Speaker of the House Mike Johnson Headlined ZOA’s Speak Out for Israel Dinner
December 6, 2023

Also featured: Missouri Sen. Eric Schmitt, Rep. Lee Zeldin, Rep. Elise Stefanik, Dr. Miri Adelson, Dr. Kiron Skinner, Mike Huckabee (Video Interview with Mort Klein)  

The Zionist Organization of America (ZOA) held its star-studded Speak Out for Israel Gala dinner in New York City on Sunday December 3, 2023 at NYC’s Marriott Marquis hotel. Eminent speakers and the enthusiastic crowd sent a strong message that the American Jewish community and all decent Americans deeply care about our Jewish brothers and sisters in Israel and on American streets and campuses, and that we will ultimately prevail over our current difficult circumstances.

Speaker of the House Mike Johnson received the Dr. Miriam and Sheldon G. Adelson Defender of Israel Award after he was introduced to the cheering crowd by the Chair of the Republican Conference, Congresswoman Elise Stefanik and philanthropist and great friend of ZOA, Dr. Miriam Adelson. The Mistress of Ceremonies, award-winning broadcaster Rita Cosby and others lauded Speaker Johnson for his first acts as Speaker: overwhelmingly passing bipartisan pro-Israel House resolution, H. Res. 771, condemning Hamas’ brutal war against Israel, standing with Israel, and urging full enforcement of the Taylor Force Law and U.S. sanctions against Iran; and passing H.R. 6126, a bipartisan $14.3 billion stand-alone emergency aid bill for Israel. (Senate Democrats have been blocking a Senate vote on this vitally important stand-alone Israel aid bill.)

Speaker Johnson spoke of the horrors and heartbreak of Hamas’ atrocities and the shameful, unprecedented level of attacks that American Jews and Jewish students are experiencing. He rightly condemned “members of Congress who routinely use the rhetoric of genocidal terrorists, giving them legitimacy.” Speaker Johnson made it clear: “We know from the river to the sea is an explicit call for genocide of the Jewish people,” and called for boldly countering this, “We must meet them with force when necessary, and it is necessary right now.” Importantly, Speaker Johnson vowed that “we will continue to pressure the Senate and administration” to pass the stand-alone aid bill to Israel, which the House had swiftly passed.

Speaker Johnson also presented a news flash that the Speaker of Israel’s Knesset, Amir Ohana, invited Speaker Johnson to address the Knesset, and that Speaker Johnson plans to do so soon. Speaker Johnson also assured us: “We will stand with Israel until this is resolved, until every hostage is returned and the threats against Israel cease to exist.”

Senator Eric Schmitt, a great U.S. Senator and Zionist from Missouri, was presented with the Steven Sass Righteous Friend of Zion Award by ZOA President Morton Klein. Mr. Klein praised Senator Schmitt for fighting against Biden’s ignoring sanctions on Iran; joining ZOA in opposing the appointment of Iran-deal-promoter Jack Lew as U.S. ambassador to Israel; making clear that aid to Israel should not be linked to $62 billion to Ukraine; and cosponsoring every major pro-Israel legislation.

Senator Schmitt emphasized the continuing daily existential threat Israel faces: Hamas’ atrocities – raping, torturing, brutally murdering innocent civilians, throwing grenades into rooms with children – must never be forgotten and must be answered. Senator Schmitt noted: “Hamas’ mission statement is to murder every Jew. Israel has every right to completely and utterly eradicate Hamas, and the U.S. has to give them the diplomatic and other support they need to do it. . . . Israel needs our support now more than ever. We will work to assure Israel gets everything it needs.”

Senator Schmitt also condemned the unabashed antisemitism on college campuses, and the poisonous concepts such as DEI and CRT which foster antisemitism.  

