Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon, Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres, Nobel Peace Prize recipient Elie Wiesel and a who's who of prominent community leaders and New York politicians participated in "We Stand With Israel -- Now and Forever," a live telecast co-sponsored by United Jewish Communities (UJC) and New York's 92nd Street Y.
The event was a solid show of support for Israel that was beamed by satellite to 100 institutions throughout North America, including B'nai David-Judea Congregation locally. The goal was to express solidarity with Israel, which, over 17 months, has suffered 364 deaths and 3,520 wounded as a result of 12,051 acts of terror.
However, the topic on everybody's lips at the March 24 event was that day's New York Times article drawing terrorist connections between Palestinian Authority Chairman Yasser Arafat and Iran.
"We stand with Israel and feel her pain -- life and limb -- as a result of the terrible Palestinian campaign of violence," said UJC's Marvin Lender in New York.
Locally, Mort Zuckerman, editor-in-chief of U.S. News & World Report and co-publisher of the New York Daily News, spoke live from The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles. He observed that the Palestinians, due to Arafat, missed a crucial opportunity to gain a Palestinian state.
"Because Yasser Arafat has said yes to violence and no to peace, that's why he's lost the confidence of all who are interested in peace," said Zuckerman, who also chairs the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations.
The most adamant words came from New York's two Democratic U.S. senators, Charles Schumer and Hillary Clinton. Schumer poked holes in the Palestinian right of return, "an inherently anti-Semitic policy" that calls for the dismantling of Israel.
Clinton was upset with Arafat's failure to defuse the Middle East conflict and his apparent thirst to exacerbate it by subjecting children to hate-mongering textbooks and to the culture of suicide bombers.
"The use and exploitation of children for violence is absolutely unforgivable and needs to be condemned as such," said the former first lady. She called for Arafat to dismantle his 417 special service, the Tanzin armed wing of his Fatah movement and the Fatah-linked Al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade.
"It will be done with his support or not," she vowed, before lambasting European leaders for not being more outspoken against the Arab world.
"This is not about geography but history," Wiesel said. "To establish a Palestinian state not like Israel but instead of Israel. What Yasser Arafat wants is a permanent state of revolution -- fear, not peace."
In addition to prominent politicians and commentators, victims of the violence shared their stories, including Maimon Asailom, proprietor of the recently bombed Jerusalem night spot, Moment Cafe, and Yoram Cohen, a young man caught in that explosion. Rabbi Binny Friedman, who survived last summer's Sbarro restaurant bombing, said, "I spent 4 1/2 years in the army, but nothing prepared me for that afternoon at Sbarro's."
Sharon expressed pride in the cultural and scientific accomplishments Israel has contributed in mere decades, "while holding a sword in one hand and building our country with the other."
"My government is committed to a lasting peace with security," concluded the prime minister. "But our neighbors must recognize our right to exist."
Following the two-hour broadcast, Zuckerman criticized Loren Jenkins, National Public Radio foreign news editor, and CNN. He considers both biased against Israel.
Zuckerman described support for Israel in Congress as "the strongest that I have ever seen." As for President Bush, Zuckerman said he "has astonished me by the commitment he has to addressing this issue. For him it's a moral mission. I say, thank God for that."
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