Hundreds of activists from 18 states across the country, from California to New York, participated in the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA)’s Annual Advocacy Mission to Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, May 9, 2018. Meeting with almost 100 Members of Congress or their legislative staffers, ZOA activists:
- Urged lawmakers to impose new sanctions on Iran while strengthening existing ones targeting those involved in Iran’s ballistic missile development program, including Iranian government agencies, as well as any foreign entities involved in Iran’s ballistic missile development, and also targeting the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps and its business affiliates; make a credible option of the use of military force against Iran in the event that Tehran does not fully and verifiably dismantle its nuclear weapons program, since such an option is essential in pressuring Iran to terminate it; actively engage in discussion of legislation authorizing the use of force and related military activities if necessary; and to support any Israeli military action, should Israel deem such action necessary for the purposes of self-defense.
2) Sought to educate lawmakers about the right of Jews to live in Judea and Samaria; urged them to cease using the term ‘West Bank’ in reference to Judea and Samaria, the term ‘West Bank’ being not only anachronistic (the name was used by Jordan during its illegal occupation of the territory during 1948-67), but obscuring the fact that the Jews are indigenous to this land (the contraction ‘Jews’ stemming from having come from Judea) which is biblically, historically and religiously Jewish. Further, this land was earmarked at the 1920 San Remo Conference for Jewish settlement, a right that has never been extinguished and Israel thus possessing a better claim in international law to this land the any other party.
At the ZOA’s packed 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 US Senators and House Members, who addressed the gathered ZOA activists.
Addressing the ZOA Luncheon, ZOA National President Morton A. Klein emphasized the little-known fact that almost all Palestinian Arabs in the territories of Judea/Samaria actually live under Palestinian Arab control, not under Israeli administration. He also reflected personally on heading the ZOA for decades, noting that in his previous career in government health policy and medical research with two time Nobel laureate Linus Pauling he was “always praised for my work. Now, however, since working in the pro-Israel area, I get criticism. Hubert Humphrey told me that if you’re not criticized, you’ve really done nothing .… It’s a privilege to be with all of you today. If activists like you had existed in the 1930s, history could have been different.… Last week, the Jerusalem Post had an article about how the ZOA is the only organization to take positions in Israel’s defense that other organizations do not. The ADL, for example, refused to say a word against journalist Geraldo Rivera when he said he supported the terror war against Israel. I begged ADL to join us in speaking out against Geraldo’s statement. They didn’t do it. It’s truly a miracle how Israel has developed over the past 70 years – enough to make you believe in Hashem. And this has been an extraordinary week –– President Trump ended the catastrophic Iran deal, and in a few days, President Trump will be fulfilling his campaign pledge to move the US Embassy to Jerusalem. The ZOA was in significant part responsible for the legislation that led to this. Back in the mid-1990s, I spoke with Sen Jon Kyl, the most pro-Israel Senator at that time who put together the legislation with Newt Gingrich. AIPAC would not touch the Jerusalem embassy legislation. However, Senator Feinstein placed the waiver provision in the bill, enabling presidents not to fulfill its provisions on national security grounds. But Senator Dole said on the Senate floor that the waiver clause is only for a genuinely serious emergency security issue, and should not be used for any other purpose. At the hearing [in November 2017], I spoke about this waiver, and explained it was only supposed to be for emergency use. We were the only one raising this issue. Congress Members did not know the history and limited intent of the waiver provision. I also testified that moving the embassy helps rather than hinders peace. After all, the 22 years of delay in moving the embassy did not bring us closer to peace. Besides, Jerusalem is not holy to Muslims. Mecca and Medina are their holy cities. For those of you who have read the Quran (actually, you should be reading the Torah), the Quran says that Muhammed had a dream of flying from a mosque to heaven –– a dream; it was not a real event; and there were no mosques in Jerusalem at the time, so it could not have been from Jerusalem.”
Turning to the Iranian nuclear deal, Klein noted that former President Obama had given $150 billion to the Iranians up-front. “He knew he was helping a radical terrorist group committed to destroying Israel and the US. The Iran deal allows Iran to get nukes legally within about 10-15 years, now 7-10 years. Iran has also been developing inter-continental ballistic missiles.”
At this point, numerous legislators from both the Senate and the House of Representatives, as well as some leading experts on Middle east-related issues, addressed the Mission: A Sampling.
