Hundreds of activists from over 20 states attended the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA)’s Washington D.C. Capitol Hill Mission, which included a magnificent dinner and luncheon with fabulous speakers, including 30 Democratic and Republican members of the Senate and House. Among the speakers were the Democratic Chair of the House Foreign Affairs Committee Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY) and the Republican Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee Senator Jim Risch (R-Idaho). Speakers included both longtime friends of ZOA and new members of Congress. During the afternoon, ZOA activists met with and asked and suggested ways Congressmembers from their districts could and should increase their efforts against antisemitism and Israelophobia. The ZOA activists also promoted the need to codify and increase sanctions against Iran, to curb Iran’s aggression and malign ballistic missile, terror and nuclear development activities.
ZOA’s Pre-Mission Dinner
ZOA’s pre-mission dinner attendees were treated to talks by four superb speakers.
(First Row: Cong. Liz Cheney (R-WY) and Raymond IbrahimSecond Row: Professor Dr. Jason D. Hill and Dr. Paul Teller)
Republican rising star and extraordinarily eloquent Congresswoman Liz Cheney (R-WY) gave a stirring off-the-record keynote speech, which included a powerful condemnation of antisemitism.
Egyptian-born historian and Middle East specialist Raymond Ibrahim (author of “Sword and Scimitar: Fourteen Centuries of War Between Islam and the West”) described how CAIR (the Council on American-Islamic Relations) and Linda Sarsour (a Jew-hater and Arab/Islamic terror-supporter, whose name elicited loud boos) recently ran a “successful” campaign to stop Mr. Ibrahim’s scheduled speech at the prestigious U.S. Army War College. CAIR issued screeds absurdly and wrongly called Mr. Ibrahim a racist and Islamophobe, and claiming that Mr. Ibrahim’s discussion of Islamic military history would “radicalize” U.S. soldiers to wantonly murder Muslims.
Mr. Ibrahim reminded the audience that CAIR has a long history of anti-Israel rhetoric; was a front group for funneling money to Hamas; calls Israelis “Zio-nazis”; wants Israel to be “terminated”; and that CAIR has been designated as a terrorist organization by U.S. allies including the United Arab Emirates.
Mr. Ibrahim commented: “You have the terrorists calling me a racist. I bring up facts about Muslim persecution of Christians.” He added that the indefinite postponement of his talk is a very disturbing and dangerous and frightening precedent. He asked “Who will be able to speak and hear about Islamic terrorism?”
Mr. Ibrahim explained that CAIR does not want Mr. Ibrahim to speak, because CAIR understands that history shows that Muslim groups pursued vicious wars throughout 1400 years, “just like ISIS.” He noted that Muslim aggressors reached as far as Iceland, enslaved 5 million Europeans, and made statements similar to those of ISIS (e.g.: “We have tasted Roman blood”).
DePaul University Professor Dr. Jason D. Hill, a gay Jamaican immigrant and strong Zionist, and author of “We Have Overcome,” spoke and recounted that after he recently defended Prime Minister Netanyahu’s right to annex Judea/Samaria and the Golan Heights, he was censured by his university, and needed a police escort. He noted: “I want to celebrate you and your Zionism today.” He explained that Zionism is the moral and ethical love for Israel as the Jewish homeland, and the appreciation for the re-founding of Israel in 1948. He explained that Israel is “an ethical state forged between G-d and his people. Israel was taken from the Jewish people, and ruled by foreigners, and then re-founded. . . . Israel is the only state that G-d has blessed. Israel is the only state in a very dark part of the continent, surrounded by states inimical to its existence.” Dr. Hill explained that Israel is an ethical state, where all persons are free to practice their religion, and LGBT persons are free. He added: “Israel belongs to Jews and no one else. It is the Jewish state.” Dr. Hill also noted that the Oslo Accords were neutralized and declared null and void by the Second Intifada, that Israel is under no obligation to follow them, and that “Israel has the absolute right to annex the West Bank, and every square inch of Israel.” He further urged Israel to retake the traditionally Christian town of Bethlehem. The Palestinian Authority drove out most of Bethlehem’s Christians. He added that Hamas and the PA are national security threats, and can be considered enemies of the state and not have citizenship conferred on them. He added that Israel is facing an existential and ideological war, and urged: “Your job is to vanquish the enemy who breaks into your house and is trying to kill you.”