Former Congressman Lee Zeldin was presented with the Myron Zimmerman Award for Pro-Israel Activism and was introduced and warmly praised for his great work in Congress by philanthropist and ZOA Board member Myron Zimmerman. Congressman Zeldin declared: “I’m proud to be here as a friend and ally of Israel. My great grandfather was a rabbi who worked with ZOA generations ago.” He explained: “The real test of friendship is when times are tough” – such as when the Obama administration tried to pass the flawed Iran deal; and enabled the passage in 2016 of a “UN resolution to ethnically cleanse Judea/Samaria of Jews”; and when ZOA comes to members of Congress after October 7, Congressman Zeldin explained that a true friend does whatever he possibly can do to aid Israel and to make sure that action is taken when students are threatened. Congressman Zeldin also thanked and praised ZOA for being the “tip of the spear” and thanked the crowd for supporting ZOA.

At the outset of the evening’s program, MC Rita Cosby stated: Tonight is about standing up and speaking out.” MC Cosby also declared: “I thank ZOA and Mort Klein for all the education work they are doing, to change generations,” and commended all the students from Columbia, NYU and elsewhere at the ZOA dinner.

Attorney Edward Lewis was presented with the Justice Louis D. Brandeis Award by Morton Klein. Mort praised Mr. Lewis for, among other things, bringing members of Congress to become pro-Israel. Mr. Lewis encouraged and praised ZOA, saying: “There is no other organization like ZOA. I’m so humbled to be here this evening. We are under attack. In my lifetime, I’ve never seen antisemitism higher than it is now. We need to start telling people that CRT and other woke ideologies they are teaching to our kids are no good. . . . Mort Klein does amazing things; each one of you does amazing things. Now is the time to say, I am Jewish and proud of It. It’s not going to get easier. . . .  Speak up; be proud; be ZOA.”

Philanthropists and pro-Israel activists Melanie and Professor Gerald Shreiber were presented with the Justice Louis D. Brandeis Award. Melanie Shreiber described how her husband grew up facing being called antisemitic epithets and yet developed an enormous sense of Jewish pride.  Mrs. Shreiber praised ZOA for providing her with information, pamphlets and books to aid her in advocating for Israel, and described meeting Mort Klein when he spoke at a Jewish day school in San Francisco. She noted: “For Jews and lovers of Zion, this is a heartrending time. For those who abandoned us, shame on you. For those who stood with us, bless you. We are a light that can never be dimmed. We are so grateful for this award ,and will cherish it forever.” Professor Shreiber also praised his wonderful wife, and declared: “I am proud to be a Jew; I am proud to be an American. I am proud to be a Jew in America.”

MC Rita Cosby gave shout-outs to some of the dinner’s eminent attendees, including: Israeli Acting Consul General in New York Aviv Ezra; New York Assemblyman Simcha Eisenstein; Newsmax CEO Chris Ruddy; ZOA’s 2022 Sass awardee Ali Meli; U.S. Ambassador Dr. Jeffrey Gunter, who is now a U.S. Senate candidate in Nevada; Nassau County Executive Bruce Blakeman; Tikva Fund Chairman Roger Hertog; Fox News political analyst Lisa Daftari; Major real estate developer Bart Blatstein; prominent PR executive Arthur Schwartz; Joey Borgen, the survivor of a vicious antisemitic attack by an Arab gang in Manhattan, who then courageously testified against his attackers; and the ZOA activists who showed up to support Joey Borgen at multiple court hearings. “We all sent a message that anyone who attacks innocent Jews must be brought to justice.”

ZOA Chair Rubin Margules gave a moving introduction for Mrs. Miriam (Miri) Ben Ami, the single mother of hostage Yosef Haim Ohana. Chairman Margules noted that ZOA has a petition campaign demanding that the ICRC (International Committee of the Red Cross) must visit the hostages and “be more than an Uber driver”; and to remind the ICRC that the U.S. government gives the ICRC $640 million, a third of its budget. Chairman Margules asked: “Where is the outrage, the demand for humanitarian rights for our people? Israel deserves better. You can feel the love and support from all of us. You have a partner in ZOA.

Miri Ben Ami proclaimed: “We must do everything to insure this never happens to another mother. G-d bless America and the Jewish State of Israel.”

