Over 1,100 people attended the Zionist Organization of America’s (ZOA) 117th Louis D. Brandeis Award Dinner on Sunday, November 22 at New York City’s elegant Grand Hyatt Hotel. Major ZOA donors provided tables for 219 student activists from various universities who attended.
Israeli Ambassador to the United States, His Excellency Ron Dermer; newly-appointed Israeli Ambassador to the United Nations His Excellency Danny Danon; Academy-Award-winning Hollywood legend and Christian Zionist Jon Voight; global philanthropists/humanitarians Dr. Miriam and Sheldon Adelson; and distinguished philanthropist, businessman and tireless Zionist activist Jack Halpern all addressed the crowd. Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and renowned Harvard Law Professor Emeritus Alan Dershowitz, recipient of ZOA’s Mortimer Zuckerman award for Outstanding Journalism, also addressed the Dinner by video. Yeshiva University president Richard Joel delivered the Dvar Torah. A video was shown of a major annual ZOA project, headed by ZOA Board member Rubin Margules and ZOA’s Israel Director Jeff Daube, which provides hundreds of gifts and food packages to Israel Defense Forces (IDF) soldiers as a tribute of our appreciation for their service.
Sheldon and Dr. Miriam Adelson presented the Adelson Defender of Israel Award to Jon Voight; Founder and Chairman of Cognex Corporation, the world’s leading supplier of machine vision systems, Dr. Bob Shillman, presented the Shillman Award for Outstanding Diplomacy to Ambassador Dermer; Harley Lippman and Dr. Ben Chouake were co-chairs of the Dinner.
Yeshiva University president Richard Joel spoke of Joseph’s dream in the Bible — a dream of the Jewish people established in G-d’s designated land, and praised the ZOA for “fighting heroically to make Joseph’s dream a reality, working for the success of the nation of Israel in the land of Israel today.”
Ambassador Danon opened by describing a series of anti-Israel resolutions and initiatives on the international scene, including efforts to have Jerusalem’s Temple Mount declared an exclusively Muslim holy place, which he described as being for Israel “just another day at the UN … I have been here just six weeks. It feels like six years.” Recounting some of the most recent incidents of Palestinian Arab terrorism in Israel in the form of stabbing and car attacks, Ambassador Danon declared, “If our enemies are testing our resolve, they will fail. We overcame suicide bombers, plane hijackings, mortar and rocket attacks — we’ll overcome stabbings.” Addressing the pernicious moral equivalence in which Palestinian terrorism is subsumed into a “cycle of violence” and Israeli responses treated on the same moral plane as the terrorist outrages, Ambassador Danon said, “Why does the UN call for ‘both sides’ to show restraint and call terrorism a ‘cycle of violence’?” Speaking of the international thrust to have international observers placed on the Temple Mount, Ambassador Danon said, “Let me be clear: we will not permit an international presence on Har HaBayit [Temple Mount] in Jerusalem, our eternal capital. ambassador Danon also decried the ‘obsession’ over labeling Jewish products from Judea/Samaria and illustrated the extent of the absurd international preoccupation with condemning Israel by reference to 20 resolutions that had been devoted within the UN to Israel, as opposed to the mere three resolutions had that had been devoted to events in the rest of the world. Ambassador Danon concluded, “Israel is a lighthouse in the storm, a beacon of stability. In 67 years, we have built an amazing country, from making the deserts bloom to launching satellites and startups. WITHOUT the support of the ZOA across the years, Israel would not be the place it is today. Thank you for your unconditional love and support. With your love and support we will prevail.”
