Hundreds of activists from 23 states across the country, from California to Ohio, to New York, Pennsylvania and Florida, participated in the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA)’s Annual Advocacy Mission to Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, May 21, 2014. Meeting with almost 100 Members of Congress or their legislative staffers, ZOA activists urged them to:
1) Support S. 2265 (Stand with Israel Act of 2014) and H.R. 1337 (Palestinian Accountability Act) which would oppose further U.S. aid to Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority (PA) (currently over $600 million per annum) until it fulfils its signed agreements under Oslo to arrest and imprison terrorists; dismantle and outlaw terrorist groups; end the incitement to hatred and murder within the PA-controlled media, mosques, schools and youth camps; end the PA alliance with Hamas; and to recognize Israel as a Jewish state;
2) Support S. 1881 (Nuclear Weapon Free Iran Act of 2013) and H.R. 850 (Nuclear Iran Prevention Act of 2013) which would lead to imposing new, tough sanctions on Iran in the event that it violates the Geneva Interim Agreement with the U.S. and Europe (P5+1) and fails to agree to ending its nuclear weapons program, given that the Iranian regime has called for the destruction of Israel, America and the defeat of the West. The ZOA also requested Members of Congress to support U.S. and/or Israeli military action against Iran should it prove necessary in order to stop Iran going nuclear; and
3) Support and understand the legal, historical, religious and political right of Jews to live in Judea/Samaria and to oppose the canard, based on a wilful and politicized distortion and intentional misinterpretation of Article 49 of the Fourth Geneva Convention, that Israel’s presence there is unlawful and a war crime.
At the ZOA’s spectacular Congressional Luncheon, held prior to the congressional meetings in a magnificent room in the Russell Senate Office Building on Constitution Ave, ZOA activists were joined at the luncheon by numerous Democratic and Republican U.S. Senators and House Members, who attended and spoke at the ZOA luncheon.
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein said, “It is so inspiring to the ZOA and our delegates to hear these fabulous, pro-Israel speeches by the most important Members of Congress, which included the Chairs of both the Senate and House Foreign Relations Committees and several potential presidential candidates. One delegate after another made it clear to me that they were thrilled to spend a day in their lives to fight for Israel, for strong U.S./Israel relations, and to educate Members of Congress about the truth about the on-going Arab war against Israel, which seeks Israel’s destruction, not any sort of negotiated settlement.”
Mort Klein introduced Senator Bob Menendez (D–NJ), Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, acknowledging his “great work,” reminiscing of a meeting between Senator Menendez and Jewish leaders in which the Senator had “the most knowledge and was the most pro-Israel out of any one in that room. He has done tremendous work in the field of security since 9/11, has given extraordinary speeches about Israel and has been leading with the introduction of the Nuclear Free Iran Act of 2013.” In presenting him with the ZOA’s Defender of Zion Award, Mort said, “Senator Menendez has shown extraordinary courage in speaking out; even on issues he knows that much of his party may not be there with him.” Senator Menendez praised Mort and the ZOA’s working, saying, “Mort Klein works every day for a strong durable American Israeli relationship … I am very honored to receive this award … I have had an unwavering view that it is in the national interest of the United States to have a strong relationship with the state of Israel, an island of democracy. As Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, I reject any call for boycotts, divestment or any statement that Israel risks becoming an apartheid state … Mahmoud Abbas must decide between a future of a Palestinian state side by side with the Jewish state of Israel, or an unholy marriage with Hamas, which has consequences under U.S. law. If it comes to fruition, I will seek to enforce the provisions of U.S. law that say that US money cannot go to a terrorist regime … Quite frankly, I’m nervous about any impending deal with Iran. We need the right deal, not just any deal. A nuclear armed Iran would be an existential threat to state of Israel. It would become an even greater threat to the region, exporting terrorists, sending fighters to Syria … I introduced with my colleague Senator Kirk the latest round of sanctions, so we can send the message that, if Iran doesn’t agree, consequences follow … We must fight back against the efforts to delegitimize the Jewish state … I have taken a bipartisan effort every step of the way on Iran sanctions and will continue to do so.”
