The war in the Middle East has become more than a conflict between Israel and Hamas. And it is more than a regional confrontation of Israel vs. Iran, which utilizes Hamas and Hezbollah as proxy fighters and front men in its campaign to destroy Israel and its people.
In many ways, the war has become a struggle for Western civilization and for the survival of our values. The Oct. 7 assault on Israel by Hamas constituted the nadir of human degradation. Man’s inhumanity to man. Rapes, mutilations, murders and beheadings even of children should have caused all people to call for Hamas to be consigned to humanity’s ash heap.
Instead we see hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of people taking to the streets around the world to denounce Israel. More than just pro-Palestinian, many shouting “From the river to the sea!” are pro-Hamas and anti-Israel. And all too many are antisemitic, displaying Nazi swastikas.
Particularly disturbing are the large numbers of Americans taking part in these demonstrations. College students betray a shocking lack of knowledge of history, and too many university heads tolerate antisemitism on their campuses, while Jewish students feel threatened and unsafe. The media increasingly show a moral equivalence between Israel and its murderous enemies, Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah. The most disgraceful episode was a New York Times false front-page story accusing Israel of bombing a Gaza hospital based on reports from Hamas.
A number of LGBTQ+ organizations, all of which would be violently oppressed if not murdered by Hamas, are siding against Israel. Most bizarrely, so too are some Jewish groups.
Viewing, listening to and reading this incessant anti-Israel vitriol, which is raging in America less than five weeks after the worst massacre of Jews since the Holocaust, moved me to compare how America reacted to World War II, when our survival was threatened, with how so many Americans want Israel to react today.
Before the attack on Pearl Harbor, we were decidedly isolationist. Hero aviator Charles Lindbergh was foremost in the pro-isolationist America First movement. While there was an element of Nazi support, most isolationists genuinely believed that Europe’s wars were for Europe and Asia’s wars for Asia. None of this involved the United States. As for Nazi aggression and Hitler’s persecution of Jews, European countries had been attacking one another throughout history, and one group or another was always being persecuted.
Most significant, the Atlantic and Pacific oceans were natural barriers against any foreign war impacting the United States. President Franklin D. Roosevelt was re-elected to his third term in 1940, and pledged not to have “American boys fighting in foreign wars.”
Then came Pearl Harbor, and our isolation ended overnight. Young men rushed to enlist in the military. Rather than being hotbeds of resistance like they are today, colleges and universities strongly supported the war effort: Not only did students enlist, but campuses were used as training centers. Women, immortalized as Rosie the Riveter, worked in factories and defense plants.
No one called for a ceasefire. No one challenged FDR when he ordered the firebombing of Tokyo, not for any military action to show Japan that we would do whatever had to be done to defeat and destroy the Japanese empire. When the tide of war shifted toward America and our allies, no one called for a pause to allow the distribution of food and fuel to the German and Japanese people.
When Dresden and other German cities were bombed, reporters were not in the streets, asking German mothers or senior citizens how they felt about it. Hitler and Hideki Tojo, the prime minister of Japan, were not given equal time with Roosevelt and British Prime Minister Winston Churchill. When offers to negotiate were suggested by Germany, they were rebuffed by FDR, who demanded unconditional surrender.
And after Germany and Japan were defeated, the United States helped build both into flourishing democracies and industrial powers. Most significantly, when America and the world realized the full extent of Hitler’s depravity, and how the Holocaust had almost decimated the entirety of the Jewish people, we declared “Never again!” brought Nazi leaders to justice at Nuremberg and recognized Israel as the Jewish homeland.
Today Israel is under siege, and much of America and the Western world, which fought so valiantly to destroy Nazi Germany and Imperialist Japan, is attempting to restrict Israel’s ability to preserve its very survival, and is enabling — and in some cases supporting — the present-day Nazi axis of Iran, Hamas and Hezbollah. This abdication of moral responsibility and failure of will by Western countries in the face of this mortal, existential threat to Israel threatens not just Israel’s survival as a nation, but our survival as a civilization.
We must not allow “Never again!” to be supplanted by “From the river to the sea!” We must stand with Israel.
Peter King is a former congressman, and a former chair of the House Committee on Homeland Security. Comments? email@example.com.