The Director of the ZOA’s Center for Law and Justice, Susan Tuchman, also spoke at the Dinner recounting for the audience the myriad ways in which the ZOA fights for the rights and protections of Jewish students at campuses across the country, especially now in the face of the ugly, intimidating and violent activism of the so-called students for Justice in Palestine (SJP). “The goal of SJP is not about securing any sort of a justice for Palestinian Arabs, it’s about bashing Israel and Jews. There has been a truly frightening level of escalation and intimidation and violence against Jewish students. SJP has repeatedly called for an ‘intifada.’ Everyone here tonight knows what an intifada is. And this is just what we have seen. Jewish students have been physically assaulted; ironically, one of them was a Jewish student from France who had moved here thinking that he’d be free from the anti-Semitism he has experienced in France.” Cries of ‘Death to Zionists’ and ‘Zionists go home’ have been frequent at SJP gatherings and we all know that ‘Zionist’ is code for Jews. This hatred and bigotry and promotion of violence is simply unacceptable. These groups must be condemned and held to account for making an environment of hate for Jewish students.” Ms. Tuchman recounted examples of firm action taken by college administrators when blacks and women were the targets. “We at ZOA are working hard to ensure college administrators respond with the same vigor and force where Jewish students are concerned.”
ZOA National President Morton A. Klein presented the Brandeis Award to Jack Halpern, Noting that Mr. Halpern’s philanthropic support for Israel “knows no limits. Jack Halpern is active on Capitol Hill, supporting those who understand the importance of a strong Israel. Jack learned from his extraordinary father — also a Brandeis Award recipient — and in fact became like him, a zealous defender of Jews and Israel everywhere.”
Mr. Halpern spoke of Israel’s extraordinary achievements, its emergence from scarcity and limited means at the time of its establishment to a $200 billion economy today, its world leadership in new industries and intelligence, unmanned vehicles and cutting edge scientific innovation. He also spoke of Israel’s preparations to welcome 100,000 French Jews. Mr. Halpern also spoke of international developments, including the fact that India, in seven years, will become the most populous country in the world and one moreover in which there is great support and admiration for Israel. Mr. Halpern also noted that he had started out as a supporter of the Oslo Accords but future events caused him as he put it “to examine his assumptions.” He noted that Yasser Arafat had praised the Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin el Husseini, Hitler’s collaborator, as a role model and had concluded from the Palestinian recourse to violence, terrorism, and incitement that “Palestinians are not ready — and may never be ready — for peace.” Mr. Halpern concluded that peace can only come if Palestinians understood and accepted the Jewish people’s claim to the land, of land that is “Jewish by every conceivable criterion.”
Former Congresswoman Michele Bachmann, a close friend of Jon Voight, said that “The Jewish people, the Chosen People, gave mankind the law through Moses, and by extension, they gave culture and society that gives continues to give the world life, peace and mercy today. As a Christian, I owe the Jewish people my thanks, and undying appreciation and loyalty, which I give today unconditionally.” Introducing Jon Voight, Ms. Bachmann, described him as not only the deserved winner of the highest awards of the film and television industry, but also a “true intellectual with a great heart and generosity of spirit who has demonstrated that rarest of qualities, courage … Jon Voight has shown unyielding support for Israel and the Jewish people … who wrote and published and went on national TV to make an impassioned defense of both the Jewish state and the Jewish people. She applauded the ZOA for wisely choosing “a Churchill in support of the Jewish people and the Jewish state.”
Sheldon Adelson and Dr. Miriam Adelson presented the Dr. Miriam and Sheldon Adelson Defender of Israel Award to Jon Voight. First Mr. Adelson, thanked Mort Klein for his praiseworthy words of introduction of the Adelsons, saying that Mort “is the reason that ZOA has made such great progress in its growth and effectiveness for fighting for Israel and Jews.”. And he hpoed that Mort would continue to lead ZOA for many, many more years to come.” He described Jon Voight as a “giant among righteous gentiles and an extraordinary defender of Israel. Your powerful words speaking the truth about the jihadist war against Jews and Christians which inspires us all.”
