Posted by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach
I believe that the first African-American president has a special responsibility to promote human freedom and the infinite worth of the human person. I believe the same obligation will be incumbent upon the first Jewish president, whomever he or she will be. Two communities that have experienced the wholesale decimation of their people have a special responsibility to promote the infinite value of human life.
For me, the greatest mystery of Barack Obama is why our president has failed to speak out forcefully and continually on behalf of the earth’s most oppressed people.
Now I’m more puzzled than ever. Virtually every week, the president returns to the island of Manhattan to raise money for his re-election bid. Could he not take off a couple of hours from gathering cash, drive across Manhattan to the East Side, and address the United Nations about the innocent Arabs of Syria who are being slaughtered like flies by the arch-butcher Bashar al-Assad?
Such a speech should go something like this:
“Citizens of the world, I have traveled to the United Nations to make an important declaration. As you and I sit here in comfortable, air-conditioned surroundings, our brave Arab brothers and sisters of Syria are being mowed down by machine-gun fire, slaughtered from the air by planes and helicopters, and murdered in their homes with gunshots at point-blank range to the head. Their crime? To wish to live as free men and women, which is their God-given right.
“But standing in the way of that most basic of all human desires is a tyrant who will hold on to power at all costs. If it takes brutalizing small children and having them shot at the family dinner table, he will do that. If it means shooting pregnant women to enforce his brutal will, he will do that do. He will stop at nothing to hold on to the levers of power.
“As the president of the United States, I am here today to tell Mr. Assad — I will not call him president because any man who slaughters his own people has lost all legitimacy to rule — that my nation regards him as a criminal responsible for crimes against humanity. I am urging the United Nations to immediately pass a resolution proclaiming the same.
“My country is right now engaged in a difficult war in Afghanistan. We are fighting terrorists with the help of Pakistan and other nations around the world, and we still have not extricated ourselves fully from our decade-long war in Iraq. In short, we are overextended. And while we may not be able to act against Mr. Assad in the short term, I want him to know that the long arm of American and international justice will find him, arrest him, and try him, providing that the vigilante justice of his own aggrieved people doesn’t catch up to him first, as it did Muammar Gadhafi in Libya. Mr. Assad will be held accountable for his crimes, either at the International Court of Justice in the Hague, or at a court in Syria.
“Mr. Assad, the eyes of the world are upon you and your dastardly deeds. You will not get away with them. I am personally telling you today that if it’s the last thing I do as president, I will ensure that you are arrested and tried for your brutal and unspeakable crimes. When we Americans say, “Never again,” we mean each word. We will never allow unpunished, wholesale slaughter to transpire in the world ever again.
“But as we all know, words are just that — words. So I am instructing American diplomats to begin the process today of indicting Mr. Assad for crimes against humanity and putting a price on his head of $25 million, which the United States will pay to whoever arrests Mr. Assad and delivers him for trial.”
What do we have instead of this forceful speech? We have the president making tepid remarks along the lines of, “What’s happening in Syria is unacceptable. Unacceptable, I tell you!” We have Hillary Clinton saying things like, “Oh my gosh, this is horrible. Just horrible. Will anyone do anything?”
And friends, we are all complicit. In the age of YouTube, Twitter and Facebook, none of us can deny knowing what’s going on. We all know, but few of us care. And it’s got to change or people will just keep on dying.
Go tell an Arab whose child was killed by Assad that he should accept his rule because the person who replaces his president can still be worse.
Arabs are my brothers. Arabs are my sisters. I believe with all my heart that they will one day see the democracy of the State of Israel as the best friends they have in the Middle East, not the tyranny of Saudi Arabia or the murderous designs of Hamas and Hezbollah.
But regardless of my prediction for the future, I am today calling upon the president of the United States to employ his considerable mastery of words to take up the mantle of Martin Luther King Jr. and be a drum major for justice, a beacon for freedom. Sound the clarion call for liberty, Mr. President.
Get off the damn fence and stand up for Arab life and liberty. Stop the slaughter in Syria. You owe it to the brave African-Americans who died yearning and fighting for equality and liberty. You owe it to American patriots who founded the first modern republic by casting off British tyranny. And you owe it to the people of the world who look to America for leadership, hope and change.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, who has just published the best-seller “Kosher Jesus,” is the Republican nominee for New Jersey’s Ninth Congressional District. His website is www.shmuleyforcongress.com. Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.