Dr. Hill also decried antisemitic in Europe, and noted that the United Nations has become the worst enemy, and is a racist, antisemitic institution. He also stated that it is a national security threat to encroach on our basic freedom of speech on college campuses.
Special Assistant to the President in the Office of Legislative Affairs Dr. Paul Teller spoke after a warm introduction by ZOA activist and Board member Judy Rosen.
Dr. Teller stated: “I’m such a huge fan of ZOA. ZOA is an ally. It’s amazing how many groups say they are pro-Israel. ZOA means it. So great to be here. Mort Klein, Dan Pollak, Mark Levenson, Talya Messiri – so many allies here.”
Dr. Teller listed numerous pro-Israel members of the Trump administration. He mentioned that he posted Israeli banners in his White House office, thanking President Trump, and mused: “It’s not a problem to show something pro-Israel in this White House. You can imagine what it would be in the previous White House.” Dr. Teller also assured the crowd: “There’s nothing in this [Middle East peace] plan that would ever compromise the safety and security of the state of Israel.” Dr. Teller also noted that Treasury Department sanctions are effectively targeting individuals’ and companies’ access to the US financial system, and that Iranian fingers are all over the tanker attack. He also commented that antisemitism used to be more hidden, but is now open, and asked “Does AOC have any idea about history? It’s almost more offensive that her party tolerates her comments. We should hold them accountable.”
ZOA’s Congressional Luncheon
ZOA Director of Government Affairs Dan Pollak announced that 37 Senators and Representatives signed up to speak at the ZOA luncheon, but a few had to cancel due to committee meetings taking place at the same time. Dan also announced the good news that Senate Resolution 189 condemning antisemitism, sponsored by Senator Ted Cruz, had just unanimously passed in the Senate.
ZOA President Morton Klein thanked ZOA’s activists for their dedicated, important work, via a video from Israel. Mr. Klein was speaking at an anti-BDS conference sponsored by Israel’s Ministry of Strategic Affairs, attended by 350 delegates from 32 countries. Morton Klein also was on a two-person panel with Eric Fingerhut, former National Director of Hillel and newly appointed national president of the Jewish Federations of North America. They discussed why some Jewish students join BDS and what can be done to prevent this. ZOA anti-BDS work has been in part with help from a generous grant from the Dr. Miri and Sheldon Adelson-established Maccabee Task Force project on BDS.
House Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Congressman Eliot Engel (D-NY), the first luncheon speaker, recalled that he was a ZOA member in the 1970s, and has been friends with ZOA President Morton Klein throughout Rep. Engel’s 30 years in Congress. Rep. Engel stated:
“We should strengthen ties between Jewish communities and Israel. I am deeply concerned about Hezbollah’s growing threat. It has amassed over 100,000 weapons [missiles], pointed at Israel . . . It’s ridiculous to call a terrorist organization a social service organization. We must provide support to help Israel defend herself . . . We must make sure the US-Israel relationship remains strong, no matter who the president is. . . . We must remain vigilant and take nothing for granted. It’s not a one-way street. The U.S. needs Israel and Israel needs the U.S. Each of our countries need the other. We need to assure that this relationship remain bi-partisan.”
“Tell Mort I was looking for him. Am Yisroel Chai! [The Nation of Israel Lives]”
Senator Rick Scott (R-FL) recounted his work as Florida’s governor to stop antisemitism at universities, increase trade and joint research with Israel, and provide extra security to Florida synagogues and rabbis, after a Rabbi in North Miami was murdered [in 2014]. Senator Scott also explained: “I was the only governor that attended the opening of the embassy. I have a checklist of things I want to get done here [in the Senate], and one of them is to be a great ally to Israel. I’ve never understood antisemitism. We have to stand up against antisemitism. Israel is a great ally, and we have to stand up for that.”
Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) was introduced by ZOA Chairman Mark Levenson, who noted that Senator Cruz is “one of Israel’s greatest friends ever. He was the chief sponsor of Res. 189 condemning antisemitism in the way we want it condemned.”
Senator Cruz stated: “G-d bless ZOA. You are all principled, you see clearly, and you seek the truth. And in Washington, that makes you radical. It’s something that is desperately needed. . . . ZOA, you have courage and power and a ferocious willingness to speak the truth. Thank you for your courage.”
Senator Cruz also noted that sometimes it’s good to pause and reflect on victories. He listed five recent victories, and his personal efforts to help bring these about: (1) the relocation of the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem, despite opposition from the then-U.S. State and Defense Departments; (2) the U.S. pullout from the Iran deal; (3) Ending oil waivers that had enabled the Ayatollah to continue selling over a million barrels of oil a day (bpd); and ending part of the civilian nuclear waivers; (4) Passage of Senator Cruz’s bi-partisan act to sanction groups that use human shields, to hold Hezbollah, Hamas and the Houthis accountable for their use of human shields; and (5) Passage, with a 100 to 0 vote, of Senator Cruz’s resolution condemning antisemitism (S. Res. 189). Senator Cruz noted regarding S. Res. 189: “All of us are alarmed by the rise of antisemitism. A trio of freshman Congresswoman, are engaged in deliberate antisemitic attacks. . . . The House needs to stand up and answer the same call.”
Senator Tom Cotton (R-Ark) stated “If there’s one thing ZOA stands for, it’s that we need to learn the lessons of history to keep our nation safe.” Senator Cotton, also mentioned “the great work we’ve done together” and his legislation for Congress to recognize Israeli sovereignty over the Golan Heights.
Senator Cotton stated that he has called for retaliatory military strikes in response to the Islamic Republic of Iran’s attack on an unmanned US aircraft earlier that day, and for Iran’s attacks on four commercial tankers last month and other recent aggression. Senator Cotton provided fascinating insights from the history of prior U.S. failures to deter towards Iran. Ignoring the problem and then gradually ratcheting up of responses to Iranian aggression was insufficient to deter Iran. During the Iran-Iraq war, Iran attacked 184 vessels on the high seas, starting in 1984. The U.S. did nothing for several years. In 1987, Kuwait asked the U.S. for protection on the high seas. Then-President Reagan assisted by re-flagging Kuwaiti tankers as U.S. ships. [The U.S. Navy also escorted the re-flagged Kuwaiti tankers.] However, Iran continued to mine the waters. In the spring of 1988, an Iranian-planted mine crippled a U.S. Navy frigate. Finally, at that point, President Reagan sunk about half the Iranian navy. Iran finally got the message, and discontinued mining shipping. Senator Cotton concluded: “Our choice should be to defend our people and nation. I’m not calling for something like Obama did in Libya. I’m talking about sufficient strikes that will cause sufficient pain so that Iran will start acting like a normal nation. [Iran] having committed these outrages against the U.S. and against the civilized world, if we don’t respond, what kind of message will it send?”
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman, Senator James (Jim) E. Risch (R-Idaho) stated “For decades, the ZOA has served as a champion of US-Israeli interests.”
Senator Risch joked that he has “tremendous support among the Jewish community in Idaho.” He quoted former President Reagan’s statements that the U.S. and Israel “are philosophical neighbors,” and that “no people have ever fought harder and longer to live in freedom.” Senator Risch noted that “under the current administration, our relationship is on a course to reach new heights.” He cited the Trump administration moving the embassy to Israel, pulling out of the JCPOA, and cutting sources of [anti-Israel] funding.