Jon Voight thanked the ZOA and the Adelsons for presenting to him this great honor, observing that to be at this ZOA Dinner “among the greatest philanthropists and protectors of Israel” was “more than humbling.” Mr. Voight recounted some of the seminal events in the past century leading to the creation of Israel in 1948. “After the Holocaust, when the world’s sympathies were with the Jews, the world came along at the UN in a surprising — you might say, a miraculous — manner and offered statehood, and the Jews took it. The Arabs were also offered statehood but turned it down? Why did they refuse it, they weren’t going to share anything with the Jewish people and that remains their position today.” Mr. Voight spoke of Israel’s remarkable achievements amid so many travails, succeeding in establishing the most democratic and humane government in the Middle East. The many concessions Israel made under Oslo as well as the Gaza withdrawal were some of “the biggest mistakes Israel has made and it will be no mystery what will happen if they give up Judea/Samaria.”
In introducing Ambassador Ron Dermer, recipient of the Dr. Bob Shillman Award for Outstanding Pro-Israel Diplomacy, Dr. Bob Shillman paid tribute to Ambassador Dermer’s eloquence and brilliance in making the case for Israel, speaking the truth about the Arab/Muslim war on Israel’s existence as a Jewish state.
Ambassador Dermer opened by praising the ZOA as the “conscience of the Jewish community” and Jon Voight as “the conscience of Hollywood.” stating that the great world conflict in which many countries, including Israel, are under attack, requires that in order to win, we correctly identify the enemy, which he called “militant Islam.” He warned of a global network of disparate Muslim terrorist groups waging a relentless war to create a world where “women are chattel, gays are hanged and minorities are either eliminated or persecuted” – and one where Israel and the United States do not exist. At the same time, Dermer rejected the idea that the “problem is Islam itself … Faiths tend to be very malleable things,” Dermer said. “They get interpreted in different ways at different times. For most of the last 1,400 years, Islam was much more tolerant to minorities than Christianity was. Jews, of all people, should know this.” But in the 21st century, Ambassador Dermer said, “it is not only important to define the enemy, it is important to defeat the enemy,” noting critically that the world was shocked by the recent ISIS terrorist massacres in Paris, yet rationalizes Palestinian terrorism against Israel. He also observed that the oft-heard explanation that Middle Eastern terrorism stems from poverty and suffering bore little relation to reality, noting the fact that most terrorists come from educated, middle-class backgrounds. He also strongly criticized the non-thinking and bias which underpins claims that what is happening in Israel amounts to a ‘cycle of violence,’ explaining with some shocking examples the user of media and cartoons to inculcate hatred and extremism in Palestinian children within the Palestinian Authority and Hamas-controlled Gaza. Ambassador Dermer also praised the ZOA saying, “IF there is one organization that represents the indomitable spirit of the Jewish people, it’s the ZOA. This is an organization that stands for something — and I’m deeply humbled by your decision to give me this award.”
ZOA president Morton Klein delivered the concluding address of the night, focusing on the importance of Jews speaking the truth and fearlessly standing up for themselves, resolving never again to be the “sha-shtil Jews of silence” of the past who kept their heads down and simply hoped for the best while their enemies gathered. He quoted the Book of Ezekiel, which states that a watchman who doesn’t sound the alarm when the sword of the enemy advances will be accountable to G-d. Klein said, “The ZOA will continue to blow and blow and blow the horn to warn the Jewish people.” Klein referred to the previous week’s terrorist attacks in Paris, noting the world had avoided noticing they are being carried by the same type of radical Muslims that commit terror and murder against the Jews of Israel. These worlwide terror attacks in Paris, Mali, Nigeria,Israel, Spain, England, Syria, etc. were carried out by not by radical Buddhists, radical Hindus, radical Christians, or radical Jews, but were being carried out by radical Muslims. He appealed to president Obama, “Mr President, please show us that you understand that. You haven’t done it yet.” Klein described the situation in Israel as so frightening, that has deteriorated to the point where people in Israel are afraid to walk the streets or go shopping. This now requires extraordinary measures to stop this Islamist horror. . One such possibility to consider is requiring the parents and siblings of Arab terrorists to publicly condemn these acts in Arabic and Hebrew and if they fail to do so, to deport them. If these terrorists knew their families would pay this heavy heavy price, some of them might be deterred from carrying out their crimes. Remember all their parents and siblings have to do is condemn the terrorist act and their would be no deportation.
