A record crowd of over 1,100 people attended the Zionist Organization of America’s (ZOA) 116th Louis B. Brandeis Award National Dinner on Sunday, November 23 at the New York City’s elegant Grand Hyatt Hotel. Major ZOA donors provided tables for 261 student activists from various universities around the country.
Rising Republican star and possible future presidential candidate Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX); renowned Harvard Law Professor Alan Dershowitz; legendary founder of Christians United for Israel (CUFI) Pastor John Hagee; global philanthropists/humanitarians Dr. Miriam and Sheldon Adelson; and businessman Michael Leven all spoke and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu addressed the crowd by video. Sheldon and Miriam Adelson presented the Adelson Defender of Israel Award to Pastor John Hagee. Senator Cruz received the Dr. Bob Shillman Award for Outstanding Pro-Israel legislator; Professor Dershowitz received the Mort Zuckerman Award for Outstanding Pro-Israel Journalism; Michael Leven, president of Las Vegas Sands Corporation, received the Louis D. Brandeis Award. Bernie Marcus, an extraordinary businessman and founder of the national retail chain, Home Depot, a major supporter of Israel who was inducted into the U.S. Business Hall of Fame in 2006, was the Dinner emcee. Also attending the Dinner were Fox News television host Judge Jeannine Pirro, Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (R-MN), former presidential candidate Gary Bauer, Middle East scholar Daniel Pipes, along with renowned businessmen and Jewish leaders Ken Bialkin, David Brog, Martin Gross, Jack Halpern, Irwin Hochberg, Ira Rennert, Richard Stone, Jim Tisch and Rabbi Avi Weiss.
In a pre-recorded video address, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu thanked the ZOA for profoundly aiding the defense of Israel by its extraordinary support for the Israel Defense Forces (IDF), especially during the recent Gaza war against Hamas and a worldwide Hamas-compliant media. Mr. Netanyahu reminded the audience that in the final analysis, it is the IDF which ensures the survival and security of the state of Israel and its citizens.
Dr. Bob Shillman, Founder and Chairman of Cognex Corporation, the world’s leading supplier of machine vision systems, introduced ZOA National President Mort Klein, observing how Mort was an irrepressible fighter for Israel’s right to exist in peace and security. “In that cause, Mort has been called many things, some of them even true. He is among the top ten people in American Jewish life who have made a vital difference.”
Mort Klein remarked while looking around at the overflowing ballroom – that the streets of New York City must be empty, since everyone seemed to be in that room: “Had there been Jews and Christian Zionists in the world like these in this room in the 1930s and the 1940s, history would have been very different,” he said.
Klein shared that the Jerusalem Post recently noted that ZOA is a rare voice among major American Jewish organizations, telling the truth about the decades-old Arab war on Israel to kill Jews and destroy the Jewish state, and thankfully criticizing the U.S. administration when appropriate. Klein emphasized that the ZOA in saying this was “not being right-wing, but simply right. The truth is not a political position.”
Klein spoke of Abbas’ “phony condemnation” of the recent terrorist attack on a Jerusalem synagogue, where four Jews at prayer were hacked to death, and a Druze policeman was killed defending the worshipers. Abbas, far from being critical of, or ceasing to incite violence, incited it immediately afterward, calling the Israeli police “terrorists” and repeating lies about Israel seeking to destroy the Al Aqsa Mosque on the Temple Mount. Abbas, tragically – who names schools, streets, and sports teams after terrorists, who authorizes posters of Jew-killing terrorists, and who pays pensions to jailed Palestinian terrorists in proportion to the number of Jews they murder, is not part of an extremist Palestinian fringe, but sadly represents the “Palestinian mainstream,” observed Klein.
Palestinian society encourages, praises, and honors Jew-killers. What is worse, the Obama Administration and world governments say nothing about this; it is a blanket of silence Klein describes as a “diplomatic Kristallnacht.” Klein cited a quote form the Irish political philosopher, Edmund Burke, who famously said, “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil – is that good men do nothing.”
