Hundreds of activists from 21 states across the country, from California to Ohio, to New York, Pennsylvania and Florida and many more, participated in the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA)’s Annual Advocacy Mission to Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, May 11, 2015. Meeting with almost 100 Members of Congress or their legislative staffers, ZOA activists urged them to:
1) Support S. 2725 (Iran Ballistic Missiles Sanctions Act of 2016) and H.R. 4815 (Iran Ballistic Missile Sanctions Act of 2016) which would impose additional sanctions on Iran due to its ballistic missile tests in clear violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231, passed in 2015; and S. 2726 (Iran Terrorism & Human Rights Sanctions Act of 2016) which would impose additional sanctions on Iran due to its continued support of Islamic terrorism and human rights violations; and H.R. 4992 (No Dollars for Iran Act) which would prevent the Department of Treasury from allowing US dollar transactions outside the U.S. financial system involving Iran;
2) Stop U.S. financial aid to the Palestinian Authority (PA) if, within six months, it does not fulfill its Oslo commitments, especially with regard to ceasing the promoting of hated and violence and against Jews; demand that the State Department enforce existing U.S. law and reduce funding to the PA in proportion to the extent of its outlays on terrorism and support for terrorists sand their families; cut all funding to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) for admitting ‘Palestine’ as a member;
3) Urge President Barack Obama to veto hostile anti-Israel United Nations Security Council resolutions and enact legislation to suspend funding for the UN in the event that it enacts security Council Resolutions in violation of international law.
At the ZOA’s packed Congressional Luncheon, held prior to the congressional meetings in the sumptuous Kennedy Room in the Russell Senate Office Building on Constitution Ave, ZOA activists were joined at the luncheon and addressed by numerous Democratic and Republican U.S. Senators and House Members, preceded by a surprise appearance from former Member of Congress, Colonel Allan West (R–FL).
Colonel West, who served in Iraq in 2003 and in Afghanistan in 2005, reminisced about his 2011 visit to Israel, including a visit to the Knesset in Jerusalem and meeting with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who warned against withdrawing all American military forces from Iraq because of the vacuum that would be filled by jihadists who will pose a global threat. Colonel West said that the U.S. military is capable of handling any mission asked of it, providing it is given the requisite resources and direction, but President Obama, governed by ideology rather than facts on the ground, had decided to build up Iran as a regional power and hegemon via the Iran nuclear deal, as Ben Rhodes, one of Obama’s foreign policy advisers has now admitted, was based on lies. Now Iran would be purchasing new tanks, fighter aircraft and S-300 anti-aircraft missiles (with $150 billion this catastrophic nuclear deal provided Iran), which will give Iran’s Quds Force and Hezbollah the cover to operate against Israel. “We need ZOA to put pressure on Members of Congress to fight this Iran deal … our children and grand-children will judge us on what we are doing now.”
Introducing the legislators, ZOA National President Morton A. Klein observed that “the Middle East Quartet would soon be issuing a report that is anticipated to be harshly critical of Jewish residence in Judea/Samaria, that the ZOA is fighting to make it clear that Jewish residence in the territories is entirely legal; that in any case no new Jewish communities have been established since 1993; that construction has occurred entirely within their existing boundaries which encompass a mere 2% of Judea/Samaria and that Israel neither occupies Palestinians (98% of whom now live under Palestinian Arab rule) and the land, which is unallocated under international law, does not belong to another legal sovereign, and to which Jews have a well-established right under international law.” Klein also warned against admitting Syrian refugees, noting that senior Obama Administration officials have admitted that they lack the means to vet them for purposes of security. “If the refugees were Buddhist or Hindus, we wouldn’t have any concerns, but with radical Islam rife in the Arab world, we do have concerns for our safety and security here in the U.S., given that ISIS are making phony passports to infiltrate refugee populations and, given the attacks upon Jews by large Muslim communities in Europe. Our Torah does not require us to bring people who are hostile to Jews and America; quite the opposite.” He also noted, that, against expectations, Israel is ranking among the highest nations in the world in the World Happiness Report. He noted that G-d’s promise that Israel will be an eternal people and that “G-d, unlike politicians –– with all due respect to those in this room –– keeps his promises.”
