Monday, June 23, 2003

Increasing Attention Spans

Increasing Attention Spans
June 23, 2003


Last week I spent a few days in Washington D.C., participating in the annual Zionist Organization of American Mission to the U.S. capital.

The events included both the expected and the unexpected. The expected: a presentation by State Department official, Dr. David Wurmser, dealing primarily with issues concerning weapons of mass destruction. Of course, questions dealing with the current Middle East situation and State Department policy were asked, but not answered, due to the fact that they are not Dr. Wurmser’s speciality.

Ditto, the Israeli embassy spokesman Mark Regev. Regev spoke for almost half an hour, not about Hamas, not about terror, rather about media. This is not an unimportant subject, but Regev presented example after example of the same idea, rather than diversify his speech or relate to current events. At one point when he mentioned the Arab use of the word ‘occupation’ someone in the audience called out, “so did Sharon.’ Regev paused, said, ‘that is very complicated,’ continued talking, and did not relate to the subject again. Following his talk, Mark Regev refused to answer any questions and left immediately.

What was unexpected was the unbelievably warm reception we received on the Hill and the resounding words of support spoken by Senators and Congressmen. For example, Senator Arlen Spector of Pennsylvania said, “there are strains of fundamental Islam which are barbaric and uncivilized.” He demanded zero level terror and espoused support for the “Koby Mandell Act” legislation calling for Arab murderers of American citizens to be extradited to the United States to face trial for their terrorist crimes.  Spector said that these terrorists should be convicted and face the death penalty.

During a Congressional luncheon a number of representatives spoke with over 350 people who participated in the mission from around the United States.  Some quotes:
Elliot Engle from New York: “Stop the hypocrisy coming out of the State department. Israel must combat terror. If the United States has the right to take out top terrorist leaders, so does Israel.”
Shelley Berkley from Nevada: “Israel cannot negotiate with people who don’t recognize its right to exist.”
Ileana Ros-Lehtinen  of Florida told the audience  that Israel has no better ally than the United States and that the United States has no better ally than Israel. She added that their cannot be any negotiations before there is an end to terror and that the ‘roadmap’ cannot be a repetition of Oslo.
Anthony Weiner of New York, opposing the roadmap said, “diplomacy leads to more violence when the timing is wrong.” He compared negotiations with Hamas for a ceasefire with the United States negotiating with El Queda for a cease fire.
Pat Toomy from Pennsylvania said, “Statehood does not assure an end to terror.”
Joseph Crawly from New York related to “genocide bombers” as opposed to suicide bombers.
Rob Andrews from New Jersey said that Oslo is similar to the Chamberlain accords and added that present US policy is a challenge to the credibility of the United States. “The United States should be on the side of Israel, against terrorism, not trying to broker between the sides…We have traveled this road before, through Aushwitz and Treblinka. We will never travel it again.”

I was particularly impressed with Eric Cantor from Virginia who spoke of the strong Republican support for Israel, describing ‘fanatical support’ in the House of Representatives. Saying that U.S. support for Israel cannot be based on a ‘double standard,’ he also mentioned the weekly Torah portion dealing with spies sent from the desert to examine the Land of Israel, and eventually slandering the Land. Speaking of the ‘Biblical roots of desire for our homeland’ and Cantor said that we must appreciate Eretz Yisrael and have Faith in G-d. 

The eighteen Congressmen who spoke were only a handful of the support in the Senate and House of Representatives, and it was quite a refreshing change from the usual Israel-bashing we are usually treated to.

Another very important speaker was former Presidential candidate, Gary Bauer, who was also a domestic policy advisor to President Ronald Regan. He has become one of Israel’s staunchest Christian supporters in the United States. He spoke of the dangers of the roadmap and of Israel’s G-d-given right to Eretz Yisrael.

I was also asked to speak, and my talk concluded the day’s events. I asked the 350 ZOA representatives to continue their efforts on behalf of Israel, stressing the importance of their presence in Washington. The significance is not only in hearing words of support from American political leaders. Rather the real impact can be measured with the impression made on those representatives who see hundreds of people from as far away as California, investing two days time and money for Israel and the Jewish people.  I know for a fact that 350 ZOAers wandering around Capitol Hill left an indelible mark.

That being said, I am obligated to express my personal appreciation for the continued efforts of Mort Klein, president of the ZOA, Robert Jancu, the organization’s executive director, Sarah Stern, the permanent ZOA lobbyist in Washington, and others, who are doing so much for Israel. The ZOA is one of the few organizations, and certainly the largest of them, actively opposing the “roadmap.” They initiated the previously mentioned “Koby Mandell Act” and also the “Syrian Accountability Act, holding Syria responsible for serious international security problems it has created in the Middle East. In addition, they pressed Congressional leaders to form a ‘roadmap accountability forum,’ keeping track of the daily, numerous PA violations of  the roadmap framework.

These activities are essential, and I would recommend that anyone interested in actively supporting Israel contact your closest ZOA representative, or contact their office in New York.

It was only a few days ago that another American-born Israeli, Tzvi Goldstein, was murdered by Arafat security forces while on the way to his son’s post-wedding celebration in Jerusalem. Goldstein’s parents, both Long Island residents, were seriously wounded. The next day Israel eliminated Abdallah Kawasme, a master terrorist responsible for the deaths of at least 35 Israelis and the wounding of hundreds.  The roadmap Quartet deplored the killing of Kawasme, but said nothing about Goldstein’s murder. Secretary of State Colin Powell called Kawasme’s killing ‘an impediment to peace.’ The ZOA is in a position to keep Congress on its toes, and hopefully, one way or another, influence the administration’s present foreign policy concerning Israel and the terrorists.  If nothing else, they act as a constant reminder: Don’t forget Israel.

As one very savvy political aide told me, ‘Americans don’t have an attention span long enough to hold a grudge.’ We can’t let them forget, Eretz Yisrael belongs to Am Yisrael  and terror is terror is terror.

With blessings from Hebron,
This is David Wilder 

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