Peter Schwartz, the uncle of the most recent U.S. citizen killed by Palestinian terrorism, Ezra Schwartz, murdered at age 18 during his gap year in Israel, made the point during his testimony that “There is no context or explanation that makes Ezra’s murder or Palestinian terrorism any bit less repugnant than any other terrorism in any other place and there is no reason that it should warrant any less condemnation or reaction from every civilized citizen or country on Earth. I hope that history will fairly judge the people who commit such acts and those who support them, but we cannot wait for that.”
Rep. Mark Meadows (R-NC), who does not sit on the subcommittee, took the time to attend the hearing. He was candid in his frustration that the OVT was not following its own guidelines and the law, and unrelenting in his questions to DOJ witness Brad Wiegmann, deputy assistant attorney general, National Security Division.
“What is the point of your office?” Meadows asked Wiegmann. Meadows proceeded to ask if a lack of funding was responsible for OVT’s zero accomplishments, and if there were political reasons the DOJ investigated terrorist attacks against Americans in countries other than Israel. Finally, he stated: “You’re failing at part of your mission, Mr. Wiegmann.”
Meadows asked Weigmann to make a commitment to do whatever is needed to provide regular updates to all U.S. victims of overseas terrorism and inform them of their rights. Wiegmann agreed to the request, and promised to provide a report back to the subcommittee from the DOJ in 120 days to follow up on OVT’s progress.
The Endowment for Middle East Truth (EMET), a non-profit Washington-based pro-Israel and pro-America think tank, played a major role in orchestrating the hearing. EMET originally brought this critical issue to the attention of Rep. DeSantis, and assisted the subcommittee in providing background information and finding witnesses for the hearing.
EMET’s founder and president, Sarah Stern, was instrumental in the initial creation of the OVT in 2005. In the years since 2005, EMET has doggedly been working to educate Congress about the DOJ and the OVT’s unwillingness to do their job and make sure that any Palestinian terrorist who harms an American is brought to justice. EMET has held a staff briefing on Capitol Hill, bringing in American victims and family members.
EMET has worked with a bipartisan group of House members and senators to produce numerous letters to the DOJ, demanding prosecutions of these terrorists, and also assisted in finding co-sponsors for these letters. And on November 4, 2015, thanks in large part to EMET’s efforts, a Senate Subcommittee led by Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) held an oversight hearing, primarily focusing on Iranian funded Palestinian terrorism and civil lawsuits. EMET’s efforts culminated with the oversight hearing held by Chairman DeSantis.
The day following the hearing, Arnold Roth told The Jewish Press: “Some tight-roping was called for because there are very entrenched interests. The hearing was formed in a way that lead to action-oriented thinking on the part of all of the people involved and that’s a great achievement.”
He added: “The one constant that you’ll hear terror victims everywhere – and not only Jewish victims – express is their sense of disempowerment. For as long as I’ve watched the activities of EMET, its highest priority has been to respect the personal pain and the need for justice of the victims’ families. And I think that’s tremendous.”
To EMET, the hearing was a monumental step forward in achieving justice for the victims. The organization is committed to working with Congress and the American victims for as long as needed, until the justice that is so sorely lacking is served.