Senator Risch explained that the administration is “pursuing a maximum pressure campaign, which I believe is the only way to deal with Iran, for it to become a member of nations. . . . Iran just shot down another of our drones, the third one. President Trump does not want to go to war with Iran, but he is deeply committed to his responsibilities as commander in chief, and will do what is necessary to protect American lives and interests around the world. Iran is miscalculating what is happening on the ground. There is a limit to our patience.”
Senator Risch also spoke of his sponsorship of Senate Bill 1, which helps assure Israel’s strength, and combats antisemitism. The Senator urged: “To my House friends, pull the bill out and pass it.” He noted: “The scourge of antisemitism has no place in the world, let alone in the United States itself.”
Senator John Boozman (R-Ark) noted that it is important to have bi-partisan support for Israel, and that he served for several years with Brad Sherman on the House Foreign Affairs Committee. He assured ZOA: “You have a lot of friends here,” and “I’ve always been supportive in the past and will continue to do so.”
Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) stated ”Let me start by thanking ZOA for what you do, day in and day out, in good times and bad times. . . . ZOA has always been steadfast, you are never are confused.”
Congressman Diaz-Balart noted that “Obama abandoned Israel in that UN vote, and with the Iran deal. President Trump then did what some people thought was unthinkable: He got out of that horrific Iran deal. Now the Golan Heights is recognized as part of Israel. Along with Senator Cruz, I was privileged to be in Israel when the US moved its embassy to the historic, undivided capital of Israel.”
Congressman Diaz-Balart also stated: “I will never forget Israel’s solidarity with the cause of a free [Cuban] people. Israel has voted with the US every time in support of sanctions against the regime in Havana.” He praised Israel’s belief in basic freedoms and human dignity, and noted: “There are very few things that are non-negotiable. One of those areas that is non-negotiable is the security, vitality, and future of the Jewish state of Israel. . . . We have folks in the White House now who understand that Iran is the largest sponsor of terrorism. Israel is the only true democracy in the Middle East and our best friend.”
Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE) thanked ZOA for what we do and noted “we need your voice.”
Congressman Bacon mentioned that “the previous administration made a terrible deal with Iran,” and that one of the reasons he decided to run for Congress was that Obama called Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu a “chickensh-t.” Rep. Bacon said “There should be moral clarity about our friendship with Israel and antisemitism. Two democracies with common enemies. I was raised in an Evangelical family, and I learned ‘I will bless those who bless you.’” He also stressed the importance of Holocaust education, and noted that half of our youth today do not know about the Holocaust. He recalled that he went to Israel at age 15, in 1979, and visited the Holocaust memorial, and obtained an emotional sense of what it meant to each individual. He cited a Knesset speaker who said Israel is here so that this never happens again.
Cong. Bacon also declared: “We should not give a penny to the Palestinian Authority while they’re paying terrorists. The whole goal of BDS is to isolate Israel. You have a friend, and a new class that stands by your side.” Rep. Bacon noted that each party in France has seen a rise in antisemitism, and that we have to clearly oppose antisemitism, wherever it comes from.
Rep. Greg Steube (R-FL) spoke of his visit to Israel this year, and urged: “Every member of Congress should go, to understand the strategic alliance we have with Israel.” He also explained: “I served in operation Iraqi Freedom, so I saw the terror that Iran could inflict. It is important that Iran should never have nuclear weapons.” He encouraged ZOA members to tell others to vote for legislation he sponsored to curb Iran. (ZOA members educated their Congressmembers about Rep. Steube’s legislation that afternoon). He concluded: “Know that you have a champion for the American-Israeli relationship in me.”
Rep. Elaine Goodman Luria (D-VA) thanked ZOA for inviting her, and explained: “I would have never thought that, as a new representative in Congress, that my first speech on the House floor would have been against antisemitism. I am the first Jewish woman in the Southeast to ever serve in the US Congress. My speech was sort of like Dayenu: Had I not served 20 years in the military, would that have been enough to show my loyalty to our country?” Similarly, she came from a family that has served in the US military for generations. Would that have been enough to display loyalty to the U.S.? Rep. Luria recalled visiting Israel on a bipartisan trip with Rep. Dan Crenshaw. She stated: “It’s imperative to maintain our relationship with our democratic ally Israel. I look forward to working with you.”
