America’s Most Courageous Senator

February 10, 2014 8:17 am 21 comments

U.S. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-NJ) speaks at the American Israel Public Affairs Committee 2013 Policy Conference on March 5. Photo: Maxine Dovere.

A few weeks ago I wrote of sitting in the second row at the Davos lecture of President Hassan Rouhani of Iran. I related my revulsion at watching one of the world’s most skilled fabricators being given a hero’s welcome as a moderate, even as the Iranian government has publicly executed 600 people in the last twelve months alone, from religious leaders to political dissidents, mostly hanging them from cranes in public squares.

The world continues to give Rouhani a pass and the United States has already released $8 billion in previously frozen assets that will be used to prop up an evil regime that brutalizes its own people.

But amidst this ignoble capitulation which imperils the safety of both the United States and Israel, there is one man who has almost singlehandedly stood up to Iran. He is Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey.

Menendez is that rare leader of courage, prepared to be castigated by the head of his own party who also happens to be the leader of the free world, in the pursuit of his convictions. Noone has shown the courage to stand up for Israel against the White House’s opposition to the new sanctions bill against Iran like Menendez and he has emerged as the single greatest supporter of Israel in the United States Senate. Period.

Watching Menendez stare down the White House for the past few months, I have been blown away by a leader seemingly made of steel, unbendable and indestructible. No matter how much President Obama has tried to break him on carrying forward with his Iran sanctions bill, Menendez has refused to yield.

Lately it’s been open season on Israel. The past few weeks have seen a nasty display of anti-Israel diatribes on virtually every front with the permission to go after Israel coming passively from the Obama Administration. From Secretary of State John Kerry we have heard that if Israel doesn’t embrace a peace agreement that would have them cede East Jerusalem and all of the West Bank, there will be a second Intifada, new boycotts against Israel, and the Jewish state’s increased isolation. Talk about negotiating with a gun to your head!

From National Security Advisor Susan Rice – the American official who put party politics ahead of genocide prevention in Rwanda in 1994 – we have even heard that Israeli criticism of John Kerry is “unacceptable,” thereby denying a fellow democracy, not to mention an ally, its very freedom of speech. And all this has been child’s play compared to the avalanche of Israel hatred that has poured forth from academic boycotts like the ASA and Oxfam’s attempts to maligning a proud Jewish actress named Scarlett Johansson because she refused to abandon an Israeli company that employs 500 Palestinians in the West Bank.

Through all this Israel has had one stalwart public supporter who has bucked the trend, not only to put forth legislation, along with Senator Mark Kirk, that would stop the murderous mullahs from continuing uranium enrichment, but to stand with Israel against a President whom in the State of Union sounded like he was more concerned about Congress than Iran.

That man is Senator Robert Menendez.

I have heard from insiders that beyond what is known in the public sphere Menendez has been a bulldog for Israel behind the scenes as well. Ever since the White House’s full court press against the Senators, especially Democratic, who have co-sponsored the legislation to increase sanctions against Iran, a great many have gone silent. Not so Menendez who has fought back like a lion.

Last Thursday he made a strong argument as to why the White House’s policy on Iran is so misguided, stating, “Iran is insisting on keeping core elements of its programs – enrichment, the Arak heavy-water reactor, the underground Fordow facility, and the Parchin military complex. And, while they may be subject to safeguards — so they can satisfy the international community in the short-run – if they are allowed to retain their core infrastructure, they could quickly revive their program sometime in the future… Bottom line: They dismantle nothing. We gut the sanctions.”

Last November Menendez directly accused the White House of fear-mongering in their attempts to derail his anti-Iran legislation. ”What I don’t appreciate is when I hear remarks out of the White House spokesman that … if we’re pursuing sanctions we’re marching the country off to war. I think that’s way over the top, I think that’s fear-mongering.”

As for President Obama’s promise to veto any new legislation, Menendez said, “The legislation is not the problem. Congress is not the problem. Iran is the problem. We need to worry about Iran, not the Congress.”

It would seem surprising that a Democratic Senator would have to remind an American President that a regime whose leader recently called Jewish Zionists “rabid dogs” and who once again predicted Israel’s annihilation, is the enemy, rather than the U.S. Congress. But this is the bizarre time in which we live, a time where the American Secretary of State goes to Israel on a near-weekly basis threatening the end of the world if Israel does not make peace with the Palestinians while not once visiting Damascus where 150,000 innocent people have already died.

In a time when Israel is facing renewed pressure and global calls for boycotts from an anti-Semitic BDS movement, it’s an incredible relief to know that Israel has stalwart friends. Menendez is the absolute best we have and the Jewish community ought to show its public and sincere gratitude.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, whom Newsweek and The Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America,” is the international best-selling author of 30 books, and will shortly publish “The Fed-up Man of Faith: Challenging G-d in the Face of Tragedy and Suffering.” His website is www.shmuley.com. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.