ZOA Board member Jim Pollack introduced Senator Mark Kirk (R–IL), observing that, “for Mark Kirk, no issue is more important than the safety and security of the State of Israel. Senator Kirk doesn’t just co-sponsor pro-Israel legislation, he initiates and he authors it. There is no better friend in Washington, DC than this gentleman. In 2009, during the Gaza invasion, Senator Kirk said, ‘Something is rotten in Gaza and it’s time to take out the trash.’” Senator Kirk introduced himself by saying “I’m the pro-Israel senator who replaced Barack Obama in the U.S. Senate. … When you’re told to ‘temporize’ what you’re doing in support of Israel, or to ‘back off, don’t. Defend the State of Israel and do exactly what you believe in.” Senator Kirk, who was presented by Mort Klein with the ZOA’s Defender of Zion Award, added, “One of the reasons I ran for the Senate was to protect Israel. Now, I need your help. There has been a $200 million cut in missile defense for Israel. Together with our friends in ZOA, we’ll reverse that.”
Mort Klein introduced Senator Ted Cruz (R–TX), a potential presidential candidate, joking that, “Not only do I support everything you’ve done, but I’ll support everything you will do.” Senator Cruz said, “It’s great to be back with so many dear friends at ZOA. Thank you for repeatedly and relentlessly standing up and speaking the truth … Next week I’ll travel back to Israel for the third time in the past year and a half … The good news is that there remains some possibility for unity and clarity here when it comes to national security and speaking up against Iranian aggression… The appointment by Iran as ambassador to the UN someone who participated in the seizure of U.S. hostages in Tehran in 1979 was intended as slap in the face to the United States. I introduced legislation to bar his admission to the U.S. That legislation passed 100–0 in the Senate and 435 to nothing in the House. Just a few weeks ago, President Obama signed it into law. We will not allow known terrorists to live in New York City with diplomatic immunity. The bad news, as everyone in this room appreciates, the greatest national security threat to the U.S. and Israel is the threat of a nuclear Iran. I agree with Prime Minister Netanyahu that the Geneva Interim deal signed by the P5=1 with Iran is an historic mistake. I’m proud to say I was an original co-sponsor of Kirk –Menendez, but I’m sorry to say it has not come to a vote on the floor, because Harry Reid will not let come to a vote, because President Obama doesn’t want it come to a vote The rational thing to do would be reimpose sanctions and strengthen them. We should say to Iran, ‘If you want sanctions lifted, there is a simple path –– dismantle every centrifuge and hand over all enriched uranium’ … I feel we are repeating the mistake of the 1990s when the Clinton Administration relaxed sanctions on North Korea, the same person who negotiated that one is doing it again, now, Wendy Sherman … This is a call to action. Israel will strike Iran if the U.S. is not doing the job, the job we should be doing to prevent Iran going nuclear. The chorus of condemnation will be deafening. I cannot think of a greater national security service Israel could provide the United States than taking out Iran’s nuclear weapons … Secretary Kerry’s apartheid state remarks were a grotesque and false slander. Shortly after he made those remarks, I demanded that he resign his position. I’m’ proud to say that, shortly after, Mort Klein emphatically repeated that demand. Secretary Kerry’s remark wasn’t a momentary slip of the tongue, it was reflective of an utterly unacceptable attitude towards Israel. Those words will be repeated by Iran, by Hamas, by Hizballah, who will say, ‘Don’t believe us, believe the U.S. Secretary of State’ … I’m proud to be working with our friends in the ZOA.”