Rep. Brian Mast (R-FL) stated: “It’s always great to be back with you all. . . . An issue came across my desk recently of a two-state solution: But when they [terrorists paid by the Palestinian Authority] are doing bus bombings, shootings, and knifings, [etc.], I don’t see the idea of giving them a state as good policy.” The audience cheered.
Rep. Mast asked his friends, Congressmen Dan Crenshaw and Jim Baird (R-IN) to come and stand next to him as “props.” In a very moving moment, Rep. Mast noted that he is a double amputee with no legs, Dan Crenshaw is missing an eye, and Jim Baird lost an arm in Vietnam. Rep. Mast explained: “The best thing we can hope for is living through those moments of difficulty, and then having times that we enjoy. In Israel, you have the same thing.”
Rep. Mast noted: “We don’t have folks in the right state of mind that are willing to acknowledge something very simple – that Jerusalem is the capital of Israel. If you can’t acknowledge the capital of a nation, then you are not in a state of mind that shows a commitment to peace. If you’re committed to terrorism, you’re not ready for peace. They [the Palestinian Arabs] won’t acknowledge the truth.”
Rep. Jim Baird (R-IN) joined Rep. Crenshaw on stage, instead of speaking separately.
Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) discussed the challenges that the Jewish people face, and that we all face with Iran. He noted that antisemitism is getting worse: “Jews throughout Europe need to be protected, and Europe is losing its sense of self. Here, whether its white supremacy or BDS on campus, it’s absolutely unacceptable, it’s abhorrent.” He noted that “thousands of rockets landing on civilian neighborhoods from Gaza is something we would never tolerate in the US. We have to fight back against the double-standard.” Rep. Crenshaw also explained that Iran is trying to goad us into a conflict, and get Europeans to feel sorry for them, in order to get a better deal, and that “Iran is the best in the world in getting its surrogate forces to work for them” including Hezbollah, Hamas, and Houthis.
Rep. Crenshaw also eloquently stated that a deeper, more fundamental reason we need to support Israel is because America began in Jerusalem, with the idea that there is moral truth.
Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA) explained: “For 23 years, I’ve served on foreign affairs committee. I now co-chair the Israel Allies Caucus. I’ve been a pro-activist during most of my childhood, as well as well as my adult life. I’m going to need you as allies for an important mission I’m working on.”
Rep. Sherman recounted that he was the first member of the House (not just the first Democratic member of the House) to urge rejection of the JCPOA [the Iran deal]. He brought to attention the facts that the deal is not a binding treaty, it wasn’t ratified, and it wasn’t even an executive agreement. Rep. Sherman compared binding treaties to formal wedding ceremonies, and then stated: “The JCPOA is like 5 margaritas at a singles bar – it’s not a binding commitment.”
Rep. Sherman also noted: “We could have gotten a better agreement. The fact that we took away most of what they [Iran] got and they still want to stay in the agreement indicates we could have gotten a better agreement.” He also insisted that both Iran and Saudi Arabia should never get nuclear weapons, because weapons obtained by Saudi Arabia could fall into others’ hands tomorrow.
Congressman Sherman also stated: “Israel’s enemies have decided to fight a war of delegitimization. The Golan is peaceful compared to U.S. campuses.”
He spoke of fighting to get Jewish students covered by Title VI of the Civil Rights Act – a battle that ZOA fought alongside Rep. Sherman on behalf of Jewish students. Rep. Sherman also stated that the use of the State Department definition of antisemitism should be continued; and mentioned that his wife wrote the definition.
