No matter who wins the election on Nov. 4, America will lose a great leader. President George W. Bush certainly isn’t the most popular guy in the world at the moment. As it stands right now, the latest polls have his nationwide approval rating at a dismal 23 percent. I haven’t seen UMass students so happy to see somebody leave since Mike Gargano.
But in certain circles, Bush will be deeply missed. In the past 60 years, no U.S. president has been a better friend to Israel. And for a country so desperately in need of friends, his assistance has been invaluable.
I had the honor of seeing Bush speak last February in Washington, D.C. As he approached the microphone – this man who had once famously thrown away Yasser Arafat’s phone number – I felt a wave of sheer gratitude. In Judaism, we have a term for people like Bush. We call them “Chassidey Umot Haolam” – “Righteous Gentiles” – and I’m proud to live in a country being led by one.
Of course, Bush isn’t the first president to champion for Israel. 11 minutes after Israel declared independence in 1948, Harry Truman had the courage to make America the first country in the world to recognize their statehood.
Lyndon B. Johnson was the first president to align U.S. and Israeli policy, helping Israel build one of the strongest militaries on the planet. Perhaps one of the biggest allies of the Jewish state was Ronald Reagan, who successfully lobbied the Soviet Union to release hundreds of thousands of persecuted Jews into Israel.
However, Bush surpasses all of them in his support for the Jewish state. Beyond just giving Israel aid and denouncing anti-Semitism, he was the only president who had the backbone to attempt to seek out and destroy terrorism all over the world.
Unlike many of his predecessors, Bush realized the danger Islamic fanaticism posed to Judeo-Christian civilization and democratic societies everywhere.
Unfortunately, not many share his view. For too long, world leaders have dispassionately turned a blind eye to the savage practices of terrorist groups who call for the destruction of Israel and America.
A mere 63 years after the doors of Auschwitz were flung open to reveal the living corpses they had been restraining, Bush seems to be one of the few who remembers the world’s solemn promise: never again.
But where is the rest of the world in the fight against terrorism – the Nazism of our time? Where is their outrage? Where is their action?
Where was the action when Saddam Hussein passed out $25,000 to every Palestinian family who raised their own children to become suicide bombers? Where was the action when these children detonated their dirty, nail-filled bombs in Israeli nightclubs, coffee shops, schools – anywhere they could kill and maim young Jewish citizens?
Where was the action when American journalist Daniel Pearl was forced to say “My father’s Jewish, my mother’s Jewish, I’m Jewish” before being dismembered on camera by al-Qaeda terrorist Khalid Sheikh Mohammed?
Where was the action when Palestinians joyfully danced in the streets after thousands of innocent Americans were murdered on 9/11?
Where was the action during the second intifada as Israelis cowered in underground bomb shelters? Did the world understand how humiliating that was – for Jews to tremble; hidden underground in their own country as their enemies burned the proud Israeli flag above their heads?
Sure, there was condemnation – soft bleats of protest from European leaders and the United Nations. But until Bush, nobody had the courage to take global action against terrorism.
There’s been a lot of talk recently about negotiating with terrorists. Barack Obama, who has expressed interest in speaking with radical world leaders if he becomes president, believes dialogue, not force, is the key to resolving terrorism.
It’s easy to see why people believe this nonsense. In America – a nation so cushioned and removed from its enemies – Bush’s strong rhetoric and hawkish foreign policies may seem excessive. But in Israel – a miniscule country that stands like a lighthouse of democracy amidst a sea of unrestrained barbarity – this terror is real and constant.
All we have to do is look at Israel to see that negotiating with terrorists does not work. It only emboldens them. How many times has Israel exchanged land for “peace” and received nothing but more violence? The radical Palestinians’ ultimate goal is not to have a state alongside Israel, but to “drive the Jews into the sea.” Mahmoud Ahmadinejad’s ultimate goal is not to have a dialogue with the United States, but to induce the complete degradation of our country, our values and our society.
The world has negotiated, denounced and condemned for too long. After a while, words lose their meaning unless they are backed up with swift and decisive action.
To borrow a phrase from Rabbi Meir Kahane, “One does not deal with terrorists; one does not bargain with terrorists; one kills terrorists.”
I’m grateful to have a leader who understands this. Bush will be truly missed.
Alana Goodman is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at email@example.com.