Mort Klein introduced Senator Rand Paul (R–KY), a potential presidential candidate, saying that he was mystified that other Jewish organizations hadn’t supported Senator Paul’s legislation to defund the PA until and unless it takes required steps to end terror and incitement and accept Israel as a Jewish state. Mort added, “When we discussed horrific actions of the PA in a meeting some months ago, Senator Paul said that ‘We can’t let this continue,’” Senator Paul said that he is a friend of Israel and that “It is important to have ZOA because ZOA is right on some things AIPAC is not right on. A lot of Americans don’t know that we give money to the PA. If we are to continue to do so, we must have strict rules. Now you have Fatah coming together with Hamas. If they come together and Hamas still has as its credo the destruction of Israel, how can that be the beginning of a peace process? So it’s really one or the other … if Hamas wants to lay down arms, respect the rights of Israel as a Jewish state, that’s one thing but if they don’t, I can’t see America giving them any money, not a penny … I’m convinced if I was allowed to speak to the AIPAC membership, many would agree with me. Many of them have expressed surprise … Our alliance is incredibly important and ZOA’s input is invaluable.”
Senator James E. “Jim” Risch (R-ID), said that, “In my judgment, there is very little doubt that the Geneva deal with Iran is a very bad deal. I hope I’m dead wrong, that I come back before you next year and people will tell me that I was wrong. But I don’t think that’s going to happen.”
Representative Ed Royce (R-CA), Chairman of the House Foreign Relations Committee,said “our Number One focus must be on ensuring that Iran does not obtain nuclear weapons … According to Tehran, we are the Great Satan. We should listen to the words spoken by the Ayatollahs … I had the opportunity in 2006, as Hizballah missiles were slamming into Haifa to see media bias at work. I asked a BBC reporter to come to the hospital I was visiting which had many of those Israelis wounded in the Hizballah attacks. He replied that he couldn’t as his editor would not allow him to ‘tell that story.’ Israel struggles every week with that lack of balance, with that bias … I heard Abbas on Iranian- owned radio in which he used incitement against Israel. I confronted him with this when I met him, calling him Dr. Abbas because, as I said to him, ‘I know you became a doctor because you have a doctorate in Holocaust denial. I confronted him with photographs I had of Dachau when it was liberated. Abbas wanted to change the topic, saying that none of that justifies what is happening today … when someone says that they want to exterminate 6 million Jews, maybe there was an excuse in the 1930s for not believing it but there is no excuse today. And we have the Iranians saying they will not restrict in any way their ICBM program. We must send them the message: compromise on the nuclear program, or witness the collapse of your regime.”
Representative Michele Bachmann (R–MN), whom ZOA National President Morton A. Klein introduced as the “queen Esther and Margaret Thatcher of our time,” urged ZOA activists “never to forget, the U.S. must be the great defender of Israel and have Israel’s back at every turn. That’s the promise; that’s not always the reality of what we’re getting … I’m nervous that last week in Vienna, the P5+1 [the five permanent members of the UN Security Council, Britain, China, France, Russia and the United States, plus Germany] looked like granting to Iran, in my opinion, the ability to continue unimpeded towards nuclear weapons. This is a decision that is madness … What was most effective with Iran was pain, pain in the form of crippling economic sanctions, which were having an effect. When you’re succeeding with your enemies, why choose failure? We need even more crippling now, go back to shackling Iran economically so that they get it that the nuclear program has to stop. I would go further and take military action against Iran … The Boycott, Sanctions and Divestment [BDS] movement has been gaining steam. We in the US need to put out our message by taking a page from 1973 when we boycotted the boycotters. We are launching our legislation to boycott the boycotters … To continue to fund the Palestinian Authority would be madness. One of Israel’s great defenders, Trent Franks, and I are working on this … If Iran refuse to be serious about this, which they have demonstrated, we take unilateral military action, ask no-one and get the job done.”
Representative Bill Johnson (R–OH) spoke of his “life-changing” trip to Israel in 2001 which gave him “a unique perspective on why the link between Israel and the United States is so inextricably intertwined … Israel is the only nation on the planet formed, not through conquest, but because G-d said that you will be the nation of Israel. You are the only nation in human history ever formed that way … It has inspired me to work even harder that the American people understand how important it is for the U.S. to honestly and practically support Israel … If you look at our root of existence, the principles upon which our nation was founded, one nation under G-d, endowed by our Creator with our inalienable rights … Some call for a 2 state solution ––I’m not one of those … We must stop Iran. It doesn’t need a nuclear program for civilian use and this has to stop. Iran does not need centrifuges.”