Klein continued, “In this instance, the U.S. not only says nothing, we pay the PA $500 million per year, including an additional gift of $47 million that went to Hamas during the Gaza war. This sends the clear, unmistakable message that, no matter what the PA does, it will pay no price. Remembering the Holocaust and the murder of the Jews of Europe means more than just holding commemorative services — it means the duty of acting decisively to safeguard the Jewish people.”
Klein also turned to the subject of Jerusalem and debunked the Palestinian falsehoods about the city, which is, in fact, one of the oldest cities in the world and the holiest city in Judaism, a capital established by King David in biblical times:
“Jerusalem has only ever been the capital of a Jewish state, and has never been a Palestinian Arab state capital.” Klein reminded his listeners that the city is mentioned 638 times in the Bible, but is not even mentioned once in the Quran. During the years of the illegal Jordanian occupation (1948-67), no Arab leaders other than Jordan’s King Hussein even visited the city. The city has also had a population Jewish majority since the 1870s, “so the Palestinian Arabs have no claim on Jerusalem. The Palestinian’s claim to Jerusalem is propaganda and myth.”
Klein debunked the idea that Palestinian Arabs are “occupied” by Israel, noting that 98% of the Arabs of Judea/Samaria live under PA rule, with their own police, courts, schools and textbooks and that Israeli forces remain in certain areas on account of continuing terrorism. If there would be no terror and danger, there would be no need for Israeli troops.
Moreover, Israel is not occupying someone’s else’s land — Judea/Samaria is unallocated territory under international law, which was previously illegally occupied and annexed by Jordan in 1948. The truth of matter, concluded Klein, is that the Palestinian Arabs don’t want their own state unless they can deprive the Jews of theirs; this can be the only reason why Palestinian leaders have turned down statehood alongside a Jewish state on every occasion — in 1937, 1947, 2000 and again in 2008.
“The U.S. should therefore demand the relocation of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem without delay, demand of Abbas an utter and immediate end to incitement to hatred and murder of the Jewish people, and Israel should instead of demolishing the homes of terrorists – take the homes, sell them, and give the proceeds to the victims of terror.”
“We might sometimes ask,” Klein said in conclusion, “‘Can it be that we Jews are right and the whole world is wrong? The answer is yes, it can be true and it has been true throughout history. When Israel bombed the Iraqi nuclear reactor at Osirak in 1981, the whole world condemned Israel — and now everyone knows it was the right thing to do. In the ancient world, we were derided by everyone for having a day of rest; people said we were lazy, but we were right. We were accused of killing Jesus, and everyone was wrong. In the Middle Ages, people thought we killed gentile children to use their blood in matza, only we knew otherwise, we were right. People believed we poisoned wells, we never did, they were wrong, we were right.”
David Kadosh, Managing Director of ZOA’s Campus Activism Network, addressed the crowd, sharing about vital campus activism and the exponential increase of ZOA activity on campuses across the country. This is made possible by the generous donation, earmarked for these purposes by Myron Zimmerman, the San Francisco-based real estate magnate, pro-Israel philanthropist, leader of Birthright, officer of several Jewish Federations, and former Louis D. Brandeis Dinner Awardee.
Louis D. Brandeis Award recipient Michael Leven, in a self-effacing speech, chose not to speak of himself but rather of Justice Louis Brandeis, after whom the award is named. Mr. Leven noted the powerful and compelling views on Zionism that Brandeis espoused in his lifetime, regarding how a commitment to Jewish national independence by American Jewish citizens made them better, rather than weaker U.S. citizens, just as individuals loyally devoted to their family, careers, district, and state also made for stronger American citizens. Brandeis always maintained that such multiple loyalties should not be a source of suspicion but, to the contrary, should be mutually reinforcing, provided they were not in conflict. “Zionism enlarged, rather than reduced, human freedom,” he shared.
Bernie Marcus followed Mr. Leven’s remarks, calling him “a real mensch” before calling upon “another real mensch” — Harvard University Law Professor, world famous attorney and defender of Israel Alan Dershowitz, who opened with the exclamation, “Wow, what a gathering! I’m here as a liberal, Democrat and Zionist.” Dershowitz, who later introduced his former Harvard student Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) spoke of the under-girding principle he followed in advocating for Israel, which was to focus unrelentingly, not on what might divide Zionists of different stripes, but on what united Zionists across the board, of unity and bipartisanship — for example, the vital Zionist position that Iran must not be permitted to become either a nuclear power or a nuclear threshold state.