Sen. Ben Cardin (D–MD), the Ranking Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, spoke of his twentieth visit to Israel a few weeks earlier, and his talks with Prime Minister Netanyahu and with other regional leaders in Qatar and Saudi Arabia and remarked on the changes in the region that have resulted in some unlikely cooperation between Israel and several Sunni Arab states. Senator Cardin spoke of the special relationship between Israel and the U.S. which has endured since President Truman, despite the disapproval of the State Department, extending recognition to the state of Israel within a quarter of an hour of its establishment. He spoke of the impact of BDS has on the rise of anti-Semitism in America and to a much more pronounced degree in Europe. “We must speak out and oppose BDS as there is simply no justification for it … we must make it clear that we will not have trade with those countries that support BDS against Israel. We must say to our friends and allies, ‘Don’t try to delegitimize Israel.’ Speaking of the U.S. political scene, Senator Cardin said that support for Israel must remain bipartisan and that “we must never let Israel become a political wedge issue. I thank Mort and ZOA for being here and making a difference.”
Sen. Tom Cotton (R–AK) described the Iran deal as a “notorious compromise,” which it is incumbent on all of us to fight. He thanked Mort Klein and ZOA, saying he was “grateful” for their sustained work opposing this dangerous deal. He reflected on Israel’s history, how the major challenges it faces have altered from conventional military wars to non-conventional terror wars and that Israel is now facing a new, third era of warfare in the form of BDS which he had introduced legislation to overturn. Reflecting on the common Judeo-Christian basis of both nations, Senator Cotton said, “that as long as the New Israel and Old Israel stand together, no-one will defeat our two nations.”
Rep. Ed Royce (R–CA), Chairman of House Foreign Affairs Committee, noted that 20,000 Israelis have lost their lives in war since 1948 and had there been a state of Israel existing before 1948, hundreds of thousands, perhaps millions of Jews would have been saved. He also spoke of the recent Iran nuclear agreement, observing that the Ayatollahs deny the Holocaust, while seeking to enact a new one. Rep. Royce also recounted the story of his visit to Ramallah and his questioning of PA leader Mahmoud Abbas on his previous acts of Holocaust denial, asking him if he still maintains the position that the Holocaust never occurred. Abbas, he said, replied evasively, saying, ‘Regardless of what happened then, doesn’t excuse what’s happening now.’ Rep. Royce observed that the campaign of hatred against Israel within the PA is part of a program preparing Palestinians from school-age onward, to hate. Noticing the official PA map of the region hanging in the background, Rep. Royce said that he further asked Abbas, ‘Where’s Israel on your map?’ In his view, the U.S., by indulging the PA has sacrificed leverage to pressure the PA to mend its ways., when we should be insisting that it change their school textbooks and educate its youth for pluralism and tolerance, instead of war and hate. Addressing the Iranian threat to Israel, Rep. Royce said that Iran is producing for Hezbollah GPS-capable rockets and recounted his earlier visit to Israel in which he had seen 600 trauma victims in Israeli wards as a result of missile assaults on the country with Iranian-made missiles. He noted that we, in the U.S., are also threatened by Iranian missile development. He was also critical of the way the Obama Administration has squandered American prestige and reliability in the Middle East, noting that “when you enforce your red lines, you don’t have to keep talking about them.”
Rep. Elliot Engel (D–NY), Ranking Member of House Foreign Affairs Committee, spoke next and expressed his appreciation for all that Mort and the ZOA does in support of Israel and the U.S./Israel relationship. Noting that he was one of only 25 Democrats in the House to vote against the Iran nuclear deal, Rep. Engel said that he was now working to ensure that Israel receives all the necessary arms it requires for future defense under the new Memorandum of Understanding now being negotiated, while noting that the U.S. obtained enormous advantages from its defense and security relationship with Israel.
