New York – Almost 300 (including 35 students), Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) activists from 19 states, including California, Florida, Illinois, Missouri, Ohio, New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Utah and Virginia, took part in ZOA’s annual activist Mission to Washington on June 19 — 20 to urge Members of Congress to oppose funding and concessions for Palestinian Authority (PA) president and leader of the Fatah terrorist group Mahmoud Abbas in the immediate wake of Hamas’ take-over of Gaza, the collapse of the PA unity government and the news that the U.S. and EU intend to resume full financial and other aid to Abbas. The ZOA activists also urged Members of Congress to intensify pressure on the Iranian president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his regime for their repeated threats to wipe out Israel and to acquire the nuclear weapons with which to do so. Additionally, the activists urged support for legislation mandating U.S. steps to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and also for legislation for increased sanctions aimed at compelling the Syrian regime to cease using terrorist proxies against Israel and American interests.
During the Mission, ZOA activists met with U.S. Senators, House Members and their senior staff members, and heard addresses from Israel’s ambassador to the U.S., Sallai Meridor; a distinguished Middle East expert and prolific author; and a leading spokesman from the Jewish communities in Judea and Samaria. During their two days in Washington, the ZOA held almost 200 meetings with Members of Congress or their senior staff members.
The Mission commenced with a gala dinner at the Washington Plaza Hotel, where the two featured speakers were Professor Barry Rubin, Director of the Global Research in International Affairs (GLORIA) Center of the Interdisciplinary Center in Herzliya, Israel, and author of some seventeen books, including a biography of Yasser Arafat, and a new book, The Truth About Syria; and David Wilder, the Spokesman for the Hebron Jewish community. Morton A. Klein, ZOA’s National President, also spoke, after being introduced by Ed Ames, the celebrated singer and actor and President of ZOA’s Los Angeles chapter.
On Wednesday afternoon, the ZOA activists were addressed by Israel’s Ambassador to the United States, Sallai Meridor. Ambassador Meridor paid tribute to his “good friend Mort Klein, whom I have known and respected for many years” and thanked ZOA for its commitment and activism for Israel. Ambassador Meridor explained the hard choices facing Israel on all fronts and the hope that Mahmoud Abbas would finally start fulfilling his pro-peace obligations. He said Israel would judge Abbas on his actions and be cautious in the ways it would support him.
Professor Rubin gave an overview of Israel’s geo-political position and the non-existent prospects for achieving peace with either the Palestinian Arabs or Syria. Using many examples from his new book, Rubin detailed the lack of insight and common sense that afflicts American and international attitudes towards Abbas’ PA and the Syrian regime and how lack of Western insight, consistency and pressure has resulted in both remaining unreformed and terrorist-sponsoring regimes.
David Wilder painted a detailed picture of the obstacles and perils faced by Hebron’s embattled Jewish community from Palestinian Arab terrorism. He spoke of the obstruction to the community’s development that the community has to overcome and Israel’s current struggles in dealing with terrorist forces operating from the PA.
Klein spoke of ZOA’s achievements on the Hill, campuses and the legal arena. He recounted his recent meeting, together with other American Jewish leaders, with President Bush and his questioning the President regarding on-going incitement to hatred and murder in the Abbas-controlled PA media, mosques, schools and youth camps, which makes peace impossible no matter what concessions Israel makes. President Bush replied that his Administration was going to have to make it clear to Abbas that this is serious issue which he needs to address immediately and comprehensively. Klein also gave a critique of the current rush to lavish aid, arms and concessions on Mahmoud Abbas and Fatah. Klein argued that trying to shore up the faux moderate Abbas against Hamas is a short-sighted strategy which will ensure that Abbas and the PA continue to avoid fulfilling their Oslo commitments to end terror and incitement, both of which will prevent the coming of peace.
Klein also presented example after example of Abbas’ recent extremist acts and deeds, including his call before a huge Palestinian Arab rally in Ramallah to “turn all our guns against the Occupation” and saying that “The sons of Israel are corrupting humanity on earth”; his signing of the Mecca Agreement with Hamas, which called for more terrorism rather than peace and reconciliation; and his disclosure to Palestinian Arabs that “It is not required of Hamas, or of Fatah, or of the Popular Front to recognize Israel.” He said that falsely calling Abbas a moderate will have the same disastrous results as having falsely called Arafat a moderate in the past.
Following the speeches, a 20-minute film of excerpts from several Palestinian and other Arab television programs promoting the vilest hatred and murder of Jews imaginable, was screened. This included a film clip of a recent Al-Jazeera interview with former President Jimmy Carter, in which he stated that he is opposed to suicide bombing against Israelis because it harms the Palestinian cause. Carter also stated that his criticism doesn’t refer to the Palestinian rocket attacks upon Israel from Gaza, suggesting that these are acceptable.
