The Zionist Organization of America last week spent a day on Capitol Hill lobbying for an end to assistance for the Palestinian Authority and conditions on aid to Egypt.
Hundreds of activists from 16 states across the country, from California to Ohio, to Pennsylvania and Florida, participated in the ZOA’s Annual Advocacy Mission to Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, May 22. Meeting with more than a hundred Members of Congress and their legislative assistants, ZOA activists urged them to:
1). Support Israel’s right to military self-defense against Iran’s illegal, threatening nuclear weapons program and impose new comprehensive, robustly-enforced sanctions on Tehran and close loopholes in existing sanctions.
2). Oppose $650 million in U.S. aid to Mahmoud Abbas’ Palestinian Authority (PA) until it fulfills its signed agreements under Oslo to arrest and imprison terrorists, dismantle terrorist groups and end the incitement to hatred and murder within the PA-controlled media, mosques, schools and youth camps, and to recognize Israel as a Jewish state.
3). Support making $2 billion U.S. aid to Mohamed Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood-supported regime in Egypt conditional on Cairo observing its 1979 peace treaty with Israel (which it is not, says the ZOA), restricting and even banning further weapons sales to Egypt, and stopping incitement against Jews and Israel, affording full rights for women and Christians and ending Muslim Brotherhood rhetoric that the U.S. will collapse.
At the ZOA’s Congressional Luncheon, held prior to the congressional meetings in a magnificent room in the Russell Senate Office Building, ZOA activists were joined at the luncheon by both Democratic and Republican U.S. Senators and House Members, who delivered speeches to the packed audience. Here is a sampling of their comments:
Senator Benjamin Cardin (D-MD): “ZOA, give yourself a round of applause. The overwhelming majority of Congress didn’t come through the Jewish community. And yet we have strong support among Democrats and Republicans and Independents. That doesn’t just happen. It happens because you are here, speaking out on what’s important.…
I am proud that this special relationship that began with Harry Truman when he fought the State Department to recognize Israel has flourished … I had chance to visit Israel and Turkey, trying to improve the relationship between Turkey and Israel … Syria represents a serious problem, not just for the people of Syria but for Israel. Assad must go … The most important security challenge facing us is to prevent Iran becoming a nuclear weapons state … I’m going to visit China next week, I will talk to them about the crude oil they import from Iran … Thanks for helping us show to the American people how important is Israel’s relationship to the United States. This relationship strengthens our ability to stand for what is right in the world. Keep up the good work!”
Senator Rand Paul (R-KY): “I was asked before coming here today, ‘Why are you going to ZOA?’ I answered, ‘Why? Because ZOA was the only organization that supported my amendment saying no more money and arms to the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt … Giving F-16 planes and M-1 tanks to them? One day we’re going to regret this.”
Turning to Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood leadership in Egypt, Rand said, “You now have a president in Egypt who says Jews are sons of pigs and apes and a president who stands next to a preacher saying ‘Death to Jews and all their supporters,’ which includes America. If they want our funding, why don’t they affirm their support for the Camp David accord? Why don’t they reaffirm that Israel has a right to exist?”
Turning to another deeply problematic recipient of U.S. aid, Pakistan, Paul said, “They have put a man, Shakil Afridi, in jail for the rest of his life because he helped us find Bin Laden, which was a big thing, that makes him a big friend of America, so I say – No more money to Pakistan unless you free Shakil Afridi. If you want to be a friend of America, act like one.” Speaking of Israel, he observed, “There one thing I know I can say: You will never see anyone in Israel burning the American flag … the U.S. and Israel have a great shared religious and cultural history.”
Senator Tim Scott (R-SC): “We want you to know that as a committed friend of Israel and an evangelical Christian I pray for the peace of Jerusalem. I believe in Psalm 22 and the idea that those who help Israel prosper. I want to prosper. I will always be a strong supporter of the state of Israel. It’s my faith, its common sense and I will always do so.”
Senator Mark Pryor (D-AK) Spoke enthusiastically about Israel which “is our closest ally in the region … I have a good voting record on Israel, because it is our strong interest to see a strong Israel and the relationship between our two countries continue for our mutual defense and security.”
Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann (R-MN) spoke of having “just left Congressional hearing on Benghazi. This is not a settled issue. Truth is what this is about and we’ll get to the bottom of this … The land of Israel is important, the people of Israel are important. For 65 years, we have celebrated the return of the Jews to the land, the terra firma, that G-d promised them … Israel is facing enemies unlike any they have seen, because the Arab spring has produced new threats on all of Israel’s borders … We have to send a clear message: If you touch a hair on the head of Israel, you touch every hair on the head of the United States. We are your friends in good times and bad … The sanctions [on Iran] are a little late in my opinion and Iran is moving closer to nuclear weapons. This is a cocktail we don’t want to see and that no one should ever drink. If there is success in causing Israeli decline or defeat, the United States will very quickly find out what it is to be Israel.”