Sen. Cory Gardner (R–CO), a Member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, spoke out strongly against the Iran nuclear deal, how it had been presented and sold to the American people, and criticized Secretary Kerry for traveling to Europe, urging European nations to do business with Iran and, therefore, enrich this most dangerous enemy of the U.S., while “leaving the U.S. and Israel to hold the bag.” He found it all the more remarkable that the Obama Administration was doing this, having openly admitted that it had misled the American public on the contours of the Iran deal, as well as having openly admitted that it did not expect Iran to change its ways by ceasing support for terrorism or Israel’s destruction. “There should be one less person named Ben Rhodes working for the U.S. government.” Senator Gardner commended the ZOA for fighting hard on this issue and urged it “to make our voice heard.”
Sen. John Boozman (R–AR) said his own support for Israel was unwavering, “Look at my voting record –– I’m 100% on Israel. You can count on me in the future.” He also praised ZOA’s for its campaign to educate the Congress and U.S. public saying that it should never underestimate the importance of what ZOA being here achieves.
Rep. Brad Sherman (D–CA), who Mort Klein introduced saying how much he had enjoyed attending Brad Sherman’s wedding in Malibu, California, has served over twenty years on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said of the Iran nuclear deal that “we must vote it down” and that it is not properly speaking even an agreement, as it was never signed, but merely a “handshake.” He looked forward to the day that a more assertive America would tell Iran, ‘No, you cannot have unlimited centrifuges. No, you can’t have nuclear processing.’ As for the lifting on nuclear restrictions on Iran after a decade, Rep. Sherman queried, ‘What about restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program? Shouldn’t they be permanent? He also noted North Korea’s continued, gradual build-up on nuclear missiles which can be sold to anyone it chooses, asking rhetorically with an indirect allusion to Iran’s anticipated financial windfall from the lifting of international sanctions, ‘Do you know someone who has a spare hundreds of millions of dollars?’ As for BDS, Rep. Sherman said that “We can’t maintain normal, true relations with countries that boycott and discriminate against Israel.” Noting the discriminatory aspect of BDS, Rep. Sherman noted that he supported “the State Department definition of anti-Semitism because my wife wrote it.” He also called for the U.S. embassy in Israel to be moved to Jerusalem.
Rep. Brendon Boyle (D-PA) spoke out strongly against the campaign of Boycott, Investment, Sanctions (BDS) which seeks to delegitimize Israel for the purpose of working for its international ostracism and eventual destruction. He observed its prominent use of analogizing Israel to Apartheid-era South Africa is “wrong, repugnant and anti-Semitic. Let’s call things as they are.” He also observed that “the country in the Middle East that provides the most academic freedom is the precise one that BDS targets.” He said the the BDS campaign is stronger today than it was last year and significantly stronger still in Europe and that he has co-sponsored a resolution opposing BDS and ensuring that any company that engages in BDS is not invested in by the large, multi-billion dollar state retirement program. While proud of America’s historic role in the creation of the United Nations, Rep. Boyle said he was increasingly disturbed by the way the UN has been used and abused as a forum for bashing Israel.
Rep. Juan Vargas (D–CA) proudly noted that he has been the first Democratic Member of Congress to come out in opposition to the Iran nuclear deal, noting that Iran had a clear path to nuclear weapons and that he could not agree with those who argued that this agreement would serve to stop Iran reaching the nuclear threshold. He also spoke with concern for the future of Democratic support for Israel, urging ZOA and other Jewish groups to take note of the changing demographics in America and make outreach to Latinos and African-Americans a major part of their efforts going forward in order to ensure that support for Israel in America remained bipartisan and broad-based.