Congressman Glenn Grothman (R-WI): “I’m honored to be here. We are always facing challenges. Elections in Lebanon, the dangerous situations with Syria and Iran. The biggest challenge is the internal challenge faced by all Western countries that believe in freedom and the rule of law: self-doubt and dislike of one’s Western heritage, which also has consequences in how those countries perceive Israel. Anti-Americanism will create dislike for Israel. The Israel-US special relationship is so important today, given especially the missile threats posed by Iran and North Korea. People shouldn’t be ashamed of supporting Israel and America. Instead of feeling that we have enjoyed success because we’ve been blessed by G-d, they believe we got where we are by taking advantage of other people. So, in a way, the greatest threat to the US and Israel is the internal threat, the feeling of being embarrassed by your country, that your gifts were stolen from other people.”
Congressman Ron Estes (R-KS) spoke of the work of the House Homeland Security Committee which, among other things, works to protect allies like Israel. Noting “what a difference a year and a half makes,” the Congressman observed that while former President Obama had abstained and permitted passage of a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israel and falsely claiming all land beyond the 1949 armistice lines are “Palestinian lands,” today President Trump’s Ambassador to the UN Nikki Haley was standing up for Israel within the halls of the United Nations. “It is never the wrong time to do the right thing.”
Congressman Lee Zeldin (R–NY) praised the ZOA’s Klein saying, “Mort Klein is such an amazing stalwart champion of your cause every day, with a message that gets heard all across the United States and elsewhere. I’ve seen him in the foxhole, taking incoming fire from every direction, but if you want to fight for Israel, you do it. If you’re in a foxhole, you want Mort Klein there with you …. My family history with ZOA goes back to when [Justice Louis] Brandeis was president of ZOA …. I’m making the trip to Israel for a historic announcement on Monday [opening the US embassy in Jerusalem]. President Trump is not just fulfilling a campaign promise he made, and that other presidents made. Jerusalem is the unquestionable, undivided capital of the Jewish state of Israel. We witnessed a little bit of history firsthand yesterday. We will witness more at 2:00 AM tonight, when Secretary of State Pompeo returns from North Korea with three American prisoners.” Speaking of Mike Pompeo’s appointment as Secretary of state and John Bolton as National Security Adviser, Zeldin said, “We have a lot of work ahead of us, but we have a lot to celebrate. We have to correct mistakes of past administrations while we can …. Bolton is the kind of guy that when you come in as president on the first day, John can give you the best course of action as to each possible method of dealing with Iran. Adversaries respect strength, not weakness. We never send our troops in harm’s way unless we have a strategy to win. These are the principles of the team Trump has surrounded himself with. At past ZOA luncheons, we spoke about how America was being set back. Now we are here to celebrate progress. Things are different this year.”
Senator Ben Cardin (D–MD), Ranking Democrat, Senate Foreign Relations Committee, addressed the luncheon, saying, “It’s wonderful to have ZOA back with us. So many of the national ZOA leaders came out of Maryland. Thank you for your extraordinary relationship. There has been 70 years of a relationship between the US and Israel, when Harry Truman made the decision to recognize Israel against the advice of his State Department …. This relationship is vitally important to the United States. I want to applaud ZOA for maintaining that relationship. We got full support in Congress for the Memorandum of Understanding for maintaining high levels of defense cooperation. It’s not a heavy lift to get this support, due to broad Congressional support for Israel. Support for foreign aid to Israel was the driving force for other foreign aid …. We are working hard on anti-BDS legislation. Cardin-Portman got together to pass an anti-BDS provision in the trade bill. Forty years ago, we got the anti-Arab boycott bill passed that said Israel will not be bullied. A new development is the UN Human Right Council, which has recently been trying to stop companies from doing business with Israel. We are close to the finish line in getting this bill done …. While I didn’t support the abrogation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action [JCPOA –– the 2015 Iran nuclear deal], I believe we must focus on the bad guy, Iran. Unrelated to the nuclear deal, Iran is a direct threat to Israel. Israel needs to know that this threat is being countered in Congress.”
Congressman Ron DeSantis (R–FL), who is co-chair of the Israel Victory Caucus, was introduced by ZOA’s Klein, who referred to the important hearings DeSantis had held on moving the US Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. DeSantis said, “It’s great to be here when we are days away from an American embassy in Jerusalem, and a day after the announcement decertifying the Iran deal. The Iran deal was ratified by the Senate when? Oh, never. A majority of both houses opposed the Iran deal. President Trump is under no obligation to continue the deal when Iran continues developing missiles, and funding Hezbollah. The way you deal with the world’s leading sponsor of terrorism, that says death to Israel, is not to keep giving them concessions, but to oppose them and pressure them. I organized a Congressional letter to the President when he came into office with 101 signatures urging him to move the embassy at the earliest possible moment. Moving the embassy is way overdue. It is important to recognize Jerusalem is the eternal indivisible capital of Jewish state of Israel. It shows we are ready to stand by our allies and do what is right.”
