On May 28, my organization, the World Values Network, will host our third annual Champions of Jewish Values international awards gala. The theme this year is “70 years, six million lives. ensuring never again means never again.” The gala will commemorate 70 years since the liberation of Europe’s death camps and recognize those individuals who are engaged in Holocaust memory and are dedicated to defending the State of Israel.
Foremost among this year’s honorees is Elie Wiesel, receiving a lifetime achievement award for being the supreme Jewish light unto the nations. Then there is Anne Frank’s best friend, Jacqueline Van Maarsen, who we are bringing from Amsterdam by ship. She is mentioned all over the famous diary, including a letter of farewell written to her by Anne when she went into hiding with her family in July, 1942.
Then there are global Jewish philanthropists Dr. Miriam and Sheldon Adelson and Birthright Israel co-founders Judy and Michael Steinhardt. Texas Senator Ted Cruz and former Speaker Newt Gingrich will receive awards for their staunch defense of Israel, as will Democratic New York Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney.
Academy Award-winning actor Sir Ben Kingsley will receive an award for his dedication to Holocaust memory, including a roles in “Schindler’s List” and playing Otto Frank in “Anne Frank: The Whole Story.” The dinner will be rounded off with Israel’s outstanding diplomatic corps in the United States, including Israel’s ambassador to the United States, Ron Dermer, UN Ambassador Ron Prosor, and New York Consul-General Ambassador Ido Aharoni.
But the honoree who is attracting the most attention is New Jersey’s senior senator, Robert Menendez. Ever since we announced that we are giving him an award for being Israel’s great champion in the Senate, we have received criticism due to his indictment. A steady stream of calls have come from the media. Are you sure you want to honor him?
Here is my answer.
The highest of all Jewish values – and we are a Jewish values-based organization – is gratitude. It was this value that God insisted on when he told Moses that he could not change the Nile river into blood, or the dust of Egypt into lice, because both had earlier saved his life. Imagine that. Judaism’s greatest prophet being commanded to show gratitude toward inanimate objects. How much more so to human beings. And how much more so to our greatest allies.
Bob Menendez is arguably the best friend Israel has in the entire U.S. Senate. A man of ferocious courage and ironclad conviction, he has stood up valiantly for the people of Cuba against the Castro dictatorship and its vast human rights abuses.
The scourge of tyrants everywhere, Menendez is a man who puts principle before party loyalty and speaks truth to power. No senator has been more bold in condemning the Obama administration’s rush to conclude a deal with Iran that would endanger the security of both the United States and Israel.
Watching Menendez defy those who would appease Iran is like watching an American lion, tall and proud, often alone and condemned, but never breaking, bowing, or bending.
Of the White House’s proposed accord with Iran, Menendez famously said, “I have to be honest with you. The more I hear from the administration and its quotes, the more it sounds like talking points that come straight out of Tehran.”
Israel faces an existential threat from radical anti-Semite Ayatollah Ali Khameini, who calls Jewish Zionists “rabid dogs” and recently tweeted that Israel has “no cure but to be annihilated.” This was followed by one of Iran’s top generals publicly vowing that “Israel’s annihilation is non-negotiable.”
Senator Menendez has stood up to a government that stones women to death. A government that hangs gays from cranes in public squares. A government that murders American soldiers, as former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Michael Mullen put it: “Iran is very directly supporting extremist Shia groups which are killing our troops … shipping high-tech weapons … which are killing our people.” A government that shot 26-year-old philosophy student Neda Agha-Soltan through the heart in cold blood for peacefully protesting a stolen Iranian election in what Time Magazine calls “probably the most widely witnessed death in human history.”
I’m assuming that President Obama would not buy a used car from Ayatollah Khameini. So why would he trust him with a “peaceful” nuclear program?
Senator Menendez is the vital, bipartisan link against a deal with the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism, a deal that would leave Iran’s mullahs with less than a one-year breakout capability toward a nuclear bomb.
Menendez mirrors the bravery of the senators JFK included in “Profiles in Courage,” a leader prepared to be castigated by some in his party in the pursuit of his principles, convictions, and the public interest.
Some, including Alan Dershowitz, have argued that the Menendez indictment is linked with his staunch opposition to the administration’s Iran deal and President Obama’s intent to create a foreign policy legacy that Menendez is blocking. I have no idea if this is true. What I do know is that the Justice Department’s leak last month of the impending indictment, just four days after Menendez’s brilliant and audacious speech at AIPAC in support of Israel and against the Iran deal, was absolutely illegal and should trouble every American.
So here is my answer. Our organization is proud as hell to honor Senator Menendez on May 28. We salute his unwavering friendship with the Jewish people and his stalwart efforts to make America safe.
Last week, Thomas Friedman of the New York Times interviewed President Barack Obama about the Obama doctrine.
After two weeks of watching the president appease the Iranians and then publicly legitimize dictator RaÃºl Castro – all while continuing to assail Israel’s democratically elected leader, Benjamin Netanyahu – we might define the Obama doctrine thus: a steadfast refusal to be repulsed by evil. There seems to be almost no dictator on earth whom the president will punish for his cruelty to his own people, no autocrat to whom he will not reach out in the naÃ¯ve belief that his recognition will change their behavior.
A powerful example of the president’s refusal to identify evil is his broken promise to recognize the Armenian genocide, the 100th anniversary of which is this month.
We live in dangerous times, times where evil is given a pass and continues to stalk the earth. And there has never been a more important moment to stand with, and thank, our friends.