21 Comments

  • Menendez, like the Iranians, realizes that Obama is basically a bully, and that bullies tend to back down when confronted with an intended victim who stands up to them. What Israel needs now is someone who is prepared to stand up to the American bully.

    Incidentally, “BDS” actually stands for “Bullies against Democratic Societies.”

  • The settlements were not an issue until Obama made them an issue and Abbas jumped on the bandwagon. Even those who want to give Abbas another arrow in his anti-Israeli quiver by focusing on settlements agree that Israel will keep 80-90% of the settlement land, and this is the land Israel is building on. No one says she’s expanding.

    The Arabs will not permit a Jewish nation in the Muslim Mideast and Abbas and most of his people are determined to destroy Israel. If Abbas made peace, his people would kill him. Jordan and Egypt who have peace treaties are not friends with Israel; they merely tolerate her temporary presence in “their” land. Israel and Palestine don’t have peace because no one in the West will deal with the real issues in the Mideast. The liberal attempts to recreate the 1960s in today’s Mideast are making matters worse.

  • I am impressed with comment Number one. Its OK, lets give in before we get anything. Sure, no settlements, no wars and no defense. I would even suggest that Natanyahu and his men move back to Russia and Poland, hey all for peace!
    On a more serious side, what kind of peace can there be when Natanyahu will give in to all the demands before anyone suits down at the table? Furthermore, if you give in to all the demands, don’t you think that the Arabs would have even more demands? Yes, like ‘all Jews should move out of the entire Israel!’

  • First off, Shmuly’s credibility went out the window with his support of Michael Jackson not being a pedophile. Second, supporting Israel in the state of New Jersey doesn’t take much courage whatsoever. Standing up against Israel, as a politician whether Republican, Democrat or other would be worth calling courageous. As a former soldier, 82nd Airborne, I think the word courageous gets bandied about way too much. Being a hero or courageous is running into the gunfire with reckless abandonment, without regard to one’s own safety. Senator Mendez does not display this concept in the slightest. In my synagogue, it is very possible I am the most observant Jew and if you consider I would be willing to give my life by going to Israel, if it was invaded, to combat or just medically assist, then I’m probably the most Zionist. I’m also a realist. Benjamin Netanyahu and his cronies do not want peace. If they did, there would be no continued building a settlements. The only reason this occurs, because there are no courageous politicians in America that I know of, at this time. Not one of them is standing tall, especially Senator Mendez. Courage would be saying, “No assistance or support for Israel until the building of settlements ceases.” How can you expect the Palestinians to stop their aggression, with the continued building of settlements during alleged peace talks? It’s a total joke and to deny and is pure stupidity. Moshe, a.k.a. Rabid Rebbe, from Tucson, Arizona.

    • Are you totally ignorant, or just plain stupid? Hashem gave the land to our core-
      Fathers in perpetuity . We, the Jewish people are his
      Chosen people. All of the land, including occupied territories by
      Arabs belong to us. If indeed you are a “rebbe” as
      You claim, you would know that all these negotiations are
      a joke. The land of Israel belongs to us, and only us!
      You’re a joke!

    • Dear Soldier,

      First, thank you for defending America and the free world.

      Regarding settlements, the Jews were ethnically cleansed from their homes in Judea, Samaria and East Jerusalem (where they were a majority for a solid 100 year before Israel’s founding) by the Arabs in 1948.

      Also, the Palestinians were not interested in peace when there were no settlements and when settlements were small. Settlements are now a popular excuse for them, but not the real reason they don’t want peace. Also, they were offered evacuation of all settlements that were not along Israel’s borders and were offered land swaps to compensate for those…they refused. So you are getting cause and effect totally backward, consistent with Palestinian propaganda, unfortunately.

      This does not mean you are not a Zionist or a friend. It only means that your understanding of the issues here is, well, let me use the polite term, “common.”

      Sincerely,

      Mike

    • How can YOU expect peace with an enemy which refuses, absolutely, to recognize the country to which they are condoning and lionizing terrorism? Whatever Netanyahu’s position, it takes two to tango. Israel HAS NO PEACE PARTNER. How can they make peace unilaterally? They tried in Lebanon, result? Hezbollah. They tried in Gaza, result? Hamas and Islamic Jihad. Not to mention Israel’s unilateral withdrawal from all conquered territory in 1948 and 1956.

      It does take courage to ask the Jewish state to commit suicide, you are right. But that kind of courage I can live without.

    • Alan Menachemson

      Well put
      You expressed so much truth so succinctly

    • michaelgarfinkel

      Rabid Rebbe – chest-thumping doth not an argument make.