Senator Ted Cruz (R–TX) was introduced by Klein as “one of the staunchest supporters of Israel. He understands the Arab war against Israel. He supports the right of Jews to live in Judea & Samaria,” which earned the senator a standing ovation. Senator Cruz, “I am so grateful for the strength, vision, clarity of vision for the men & women here. Mort is standing up and speaking the truth no matter what the blowback, no matter what the repercussions …. I am grateful for ZOA’s clarion voice.” I seek Mort’s advice on all issues relating to Israel.” Turning to recent developments, Senator Cruz said, “What a difference two years makes. To have an administration that doesn’t draw a moral equivalence between Palestinian terrorists killing innocent men, women and children, and the brave IDF soldiers defending them. To have a president that doesn’t refuse to see the Prime Minister of Israel and treat him like a second class citizen …. Yesterday, finally the US pulled out of the catastrophic Iran deal. This deal was a disaster when it was negotiated; it was a disaster when it was signed; it was a disaster every single day it has been in effect. There was a vigorous debate within the Trump Administration about whether to pull out of the deal. I was deeply engaged in those discussions. This agreement, from day one, was designed to fail. The problem was not that Secretary of State John Kerry was an ineffective negotiator. Anyone could look at the deal and see that the outcome was that Iran would get nuclear weapons. First, there’s the 24-day notice for inspections. That’s like giving a drug lord 24 days’ notice to deal with a search warrant ….The provision was obviously designed to escape inspections. But certain sites –– military sites –– are completely exempt. Well, gosh, where do you think the Ayatollah is going to place his nuclear weapons development? And the whole deal sunsets, in seven years, after which whatever Iran wishes to do about nuclear weapons is hunky dory. When the Ayatollah and the mullahs say ‘Death to America’ and ‘Death to Israel,’ I believe them. The reason Obama signed the deal, was because he believed it was fine for Iran to have nuclear weapons …. Any rational defense of America means when you have a theocratic regime, you should assure that they will never, ever get nuclear weapons ….I was emphatically on the side of those urging moving the embassy. Those who said “Don’t move the embassy,” had grand visions of a peace deal, but I believe we will not have peace until the Palestinian leadership recognizes the Jewish state of Israel and renounces terrorism. It is also my belief that the leaders of Arab countries will be relieved, because if we have a president with enough courage to withstand the criticism of the New York Times, then we may have a president strong enough to assure that Iran never gets nuclear weapons….It’s the fourth time I’ve been to Israel in the past 5 years. Those of you who celebrate Passover say “Next year in Jerusalem.” Today I say to you, “Next week in Jerusalem.”
At this point, David Schoen, Esq., a leading criminal lawyer and member of ZOA’s Board, addressed the Mission regarding ZOA efforts to indict the Palestinian Authority in court for its involvement in terrorism leading to the murder of American citizens. Mr. Schoen explained that proving PA/PLO direct involvement in terrorist attacks in the recent Sokolow case had initially resulted in the award of $650 million plus attorney’s fees to be paid by the PA/PLO to American victims of terrorism in Israel, but that the Second Circuit Court had ruled that the court had no jurisdiction over the PA/PLO, because the acts did not occur in the United States. Such a judgment effectively eviscerates the Anti-Terrorism Act and had resulted in 23 Senators and the entire House filing amicus briefs in favor of victims, asking the US Supreme Court to hear the case. In February, Solicitor-General Noel Francisco filed a brief on behalf of the PA/PLO against the victims of terror. The challenge now is to have Congress hold hearings on the subversion of the judicial process by the Solicitor-General, and to insure that the victims receive a just award before any US aid is permitted to be given to the PA. Also, another objective is to ensure that any party that accepts the US government must first sign a waiver of jurisdiction under the Anti-Terrorism Act, ensuring that there is no future difficulty in prosecuting them should a case of involvement in terrorist acts arise. Following Mr. Schoen’s presentation, Klein noted that the ZOA is the only major Jewish organization that has seriously pursued this issue.
Congressman Brian Mast (R–FL), described by Klein as “one of the toughest questioners arguing for the need to move the US embassy to Jerusalem,” observed of the tendency to blame Israel for regional problems that “It doesn’t make sense that the most peaceful country is responsible for lack of peace. ‘Why’ matters. Israel is not fighting out of hatred but to preserve its society and security….Thank you for coming to the Hill. I’m really proud of ZOA, proud of the friends I’ve made at ZOA…. Speaking of friends, we don’t make peace with our enemies. We don’t give our enemies piles of cash. We make peace with our former enemies. Those who call themselves our enemies and behave like enemies we will continue to treat like enemies.”
