he Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) issued the following statement today: Anti-Defamation League (ADL) leader Abe Foxman’s and Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) president Rick Jacobs’ shameful condemnation of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu for accepting the invitation to speak to a joint session of Congress about the Iranian nuclear threat to Jews and the United States is reminiscent of establishment Jewish leaders’ condemnation of Peter Bergson and Ben Hecht for trying to speak to Congress in the 1930s-1940s about the Nazi threat to Europe’s Jews.The most prominent Jewish leader of the WWII era, Reform Rabbi Stephen S. Wise, and his colleagues urged the Roosevelt administration and Congress not to listen to brave Jewish leaders such as distinguished screenwriter Ben Hecht and activist Peter Bergson (a/k/a Hillel Kook) and their Bergson group, who were trying to publicize and stop the Nazi massacres of European Jews. Rabbi Wise demonized Bergson and Hecht, demanded that Bergson and Hecht stop their activities on behalf of European Jews, demanded that Jews should “not make an issue” out of the Nazi massacres, and demonized Bergson and Hecht. Rabbi Wise and Nahum Goldmann stated that the Bergson group “did not represent the Jews” and told the U.S. State Department that Bergson and Hecht were as “big a threat as Hitler to the well-being of American Jewry.”The parallels to the certain Jewish leaders’ statements today in the face of the Iranian nuclear threat are downright eerie.Prime Minister Netanyahu will be addressing Congress about the serious, frightening imminent danger of Iran’s nuclear weapons capabilities – which threaten Israel with extermination and endanger much of the rest of the world. This is such an urgent and life-threatening issue – to both Israel and America – that every Jewish leader should be urging all members of Congress to attend the Israeli Prime Minister’s speech. Instead, Foxman and Jacobs are pressuring Netanyahu to cancel his speech. URJ’s Rick Jacobs even called PM Netanyahu’s speech a “bad idea” and “ill advised.”
Likewise in the 1930s-1940s, every Jewish leader should have done his utmost to help European Jewry. When the Bergson group urged Congress to lift the quotas that prevented European Jews from escaping to the U.S., every Jewish group and leader should have supported these efforts. Instead, groups such as the American Jewish Committee sought to have Peter Bergson deported, sought to have the Bergson group investigated by the IRS, and opposed the Bergson group’s efforts to lift U.S. quotas.
It is intolerable that leaders such as the ADL’s Foxman and URJ’s Jacobs have not learned from history. Their opposition to PM Netanyahu’s address to Congress weakens the prospect that the U.S. will take the actions needed to stop the Iranian nuclear weapons threat.
Former Israeli PM Menachem Begin proclaimed the lessons of the Holocaust are:
“First, if an enemy of our people says he seeks to destroy us, believe him. Don’t doubt him for a moment. Don’t make light of it. Do all in your power to deny him the means of carrying out his satanic intent. Second when a Jew anywhere in the world is threatened or under attack, do all in your power to come to his aid. Never pause to wonder what the world will think or say. The world will never pity slaughtered Jews. The world may not necessarily like the fighting Jew, but the world will have to take account of him. Third, a Jew must learn to defend himself. He must forever be prepared for whenever threat looms.”
ZOA National President Morton Klein stated:
“We cannot afford to again act like the Jewish leaders of the 1930’s-1940s who opposed life-saving efforts to save their European brothers and sisters from extermination. The ZOA begs fellow Jewish leaders to join with the ZOA in a unified effort to support Prime Minister Netanyahu’s address before Congress, and to support ensuing efforts to impose sanctions and all other necessary steps to stop the existential threat to Israel, America, and the entire world posed by Iranian nuclear weapons.”