahmoud Abbas to rescind the Fateh Constitution, which calls for Israel’s destruction and the use of terrorism as an indispensible element in the strategy to achieve that goal. Klein also noted that various sources, including the anti-Israel lobbyist James Zogby, have acknowledged ZOA’s successes, with Zogby even writing that “a muscular ZOA has risen like a phoenix and must be stopped.”
Next, Klein explained the dangers for Israel contained in the so-called Arab Peace Initiative, first proposed by Saudi Arabia in 2002. He observed that while Congress demands from automakers that they demonstrate concretely how they have changed their ways before bailing them out, people urge Israel to accept this Initiative from an unrepentant Arab world. He also quoted former Israeli Chief-of-Staff, Lt.-Gen. Moshe Yaalon, who said that “land for peace can only lead to war.”
Klein also shared his deep concerns on President-elect Obama, noting that the British Sunday Times had reported that Obama had expressed support for the 2002 so-called Arab Peace Initiative, which demands complete Israeli withdrawal to the pre-1967 armistice lines, contrary to the language of UN Security Council Resolution 242; the division of Jerusalem; the inundation of Israel with Arab refugees of the 1948-49 war and their millions of descendants under the legally baseless so-called ‘right of return'; and the uprooting of some 500,000 Jews living in Judea and Samaria. While adviser Dennis Ross had denied that report, Israeli President Shimon Peres had said that the President-elect had told him that he was “very impressed” with the plan. Klein noted that President-elect Obama’s advisers and others like Lee Hamilton, Brent Scowcroft, Zbigniew Brzezinski and Daniel Kurtzer were all urging Obama to support the Initiative. Klein said that he “was very worried about the way Barack Obama and his advisers want to move forward.” Klein also noted that, after Senator Obama’s retraction of his stated support for Jerusalem remaining an undivided city, the New York Times had asked him for comment, noting that other American Jewish leaders were not answering, but that ZOA had immediately responded, expressing deep concern over Obama’s retraction.
Klein also spoke of the battle the ZOA waged in other 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 and Joshua London; the important new contributions of ZOA’s Israel Office under Jeff Daube; and the crucial contributions made by the Campus Division, headed by Julie Sager and the Center for Middle East Policy, headed by Dr. Daniel Mandel.
Almost one hundred college students attended the dinner, which was co-chaired by Ken Abramowitz, Co-Founder and Managing Partner of NGN Capital Venture Fund, and Dr. Gerald Platt, President of Pomander Associates, Real Estate Principals. ZOA Board Member Jonathan Gold and his family made the blessing over the bread. ZOA Executive Director Stan Kessock and the entire ZOA staff worked hard on all aspects of the Dinner. Dr. Alan Mazurek was the Master of Ceremonies and presided over the Dinner with his extraordinary eloquence, wit, charm and intelligence.