Professor Dr. Kiron Skinner, former Director of Policy Planning at the U.S. State Dept., introduced ZOA President Mort Klein and initially stated: “I am African American and a Zionist.” Dr. Skinner praised ZOA as “a leading voice in combating antisemitism globally” and praised Mort Klein, noting that the Wall Street Journal called him an outsize figure; that Mort received the World Zionist Organization award for outstanding leadership in Zionism; and that with Dr. Skinner, Mort exposed and wrote about the antisemitism of Congress’ Squad. Dr. Skinner noted that, “When the history is written, to reestablish the Black-Jewish alliance for justice, Mort will be on page one. Mort Klein, my friend, my brother and fellow Zionist.”

Morton Klein began his speech saying: “In the Passover Haggadah, we read in every generation they arise against us, but we survive.” After describing the past history of expulsions, massacres and genocides of the Jewish people, Mr. Klein proclaimed, to huge applause: “We will overcome this latest tragedy again. Israel can never again give away any of our land. No more concessions.” 

Mr. Klein noted that many Biden administration policies have energized haters and encouraged terrorist groups that Israel doesn’t have a true friend in the United States. This includes Biden attacking Israel’s domestic policies, such as judicial reform; funding anti-Israeli-government protests; reinstating and increasing funding to the Palestinians and UNRWA; and appointing anti-Israel antisemites to top posts, such as Iran- and Hamas-appeaser Robert Malley; former SJP director Maher Bitar, who taught “how to demonize Israel”; and Hady Amr, who said that the Intifada (the murder of Jews) inspired him. We need to speak out about these things. Yet, not a single group except ZOA said anything against these appointments.

Shamefully, Biden’s combating antisemitism envoy, Deborah Lipstadt, accepted Biden’s antisemitism strategy which accepted the “NEXUS” definition of antisemitism, which holds that if you oppose Israel’s existence, that’s not necessarily antisemitism. ZOA was the only one who spoke out against this.

Enemies are encouraged by Biden’s weakening support for Israel. Biden is talking about giving $100 million to “innocent” Gazan civilians. Yet surveys show that 89% of Palestinian Arabs support Hamas. The Gazans voted for Hamas.

Meanwhile, the administration is saying nothing about the insane pro-Hamas rallies in the U.S.

Israel is not committing genocide: the number of Arabs in Israel increased from 150,000 to 2 million.

The accusations of using too much, or disproportionate force are wrong. When you go to war, especially against such a vicious enemy, you use everything at your disposal. Colin Powell stated that when we enter fights, we should use overwhelming force, and not apologize for going in big. You use everything you have to destroy your enemy. In seven months in Afghanistan, 150,000 civilians were killed. Israel is the only army in the world that drops leaflets and does everything possible to protect civilians.

Mr. Klein also pointed out that this Arab/Islamic war against the Jews is not about land: It is a religious war against non-Muslims. Egyptian President El-Sisi said that Islam needs a religious revolution to stop threatening all non-Muslims.

Countries, especially the U.S., need to stop funding the radical Islamic world, and stop talking about handcuffing Israel. We need to stop funding UNRWA and the Palestinian Authority.

Mr. Klein also in part blamed Israeli, Jewish and Rabbinic leaders for not making it clear that there is no occupation – when the Jewish people’s enemies constantly use the lie “end the occupation.” Israel gave away all of Gaza and 40% of Judea/Samaria to Palestinian Authority control. There never was a Palestinian state. Jerusalem is never mentioned in Koran, while it is mentioned 700 times in Jewish holy books.  Mohammed only had a dream about traveling to heaven from the “farthest mosque.” This could not have been in Jerusalem, because there wasn’t a single mosque in Jerusalem when Mohammed was alive.

Mr. Klein further recounted that the majority of people living in Jerusalem since at least the mid-1800s (the time of the first census) were Jewish. “We Jews didn’t come to Israel as colonists or seeking a new continent. We came home.”

Throughout history, the world that condemned the Jewish people was wrong, and we were right. We are right in how we are handling the Hamas terrorists who massacres innocent Jews.

Mr. Klein closed with the Mark Twain quote praising the tiny Jewish population for their incredible contributions to the world, and for managing this “with their hands tied behind their backs,” and by saying: “We must be strong. Truth, justice and G-d are on the side of the Jewish people.”

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