The next day, Mission participants attended a memorable Capitol Hill luncheon. Several dozen Members of Congress attended. Legislators made powerful and insightful pro-Israel remarks, while praising ZOA for its role in keeping lawmakers apprized of vital issues of concern as well as their advocacy on the Hill. Legislators attending and addressing the delegates were evenly split between Democrats and Republicans. Many of them criticized Abbas and the PA.
Senator Arlen Specter (R-PA) promised his strong support for Senate resolutions on the U.S.-Israel Cooperation Act and on recognizing Jerusalem as Israel’s capital, saying, “Jerusalem is the capital of Israel, ad that is where our embassy should be.” Senator Specter also said that “There is no doubt that we have to get Fatah to change its Charter to recognize Israel.” He added that “it is unacceptable for Iran to have nuclear weapons.”
John Boehner (R-OH), House Minority Leader, observed “We have to draw the line in dealing with terrorist organizations, especially self-declared terrorist organizations. Iran’s efforts to expand its influence in the region are very dangerous. Iranian influence is causing more problems than you can imagine. I believe we need to do everything we can to tighten the noose around the Iranian regime’s neck, if it continues to develop nuclear weapons. I don’t believe anything short of regime change in Iran is going to stop the situation.”
Thomas Tancredo (R-CO), Republican presidential candidate observed, “You need to really know who your enemy is. I wonder often if we do understand that. We use the word terror to describe what we are at war with. It allows us to think about our enemies as individual thugs and that if we put them in jail, we’ll all be OK. That’s the implication of being at war with terror. Terror is a tactic used by the people with whom we are at war, but the enemy is radical Islam … It is Western civilization Judeo-Christian values that are at stake in this war. I fight to make people understand this … It would help if we were to move our embassy to Jerusalem.”
David Davis (R-TN) quoted the passage in the Bible, “‘Pray for the peace of Jerusalem . those who praise thee shall prosper.’ Israel is unique as only democracy in the region … The forced moving of settlers cannot be tolerated. Israel has continued to try to reach peace. The PA must renounce violence and prove it … The U.S. must use it offices to oppose boycott, divestment or any other economic activity harmful to Israel … I am opposed to aid to nay country or org that fosters terrorism, hatred or hatred of Israel and its citizens. Iran is a grave threat to the region and the security of Israel. The U.S. should continue working closely with Israel, sharing intelligence and having joint military exercises to strengthen the bond between our great nations.”
Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD) opened by saying, “I want to thank Mort Klein for his leadership. The ZOA is not only important to Israel. It’s important to America and the world … It is intolerable for Iran to have nuclear weapons. I believe that as long as they have the capability to blow Israel of the map, they’ll try and do it and we must stop them.”
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL) praised the ZOA for “110 years of service and commitment to make a safe, secure and prosperous Israel. Everyone knows the work of this organization. You have been there leading the fight, making sure we can get the co-sponsors we need. People are finally waking up to the reality of what Israel had to face. This afternoon, I will be offering an amendment to take out our UN funding for the UN Human Right Council. There is genocide in Darfur, but it hasn’t done anything there. The only resolutions it has passed are condemning Israel. The only permanent part of the council’s brief is to sanction Israel. That’s your U.S. taxpayers’ dollars going to this disgraceful organization and I say — no more! Help me pass this amendment — I beg you.”
Shelley Berkley (D-NV) asked, “Why in G—‘s name is the United States of America giving foreign aid to Saudi Arabia? In my opinion, $100 a barrel of oil is aid enough … Under no circumstances should this country tolerate a nuclear Iran when we know its president is a Holocaust denier who wants to wipe Israel off the map. We must not take any options off the table … Aren’t we tired as a country of propping up these Palestinians? Abbas threw in his lot with Hamas because his was the most corrupt government on the planet. Now we are encouraged to vote funding for Abbas and Fatah. So when they’re not fighting Hamas, they are going to turn around and start killing Israelis. Let me say this –as a Jewish activist long before I came to Congress. It is very important that you are here. You take time from your busy lives, families, and businesses. We need you here, every one of you, and thousands more like you to explain what’s going on in the Middle East to our colleagues. We can’t do it all ourselves.”
Henry Waxman (D-CA) stated, “We must recognize and continue to make clear that the support of Israel rises above partisanship and goes to the essence of what freedom is all about. The first thing we need to do is to shed our illusions. Let us not jump and say that Mahmoud Abbas is the answer to all our problems. Abbas is the heir of Yasser Arafat and the Fatah movement … It was a mistake for our government to call for Palestinian elections … Let me tell you that the core problem in the Middle East is the unwillingness of our Arab leaders to recognize right of Jewish people to have a homeland.”
