Excerpts of Remarks by Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ) at the 36th Annual Bet El Gala Dinner (PHOTOS)

The following are remarks by Congressman Chris Smith at the 36th Annual Bet El Gala Dinner, which took place Sunday night in NYC.

Special thanks to Duvi Honig, founder and CEO of the Orthodox Jewish Chamber of Commerce, for his extraordinary leadership and passion for strengthening the bond of friendship economically and every other way between the two greatest allies on earth—the United States and Israel.

Thank you for the Congressional Friends of Israel Award.

And a special welcome to Speaker Edelstein and thanks to him for presiding over the Knesset during these times of unprecedented challenge.

No one has to tell any of you here tonight that we live in dangerous times.

The threat to Israel from Hamas and Hezbollah—among other threats—is serious and worsening.

Only a strong Israel—and Israel is strong and Israelis have an indomitable spirit—coupled with robust and predictable military and diplomatic support from the United States can deter and mitigate the escalating threat.

Tragically, the egregiously flawed nuclear deal with Iran was riddled with serious flaws, gaps, and huge concessions. Taken as a whole, the agreement poses an existential threat to Israel, our allies in the region—and even poses significant risks to the United States.

To its credit, the Trump Administration has imposed further economic sanctions on Iran—most recently on November 5th—to pressure the terror state to alter its increased support for terrorism and its decades long drive to acquire nuclear weapons and the ballistic missiles to quickly deliver them.

Anti-Semitism is exploding worldwide, especially in the Middle East but in Europe and even here in America—the most recent FBI report released a couple of weeks ago shows that hate crimes targeting Jews and Jewish institutions rose about 37% between 2016 and 2017—to 58%.

I have spent my entire 38 years in Congress fighting anti-Semitism. Like you, I believe we all need to do more.

Thirty-seven years ago—in 1982—during my first term in Congress, I traveled to Moscow and Leningrad on the first of several trips to meet Jewish refuseniks in their homes and to engage Soviet leaders on their behalf.

For hours on end, I heard stories of Soviet physical and mental abuse, systematic harassment, gulags and psychiatric prisons—and other wanton brutal acts of anti-Semitism.

In one apartment, Natan Sharansky’s mother asked us to press the Soviets for medicine for her incarcerated son—which we did.

To apply for an exit visa—a universally recognized human right which on paper at least, the Soviet Union had acceded to—was to invite the wrath of the KGB and other small minded, morally-stunted communist thugs.

To a new 27-year-old congressman it was bewildering and deeply troubling—why do they hate Jews?

In 1989—I traveled to Perm Camp 35—the infamous gulag in the Ural Mountains where Sharansky was imprisoned and meet with and videotaped religious and political prisoners.

Having just been released himself due to multiyear pressure and President Ronald Reagan’s intervention, Natan Sharansky saw the video and said with emotion: “my friends!”

The fall of the Soviet Empire, however, didn’t end anti-Semitic hate.

I’ve chaired numerous hearings and authored successful legislation over the years and as chairman of the Helsinki Commission actually made the recommendation for high level Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) meetings to combat anti-Semitism including what became the historic Berlin Conference in 2004.

One of the biggest lessons learned—implementing best practices contained in the OSCE Berlin Declaration like Holocaust remembrance in school are achievable but requires significant and sustainable pressure on governments.

So tonight, I respectfully ask your help this week in getting one of my House-passed bills designed to combat anti-Semitism out of the Senate before the Congress adjourns.

Briefly, on April 4, 2017, I introduced H.R. 1911—the Special Envoy to Monitor and Combat Anti-Semitism Act of 2018. It has 86 bipartisan co-sponsors and has passed the House 393-2.

The bill strengthens the State Department’s Global Office on Combatting Anti-Semitism—which I actually created by an amendment in 2004—and raises the special envoy to the rank of ambassador who reports directly to the President of the United States.

If enacted into law, it could make a huge difference.

With your help, the Senate could easily pass H.R. 1911 this week and send it to the President for signature.



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