New York – More than 250 Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) activists from sixteen states, from California to Illinois, Missouri, Ohio, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Florida took part in ZOA’s annual activist Mission to Washington this week, meeting with Members of Congress, Arab and Islamic experts, and Amb. Danny Ayalon, Israeli Ambassador to the United States, Israeli journalists, and a member of Israel’s Knesset.
During their two days in Washington, the ZOA met with 190 Members of Congress or their senior staff members.
The Mission began with a gala dinner on Capitol Hill, in the Cannon House Building’s Caucus Room, where the two featured speakers were Yigal Carmon, Director of MEMRI (Middle East Monitoring Research Institute), which tracks and translates Arab and Muslim media and sermons into English; and Robert Spencer, Director of Jihad Watch, and author of five books and hundreds of articles about jihad and Islamic terrorism, most recently, Onward Muslim Soldiers: How Jihad still Threatens America and the West. Morton A. Klein, President of ZOA, also spoke. Robert Guzzardi, Esq. of Philadelphia, member of ZOA’s National Board, and Dr. Ellen Zyroff, past president of ZOA’s San Diego chapter, introduced the speakers.
Carmon presented a series of TV clips from Palestinian, Iranian and other Muslim media featuring vicious anti-Semitism and anti-Israel rhetoric by Imans, small children, professors, politicians, and ordinary citizens.
Spencer discussed the concept of “Jihad.” Spencer stressed that violent Jihad is a constant throughout Islamic history.
Klein spoke about the achievements of ZOA, such as the recent passage of the Koby-Mandell Act, ZOA’s complaint to the Office of Civil Rights about UC/Irvine allowing discrimination and intimidation of Jewish students which has led to arbitration hearings, and ZOA’s active campus program.
The next day, the Mission participants attended a spectacular Capitol Hill luncheon. Nineteen Members of Congress took part including one Senator. All of them made powerful pro-Israel remarks, while praising ZOA for their factual information they distribute to Congressmembers as well as their advocacy on the Hill.
Members addressing the delegates included 10 Republicans and 9 Democrats. U.S. Senator Jim Bunning (R-KY) spoke and said, “You can’t trust the Palestinian Authority to live up to their agreements.” Other Members of Congress who addressed the luncheon included Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), Chairwoman of the House Subcommittee on the Middle East and Central Asia, Steve Chabot (R-OH), the Vice-Chair of the Middle East Subcommittee, Mike Pence (R-IN), Chair of the Republican Study Committee and member of the International Relations Committee and Subcommittee on the Middle East; Joe Wilson (R-SC), Steve Rothman (D-NJ), Jim Ryun (R-KS), Anthony Weiner (D-NY), Brad Sherman (D-CA), Ben Cardin (D-MD), Shelley Berkley (D-NV), Brian Higgins (D-NY), Curt Weldon (R-PS), C.A. “Dutch” Ruppersburger (D-MD), Dave Weldon (R-FL), Mike Ferguson (R-NJ), Joe Crowley (D-NY), Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Jim Saxton (R-NJ).
The Mission was also addressed by a Knesset Member from Israel, Dr. Aryeh Eldad. Dr. Eldad is a member of Israel’s Foreign Affairs Committee and Chair of the Ethics Committee. He was Chief Medical Officer of the Israel Defense Forces for 4 years and served as Chairman of the Department of Surgery at Hadassah Hospital in Jerusalem and was founder of Israel’s Burn Society. He spoke about his appreciation of strong US-Israel relations, his appreciation of all of ZOA’s efforts, and his opposition to the Gaza Withdrawal Plan.
Two journalists from Israel and one Israeli professor also addressed the crowd about the continuing problems with the Palestinian Authority’s refusal to fight terror and even their promotion of terror against Israel by their own Palestinian Police force, as well as Palestinian officials.
In the afternoon, the ZOA activists were addressed by Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, Daniel Ayalon, who strongly thanked ZOA’s efforts on behalf of strong US-Israel relations, “We appreciate and are well aware of ZOA’s great work I speak to my good friend Morton Klein regularly and welcome his insights in issues affecting Israel.” Morton Klein responded by saying, “Amb. Ayalon and ZOA completely agree on our strong love of the holy land of Israel and the Jewish people and our support for Israel’s safety, security, and prosperity. We only differ about Gaza. ZOA has a deep concern that unilaterally giving away the Jewish section of Gaza and Northern Samaria and forcing 10,000 wonderful Jewish people from their homes and businesses is not only a human rights catastrophe but will encourage more terror and will increase the danger to Jewish towns near Gaza.
Amb. Ayalon spent a good deal of time explaining his government’s support for the Gaza Withdrawal Plan. He stated that if terrorism continues from Gaza, Israel will go back into Gaza. Understandably, the ZOA audience was more than dubious.
In response to a question, he also made clear that all of the Israelis who live on the wrong side of the Security Fence in towns like Beth El, Kadimah and Kiryat Arbah will never be removed. He said after the Gaza Evacuation there will be no other removals of Israelis from their homes.
In their meetings with Members of Congress, the ZOA activists’ agenda included:
- Urging Congressmembers to support the 2005 Saudi Arabian Accountability Act (S.1171/H.R.2037), which would impose sanctions unless the Saudis stop supporting extremist Whabbi education in mosques throughout the world and unless they stop funding terrorist groups and fully cooperate with U.S. efforts against terrorism. It currently has six co-sponsors in the Senate, led by Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA), and 28 in the House, led by Rep. Anthony Weiner (D-NY).
- Urging Congressmembers to support a new bill on Jerusalem, (H.R.588) that seeks to correct the trend of the consulate General in Jerusalem from acting as an Embassy to the Palestinians, and require that wherever the U.S. government mentions Jerusalem, it should mention it as Israel’s capital. And Americans born in Jerusalem should be allowed to state the words ‘Jerusalem, Israel’ as their place of birth on their passports — not simply ‘Jerusalem’. The bill is sponsored in the House by Tom Reynolds of New York (R-NY), and currently has 35 co-sponsors.
- Urging Members of Congress to sign a letter to President Bush, urging him to pressure Mahmoud Abbas to refuse to let Hamas participate in elections until the organization disarms, publicly renounces terror, and abrogates its charter which calls for the destruction of Israel and the murder of all Jews. The letter is co-sponsored by Rep. Shelly Berkley (D-NV), and Rep. Dan Burton (R-IN). One purpose of this letter is to make Members of Congress aware that Hamas is more than a typical terrorist group but is actually a neo-Nazi group that wishes to destroy Jews and the Jewish state.
- Urging that no US money should be sent to Palestinians unless they fully comply with all their obligations under all the agreements they have signed with Israel to end terrorism, incitement and more. In addition, any US aid should be subject to quarterly reviews of Palestinian compliance.
ZOA activists also explained to their Members of Congress the reasons for the ZOA opposition to the Gaza withdrawal and why it harms the US war against terrorism as well.