Both personally, and on behalf of the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), I wish to join many others throughout the world in mourning the passing of Elie Wiesel last week. I must also add that, as someone who knew and often spoke with Elie Wiesel, I am certain that he would also have wanted us to do something more than mourn for him. Elie Wiesel would have wanted us to continue and finish his life’s final major effort: stopping Iran’s nuclear and genocidal threat to everyone living in the Jewish homeland, Israel, and in his adopted home in America.
The best way we could honor Professor Wiesel’s final mission is to urge Congress to pass pending bills to sanction Iran for Iran’s ballistic missile tests in violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 2231, Iran deal violations, continued support of terrorism, and human rights violations. Congress might also wish to consider renaming such sanctions legislation in Elie Wiesel’s honor.
Just 70 years ago, Elie Wiesel was a witness to the murder of six million Jews – half of the world’s Jewish population. On March 3rd of last year, I sat next to Dr. Miri and Sheldon Adelson in a packed Senate auditorium a few feet away from an extremely frail Professor Wiesel, watching him muster his last ounce of strength to speak out against the pending Iran deal. Professor Wiesel recounted how in the late 1940s, after the horrors of the Holocaust, he thought that anti-Semitism would be extinguished: “We thought anti-Semitism is so disqualified, so discarded that no one would dare be an anti-Semite afterwards.” Today, he noted, hatred of Israel is anti-Semitism. (See Video: “Sen. Ted Cruz Speaks with Elie Wiesel About Stopping a Nuclear Iran”)
Specifically regarding the Iran deal, Professor Wiesel explained:
“Again, I’m concerned. Because, I learned to rely not only on the promises of our friends, but upon the threats of our enemies; which means if the enemies make threats, take them seriously.”
Elie Wiesel also wrote and published full-page advertisements in major newspapers opposing the Iran deal and urging Congress to strengthen sanctions. In one of those ads, Elie Wiesel wrote:
“If there is one lesson I hope the world has learned from the past it is that regimes rooted in brutality must never be trusted. And the words and actions of the leadership of Iran leave no doubt as to their intentions.
Should the civilized nations of the world trust a regime whose supreme leader said yet again last month that Israel is “doomed to annihilation,” and referred to my fellow Jewish Zionists as “rabid dogs?” . . .
Should we who believe in the United States trust a regime whose parliament last month erupted in “Death to America” chants as they commemorated the 34th anniversary of the storming of our Embassy in Tehran?
Should we who believe in life trust a regime whom our own State Department lists as one of the world’s foremost sponsors of terrorism?
. . . From the time of the founding fathers America has always stood up to tyrants. Our nation is morally compromised when it contemplates allowing a country calling for the destruction of the State of Israel to remain within reach of nuclear weapons.
I appeal to President Obama and Congress to demand, as a condition of continued talks, the total dismantling of Iran’s nuclear infrastructure and the regime’s public and complete repudiation of all genocidal intent against Israel. And I appeal to the leaders of the United States Senate to go forward with their vote to strengthen sanctions against Iran until these conditions have been met.”
Nobel Peace Laureate
Our worst fears about the outcome of the Iran deal, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (“JCPOA”) are being realized. In the wake of Iran’s windfalls from the JCPOA ($150 billion of unfrozen assets plus at least $50 billion per year in new business), Iran has been spending billions on advanced Russian anti-aircraft systems and warplanes, and has increased its support of terrorist organizations. A rocket fired by Iran-supported Hamas hit an Israeli kindergarten/pre-school early this month (on July 1).
The JCPOA has facilitated Iran’s progress towards a nuclear weapon, and Iran continues to demonstrate that it is not serious about giving up its pursuit of nuclear weapons. In March 2016, Iran launched two Qadr ballistic missiles with a range of more than 1,000 miles, marked in Hebrew and Farsi with the words: “Israel must be wiped off the map.” Iran modified its reporting to the IAEA; the March 2016 IAEA report lacks critical information, including inventories of Iran’s enriched nuclear materials and equipment, and the status of key sites and facilities, making it impossible to verify whether Iran complied with the enriched uranium limitations, centrifuge limitations and other JCPOA requirements. Iran has been allowed to conduct inspections of sites using samples Iran collects itself, and bars inspections on military bases. The JCPOA enables Iran to postpone inspections at least 24 days – a far cry from the “anytime, anywhere” inspections that the U.S. administration had promised the American people. An emboldened Iran also captured American sailors engaged in innocent passage and mistreated them in violation of international law; continues to hold an American hostage, Robert Levinson; and continues to declare “Death to America” and “Death to Israel.”
Thus the best way to honor Elie Wiesel’s final life’s work would be for Congress to move forward with passing legislation such as the following:
- “Iran Ballistic Missile Sanctions Act of 2016,” introduced in the Senate as S. 2725 by Sen. Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), and introduced in the House as H.R. 4815 by Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-KS), to impose additional sanctions on Iran due to its ballistic missile tests in violation of UN Security Council Resolution 2231;
- “Iran Terrorism and Human Rights Sanctions Act of 2016,” S. 2726, introduced by Sen. Mark Kirk (R-IL), to impose additional sanctions on Iran due to its continued support of Islamic terrorism and human rights violations within Iran, including persecution of gays, and murder and imprisonment of political opponents and religious and ethnic minorities; and
- “United States Financial System Protection Act of 2016,” H.R. 4992, introduced by Rep. Ed Royce (R-CA), and “No Dollars for Iran Act,” H.R. 4898, introduced by Rep. David Trott (R-MI), to prevent the Department of the Treasury from allowing U.S. dollar transactions outside of the United States financial system involving Iran. Without convertible U.S. currency, the business opportunities for European companies will be far less profitable.
Morton A. Klein is the President of the Zionist Organization of America.