Below are parts of comments made by Agudath Israel trustee Chaskel Bennett delivered to Senator Rand Paul (R-KY), a member of the Foreign Relations Committee; Senator Ron Johnson (R-WI), chairman of the Homeland Security Committee; and Senator Robert Menendez (D-NJ), ranking member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee at the Agudath Israel National Board of Trustees mission to Washington on February 10.
Today the United States of America and the world are facing many threats and challenges, some historic in nature. We come here to the U.S. Capitol as members of Agudath Israel of America, representatives of the American Orthodox Jewish community, keenly aware of our role and place in history and the responsibility placed on our generation—to warn you that history is alarmingly repeating itself.
The Jews of Europe and indeed Jews across the world are again staring at the violent rise of anti-Semitism much the same way my grandmother fearfully describes the events of her childhood in Cologne, Germany, pre-Kristallnacht. The world then and now more than ever are seeking voices of moral clarity that are willing to speak up, speak out, and take serious action in the face of those threats to humanity, to our people.
Highlighting those threats faced by Western civilization is Iran, which by all accounts seems close to nuclear breakout. This may be the greatest threat and challenge to the U.S. and the world since the rise of Adolf Hitler. President Obama, to his credit, has spoken forcefully numerous times about his administration’s commitment to preventing Iran from acquiring a nuclear bomb. Those words need to be unflinchingly matched by a committed and resolute Congress that is willing to stand tall and strong in the face of Iranian deception and duplicity. This should not be a heavy lift. After all, everyone seems to agree. Yet it seems this issue has become politicized to the point where the debate has been lost to partisanship. This absolutely cannot be.
We come here to the Congress, at this time, as the children and grandchildren of Holocaust survivors to give voice to our own tortured history and loudly speak out on behalf of our brethren in the Holy Land who are facing different enemies that threaten their annihilation, an Iranian regime and other emboldened adversaries in the region, hell-bent on a similar fate for our people. The harsh lessons of the Holocaust couldn’t be more applicable. When despots threaten the Jewish people with extinction and annihilation, the world must take those threats seriously. We support any and every effort by the president and the Congress to prevent Iran from acquiring those weapons of mass destruction. What we cannot do is sit idly by and watch Iran become a nuclear state while this critical issue gets lost in a diplomatic scuffle between the greatest of allies over a diplomatic disagreement. The stakes are simply too high, the threat to our people too real. It would be a catastrophe.
Unfortunately, many respected voices, including former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal, and others have pointed out that it seems the administration is no longer seeking prevention of a nuclear Iran but nuclear containment. Many, including myself, share that ominous view and desperately urge the Obama administration and every member of Congress to redouble their efforts to prevent Iran from obtaining such a frightening capability, before it’s too late. The eyes of history are upon all of you. We call on Congress to rise above all else and meet this challenge.