Biden will keep his promises and stand by Israel in its hour of need

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When President Biden spoke yesterday in the Rotunda of the U.S. Capitol Building for the Holocaust Day of Remembrance, he invoked my father, his friend, Elie Wiesel.

I was seven years old, sitting on President Jimmy Carter’s lap, at the inaugural Day of Remembrance. It was 1979. My father stood where Biden stood yesterday and told our story: We had been rounded up and exiled to a kingdom of fire and ashes.

My father had asked upon their arrival to Auschwitz, “How could the world be silent?” 

“Perhaps,” my grandfather replied, “the world does not know.”

But the world did know. My father explained that President Carter’s support in creating the Days of Remembrance was especially meaningful given the inaction of President Roosevelt, who had been confronted with conclusive evidence of the systematic mass murder of European Jewry. 

After “pictures of Auschwitz and Birkenau had reached the free world,” my father despaired, for “not one bomb was dropped on the railway tracks to the death factories.”

A week later, my father received a note from a young senator named Joseph Biden Jr., who had witnessed his address. It read: “The Holocaust shall never be forgotten as long as men and women are free to remember… your words and presence have struck to the core.”

My family still cherishes that note.

Last December, my mother and I returned to the White House.  Biden spoke with her and other Holocaust survivors for a full 20 minutes. He accepted a note my mother had handwritten, graciously opening it and reading it on the spot.

In her letter, my mother asked him to remain standing with Israel as it reeled from Hamas’s savage torture. Infants had been murdered in front of their parents. Teenagers had been raped and desecrated, families burned alive in their homes.  My mother knew from experience that the story of a Jewish massacre would be quickly twisted, buried and finally denied.

This time, the world also knows that. Yesterday, Biden spoke of the horrific crimes of October 7.  He has followed his conscience.  He has stood by Israel as she secured her borders, dismantled terrorist infrastructure and applied military pressure to rescue the hostages in Gaza.

Biden is keeping his promise to my parents of “never again.”

The days ahead look to be difficult and painful. News articles are appearing about ultimatums and U.S. weapons shipments being paused or halted.  We know some within the Democratic Party are unconvinced of the urgency of dismantling the remaining Hamas terror tunnels in Rafah, in the same way that nobody felt it a priority to bomb the tracks that led toward Auschwitz.

Israel has begun to drop leaflets and flyers urging the civilians of Rafah to evacuate northward, as it captures key crossings to prevent the re-arming and refueling of Hamas. The White House has insisted that Israel live up to its high standards — the highest of any military in the world, to minimize civilian suffering, despite Hamas’s use of human shields. Even as Hamas fires rockets into the Kerem Shalom aid crossing, Israel is aspiring to work within those constraints.

Can a rational hostage deal still be achieved? Can it be done without releasing a critical mass of terrorists who become the next wave of rapists and murderers to break through from Gaza? Or is military pressure the only thing that can release at least some of these endlessly suffering mothers, fathers and children?

There is much room for discussion and disagreement. But on this point there should be no debate: It is the right of the democratically elected Israeli government to decide how best to safeguard its population.

The ideological descendants of those who advised Roosevelt may insist to Biden that it is political folly to extend himself for the Jewish people who, like the Warsaw ghetto partisans we honored yesterday, so stubbornly demand to decide their own destiny. They will urge him to withdraw U.S. support from Israel as the Rafah invasion unfolds.

But Biden has decided that his place, time and again, is to be with the innocent victims of Hamas, both Israeli and Palestinian. And he has done so with tremendous strength and compassion.

The U.S. must never waiver in its support of the world’s only Jewish State, which has a sacred obligation to protect her people — Jews and non-Jews alike — from mass slaughter. There is no moral equivalence to be drawn between terrorists, who see citizens as human shields or targets for rape, and an army that seeks to protect innocent lives.

Eighty years ago, my father asked my grandfather how it could be that nobody would stand with the Jews in their hour of need.

Yesterday, my son asked me: Did I think Biden would stick with the Jewish people even as the IDF entered Rafah, even as the streets and social media swell with the hateful propaganda that Israel is the genocidal aggressor?

Yes, I told him, as we watched Biden speak.  I believe the president is with us, I added. May God bless him and thank him for standing with Israel — and in so doing, for standing with my father.

Elisha Wiesel is the son of Marion Wiesel and the late Holocaust survivor and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel.

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