supporting israel

Rep. Torres, Sen. Lankford headline NORPAC summit in Washington

Torres, in speech to gathering: ‘The greatest threat for democracy comes not from the far right or the far left but from the cowardice of the center unwilling to condemn them’

Haley Cohen

Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY) gives opening remarks at the NORPAC summit in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday, May 17th, 2024

Some 1,200 pro-Israel activists from around the country affiliated with NORPAC, a bipartisan political action committee dedicated to promoting U.S.-Israel ties, took to Capitol Hill on Wednesday to advocate for continued support of Israel in its war against Hamas and to demand action from members of Congress to curb the unprecedented levels of antisemitism on U.S. college campuses. 

The group’s 30th annual mission to Washington, D.C. opened with remarks at the Warner Theatre from pro-Israel politicians from both parties — Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY) and Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) — as well as Israeli ambassador to the U.S. Michael Herzog.

“The greatest threat for democracy comes not from the far right or the far left but from the cowardice of the center unwilling to condemn them,” Torres told the crowd, adding that “NORPAC was one of the few organizations to support me, long before entering Congress.” 

“Israel is our ally. This should not be a Republican-Democrat issue, this should be an American issue,” Lankford told the audience. He went on to say it was “absurd” that the Department of Justice has not adopted the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance’s (IHRA) working definition of antisemitism.

After hearing from the politicians, participants headed to the Hill, where they divided into small groups to conduct approximately 400 open dialogue sessions with members of the House and Senate. 

The key issues discussed at this year’s mission were “Israel getting the weapons they so desperately need, that Iran should be sanctioned and that the rise of antisemitism on college campuses should be addressed,” said Trudy Stern, one of the mission chairs and co-president of NORPAC’s New York chapter, along with her husband, Stanley. 

Participants advocated for several bills including the Antisemitism Awareness Act of 2023, which would require the Education Department to adopt the IHRA working definition of antisemitism (the bill has already been passed on the House side), as well as pushing for the Iran Sanctions Enforcement Act. 

This was the 18th year that Stern, who lives on the Upper West Side of Manhattan, attended NORPAC’s D.C. mission. She noted it was the largest — and perhaps most significant one — yet. “We discussed the need for supporting Israel as a critical ally and ensuring that they have what they need to defeat Hamas,” Stern told Jewish Insider, pointing to the Biden administration’s recent partial hold on the transfer of some offensive weapons to Israel. “Each ask comes along with deep, meaningful discussion of the issues,” Stern said.

Several of the meetings were with lawmakers who do not have a history of advocating for Israel. “The discussions are meant to educate, enlighten and encourage support for Israel,” Stern said. “They’re with people who are friends, are not friends and a third category who could be friends or aren’t that well-versed on the issue.”  

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