Dershowitz continued, “I make the 80% case — that on which virtually all Zionists are agreed. There are reasonable disagreements between Zionists but the difference, for example, between ZOA and J Street, is that J Street emphasizes only the 20% case not shared by others. They speak often of an open tent, but they have driven out the 80%. To be anti-Israel today is to be also anti-American. It is no coincidence that those who hate Israel also despise the United States of America — Norman Finkelstein, Noam Chomsky and so on.
“I have significantly different views from many other Zionists on social, economic, and political issues, but I unite with other Zionists on that which we agree. I don’t attack other Zionists for disagreeing with me on these matters, just as I don’t necessarily agree on Zionism with others who might share my social, economic and political views. And its also so clear that true liberals must support Israel over its adversaries, the only state which has the rule of law, that safeguards minorities, that protects gays, and so on … Senator Cruz was one of my most brilliant students and I’m proud to introduce him tonight, even though we don’t agree on many issues – we agree on Israel.”
Dershowitz went on to explain how Senator Cruz walked out of a Defense of Christians Dinner earlier this year when he encountered deep hostility from some of the audience for his strong defense of Israel and the Jewish people. “Had John F. Kennedy been writing Profiles in Courage today, this would have to be one of them. Ted Cruz is an intellectual powerhouse. He could have done anything in life, but he chose to devote himself to public service.”
Senator Ted Cruz opened by saying, “G-d bless the nation of Israel and G-d bless the United States of America.” He quipped, “Alan Dershowitz was an incredible teacher who fiercely defends his principles, even when he’s wrong.” Turning to him, Cruz added, “I have to warn you that if you keep on saying nice things about me, they won’t let you back into the Harvard faculty lounge.” Senator Cruz paid handsome tribute to ZOA’s Klein, saying, “As for Mort Klein, what an incredible, powerful voice! He reminds me of the book of Exodus, when G-d called upon Moses, who spoke with a clarion call when the situation demanded it.”
Senator Cruz also paid tribute to the Adelsons, especially their courage and fortitude in fighting for what they believe is right: “If there is a fight for them from which to run away, we have yet to see what that fight is.” Turning to the political situation, Senator Cruz forcefully noted that “Jerusalem is the holy and eternal capital of Israel” and lamented the turn of events in the Middle East, in which Hamas and other Palestinian groups murder Jews, while Abbas’ Fatah/PA celebrates and justifies their acts. Senator Cruz especially commended the fight ZOA is waging to inform the world about the truth of the Arab war on Israel, saying, “If there is one principle ZOA is committed to, it is the principle that the truth has real power. There is no equivalence between Jews being murdered and Palestinians being killed as a result of Israeli action in dealing with terrorism.”
“Today, the threats to Israel have never been greater. We need leaders who will act decisively to strengthen the unshakable alliance with the nation of Israel. To this end, I pursue a tripartite strategy. First, I work towards all that we can achieve on a bipartisan basis, such as legislation to bar entry to the United States of the proposed Iranian ambassador to the United Nations, which passed the Senate by a vote of 100 to 0 and the House by a vote of 435 to 0. A known terrorist cannot simply live in Manhattan. I also pushed for legislation offering a $5 million reward for the capture of terrorists who have murdered American nationals, which also passed the Senate by 100 to 0. When President Obama banned flights to Israel, I spoke up about this obviously hostile decision, given that we don’t stop flights – even to the Ukraine, where a passenger plan was actually shot down.”
“Second, I look at our overall direction with regard to Iran, where we are on the verge of a very bad deal and historic mistake on its nuclear program. We should not only reimpose sanctions on Iran, but strengthen them — and make it clear that unless Iran dismantles all 19,000 centrifuges, hands over every pound it has ever produced of enriched uranium, terminates its ICBM program — a program which can only exist to deliver a nuclear warhead to Israel or the U.S., and ceases being a state sponsor of terrorism, we do not have a deal.
