Without provocation or warning, Hamas terrorists invaded Israel, intentionally targeting civilians, especially women and children. The goal was not only death and violence, but to strike fear. Moreover, women and children were targeted because the stated goal of Hamas and many of its allies is not merely to remove the state of Israel from the map, but to remove Jewish people from the planet.
It took days and several harmful missteps (calls for “ceasefire”) before President Biden and his administration found their voice. The United States announced that the attacks were barbaric and unacceptable, and we stand on the side of decency and civilization — and with our ally, Israel.
Sadly, the overlay of modern American “team politics” has skewed the only proper response to this atrocity — and the necessary response from Israel. Too many Democrats have sat silently, posted morally weak statements about sadness and ceasefires, or worse, lectured us on why Hamas’ butchery needs to be judged “in context.”
How ironic that the party that is home to virtue-signalers, ever-changing social-media banners for the cause of the day and lawn signs proclaiming “Hate has no home here,” finds itself tongue-tied or worse, explaining away actual, purposeful hate.
There is one notable exception. Conservatives and people of good will must recognize and salute the moral clarity and leadership of Senator John Fetterman. His message has been crystal clear — including hanging the posters of the children held hostage by Hamas on his Senate office wall.
This stands in sharp contrast to those elected officials who continue to lecture us about needing to understand Hamas’ actions “in context,” or those who dare to talk of the barbarism as political “resistance.”
Washington, D.C. has itself become a caricature of moral relativism and selective outrage, a place where partisan power politics is so omnipresent that we are taken aback when genuine statesmanship takes place. Sadly, it’s of no surprise that there are those who are rushing to make sure that any legislation regarding aid packages for Israel’s defense must also include not only aid for the Gaza Strip, but also more aid for Ukraine.
Even in the face of evil — of children being beheaded, raped and held hostage — there are those who see tragedy as leverage to gain political points.
A legislator has the right to be for or against aiding Ukraine, or Israel — or making the aid packages smaller or larger or with added restrictions. That’s all fair game. What is not fair game is abusing bipartisan support for Israel and tying it to additional aid for Ukraine.
I know the game. I’ve worked as a Chief of Staff in Congress and in Harrisburg, twice. It’s just that there are times when we don’t need games — when we should expect better. The mixture of silence, moral relativism, and the political games coming out of D.C. show not only a lack of leadership, but invite other, angrier voices to step into that void.
It was seen in marches and rallies in major cities as crowds gathered with anti-Israel, anti-Semitic and pro-Hamas flags and signs.
And in many ways more frightening, for over three weeks across college campuses — especially Ivy League and “elite” universities, there are not merely pro-Hamas or anti-Israel marches, but actual intimidation and violence threatened as Jewish students are targeted, screamed at and trapped inside dining halls and meeting rooms.
My sense is that some of these screaming students are true anti-Semites, while others have been poorly educated or purposefully misinformed by their professors into believing that Israel persecutes, prosecutes and harasses Muslims and Palestinians — not knowing that Israel gave up the Gaza Strip, leaving behind greenhouses, water desalination plants and water lines; not knowing that Muslims serve as judges and sit in the Israeli Knesset.
And some students are just unthinking lemmings, looking to quickly join what seems to be the cause of the moment — not truly caring about BLM, the Russian-Ukraine war, or the history of Israel or Palestine. Their failing is ignorance and emptiness.
This is why they rip down posters of the children held hostage — many not truly understanding how morally broken and harmful their actions are.
The First Amendment guarantees American citizens a “right of the people to peaceably assemble,” to hold and speak their own values, no matter if they are “wrong” or “offensive.” That does not extend to threatening others or stopping others from speaking — let alone worse.
But colleges don’t teach the importance, the value and the concepts of the First Amendment any more. Colleges lecture about ever-evolving, mythical “hate speech.” Elite universities have led the charge to crush decency and redefine words — carelessly removing true thought and true morality from our campuses.
Today, America’s “best and brightest” are told that Riley Gaines promoting women in sports; Governor Abbott advocating securing the Texas/Mexico border; Moms4Liberty trying to limit the access of books with pictures of oral sex to grade school students; and Jennifer Sey making the case that schools should have reopened sooner during the “lockdowns” are “hate speech.” Yet threatening Jewish students against the backdrop of actual terror attacks is somehow “protected” speech.
In the absence of true leadership, in the absence of moral clarity, evil runs rampant. Hate becomes acceptable.
Many universities have changed America — for the worse. We are seeing this tragically unfold before our eyes. Have current day students never actually studied actual history, the Second World War, seen pictures of the concentration camps — genuine hate speech and barbarism?
Have our elected officials never been to Auschwitz, to the museums in Philadelphia or Washington, D.C.? Do they not truly understand that in reality, for all of our faults — on the world’s scale, ours is the freest, most diverse, most tolerant or most opportunity-based nation on the planet? And, Israel is much more like America than any other Middle Eastern nation — and than many on the planet.
What in God’s name do our politicians and our students think “Never Again” means? It’s not simply a design on a T-shirt, or meme!
For the foreseeable future, people of goodwill, who understand history and who possess moral clarity, must speak up and speak out—to our families, our communities and in public.
In the longer term, civic leaders, parents, and grandparents must think about how we got here — to a place of moral weakness, misunderstood “tolerance” and the idea that actions do not have consequences…as if life were a game or a college campus, where consequences don’t matter.
We must preserve, protect and defend the First Amendment. Americans should not all think the same and say the same things. But the majority should have unity of purpose and shared values of what America states for. And, we must work even harder to make sure that the clearest, most effective voices are those that promote the values of “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”
Guy Ciarrocchi is a Senior Fellow with the Commonwealth Foundation. He writes for Broad+Liberty and RealClear Pennsylvania. Follow him @PaSuburbsGuy.