Congressman Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) devoted some time to the problem of rising anti-Israel sentiment in the Democratic Party, saying, “Here’s what I’m worried about as a Democrat. Israel must be a bipartisan issue. Israel is our key ally in the region, the key democracy, our supporter in terms of military and technology. The relationship is important not just for Israel, but for the US. I will not sign on to anything that is not bipartisan. It is essential to keep Iran in line. I’m on the terrorism financing subcommittee of the Finance Committee, so I see how the money moves. Billions of dollars are moving to fund terror….the march by Iran to the Mediterranean, to build a Shia arc encompassing the states of the eastern Mediterranean, goes against everything we believe and hope for in this room. This issue has become strongly partisan. It should be about our security, and security in the region.…I talk a lot to college students. We are facing a huge sea change on college campuses, where young people are being misled.…You have a strong ally in me. More Democrats need to reach out and explain how important this fight is.”
Congressman Keith Rothfus (R-PA) said, “You hear the chant ‘From the river to the sea, Palestine will be free.’ No! From the river to the sea, Israel will be free. I marvel at the vitality, the youth in Israel. De Toqueville came to our country in the nineteenth century, when it was about 70 years old, and saw something remarkable that people see in Israel today. Israel is causing the desert to bloom. It is a truly remarkable people and ally. We will always stand with Israel. In 1995, the Jerusalem Embassy Act passed. We finally have a president who acted upon it … It is time for Iran to come clean. If it wants to join the community, it has to stop spreading terror across the region, via Hizballah, in Syria, in Yemen, and across the world….I encourage you to keep up with the work that you are doing on behalf of the United States and Israel. G-d bless you, and G-d bless Israel and the United States.”
Congressman Steve King: (R-IA), who is a member of Congressional Israel Victory Caucus, stated, “Israel is just a little older than me. I was in awe of the heroism that hammered out that nation state as I grew up….Any time we can project power, and protect survival of the world in the process, it’s good for America and Western civilization. Judeo-Christian values are central to our nation and to our civilization. Now, if former President Obama was sitting across a chessboard with Vladimir Putin, who do you think would win? If Donald Trump was sitting across a chessboard with Putin, who do you think would win? We don’t know –– Putin is a pretty good chess player. But Trump might knock over the chess board and start with a new set of rules….A little over a year ago, President Trump ordered cruise missiles fired at Syrian bases after the Syrian dictator Assad gassed his own people. A few weeks later, Trump dropped a ‘mother of all bombs’ on ISIS on a hill in Afghanistan. That sent a powerful message to Kim Jong Un. It made him realize that the US doesn’t have to go nuclear to do three times more damage than Hiroshima. Maybe we will now see a denuclearized North Korea. Iran now knows the President isn’t bluffing.…Israel is the land described in the Old Testament and awarded to the Jewish people by G-d, and we here on the Christian side will defend Israel strongly.”
Louie Gohmert (R–TX) recalled his life-long interest in history and his close reading of the careers of past US president, before noting that, “presidents who were supposed to be our best intellectuals were the worst in international relations,” before prophesying that President Trump would be a highly successful foreign policy president. Turning to President Trump’s decertification of the Iran deal, the Congressman said the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) itself had admitted its inability to properly monitor Iran’s nuclear activities, recounting that he had actually asked the IAEA, ‘Can you detect movement of nuclear material in Iran?,’ only to be told, ‘Only if it is moved near our detection equipment’.… Iran continues to spin centrifuges….If Iran was going to develop nukes, Iran is going to do it in the military facilities, which the IAEA is not allowed to inspect….If Iran lives up to the agreement, Iran will have nukes ten years after agreement was signed. It’s the world’s problem.…I looked for a verse in the Bible saying, ‘Those who betray Israel will be blessed,’ but I haven’t found it.…There has never been a time since Israel’s inception, that when Israel has given away land, it wasn’t used as a staging area for attacks on Israel….You know what happened to Gaza. Israel unilaterally gave away Gaza, and has been attacked from there every day.”
Congressmen Mario Diaz-Ballart (R-FL) and Eliot Engel (D-NY) attended the luncheon but were compelled by pressing Congressional business to leave before having an opportunity to address the ZOA members.
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 John Rosen, Howard Katzoff, Nancy Hollander and the entire ZOA staff for their hard work in making the Mission run so smoothly.