Representative Ted Poe (R-TX) said, “The idea that we are going to talk sweetly to the Iranians and that they will just change their minds isn’t going to happen … The Geneva deal worked out by Secretary Kerry is the worst deal of the century. Sanctions were actually working and producing economic instability in Iran and now we’ve eased them. We’re living in never-never land if we think they are going to negotiate sincerely with us .. I don’t like it that much that we give aid to the P.A. We send them money in good faith –– and terrorists kills Israelis and Americans, and then the PA pays the terrorists who did the killing. That is crazy. Why would we find an organization that pays terrorists who kill Americans and our allies? That has got to end … The PA are a bunch of snake oil salesmen … We stand shoulder to shoulder with Israel.”
Representative Brad Sherman (D–CA) opened by quipping that he is not related to anyone with the name Wendy –– a reference to Wendy Sherman, the U.S. negotiator who gave North Korean and is now giving Iran favorable terms that enable their respective dangerous and illegal nuclear weapons activities. He said, “I’ve been fighting for the toughest sanctions on Iran since entering Congress … The Iranians are not only in violation but are not planning to stop their nuclear activities. You need to bring this news to [House Minority leader] Nancy Pelosi … If we don’t stop Iran going nuclear, how do you then say to Brazil, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and Turkey that they can’t have nuclear weapons?”
Representative Trent Franks (R–AZ) said, “I am finally seeing truly committed warriors for Israel in Congress … Mahmoud Abbas and the Palestinian Authority have completely eschewed peace with Israel. Abbas has openly aligned himself with Hamas, an organization committed to murdering women and little children simply because they’re Jews. Abbas recently told the U.S. President that he will not accept the two-state solution. He also told the President that he will not accept a deal that does not require more land from Israel … Israel has faced many enemies for over thousands of years. All of those enemies of Israel are now all gone. Tomorrow jihad will be gone and Israel will remain.”
Representative Steve King (R–IA) recounted that, following his election to Congress in 2002, he participated in a meeting with the ambassadors of Britain, France and Germany regarding Iran’s nuclear weapons program. “The ambassadors wanted America to have a dialogue with Iran and talk them out of getting nuclear weapons. I asked them, ‘Well, are you ready for sanctions, for a UN Security Council resolution? And if Iran crosses that line, what are your countries willing to put on the line?’… The Geneva deal is the worst deal we could have had, it’s dangerous for Israel and it’s dangerous for the world … As I told the ambassadors back then, I would put a date on the calendar and tell the Iranian president that I know that date by which I take military action against you if you haven’t dismantled your nuclear program, but you don’t. I’ll let you save face and find a way to back down, but you will not be allowed to obtain nuclear weapons … We must stand with Israel. I’ll stand with you as long as it takes.
Representative Scott Perry (R–PA) said, “For 66 years, America and Israel have been together through all sorts of crises. I think we have to understand and acknowledge what is happening now with Iran. We’re dealing with the greatest security threat our two countries have ever faced … The PA isn’t making peace with Israel. It doesn’t accept Israel. I don’t understand my Jewish friends who want to support people who want to cut their throats. I get irritated when I hear the phrase ‘occupied territories.’ You answered aggression. Whatever happened to the principle, to the victor the spoils? … Secretary Kerry recently used the word apartheid in relation to what could happen to Israel. What planet is he living on? … The Administration needs to be clear about our adversaries in the Middle East, but they’re not. We have folks here who want to align ourselves with the Muslim Brotherhood. If the Arab states laid down their arms, they’d be peace. If Israel laid down its arms, there’d be no Israel.”