Rep. Steve King (R–IA) said that he “had never been for the two-state solution” because the “Palestinians don’t want peace with Israel, they want to annihilate Israel.” On the Iran nuclear deal, he described Prime Minister Netanyahu’s address to Congress last year on the subject to be “the most compelling speech he has heard in that chamber,” which explained in detail the defects of the then-imminent agreement, that the deal is “unconstitutional” and that “we won’t change it until we get new president willing to tear it up.” Rep. King recommended cyber warfare against ISIS, educational warfare to block the transmission of hateful jihadist ideologies to the next generation, expanding human intelligence in the Middle East, and extending greater assistance to the Kurds fighting them.
Rep. Lee Zeldin (R–NY) joked that he is the “lowest ranking Jewish Republican in Congress –– and also the highest ranking Jewish Republican in Congress.” He spoke of President Obama acting as though he doesn’t understand that our enemy doesn’t respect weakness. He noted that Secretary of State Kerry admitted that he hadn’t even read the side agreement of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) and Iran. He noted that growing up he had once assumed that perhaps he was of the first generation to live in a world without anti-Semitism, only that recent events have now shown the period of his youth to have been a short-lived golden age.
Rep John Fleming (R–LA) described himself as a “strong, ardent friend of Israel” who had visited it extensively, including Judea/Samaria who opposes “the Iran deal for one reason: I don’t trust this Administration.” With the revelations of public lying about the deal during negotiations in order to achieve the deal, he said that his skepticism has been shown to be “well-founded.” Rep. Fleming supports using a U.S. veto at the UN Security Council with regard to any anti-Israel resolutions that might be proposed.
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R–FL) also spoke about the dangers of the Iran deal and the foreign policy of the Obama Administration, which he said pressures U.S. allies while making concessions to U.S. enemies. Of the Iran leadership, he said that “they are evil –– I don’t care if you want to call them ‘moderates’ they want to destroy Israel and murder our people. A lot of us here on Capitol Hill are not confused about this and we will not stop fighting the Iran deal.”
Rep. Ron DeSantis (R–FL), now a candidate for the Senate, sympathized with Israel’s security situation, remarking that, if someone in the Bahamas starting firing missiles into Fort Lauderdale, “we’d tolerate that for about 10 seconds … we’d send in the marines, yet, whenever this actually happens to Israel, the UN blames Israel.” He described the Iran nuclear deal as a “catastrophe” and the BDS movement as “a total fraud” for targeting with boycott and ostracism “the Middle East’s only democracy. This is a movement rooted in blatant anti-Semitism. we need to serve notice to anyone who wins the BDS movement that, if you start boycotting Israel, we’ll start boycotting you.” Rep. DeSantis called for the Muslim Brotherhood to be listed as a foreign terrorist organization and for the next administration to move the U.S. embassy in Israel to Jerusalem, both of which would signal that the U.S. is back, and ready to stand by Israel and all its other allies that share its values through thick and thin.
Rep. Robert Aderholt (R–AL) issued a call for President Obama to commit to vetoing any United Nations Security Council resolution that is hostile to Israel. He criticized the Iran nuclear deal with particular emphasis on the question of whether the Obama administration was being forthright regarding its statements that it was not permitting Iran access to U.S. currency. Speaking of the shared values and convictions that lead him to support Israel, Rep. Aderholt noted that “we aren’t covered with Jews in Alabama, we love the Jewish people. G-d bless you, Israel and the United States of America.”
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R–TX) spoke of the need to have Republican presidential presumptive candidate Donald Trump outline in detail his policy towards Israel and the Palestinians saying, “his book the Art of the Deal makes clear that , before you can have my support, you have to tell me what I need to know before I can get behind you.” He also noted that he was the only Member of Congress of either party to have met recently with the Egyptian intelligence head and these discussions and others had clarified to him the many ways in which the Iran deal was bad for all of America’s Middle East allies.
Sen. Ron Johnson (R–WI) also attended, but had to leave before he had an opportunity to address the luncheon.
Morton 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 such a success. Kudos was also expressed to Steve Feldman, executive director of Philadelphia’s Mid-Atlantic region and Sharona Whisler, executive director the Florida region, for bringing the largest number of people to the Mission. Large numbers of people had to be turned away due to lack of space.