“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.”
He was 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 event.
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 said.
“It is time the American administration reflects on its pressure on Israel,” he said, inviting the audience to visit Samaria to see Jewish growth and development.
“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 apologize.”
“It is time to fight back,” he said, as he explained that this should be done politically and through public protests.
“We also 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 Israel.
“Our legal rights to Judea and Samaria are beyond question.
It is biblical but it is also under international law.”
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.
“These 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 Samaria.
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 Israel.
“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.
Bringing different groups together strengthens their ability to stand up in support.
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 land.”
US Jews: NO to Kerry's Plans for Israel
During the conference, Samaria Regional Council head Gershon Mesika expressed sharp criticism of the US policy toward Jewish building in Judea and Samaria, as well as US Secretary of State John Kerry's inflammatory comments supporting the Palestinian Authority (PA).
"In every issue, the US administration has chosen to side with the Palestinian Arabs," Mesika stated. "The Jewish Nation returned to its land after 2,000 years of history in exile, and apparently the US has forgotten its obligations to Israel."
Mesika's remarks follow a public falling-out between Israel and the US, over different opinions regarding a nuclear Iran. The US and Israel are also butting heads after Kerry's visit this month to broker more peace talks between Israel and the PA turned into a diplomatic disaster, with Kerry calling Israeli building in Judea and Samaria "illegitimate" and making threats of a "third intifada" if talks fail.
Mesika added, "We live in Judea and Samaria on our own merit, not through the kindness of others, and it is time to say that without shame. This is our land, we didn't steal it from anyone." Mesika asked US Jews for their political and financial support.
Participating US Jewish organizations at the conference included Young Israel, the Zionist Organization of America (ZOA), American Friends of Likud, Americans For a Safe Israel (AFSI), the chairman of the Israel Heritage Foundation, and others. Jewish leaders of several Diaspora communities also attended the conference.
The conference was also broadcasted via a live stream to congregations and communities around the world.
Steven Goldberg, National Vice Chairman of the ZOA, said that "American Jews who support the Jewish building in Judea and Samaria should not apologize." He noted that "in the U.S, it is not considered politically correct to support the 'settlement enterprise' in Judea and Samaria - it's time to change the situation." He added, "It's time to fight back in public protests - even take to the streets [. . .] Israel is under threat of [a nuclear] Iran, and it's time to come out and show our support."
The conference was part of an initiative by the International department of the Samaria Regional Council, headed by Shai Atias, with the participation of Jews and non-Jews alike from both the US and Israel. The event also featured a wine-and-cheese tasting event featuring food from the Judean and Samarian hills.
Outside, a small group of protestors from the extreme Leftist Jewish groups in the US picketed during the event. Signs included statements like "say NO to settlements" and "Jews for Palestinian Justice."