Those of us who have been on NORPAC missions probably realize the almost-prophetic nature of the talking points that were raised in 2002-2005, when our members asked Congress to change the nature of economic aid to Egypt. We foretold that a madrassa-educated and impoverished population would rise up and depose Hosni Mubarak. We urged educational reform and economic development rather than arms for Egypt. We were only partially successful in our efforts because of resistance from the administration, but did manage to ameliorate the threat of some advanced weapon systems being transferred to the Egyptian military.
While we hope that the turmoil in the Middle East leads to pluralistic and tolerant societies, the outlook is ominous. We can see what the future may hold from the incident of Lara Logan, the CBS “60 Minutes” journalist who was sexually assaulted in Cairo’s Tahrir Square by members of that freedom movement. Her offense was not being dressed in a hijab. While assaulting her, the crowd cursed at her, calling her “Jew, Jew, Jew.”
In these Middle East rebellions there will be a power vacuum. Our fear is that it will not be filled with the likes of George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, or Mahatma Gandhi. They instead have Sheik Yusuf Qaradawi, the formerly exiled spiritual leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, who now speaks in front of millions in Cairo calling for the opening of the Egyptian border with Gaza and the destruction of Israel. The chaos in the Middle East gives an advantage to disciplined and organized groups like the Muslim Brotherhood. Events demand our attention and reinforce our need to be prepared. Already Jerusalem is planning on increasing troop deployment along the Negev southern border and the expenses that go with this defense burden.
NORPAC was born 20 years ago, when a small group in this state decided that having a sitting secretary of state say (in vulgar language), forget the Jews, they don’t vote for us anyway, was a reflection of our lack of prestige and our failure to protect our interests as American citizens. It was clear that the American Jewish community needed to be better organized and politically engaged.
NORPAC has since grown and, through the tenacious efforts of our members, has been able to facilitate the introduction and passage of important legislative initiatives. It is our year-after-year commitment to organize local political events, in addition to our going on the NORPAC mission to Washington, that has allowed our efforts to succeed. Citizen advocates that personally meet with Congress in Washington are effective far beyond their numbers. For those making the effort to attend our mission, each voice is like 1,000. For each of you who decide to stay home, we are 1,000 less.
We are grateful that almost all members of Congress are willing to meet us. There are about 100 new members this year who need to hear from us about the importance of U.S.-Israel relations. This is a golden opportunity to present our case for Israel to both the new members and to reinforce our relationship with legislators we have met with and known for years. Most important, it is our chance to dispel the false information so prevalent about Israel on the world stage. The Jewish homeland has many accusers. We need you to go to Congress to be her defender.
There are few Holocaust survivors left who can turn the opinion of the most dogmatic legislator. The mantle of responsibility is now upon us to be proactive, as we have always needed and will continually need to be. Come with your family and friends on the NORPAC mission and be one of those who speak softly and are thoughtfully heard.
For information, call (201) 788-5133 or go to www.norpac.net.