“Instead, under President Obama, we repeat the mistakes we made with North Korea, even employ the same official from that debacle, Wendy Sherman, to negotiate another bad deal. This will lead to a situation in which there is no deterrence on the mullahs in Tehran. And the most significant thing about the ‘chickens..t’ episode is not the hostile comments about the Israeli Prime Minister but that the official involved was crowing that the Administration had delayed Israel from acting Iran.”
“Third, I believe strongly in telling the story. Why do we fight? My father came here from Cuba 57 years ago with only the clothes on his back and $100 in his pocket. He worked for 50 cents an hour and saved to open his own business and fulfill the American dream. He said that when he had to flee, he had somewhere to go to live a free life. But if we lose our liberties here, where will we go? In this battle, ZOA tells the truth all time.”
Mort Klein introduced global philanthropists Sheldon and Dr. Miriam Adelson, paying particular tribute to Miri Adelson’s work with drug addiction and Holocaust issues. Dr. Adelson, for her part, spoke of the indelible impression Pastor John Hagee left upon her at their first meeting through his inspiring oratory: “I fell in love with this inspiring lover of Israel, the most effective Christian Zionist in the world.”
Pastor John Hagee, pastor of the mega-church Cornerstone Church in San Antonio, Texas, which has 20,000 active members, and President and CEO of John Hagee Ministries, which telecasts his national radio and television ministry, (carried in the United States on 10 networks, including 62 high-power stations broadcast to more than 150 million households) received the Adelson Defender of Israel Award for his consistent and pioneering work in mobilizing the Christian Zionist movement in America. He opened by saying how deeply humbled he was to receive this honor, because he considers the Adelsons to be some of the greatest people for what they do for Jews, and indeed for the wider world with their incredible philanthropic projects. Pastor Hagee then thanked Mort Klein for what he has done to make ZOA such a vibrant and productive organization.
Pastor Hagee spoke of CUFI, which is now 33 years old and at 2 million members, the strongest and most powerful pro-Israel organization, now in the process of radically increasing its presence in Washington, D.C. CUFI, he said, is also expanding its efforts to Britain because: “We must win this fight. At CUFI, we don’t bark, we bite. Whenever we don’t like what a legislator says or does, 1.8 million members can send a deluge of emails and letters to get our view across where it matters.”
Turning to the international scene, Pastor Hagee said that President Obama is anxious to accommodate Iran. “Our Executive branch is in the hands of one of the most anti-Israel presidents in the history of Israel … President Obama speaks of the ‘unbreakable’ bonds that bind the U.S. and Israel – and he knows they are unbreakable because he’s been trying to break them for over five years.”
The Pastor continued, “The disgusting verbal attack on Prime Minister Netanyahu from within this Administration is unprecedented. Had this ‘chickens..t” comment been said of Mahmoud Abbas or Iranian leadership, it would not have been tolerated. I call upon President Obama to find out who this official is and have him removed from public office … Jerusalem has been the Jewish capital for 3,000 years. Telling Israel what it can and cannot do in Jerusalem is, as President Obama might have put it, is above his pay grade … For Zion’s sake, speak out. Israel’s fight is our fight. Do not be silent. Not to speak is to speak … John Kerry, your efforts to win the Noble Prize at Israel’s expense have failed. Now is the time to cut off all aid to the Palestinians … ZOA is the only major pro-Israel organization that said – at the time – that Oslo would not bring either peace or security to Israel. It’s time for the PA to embrace peace, not Hamas.”
Widely known Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, named as one of the top ten influential Rabbis in America by Newsweek magazine, delivered the D’var Torah for the night.
Renowned Cantor Malovany of Fifth Avenue Synagogue sang the American and Israel national anthems.
This year’s ZOA Dinner would not have been possible without the hard work of Howard Katzoff, David Drimer, Kathy Branch, Phyllis Meiner, Enid Roman, Harriet Bachmann, Paul Basisty, Felice Capustin, Zach Stern, Debra Benjamin, Susan Tuchman, Josh Teplow and Devorah Yarmush. The Dinner Chairs were Bernie Marcus and Cherna Moskowitz.