The Zionist Conspiracy
Friday, April 13, 2007
Five Years After The D.C. Rally
This Sunday will be the fifth anniversary of the 2002 pro-Israel rally on Capitol Hill, an event that remains one of the best in American Orthodox Jewish history, despite the failure of very many to recognize this.
After the Pesach bombing in Netanya's Park Hotel, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon and his cabinet decided to call up 20,000 reservists and wage an unrelenting war on terror emanating from Judea and Samaria.
The Bush Administration, while expressing the standard words of sympathy for dead Jews, opposed Israel's decision. Bush demanded that Israel withdraw. When it didn't, he repeated in a sharp tone: "I meant what I said to the prime minister of Israel. I expect there to be withdrawal without delay."
Following a wonderful spontaneous rally at the United Nations led by Rabbi Avi Weiss, it was clear that there was huge grassroots support - indeed need - for a major rally on behalf of Israel. On April 15, 2002, 200,000 or more Jews - not all of whom, but a majority of which, were Orthodox - came to Washington on a Monday to demand that the Bush Administration stop making a distinction between its own post-9/11 war on terror and Israel's war against Fatah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
The National Mall was packed, and for at least one very unusually hot April afternoon, it didn't much matter what kind of kippa we wore, how exactly we were dressed, or where we were from.
When Agudah balked at supporting the rally, charedim from Flatbush showed their best colors by using their own common sense, driving to Washington in droves, and expressing justified fury toward an out-of-touch leadership.
The rally itself wasn't so great. There were inspiring speeches, but also far too many politicians and hacks. There were visible demands that Natan Sharansky and even bereaved dad Seth Mandell stop their speeches short, so that leaders of the AFL-CIO and the Urban League could inform us that "a two-state solution" would solve the world's problems. Indeed, by the time Rabbi Mandell made it to the podium and presented extraordinarily moving words, hours into the rally, most were already heading home. The rally wasn't enough of a rally and was too much of a respectful Jewish event.
The highlight of the rally was the awful speech by then Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, a man who many of us and many of our enemies thought and still mistakenly think to be pro-Israel. Those of us in the front loudly chanted "no double standard" and "no more Arafat" throughout Wolfowitz's idiotic rambling, and offered cheers when he stated "in conclusion," a few minutes before he mercifully left us alone to bring peace to Iraq. I am proud that the C-Span video of the rally shows a young foolish George Washington University student demanding that I shut up because "I would like to hear what Mr. Wolfowitz has to say." I told him that I was there so that Wolfowitz would hear what I have to say.
And while I may be the only person who believes this, I am sure that Wolfowitz and other leaders of the Bush Administration heard exactly what we had to say, and that dozens or more Israelis who are alive today would be dead if not for our presence at the rally. Bush stopped demanding an immediate withdrawal. A few weeks later, Sharon did acquiesce and withdrew most of the IDF soldiers from Judea and Samaria. But when more Israelis were murdered in bombings in Gilo and French Hill, the IDF returned and has remained there since without serious U.S. objection, and Bush ended all ties to Yasser Arafat.
After the rally, I took the Metro to Silver Spring, where I retrieved my car and headed home. All the way through, even on the New Jersey Turnpike, the highways, the gas stations and the rest areas were full of observant Jews. I turned on the news to find little coverage of the rally, but there was good news: Leading Fatah terrorist Marwan Barghouti had finally been captured by the IDF.
"I hope," I told my (now) wife, "that Israel doesn't one day release Barghouti."