NEW YORK – The American government should do some serious “soul searching” for
siding with the Palestinians against the State of Israel, Samaria Regional
Council head Gershon Mesika charged on Sunday at a New York conference in
support of West Bank settlements.
“I am sorry to say that until now, on
every issue in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the American administration has
chosen to side with the Arabs,” Mesika said. “They have neglected to be
considerate to the suffering of the Jewish people who have wandered from place
to place throughout their exile, waiting to return to our land.”
speaking at the West Side Institutional Synagogue in Manhattan during an
afternoon gathering titled “Israel Advocacy Conference: Addressing Core Issues,
Improving Your Impact.”
The conference was organized by the Samaria
Regional Conference and featured both Jewish and non-Jewish speakers from Israel
and the US. Some 200 people filled the men’s section of the synagogue to hear
about the historic, religious and strategic importance of Judea and Samaria to
the Jewish people.
“We are in Judea and Samaria as a right and not as an
act of kindness,” said Mesika, who traveled from Israel for the
The return of the Jewish people to Judea and Samaria after 2,000
years of exile was the fulfillment of God’s prophesy and promise, Mesika
“It is time the American administration reflects on its pressure on
Israel,” he said, inviting the audience to visit Samaria to see Jewish growth
“We need your political support and we need you with
us,” he stated.
Steven Goldberg, national vice chairman of the Zionist
Organization of America, said that Jews who support settlements “do not need to
“It is time to fight back,” he said, as he explained that
this should be done politically and through public protests.
have to take to the streets,” he said.
When US President Barack Obama and
US Secretary of State John Kerry speak, he asked, why are there no protests by
Jews? “We need to be vocal, we need to be loud, we need to be every bit as
powerful as them,” he said, referring to those who are against
“Our legal rights to Judea and Samaria are beyond
It is biblical but it is also under international
Goldberg complained that Israel had not received a fair hearing
with respect to international law, which is often widely interpreted in a way
that favors Palestinian rights to the West Bank.
“Would we get a fair
hearing? Of course. But that does not mean that the case should not be made,
loudly, that this land is ours,” he told the crowd.
He added that the
Israeli government was “somewhat at fault” for not promoting Jewish rights to
Judea and Samaria, preferring the idea of “getting along” instead.
are very dangerous times. You see what is happening with Iran. There are threats
and pressures to give up the heartland of the Jewish state. But in the end, I am
an optimist,” Goldberg said.
David Ha’ivri, Mesika’s international
adviser, said the event was part of the council’s campaign, through the Shomron
Liaison Office, to solicit political and public support in the US for Judea and
He said that in July, he and Mesika traveled to Washington to
meet with politicians and Jewish groups, and then to New York at the behest of
Rabbi Pesach Lerner, a former vice president of the National Council of Young
“He asked us to come... to unify the groups that agree on the
importance of Judea and Samaria,” Ha’ivri said.
He explained that in the
US it was not considered politically correct to support the settlement movement.
As a result, mainstream Zionist organizations avoid the issue.
different groups together strengthens their ability to stand up in
A small group of protesters representing left-wing Jewish groups
marched silently in single file outside the synagogue during the conference,
holding signs against Israel’s presence in the West Bank. The signs bore such
slogans as “Jews say no to occupation,” “Jews say justice for the Palestinian
people” and “Jews say not in our name.”
Ari Briggs, director of
international development for the Israel-based NGO Regavim, which advocates for
the Zionist use of state lands, stood on the synagogue steps holding an Israeli
flag. He yelled at the protesters, calling their actions “despicable,”
particularly given that they were “safe and secure in Manhattan.” “You should be
so embarrassed. It is no surprise there have always been Jews that have been
like that,” Briggs said. “There were Jews in support of Hitler, there were Jews
in support of the Caesar, what Stalin called useful idiots.”
One of the
protest organizers, Rebecca Vilkomerson of Jewish Voice for Peace, said in a
statement that settlers and their supporters “advocate building still more
settlements on Palestinian land.
We see their advocacy for what it is: an
insuperable obstacle to peace and justice and continued expansion on Palestinian