      The issue of settlements is far more complex than you allow, and demands a thoughtful analyis that takes into account political, cultural, and strategic considerations – all of which are entirely absent in your remarks.

      Moreover, the implication that the Palestinians have no agency and that prospects for peace depend solely on the Israelis, is in itself breathtakingly stupid.

    • Hey Rabid, your experience with the 82nd airborne seems to have turned you into a space cadet. When you land on planet earth, open your eyes instead of your mouth and note that Israel is not – repeat NOT – expanding “settlements”. What is happening is that Jewish pioneers are developing the areas which will stay Jewish. They are adding rooms and erecting new buildings within the boundaries of their villages; no new land is being built upon. The demand for the cessation of natural growth means that those Jewish communities would age and die. That is the same as the Nazi demand in some countries where the penalty for a Jewish woman who was pregnant, was death. And that is the demand you support “Rebbe”. Shame on you!

    • bs”d

      “How can you expect the Palestinians to stop their aggression, with the continued building of settlements during alleged peace talks?”
      Clearly you get your understanding of the core issues from Time/Newsweek or perhaps MSNBC. Tell me was the Arab unhappiness in’29 and’30 when they wantonly slaughtered Jews in Hebron because of the “occupied” lands of ’67? And what is a “palestinian” anyway? Moshe Dayan’s citizenship papers and birth certificate all indicated he was a “palestinian” by virtue of said birth having happened in the British mandate teritory. Does that mean he and Yasir Arafat were related? Nothing is more annoying that people who blather on so supposedly knowledgeable on this subject when a simple review of history would show them to be even less credible than Rabbi Shmuley.

  • Prof Asher J Matathias

    One can be both a less-than enamored observer of Rouhani’s unconvincing rhetoric and of Senator Menendez and his less-than transparent ethical lapses now under investigation. Israel must have, and does, better defenders deserving the honor of being courageous: the Udall brothers, Chuck Schumer, the women Boxer and Feinstein, McCain, and some others, more for convenience and self-interest than principle. As to the author of the obsequious article, himself a failed congressional candidate in Christie’s and Menendez’s state, the rabbi has long ago lost credibility as he has become increasingly wed to the more extreme right-wing hangers on of my nominal political party. It pains even a casual reader of the rabbi’s creeds to realize how far afield from spiritual matters he has veered. Too bad, for he could have become one of the moderate voices we sorely need were the GOP to get its deserving comeuppance not only in the elections of ’14, but the Presidential cycle of 2016!

  • Watch out GUYS, it’s the “TOWER OF BABEL” all over again.
    We already are experiencing “SODOM AND GOMORAH” (gay marriage )
    Enjoy,the END is near
    Ness

  • Well, it appears that the anti-Semites are out in force as they tend to on talkbacks these days. In our confused and inverted world, those who seek to hold the Iranians to their word, thus avoiding cataclysmic conflict, are considered warmongers. Do westerners need reminding that Iran has developed long range missiles to deliver nuclear warheads to the continental United States ? They don’t need those to hit Israel. Do you fool yourselves into thinking they only have Israel in their sights ?

    Senator Menendez is to be commended but no more so than Senator Kirk who co-sponsored said legislation and is barely referenced in Mr Boteach’s article.

  • Shmuely,

    What is it with you and your love affair with my state’s two lefty Senators (against whom I voted, I might add)? You ran as a Republican for a House seat here in NJ, don’t make our situation worse by helping the left.

  • So mr. Boteach wants to reward Menendez’ warmongering pro-zionist’s interests? Well —all he has to do is call the magnanimous Sheldon Adelson to disburse a few millions of his blood money and transfer them to the corrupt Menendez’ in order to pay for better lawyers (e.g. Alan Dershowitz) to get out of his many legal fees.
    With that money Shmuley could also hire the Skver rebbe, Dovid Twerski to davenport a Misheverach on behalf of the good goy for hatzlocho. Wait a minute, I forgot that the skvira guys are anti zionists too LOL! O well, I’m sure that Sheldon’s money can buy a few Kahanist Lubavitchers to cast a couple of Pulsa Denuras on Pres. Obama 😄

    • Always entertaining to hear from a self-hater like you–unless, of course, we’re hearing from a neo-Nazi masquerading as a Jew.

  • Robert Douglas

    Mendenze is a puppet of AIPAC. He wants the USA to attack Syria, the most rational and able of middle eastern leaders, but was rebuffed by the American people.

    • Herr Douglas:

      Were you listening to “Horst Wessel Lied” when you typed that?

    • Yeah, good ol’ Syria–which (among other things) sponsors Hezbollah and for decades, harbored Alois Brunner. (The “rebels” are no better, mind you.)

      Also, if you’re going to allege “puppetry,” you should at least get the guy’s name right: It’s “Menendez.”

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