Rep. Sherman also spoke openly about the need for bi-partisan support of Israel. He described the fight that Republicans waged within their own party, to change the Republican party into a pro-Israel party, after former Secretary of State John Foster Dulles [1953–1959] threatened Israel with sanctions, and the anti-Israel [Eisenhower] administration forced Israel to withdraw from Sinai, which Israel had to reconquer a decade later. Rep. Sherman commented: “Republicans were successful in changing their party from the 1950s and 1960s and 1970s . . . Basically we don’t have the same problem there [in the Republican Party today] as they do within my party. . . We have our work cut out for us in the Democratic party.” Rep. Sherman stated that he would not mention names of particular offenders within his party because: “I am not here to add notoriety to anyone I don’t particularly agree with. Power in this town is fame, and who they [the news media] cover. I prefer that they get less coverage.”
Rep. Sherman also mention that he wrote the Israel-Energy Joint Cooperation Act, and needs support to help end the addiction to petroleum. He added: “When people think of Israel, we need that people should think of science.”
Rep. Glenn Grothman (R-WI) was introduced by ZOA Government Affairs Director Dan Pollak. Mr. Pollak mentioned that Congressman Grothman’s election opponent co-founded the hostile-to-Israel group J Street. [The opponent also served as J Street’s Vice President of Political Affairs and Political Director. See ZOA report: J Street Sides with Israel’s Enemies and Works to Destroy Support for Israel.]
Congressman Grothman stated: “I’m very concerned about the future of the United States and the West. People are not doing enough to ring the alarm.” He explained that people are hostile to Israel because (i) Israel was helpful to us in the cold war, and in the fight against totalitarian socialism; (ii) Israel represents western values; and (iii) Israel is a religious country – and a lot of people are now hostile to western values and religion, and favor socialism. Rep. Grothman noted: “We have elections in which people want to fundamentally change America” and pointed out the danger of candidates going to “kiss Al Sharpton’s ring.”
Rep. Grothman noted: “We’re losing the culture. No amount of money will save us if we lose the culture. Young people are being taught that we live in a horrible, polluting, racist society. Has there ever been throughout history a better place to live? Yet young people are being taught that we’re living in some sort of hell-hole.” He urged the audience to do what they can to counteract this anti-western hatred, so that young people will realize that this is a country worth defending. Rep. Grothman noted that that those same traits will help Israel – and that “Otherwise, we’ll have what’s happening in Europe – they hate themselves, and they hate Israel.”
Rep. Bill Johnson (R-Ohio), author of the book “Raising Fathers,” was introduced by ZOA Chairman Mark Levenson. Mr. Levenson recalled a dinner he had with Congressman Johnson in Alon Shvut, at a time when very few Congresspersons came into Yehuda and Shomron (Judea/Samaria).
Congressman Johnson spoke of his nearly 27 years in the U.S. Airforce, including serving with some Israeli exchange officers, and his youth on a farm in North Carolina, where his father was the local church superintendent. Rep. Johnson recalled hearing the great stories of the patriarchs of the Bible – Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Moses and David. In Israel, he ziplined over the very valley where Abraham traveled on the way to Mount Moriah (the Temple Mount). Rep. Johnson stated: “If you read the scriptures, there is a story about G-d meeting with Jacob in Beth El, and G-d says your name is Israel, and I give you this land. I know who is the rightful owner of this land.”
Congressman Johnson also stated: “Antisemitism is something that concerns me very greatly. I just came from a trip to France, to be part of the Normandy invasion memorial, and I heard from a number of high-ranking officials in France about the rise in antisemitism. If you think it’s bad in America, you have no idea of how bad it is in Europe. As long as I have breath in me, you’re going to have a champion on behalf of Israel.”
Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY) stated: “It’s always a pleasure to celebrate the important work of the ZOA.”
She stated: “I’m proud of my record of ensuring that Israel has funds that it needs for programs such as Iron Dome, to protect and save the lives of our children in Israel.” Rep. Meng recounted how, during a visit to Israel, she asked parents how many minutes their children had to hide from Hamas’s rockets, and the parents told her the children have only seconds to run for shelter.