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June 6, 2012 | 6:13 pm
Posted by Rabbi Shmuley Boteach
Last night I was blessed to win the Republican primary in New Jersey’s Ninth Congressional District and will face Congressman Bill Pascrell in the general election in the fall. As fortune would have it I was in Israel on the day of the primary for the wedding of my wife’s baby sister which fell on the same day and this morning I met privately with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his senior adviser Ron Dermer at the Prime Minister’s office. Ron was one of my closest students and friends when I was the Rabbi at Oxford University and is today regarded by many as the single sharpest mind on the Middle East. Prime Minister Netanyahu and I reminisced about his two visits to the University of Oxford where I hosted and he addressed thousands of students and where he mesmerized even his detractors in masterful defenses of Israel. We also spoke about his father, Benzion, who passed away last month at age 102 and whom I had befriended after a series of lectures we hosted where the great man discussed his opus on the Spanish Inquisition.
From there the conversation with the Prime Minister turned rapidly to a survey of some of the world’s most pressing issues, from the existential threat Israel faces from Iran, to developments of the Arab spring, to the humanitarian crisis in Syria created by Assad’s brutal slaughter of his own people. We discussed whether Israel could absorb some of the Arab refugees from Syria and the enormous challenges a small country like Israel already faces in its existing obligations in taking in refugees from dangerous spots all over the world. The key to the refugee issue was stopping Assad’s brutality so that innocent Syrians did not have to flee their own government.
I brought my daughter Chana, who is a soldier in the Israeli army, to the meeting and the Prime Minister welcomed her warmly. My wife and I are immensely proud of our daughter’s service in the Israel Defense Forces. There have been well-circulated press reports of how my upcoming opponent, Bill Pascrell, had refused to repudiate some Arab-American supporters who had accused Congressman Steve Rothman, the opponent whom Pascrell recently defeated, of dual loyalties over his support of Israel. In particular Aref Assaf, president of the American Arab Forum, had written an op-ed in the New Jersey Star-Ledger titled “Rothman is Israel’s man in District 9” where he asserted that “as total and blind support for Israel becomes the only reason for choosing Rothman, voters who do not view the elections in this prism will need to take notice. Loyalty to a foreign flag is not loyalty to America’s.”
With Rothman being accused of dual loyalties simply over a pro-Israel voting record in government, what could I, who has a daughter serving in Israel’s military, expect from these same opponents? What charges would they lodge against me? How ugly would the attacks be?
The Prime Minister looked at me solemnly and said, “Tell them your daughter is not only fighting to protect Israel. She’s fighting to protect America. Israel is the front line in the war for freedom.” Indeed. Israel, an America-style democracy in the world’s most dangerous region, seeks to live free amid being surrounded by an ocean of tyranny. And young Jewish men and women are prepared to fight so that a tiny country built around America’s ideas of freedom of religious practice, freedom of press, respect for women, and economic opportunity can succeed in the world’s most dangerous region.
I reminded the Prime Minister that about twenty years ago, as he was walking into the Oxford Union for his second address, a student officer said that in the introduction the Union would omit to the Prime Minister’s distinguished military service in the IDF so as not to offend students. Bibi responded that if his military service were deliberately omitted he would not speak. “I was involved in many anti-terrorists actions that preserved innocent life. I am proud of my military service however much my country is maligned.”
Ironically, Congressman Rothman was the man who nominated my 19-year-old son, Mendy to West Point, after he had triple qualified for the United States military academy. But Mendy has a beard and right now that’s not permitted in the military. We’ll see how his application proceeds in the future, as my son wishes to service his country. But how amazing it is to have nations like the United States and Israel where armies are employed to protect innocent life rather than suppress innocent citizens who simply yearn to be free.
Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi,” is the international bestselling author of 27 books including his acclaimed new bestseller “Kosher Jesus”. He is the Republican nominee for Congress in New Jersey’s Ninth Congressional District. His website is www.shmuleyforcongress.com. Follow him Twitter @RabbiShmuley.