When the Soviet Union shot down Korean Airlines Flight 007 in 1983, President Reagan called it “an act of barbarism born of a society which wantonly disregards individual rights and human life.” That statement strained relations and threatened to reignite Cold War tensions. But Reagan’s moral clarity set the ideological tone for resolving the crisis and laid the framework for the collapse of the Soviet Union later in his tenure.
That presidential leadership is missing today from the war between Israel and Hamas.
President Obama has recognized Israel’s right to defend itself and expressed concern over the loss of civilian life. But his failure to acknowledge that Hamas is the aggressor in this war and bears the responsibility for civilian deaths has left Americans – and indeed much of the world – unsure of where their allegiances should be in this tragic time.
As a result, anti-Semitism is on the rise. Hamas sympathizers in France are yelling “Jews to the gas.” More than 130 incidents have been reported in Great Britain in the last few weeks. In Seattle, protestors called for the destruction of the Jewish state and compared Jews to Nazis.
President Obama has spoken eloquently about his experience facing racism as a black man in America. The Jewish people need him to respond as passionately to anti-Semitism today, which masquerades as anti-Zionism.
We need him to explain to the world that the excuse Hamas gave for starting this war – that it was in reaction to Israel’s “blockade” of Gaza – is a red herring. Israel has always permitted food, medicine and most goods to enter Gaza. It wasn’t until Egypt closed its border with Gaza that conditions worsened.
President Obama needs to tell the world that, despite Palestinians receiving more humanitarian aid per capita than any other people in the world, much of that money went to buying missiles, purchasing concrete to build terror tunnels and enriching Hamas’ corrupt leadership.
President Obama needs to tell the world that Hamas planned to use those tunnels to mount a large-scale terrorist attack on the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah.
President Obama needs to tell the world that Israel cares more about the safety and wellbeing of Gazans than Hamas does. He needs to explain that Israel’s soldiers are dying to protect Gaza’s civilians.
President Obama needs to tell the world that the media often provides false or misleading information. He needs to say that Hamas has heavily censored and sanitized news reports out of Gaza, which is why, for example, viewers are never shown pictures of armed Hamas terrorists.
President Obama needs to tell the world that Hamas is using Gaza’s civilians as human shields, and the only reason the American public does not see this is because of Hamas’ media censorship.
Most importantly, President Obama needs to speak with that clarity that Reagan did. He should tell the world that Israel is a moral nation acting reasonably to defend itself against Hamas, designated by the U.S. to be a terrorist entity, whose sole purpose is Israel’s destruction.
If President Obama doesn’t provide this leadership, anti-Semitism will grow. The consequences of this could be dire. Jews have paid a high price for the lack of American leadership in the past. President Roosevelt knew of the rise of anti-Semitism in the 1930s, yet he did not enter World War II until Europe was nearly completely occupied by Germany, only then acting when it was attacked by Japan.
The Jewish people are overwhelmingly thankful for the aid the U.S. has provided to Israel. But it’s not more guns, bullets or money we need now. We need our president to be a leader ‑ tell the world that it should be aligned with Israel, and not with a terrorist organization.
The author is the publisher of Advisor Perspectives, a newsletter for financial advisors.