Rep. Meng also described her commitments to contributing to Israeli defense, “including $500 million for missile defense”; strengthening the FBI’s approach to hate crimes; and obtaining funding for protecting houses of worship. She signed a letter with Republican Congressman Lee Zeldin urging Germany to designate Hezbollah as a terrorist organization. Rep. Meng summed up her support: “As a non-Jew, and woman of color, I stand proudly and strongly behind the US-Israel relationship.”
Rep. Meng also mentioned her Chinese-American background, and the Shanghai connection to saving Jews during the Holocaust. She said she cares about combating BDS, including “because Israeli technology literally saves the lives of people around the world.”
Rep. Gary Palmer (R-Alabama) stated that he really appreciated Rep. Brad Sherman’s comments. He mentioned Israel’s special relationship to Alabama and noted: “Alabama in 1943 became the first state to recognize Israel’s legitimacy to exist as a sovereign nation.” He proudly mentioned that the U.S. embassy was relocated to Jerusalem on his birthday. Rep. Palmer stated: “Israel has so much to offer the world. It is beyond belief the way the world treats Israel.”
Rep. Palmer recounted: “The pages of history are stained with the blood of those who had good intentions .. . . I spoke on the floor in opposition to the JCPOA. Iran at the end of the day has a western population, people who want to live in freedom. At some point, we will come to grips with that.” He also spoke about how the U.S. government is a covenant government, and added: “The first covenant was between G-d and Abraham, and all of Abraham’s seed. It is that covenant that has allowed the Jewish people to endure unbelievable persecution.”
He also noted: “What’s happening in Europe is frightening. We cannot allow that to happen in the United States. I don’t believe that the vast majority of members of Congress on the other side of the aisle agree with some of the things that are said.”
Rep. Palmer also recalled that at least 22 Americans died trying to help Muslims in Somalia – the country which Ilhan Omar was rescued from. “We [Americans] are willing to fight and die for liberty anywhere, for anyone, because we love these so much.” Rep. Palmer explained that the first American to die in Somalia was a Jew named Lawrence Friedman, who went to Somalia as a volunteer to fight for freedom, and didn’t care that he was fighting for Muslims. Rep. Palmer noted: “What makes you an American is what you believe.”
Rep. Josh Gottheimer (D-NJ) said: “You have an incredible well of supporters here. Each of you cares very deeply about the American-Israel relationship. The bi-partisan relationship is so critical. We must secure funding to Israel. The $3.8 billion annually to Israel is a key to a strong America. This assistance will help Israel defend itself from Hamas and Hezbollah. Critical programs such as Iron Dome help save countless lives.” Rep. Gottheimer emphasized that “there should never be a question” that we stand with Israel; and that opposing BDS and standing up for the Israel-America relationship should be a bipartisan issue; and that he has told his colleagues “Let’s get it done.” Rep. Gottheimer noted that he opposed the Iran deal, and that we must do everything we can to contain and deter Iran due to its destabilizing actions in Syria. He concluded: “I do everything I can. My support will never bend.”
Rep. Michael Waltz (R-FL), author of “Warrior Diplomat: A Green Beret’s Battles from Washington to Afghanistan,” mentioned that he was the first Green Beret elected to Congress, then-Vice President Cheney’s counter-terrorism adviser, and holds Governor Ron DeSantis’s former Congressional seat. Rep. Waltz’s election opponent was a J Street keynote speaker who was backed by J Street, Soros, and Bloomberg.
Congressman Waltz mentioned that only 15% of current Congresspersons are veterans. Previously, 80% of Congresspersons were veterans. He added: “We need people who were willing to put their lives on the line for this country.” He suggested national service as a way to get young people off their videos, to come together from different backgrounds, to serve a common cause. Also, “National service will enable people to appreciate the cosmic lottery they won by being born in the US.”
Congressman Waltz mentioned “this [false] notion that once we entered the Iran deal, everything was kumbaya, and that Trump exacerbated the tensions.” Rep. Waltz explained that President Trump and John Bolton get it, and that we must keep up the maximum pressure campaign on Iran. Iran’s oil output has dropped from 2.5 million to 400,000 barrels of oil per day. There are daily labor riots in Iran. Iran always creates an external crisis. Rep. Waltz noted: “In the past, our response was weak. We need to send a clear message that we will hold Iran responsible, not just its proxies. . . . Thank you for stepping up. Thank you for being active. I’m prepared to stand with you.”