Congressman Rob Andrews (D-NJ) addressed in stark terms the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran: “What if the two bombs that were left at the finish line at the Boston Marathon had enriched uranium in them? Instead of mourning the loss of three lives and the maiming of dozens, we would be mourning the loss of hundreds and probably thousands. People would probably not return to our city centers anytime soon … I don’t believe the leadership in the Iranian government is suicidal but they are strategic in what they do. It’s not that they will necessarily fire a missile with a nuclear warhead once they get one. They’d hand it off to a terrorist in Kuwait, who’d hand it over to another in Germany, who’d then pass it on to someone in Kuwait, who would then fly into JFK airport. When the bomb goes off, the Iranians will say that Americans got what they deserved, but that ‘We didn’t do it.’ And can you imagine if our intelligence says ‘Mr. President, we’re 95% sure it came from Iran. Are you going to give the order to drop nuclear weapons?’ I’m not so sure. We could wait till we find out who did it. But I’m not so sure. Do we know who carried out the anthrax attacks 12 years ago? Words will not solve this problem. The first thing the U.S. has to do is to face some harsh truths. The sanctions, which I support, are working to weaken the Iranian economy, but there is not a scintilla of evidence that it is altering its policy, even though its currency has lost 40% value and its oil revenues have dropped … What will change its policy is showing that we won’t allow them to get weapons. A significant weapon that can penetrate and make all the right movements, not to destroy their program, but which will set them back 5 or 6 years is the important thing. The Iranians assess the situation and have come to this conclusion: the U.S. has the means to stop the problem but not the will. The Israelis have the will, but not the means. I don’t believe we should outsource our defense to anyone, not even to so close a friend as Israel, but here is what I think we should do, inspired by FDR’s lend-lease of arms to Britain during World War Two when America wouldn’t get involved in the war in Europe: lend Israel the weapons to do it … I know that all expressions of support for Israel are genuine, but we have to move from words to deeds. I’m asking you today, and I have made this request at the very highest levels, it will take more than that, Republicans and Democrats, to say that this will be the policy of the United States of America. If you insist on developing a weapon of mass destruction, we will support of our friend and ally stopping you.”
Congressman Hakeem Jeffreys (D-NY) opened by saying that he represents more Russian-speaking Jews than any other Member of Congress in the country. “Israel is a wonderful country with a great cosmopolitan culture … In the 2008 rocket assaults, I had the chance to spend time in Sderot and Ashkelon, and my colleagues and I experienced first-hand the count-down to a missile hit … I had meaningful conversations with a high-ranking member of the Israeli Foreign Ministry who told me that ‘Hakeem, we live in a tough neighborhood.’ It was such a simple and elegant and comprehensive statement of what the great state of Israel confronts … We must do everything we can to stand up for our ally, Israel, for their defense, their qualitative military advantage. We must stop Iran from its nuclear aspirations. I will do whatever I can do to see that happens, whatever I can to see that strategically vital relationship with Israel continues.”
Louie Gohmert (R-TX) addressed the scope of the Iranian nuclear threat, observing that the Iranian regime would soon “have enough material to make several [nuclear bombs] before they make even one … Then they can immediately disperse them and then no one can be sure they’ll get them all in an attack – and then they can strike Israel.” Regarding the frigidity of the Obama Administration towards Israel, he said, “If you study history, one thing becomes clear – When a regime like Iran sees their strongest enemy holding Israel at a distance, its provocative. This emboldened for example the Turks to send the Gaza flotilla … There are dangers and consequences of putting daylight between ourselves and Israel … I’d vote to give $3 billion, $6 billion, $9 billion or $12 billion to Israel … More sanctions are worthless, Iran breathes a sigh of relief when we promote new sanctions. It sends a message to them that we’re not going to use military action against them”
Trent Franks (R-AZ): “A lot of people talk of how important the U.S. is to Israel but can I tell you how Israel is important to the U.S. … There have been some wonderful things; the amazing progress on Iron Dome has put a new face on missile defense. I worked very hard to make sure we have continued support for the Arrow-3 missile. Everybody knows how important that is to Israel. Some wanted to just replace the system. I said no, we made a promise to Israel to assist them to make their own system, one of the premier missile systems in the world. I was in Israel in October last year for two weeks, met with a lot of the defense people, Israeli Aerospace people. We are already in discussions to see the Israeli improvements that have been made to the American Arrow 3s … I truly believe that as long as America stands with Israel it will be important to the peace and security of the world … It is also very important to restrict Palestinian Authority funding based on what the PA does, as it is also in the case of Egypt and the Muslim Brotherhood … Israel is the toughest friend on the block, and we’re not going to forsake them. G-d bless you all.”
