The ramifications of the ongoing violence in Israel and Gaza are extending far beyond the region. Jewish, Muslim, Arab, and Palestinian communities in many countries, including in the United States, are living in fear. Unsure of who they can trust and where they can turn for support and protection, people are afraid for their own safety and the safety of their families. Many are afraid to speak their views for fear of retaliation or harm.
The foundation of America’s strength is our diversity, tolerance, and empathy. These values facilitate peaceful coexistence in the vast majority of American communities. More than our military might, these values garner respect for the United States on the global stage. When Americans feel threatened because of their identity or religion, the fabric of our nation weakens, our moral standing is compromised, and our ability to influence the actions of other nations and movements is diminished. This is the risk we face in light of egregious acts such as the murder of a Palestinian American boy because of his identity, or the unchecked rise in antisemitic hatred.
This is a moment for all Americans to demonstrate our strength by listening, seeking to understand multiple perspectives, and protecting one another. We must embrace complexity and nuance while unequivocally opposing antisemitism, Islamophobia, and anti-Arab and anti-Palestinian hate wherever it is found. We must reach across faith communities to offer support and solace. Americans who feel unsafe need to know that neighbors, friends, colleagues, and even strangers are there to protect them. Academic institutions need to defend both freedom of expression and the safety of their students. For those with friends and family in Israel and Palestinian Territories, we must offer them comfort, knowing that violence in the region may escalate even further.
Members of our sister organization, the Truman National Security Project, have been deeply affected by the violence. Many have lost multiple family members and worry for the safety of their children. Even amidst their pain and disagreement on policy, Truman members have reached across divides to listen, build understanding, and offer comfort.
President Biden and politicians across the political spectrum should lean into healing religious divisions at home. Alongside efforts to de-escalate tensions in Israel and Gaza and prevent a wider war in the Middle East, the Biden administration must proactively address the threats and fear endured by all Americans connected to the conflict and seek to establish a common ground. The U.S. National Strategy to Counter Antisemitism produced earlier this year is an essential foundation for countering hatred; the administration should urgently move forward on its commitment to develop and execute a strategy to combat Islamophobia, as announced on November 1st. Now more than ever, the United States must model peaceful coexistence for communities abroad, and by doing so, reinforce the source of America’s soft power.