Note: Because we had so many speakers, the last few speakers had to keep their comments very brief. If more time was available, they could have added much more about their support for Israel and the Jewish people.
Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, and co-Chairman of the House Republican Israel Caucus, and a great friend, stated:
“I want to thank ZOA for all your hard work, standing against antisemitism however it manifests itself. . . I’m one of those who believes that we should be naming names. We serve on the foreign relations committee with a member who pushes antisemitic rhetoric. That’s just one fight that ZOA is involved in every day. Love you all!”
Rep. Scott Perry (R-PA), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee and co-sponsor of a bipartisan anti-FGM bill, noted: “You stick with your friends. Friends don’t remain silent when they say that being against Israel isn’t being against the Jewish people.”
Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) stated: “ZOA is the oldest pro-Israel organization in America. You’re great at educating Congress, great at educating youth.”
He noted: “We’re all here because we all believe in the Israel-US relationship. . . . In my 14 years in the FBI working on counter-intelligence, I learned more from the IDF than any other any other foreign group.”
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX), a longtime friend of ZOA, who was one of the last speakers, joked “Well, we’ve waited it out, and come to the real quality.”
Congressman Gohmert thanked ZOA for defending him when the ADL unfairly attacked him, and stated: “I wish that the ADL was more like the ZOA.” Rep. Gohmert described how the Democratic leadership in the House repeatedly watered down the draft resolution that was supposed to condemn Ilhan Omar’s antisemitic comments. He stated: “We’ve got to stand firm, and call out antisemitism. The best thing we can do is be the best friend Israel has had or will have.”
Rep. Bradley Byrne (R-Alabama) noted: “We understand who our friends are, and who they are not. . . . It is not progressive to be antisemitic. It is regressive to be antisemitic.”
The final speaker at the ZOA Congressional luncheon, Rep. Brian Babin (R-TX) joked: “I love these speakers. I could listen to them all day long, and I think I did.” He stated: “Bless Israel, and you will bless yourself. I am a devout Christian, and that’s what I do. . . . I back Israel to the hilt and will continue to do so. We have a president today who is standing up for our values.” Rep. Babin noted that while he was in the air force stationed in Europe, Iran kept our hostages for 444 days, and that Iran has been the greatest exporter of terrorism.
Rep. Michael Guest (R-Miss.), a member of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, also attended the luncheon, but had to leave before he could speak.
The following additional Congresspersons planned to attend the ZOA Congressional luncheon, but had to cancel to attend committee meetings, etc.: Rep. Paul Cook (R-Cal); Rep. Doug Lamborn (R-Colo); Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX); Rep. Tom Malinowski (D-NJ); Rep. Michael McCaul (R-TX); Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA); Rep. Aumua Amata a/k/a Amata Catherine Coleman Radewagen (R-American Samoa); and Rep. Jamie Raskin (D-MD).
ZOA thanks and appreciates all the wonderful bi-partisan speakers and attendees of our Washington Mission, as well as all those who intended to attend but were called away.
ZOA also thanks ZOA President Morton Klein and all our staff members who worked so hard to make ZOA’s 2019 Capitol Hill Mission such a success, including: Dan Pollak; Joel Kassiday; Howard Katzoff; Nancy Hollander; John Rosen; Natalie Lazaroff; Jackie Shafer; Enid Roman; Alan Jay; Sharona Whisler; Matt Bennett; Justin Ellis; Susan Tuchman; Kelly-Ann Brown; and Liz Berney. We are also extremely grateful to our Board Chair Mark Levenson and Vice Chair Dr. Alan Mazurek, who served as MCs along with Dan Pollak; and our evening speaker introducers, Judy Rosen, Dr. Paul Tartell, Andrew Teitelbaum, and Brian Grodman.