Congressman Paul Broun (R-GA): “I am a Bible believing Evangelical Christian and I have been described as – and I have embraced the term – a Zionist Christian. The reason I do this is because I believe what my Bible said – we have the same Bible, we just have a few extra books – and I am an ardent supporter of the nation of Israel. In fact, the modern state of Israel was born on my birthday on May 14 1948; so we’re the same age. Because of all the geopolitical and scientific issues and all the things my colleagues have said, we should support Israel and I’m going to add one additional reason: you see, our father Abraham – I consider myself an adopted Jew – Abraham got a visit from G-d and was told: ‘Pack up and move to a land that going to belong to you for all eternity. I’m going to make your seed as numerous as the stars in the sky’ … G-d gave the land title to the Jewish people and it should never ever be taken away. And G-d gave us the boundaries of that land of Canaan, in the Torah, saying that ‘I will bless those who bless you and curse those that curse you’ … Some of our opponents say that they’re going to get rid of all the Judeo-Christian values that got into the Constitution, all those values that have made this country so great. G-d’s blessings on this country today are because we bless Israel, and it must never cease. I believe very firmly, our country pressured Israel to give up Gaza. I was totally against that. We have a President who says we must go back to pre-war borders; I think Israel should go all the way to the Jordan River. I don’t say so – G-d says so. The capital should be in Jerusalem and our U.S. embassy should be in Jerusalem … We should also give Jerusalem every single bunker-busting bomb they need … Recently we saw three very critical people [Chuck Hagel, John Brennan & John Kerry] nominated to critical positions in the Administration. If I had been in the Senate, I would have voted no to Chuck Hagel, and no to John Brennan and no to John Kerry … We’ve not done enough in the sanctions on Iran, nor have we done enough to support the freedom–seeking people in that country … We should never give money to a nation in my opinion that goes around burning the American and Israeli flags and saying ‘Death to America.’ It must stop. As long as I’m here in Washington, I’ll do everything I can to make sure that the United States is supporting Israel.”
Congressman Greg Walden (R-OR): “Mort (ZOA President Mort Klein), I want to thank you for your long term leadership of this organization – Well done! … Our peoples share a common interest in peace and Israel is a beacon of hope in a region awash in violence and intolerance … Systems developed in Israel knocked down impressive amounts of incoming missiles from Hamas in Gaza. This is a very important system. Iran is building weapons that can wipe Israel off the face of the planet. That cannot be allowed to continue. We must build on existing sanctions to tighten the screws on Iran. Together we’ll make sure that Israel is safe and secure and America as well.”
Congressman Mike Fitzpatrick (R-PA) spoke of the bill he introduced to cut $500 million in U.S. aid to Egypt and to redirect it towards tuition for armed forces personnel. “We can’t justify giving money to Egypt when our own servicemen and women are suffering funding cuts to their tuition so I said, ‘Let’s take that $500 million right there.’”
Congressman Peter Roskam (R-IL): “Paul Johnson is a great historian, who wrote A History of the Jews. In the introduction, there is, he says, one group in history that has insisted that history has meaning. This claim to land and heritage are the foundation on which many Western virtues are founded. It is to be celebrated and defended. You are working for just that and I want you to be encouraged today.”
Congressman Tim Huelskamp (R-KS) said that “the pro-Israel feeling people have here is genuine because, apart from anything else, support of Israel is in the best interest of America’s foreign policy … As a loyal American, it is my duty to speak up for Israel and help build and defend the special relationship between us.”
Representative William H. Long (Billy Long, R-MO) opened by thanking ZOA ‘for the work you do because your work is extremely important … I back Israel, not because it is the right thing to do, but because it is the only thing to do … I am committed to getting every Member of Congress to visit Israel, because it is in visiting Israel that the strategic realities of the country become apparent to anyone who looks.” On the Iranian drive to obtain nuclear weapons, he said, “People need to understand that Iran is not only a threat to Israel but a threat to the United States.”
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein also addressed the crowd, thanking all of the ZOA activists for coming to Washington, D.C. to promote a strong U.S.-Israel alliance and a safe and secure Israel to the federal lawmakers on Capitol Hill.
Klein stated that, “It is absurd that the Arab Peace initiative is being promoted by Secretary of State Kerry and the Arab world, which requires Israel to return to the indefensible 1949 armistice lines (with minor swaps) and which includes Israel giving away all of eastern Jerusalem to Palestinians and the entire Golan Heights to Syria. It also requires Israel to permit millions of so-called refugees to move into Israel, to establish a Palestinians state and, only after Israel does all that, will the Arabs consider normalizing relations with Israel, but not accepting Israel as a Jewish state.”
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