To return to the new Peace Now website click here.

Arutz Sheva: "Israeli Gov't Mourns the Death of US Congressman Tom Lantos"

The Chairman of APN, Franklin Fisher, concurred, saying, "Congressman Lantos was a devoted supporter of Israel, a supporter of peace, and a committed American public servant."

6 Adar 5768, 12 February 08

by Nissan Ratzlav-Katz

The Israeli government, along with both Democrats and Republicans in the US Congress and American Jewish organizations ranging from the Orthodox Union to Americans for Peace Now, expressed sorrow over the death of US Representative Tom Lantos (D-CA) on Monday. At age 80, Lantos was serving his fourteenth term in office when he succumbed to complications arising from esophageal cancer. The only Holocaust survivor to ever serve in the US legislature, Lantos, was a passionate defender of Israel and a champion of human rights worldwide. 

Foreign Minister Tzipi Livni said that the State of Israel owes a great debt to Lantos, who made the advancement of Israel-US relations and activity on behalf of the Jewish People his life's work. "From Jerusalem, the State of Israel sends its sincerest condolences to the family of Tom Lantos, may his memory be blessed," she said.

Elected to office in 1980, Lantos was Chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs. He was also a senior member of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform. According to his official House biography, Lantos's commitment to human rights "was forged when, as a young man, he lost nearly his entire family in the Holocaust."

Lantos died at the Naval Medical Center in the Washington, D.C. suburb of Bethesda, Maryland, surrounded by his wife, Annette, two daughters and many of his 18 grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. Funeral arrangements and the date for a public memorial service have not yet been announced.

Annette Lantos said that her husband's life was "defined by courage, optimism, and unwavering dedication to his principles and to his family."

Jewish Organizations Unite in Mourning Lantos's Passing
Political and religious Jewish organizations, representing both American and world Jewry, have been among the first to issue official statements mourning the death of Congressman Lantos.

World Jewish Congress President Ronald S. Lauder said, "Tom Lantos was a leader and a friend to all those around the world who fought for democracy and human rights, and no less to the Jewish people and the State of Israel. His hand guided every landmark in our recent history, from the fight against Nazi tyranny during the Holocaust to the championing of Soviet Jewry. His voice was never silent until today. Our thoughts and prayers are with his beloved wife Annette and his loving family." %ad%

Both the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America (OU), the nation's largest Orthodox Jewish umbrella organization, and the Reform movement's Religious Action Center expressed their deep sadness over news of the death of Congressman Lantos.

The OU's Director of Public Policy Nathan Diament called Lantos "a proud supporter of Israel and a proud Jew. His presence will be sorely missed."

The Chairman of Americans for Peace Now (APN), Franklin Fisher, concurred, saying, "Congressman Lantos was a devoted supporter of Israel, a supporter of peace, and a committed American public servant. As a Holocaust survivor, he embodied the strength and courage of the Jewish people. His achievements testify to the triumph of courage and the human spirit over the worst forms of adversity."

The Anti-Defamation League's Abraham H. Foxman issued a statement in which he noted that Lantos "transformed his own painful experience during the Holocaust into a lifelong commitment to preserving the dignity and security of the Jewish people, the State of Israel, and to fighting for the human rights of all. His efforts to secure fair treatment for oppressed minorities whose plight was ignored or forgotten were a cornerstone of his service in Congress."

Foxman added, "More recently, at a time when anti-Semitism was resurgent globally, he took a prominent leadership role, spearheading the Congressional Task Force Against Anti-Semitism and legislation such as the Global Anti-Semitism Review Act and calling on governments to speak out against any manifestation of hate against the Jewish people."

The American Jewish Committee (AJC) recalled "partnering with Lantos and his wife to promote Holocaust awareness and education, especially recalling the heroism of Raoul Wallenberg, the Swedish diplomat whose personal intervention saved tens of thousands of Hungarian Jews from the Nazis, including Lantos and his beloved wife, Annette." The AJC was preparing to honor Rep. Lantos at its 102nd Annual Meeting in May with one of its highest honors for his lifelong leadership.

Other Jewish organizations expressing appreciation for Congressman Lantos's public service and mourning his death were the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), the American Jewish World Service, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the United Jewish Communities, B'nai B'rith International, the National Council of Young Israel and Hadassah.

Both Sides of the Aisle

President George Bush said of Representative Lantos: "As the only Holocaust survivor to serve in Congress, Tom was a living reminder that we must never turn a blind eye to the suffering of the innocent at the hands of evil men."

Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, a fellow Democratic Representative from California, said: "Having lived through the worst evil known to mankind, Tom Lantos translated the experience into a lifetime commitment to the fight against anti-Semitism, Holocaust education, and a commitment to the state of Israel."

On the Republican side of the aisle, House Minority Whip Roy Blunt (R-Mo.), called Lantos "a man of uncommon integrity and sincere moral conviction - and a public servant who never wavered in his pursuit of a better, freer and more religiously tolerant world."

Senior Representative Illeana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fl.) said, "An unfailingly gracious and courageous man, Tom was recognized by friends and colleagues alike as a leader who left an enviable legacy of service to his country."

The National Jewish Democratic Council and the Republican Jewish Coalition issued statements mourning Lantos's passing, as well.

Statements in memory of Representative Lantos were also issued by US presidential candidates Senator Barack Obama and Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Blasted the PLO and the UN, But Wouldn't Block Saudi Arms
"Two generations after the Holocaust, I never thought - I could not even have imagined - that within the structure of the United Nations there would be some who would attempt to delegitimatize the Jewish State, the State of Israel, founded and built by the remnants of European Jewry and by the hundreds of thousands of Jews expelled from Arab lands," Congressman Lantos told the UN General Assembly, through his daughter, on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, January 28, 2008.

"Just as an earlier dictator pledged to destroy the Jews of Europe, so a new one is threatening to destroy the Jewish State," Lantos declared, in reference to Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. The UN, he said, was too often the setting for "shameless invective against Israel." The Durban Anti-Racism Conference organized by the UN in 2001, Lantos said, was the "most sickening and unabashed" display of hate for Jews he had seen since the Nazi period.

Later in January, Lantos blasted the PLO's US representatives for lauding dead master terrorist George Habash, founder of the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine, as a "great leader."

"I am astonished that the PLO's representative to this country would make such an asinine comment and would actually have the temerity to call on Americans to come to his office and sign a 'register of condolences' for this vicious individual. How disgusting," Lantos said.

In another recent controversy, in mid-January Lantos broke with most other pro-Israel congressmen by refusing to help block the Bush administration's planned sale of advanced weaponry to Saudi Arabia. The US is planning to sell $120 million worth of Joint Direct Attack Munitions to the oil kingdom. JDAMs increase the accuracy of long-range missiles.