Representative Jerry Nadler (D–NY) said, “It’s a great pleasure to be here with friends like the ZOA. I was once in a ZOA college chapter … In those days, we faced the problem of NGOs, funded by philanthropic foundations, who were lending their support to anti-Israel groups. We worked and got then to change their ground rules at the Ford Foundation so that they read, ‘This organization will not support efforts to destroy or delegitimize any state. This significantly reduced funding for anti-Israel NGOs … Palestinians could have had a state in 1947, 1948, and 2008. They could have it now. But they’re too willing to forgo the ‘right of return’ of so-called refugees into Israel proper. There’s no precedent for what they demand. Germans were expelled after World War Two from Hungary, Czechoslovakia and other places in Eastern Europe, 12 million of them. Millions of refugees swapped countries when India was split into India and Pakistan. And the hundreds of thousands of Jews from Arab lands were absorbed by Israel. The Palestinians alone have a special status, are kept as refugees and are not subject to the authority of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. This is the only case where you have third generation refugees. In any case, the Palestinian Authority will not sign an end of claims agreement … On the Iranian nuclear weapons program, there can be no compromise and no accommodation. Will an agreement in July bring about the end of the nuclear program? If not, we must take all options to stop it.
Representative Ron DeSantis (R–FL) said, “In Nigeria, the Islamist group, Boko Haram, kidnapped 30 women from a Christian school. I confronted the State Department on this. They tried to sanitize it. I made the case that you need to look at the enemy and call them by their name .. The idea that Israel should divide Jerusalem is to me simply unacceptable. The PA is a repressive regime without proper rights and filled with terrorists. Why would you want to expand that repression to any part of Jerusalem? .. People say that the Jews in Judea/Samaria are obstacles to peace. But those communities provide a buffer against terror and jihad … Channelling hundreds of millions of dollars to the PA is not in our national interest … Israel is part of what’s right about the Middle East.”
Representative Robert B. Aderholt (R–AL) said, “I was in Israel last year. It was eye-opening to see the energy and determination of that country … I like to tell people that I worship a Jew … Peace has to be the ultimate goal, but there are many struggles, so many forces that are opposed to peace and we have to take account of this. The Palestinians may say to us that they really want peace, but hey really don’t.”
Representative Alan Grayson (D–FL) said, “I am the first Jewish Congressman from central Florida… I might be the only Jew in the district .. The Iranian nuclear threat is deadly serious. Why am I so adamant on the need to stop the Iranian nuclear program? Because I can easily imagine a scenario in which Iran obtains nuclear weapons, in which it then gives nuclear weapons to Hizballah, which puts them in boats and sends them on to Haifa. This is a truly frightening but believable prospect if Tehran gets the bomb. We must stop it.”
Senators and Congressmen who attended the ZOA luncheon but were compelled by other commitments on the Hill from staying to speak included Senator Benjamin Cardin (D–MD), Representative Billy Long (R–MO), Representative Tom Price (R-GA) and Representative Mark Meadows (R–NC).
Also addressing the Mission during the luncheon was David Wilder, the spokesman for the Committee for the Jewish Community of Hebron. Mr. Wilder told the ZOA activists of the daily struggles of pioneering communities in Hebron which are hemmed in on all sides by hostile Palestinian Arabs. He pointed out that 97% of Hebron is actually off-limit to Jews. He praised ZOA for being one of the very few Jewish organizations that makes the rights and security of Jews living in Judea/Samaria an issue and a priority. Mr. Wilder also presented Mort Klein with a Hebron Bible and a re-minted Hebron medallion, saying, “believe me you and ZOA deserve it … you’re doing unbelievable work. Thank you.”
Mort Klein thanked the entire ZOA staff for their hard work in making the ZOA’s Advocacy Mission to Washington, D.C. such a success. Mort offered special thanks to Josh London and Dan Pollak, Co-Directors of the ZOA’s Government Relations Department, who were masters of ceremonies at the luncheon event and led the discussion of issues, for all their work in helping to bring this impressive array of Members of Congress to the luncheon. Thanks were also expressed to Executive Director David Drimer, Howard Katzoff and the entire ZOA staff for their hard work in making the Mission run so smoothly. Special recognition was afforded to Steve Feldman, Executive Director of ZOA Philadelphia, for bringing the largest contingent of delegates to the Mission. Mort Klein also thanked Dr. Daniel Mandel, Director of the ZOA’s Center for Middle East Policy, for his enormous help in making this comprehensive press release possible.
Photo Credit: Richard Chaitt