Heritage Florida Jewish News - Central Florida's Independent Jewish Voice

Engel bows to Arab lobbyists, pro-Israel friends are silent


October 11, 2019

An anti-Hamas bill has been severely watered down by Congressman Eliot Engel. It’s a turn of events that should trouble every supporter of Israel.

The New York Post claimed this week that Engel (D-NY), the chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee, agreed to change the bill after heavy pressure from Qatar and the Palestinian Authority (PA).

The Post quoted “a personal acquaintance of Engel’s” as saying, “Eliot told me directly that he was getting a lot of pressure from the Qataris” about the bill At the same time, Engel or his representatives held seven meetings this past spring with lobbyists for the PA, apparently to discuss the bill.

The Qataris didn’t like the fact that the bill mentioned Qatar’s massive financial support for Hamas. The PA didn’t like the fact that it would have penalized regimes—like the PA—that assist Hamas in various ways.

So the bill, which was authored by Rep. Brian Mast (R-Florida), was changed. The language about Qatar was removed, and loopholes were added so that aid to Hamas which is considered “humanitarian” would not be blocked.

We put “humanitarian” in quotation marks because we all remember how “humanitarian” concrete, which supposedly would be used to build homes, instead was used to build tunnels to kidnap and murder Israelis.

At this point in the story, you would imagine that those Jewish leaders who claim to be Engel’s buddies would have intervened to restore the original language of the Mast bill.

Morton Klein, president of the Zionist Organization of America is a friend of Engel. A few weeks before the vote on the bill, the ZOA announced in a press release that it held a “magnificent dinner” in Washington with “fabulous speakers.” The first speaker that it named was Engel. It claimed Engel “has been friends with ZOA President Morton Klein throughout Rep. Engel’s 30 years in Congress.”

The ZOA press release was accompanied by a photo of Engel smiling broadly. No wonder he was smiling—the irony was delicious!  Here the “right-wing” Jews were praising him to the high heavens, while at that very moment, he was sabotaging the anti-Hamas bill.

Why didn’t Klein press Engel to resist the pressure from Qatar and the PA? And, failing that, why didn’t Klein speak out against this outrage?

Let’s give Klein the benefit of the doubt. Let’s assume that despite his friendship with Engel, the ZOA is not able to overcome the lobbyists from Qatar and the PA. If that is the case, then at least we would expect the ZOA to issue a press release criticizing the Engel-neutered bill.

After all, one of the things the ZOA is best known for is its timely press releases. According to the New York Post, the PA’s lobbyists met with Engel seven times between February 7 and May 7, 2019. During that period, the ZOA issued no less than 57 press releases.

Sometimes the ZOA issued several press releases on a single day. There were two separate press releases—and an Action Alert— declaring the ZOA was appalled by a congressional resolution on anti-Semitism.

Yet when it came to a bill that could have actually impacted Qatari and PA support for Hamas there was not a single press release from the ZOA.

There was a ZOA press release condemning Hamas for firing rockets at Israel. And there was one urging Sen. Elizabeth Warren to fire a “Hamas-loving” member of her staff. But nothing about the legislation that could have impacted Hamas.

What a missed opportunity.

Moshe Phillips is the national director of Herut North America’s U.S. section. Herut is an international movement for Zionist pride and education.


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