Turning to the international situation, Klein rebutted the platitude that military force can’t defeat an ideology. “Those who say that one can’t defeat an ideology with military action are mistaken. That’s exactly how the allies destroyed Nazism during World War II. The Allies crushed Nazi Germany. After World War II, there was not a single German prepared to say that he believed in or supported Nazism. Military strength crushed Nazism and it caqn destroy radical militant Islam and ISIS. ISIS threatens to blow up major cities in America. Yet, I have to tell you, and it pains me to say so, but the U.S. has done very little to destroy ISIS. Our president has placed severe restrictions on our soldiers, ruling out military action if it may kill a single civilian. With that philosophy and restriction, you can’t fight a war and we will loser. ISIS makes 500 million dollars/year in oil revenues using hundreds of trucks to deliver the oil. For 14 months, this president has refused to allow our forces to bomb those trucks. Why? Because they are driven by civilians! Thank G-d Obama finally allowed the bombing of the trucks this week. Additionally, we’re only doing 7-15 bombings a day against ISIS, when our commanders are calling for hundreds of bombings a day.”
Klein also focused on the commonalities linking the radical Islamic terrorists. “When ISIS speaks in its communique after the Paris attacks of ‘holy martyrs murdering hundreds of pagans gathered for a concert of prostitution and vice,’ how is that any different from Mahmoud Abbas urging Palestinians to sow violence against Jews for ‘defiling Temple Mount with their filthy feet’? Saying that Jews are a dirty people who worship the devil, and praising Palestinian martyrs for their murderous attacks against Jews.’ But there is one difference, when they murder Jews, the world is silent. Vice-President Joseph Biden this week spoke of the people murdered by terrorists in various parts of the world, but he never mentioned Israel. President Obama has spoken frequently of terrorist attacks, listing the many countries in the world in which it occurs, without mentioning Israel.”
Regarding the clamor to bring in refugees from Syria, Klein singled out the usual arguments made about helping those in need, pointing out that a percentage among those coming in are terrorists who want to murder Americans and Jews and many more support the actions of terrorists like ISIS and Pew polls show 70% to 97% of Muslims in the 50 Muslim-majority countries have anti-Semitic and anti-Israel feelings. Klein observed that if a people from a certain society in another country wanted entry as refugees that were known to be, for example, vehemently anti-black, the issue of letting them in would raise serious concerns as it should.
Klein also elaborated on the myth that Jerusalem is holy to Muslims. He explained in detail why that is a propaganda myth. It is holy to Jews-not to Muslims.
Klein expressed the ZOA’s appreciation to Dr. Miriam and Sheldon Adelson for their “truly global philanthropy and being the Rothschilds of our generation” and for creating the Adelson Defender of Israel Award, whose previous recipients have included Glenn Beck, former Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee and leading Christian Zionist Pastor John Hagee. Mr. Klein noted that Mr. Adelson was one of the very few recipients of the “Nobel Prize of Zionism,” the solid gold Theodore Herzl Medallion, which has been awarded to giants like Winston Churchill, Yitzhak Shamir and Abba Eban, before expressing heartfelt thanks for their support and vision.
The night also featured taped remarks from Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Alan Dershowitz, both praising ZOA and the honorees for their pro-Israel work. A last minute addition to the program was Jonathan Pollard’s attorney, Eliot Lauer, who lamented the onerous parole conditions facing Mr. Pollard after his release from a federal prison, after serving 30 years for spying for Israel. Pollard is only permitted to leave his place of residence fron 7am to 7pm, among other restrictions.
The Dinner was made possible through the hard work of the fabulous ZOA staff. It was also a special moment when we called all of the ZOA campus professionals, government relations professionals, and three ZOA attorneys who work so hard on our issues. ZOA also honored Derek Silver, a pro-Israel activist student, with the Myron Zimmerman Award For Student Pro-Israel Activism. Another highlight of the evening was the YU student Acapello singers who performed magnificently and the Klezmer Band. ZOA Board Member Dr. Alan Mazurek presided with his usual charm and wit as emcee.