Christopher Shays (R-CT) argued that “this country must develop of energy independence. We have to confront radical Islamists; that is the reality. I do not know for the life of me how anyone can say they are friends of Israel and then say we need to leave Iraq. We’ll leave and then Israel will be safer? I don’t think it’s going to happen.”
Steve Rothman (D-NJ) spoke proudly of having authored the bill passed that very hour by the House of Representatives to work for the prosecution of Iranian president Ahmadinejad as a war criminal, saying “Ahmadinejad is a twisted backward lunatic who has genocidal destruction on his mind. Essentially, we must send the message that we will not tolerate a message of genocide against anyone, especially our closest ally and friend in the Middle East. We need to remain eternally vigilant and strong if are to protect America, the Jewish people, and the state of Israel.”
Michael Ferguson (R-NJ), observed, “I think it’s very important not only what we say but how our actions are interpreted. When it looks like we’re in a rush to end the embargo on Abbas and give him money, rather than running to offer support, we should have been trying to obtain some commitment from him, especially on [repudiating] the ‘right of return.’ … We should also be trying to strip all foreign aid to the kingdom of Saudi Arabia. I don’t believe we should be giving the kingdom of Saudi Arabia one American cent when there is their continued support for terrorism. I don’t think we should have supported their admission to the World Trade Organization.”
Brad Sherman (D-CA) argued, “We have to explain to the American people what the ‘right of return’ is — that anyone with ancestors in the Holy Land gets to move to Israel with their family — it’s a program of demographic aggression and genocide. The greatest threat to Israel and America is a nuclear Iran. Let no one tell you that deterrence will work. At the very least, it would become able to carry out terror around the world with immunity behind a nuclear umbrella.”
Doug Lamborn (R-CO) stated, “I like the name of your organization, the Zionist Organization of America, because I believe that Israel and the U.S. are Zion on earth. Support for Israel transcends party politics. I’ll do what I can to support Israel.”
Ted Poe (R-TX) said, “My people, who are mainly rural people, understand that there are a lot of people bullying Israel and they don’t like it. And they also understand in a straightforward way that Israel is our friend and ally.”
Ron Klein (D-FA) pointed out that “One of the biggest problems facing Israel is the thrust from Iran. Iran is reaching across the oceans and building contacts and relationships in our region, especially with [Venezuela’s] Hugo Chavez. Hamas and Hizballah are funding organizations in our own backyard. That is unacceptable to Israel, that is unacceptable to the United States, and we’re going to do all that we can to stop it. We as Jews know what happens time and time again in our history, no matter how safe we are. We must never forget that.”
Allyson Schwartz (D-PA) noted, “We may differ on some of the specifics, but both Republicans and Democrats share deep support for Israel as our deepest ally in the Middle East. I understand deeply and personally that what governments do and don’t does makes a difference in people’s life and this is a moment in history again of a question about the security for Israel which we must support.”
David Weldon (R-FL) declared that “together with our friends in the Knesset Christian Allies caucus, we recognize that the threats to Israel are becoming larger and larger. We will work to strengthen Israel and its right to live in freedom.”
Charles Dent (R-PA), argued, “We have relationships of a transactional nature with various states, but the one between us and Israel is one of deeply shared values.”
Gary Ackerman (D-NY) said that we need to think about how to deal with Fatah and its war with Hamas, arguing that “Fatah, has been previously under Arafat and in thirteen years has been corrupt and complicit in terror. They’re corrupt and vile.”
In their meetings with Members of Congress, the ZOA activists’ agenda included:
- Urging Members to oppose financial, military and other aid and concessions to Mahmoud Abbas and his Fatah party because of their unreformed extremist objectives, continuing involvement in terrorism and failure to implement Palestinian obligations under the signed Oslo agreements to end terrorism and the incitement to hatred and murder in the PA-controlled media, mosques, schools and youth camps that feeds it.
- Urging Members to support the Iran Counter-Proliferation Act of 2007 [H.R. 1400], offered by Rep. Tom Lantos (D-CA), and S. 970, offered by Sen. Gordon Smith (R-OR)] and the Iran Sanctions Enabling Act [H.R. 2347], offered by Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), [H. Con. Res. 21], offered by Rep Steve Rothman (D-NJ), and [S. 1430], offered by Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL), mandating measures to compel Iran to abandon its nuclear weapons program and calling on the United Nations to charge Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad with war crimes.
- Urging Members to support the Syria Accountability and Liberation Act [H.R. 2332], offered by Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), which aims to strengthen sanctions against Syria and establishing a program to support transition to a democratically-elected government in Syria.
- Urging Members to support a Bill to Enhance Recognition of Jerusalem as the Capital of Israel [H.R. 895], offered by Rep. Tom Reynolds (R-NY), mandating certain measures to ensure that the U.S. recognizes Jerusalem as Israel’s capital.
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