Missing in Action: Michelle Obama’s hashtag campaign to bring them home

Missing in Action: Michelle Obama’s hashtag campaign to bring them home

In 2014, then First Lady Michelle Obama admirably helped lead a global campaign to rescue 276 schoolgirls who had been taken hostage by Boko Haram, an Islamist terrorist organization in Nigeria. Ms. Obama said that she saw her own daughters when thinking about the hostages and spearheaded a hashtag” movement, #BringBackOurGirls, that worked to secure their release. The girls had been kidnapped from their dormitory on the night before their final exams, triggering worldwide outrage and attention from global politicians, hip-hop royalty, and Hollywood celebrities alike. People all over the world began tweeting the same clarion call: #BringBackOurGirls.

The news understandably ate it up, as anchors painfully retold the story, connecting people to the universal panic of seeing schoolchildren taken captive. We were united by the cause of liberation — who could argue that 276 teenage girls deserved a better fate than being terrorized by maniacal animals?

Michelle Obama had not been known for making statements on foreign affairs, yet she decided to tweet about the situation, moved that these “could have been my girls.” She posted a now iconic picture of herself on social media with #BringBackOurGirls plastered on a placard. Suffice to say her efforts made a difference, pouring jet fuel on the attention focused on the kidnappings.

For his part, President Obama offered his full support to his wife, confirming that the U.S. government was doing everything in its power to help bring the girls back. The president even ceded his weekly presidential address to Michelle. She spoke about the outrage and heartbreak over the girls’ abduction, refusing to let their story be forgotten and calling attention to it as part of a larger narrative about the importance of advancing girls’ educational opportunities. As Ms. Obama said: “In these girls, Barack and I see our own daughters. We see their hopes, their dreams, and we can only imagine the anguish their parents are feeling right now.”

Kol ha-kavod.

Naturally, following the horrific events of October 7, you would expect the Obamas and their acolytes to support efforts to free the hostages from Hamas, especially considering the unspeakable atrocities Hamas committed, most notably its weaponization of rape. After all, if Ms. Obama was so moved to action when Nigerian schoolgirls were abducted, she should similarly be moved after October 7, mindful that Hamas had taken American citizens hostage. Instead, we received crickets from Michelle and a lump of coal from Barack.

Shame on them.

Lest you think this article is a political commentary, which it plainly is not, here is the former president in his own words, shortly after October 7: “What Hamas did was horrific, and there’s no justification for it. And what is also true is that the occupation and what’s happening to Palestinians is unbearable.” Obama’s equivocal, mealy-mouthed nonsense would have been enough. Dayeinu. But he doubled down on his head-scratching rhetoric, juxtaposing stories of the Holocaust and “the madness of antisemitism” with the fact that “there are people right now who are dying, who had nothing to do with what Hamas did.” Predictably, Obama concluded his statement through his typical universalistic urging of his subjects to reject antisemitic, anti-Muslim, anti-Arab, and anti-Palestinian sentiments. For his crescendo, President Obama said: “If you want to solve the problem, then you have to take in the whole truth. And then you have to admit nobody’s hands are clean, that all of us are complicit to some degree.”

President Obama should know better. There is simply no comparison between the October 7 victims and the Palestinians’ situation writ large. They don’t belong in the same paragraph. It is obscene to juxtapose the two. The seemingly lionized Obamas are highly influential with young Democrats, making President Obama’s statement even more troubling — it fuels antisemitic bias, and worse. Obama’s words predictably had consequences, prompting more than 100 Obama-administration alumni to sign a letter urging Obama to use his leverage with President Biden to secure an immediate ceasefire. As we know, calling for a ceasefire essentially is code for telling Israel to surrender. It matters not whether you voted for President Obama, or believe he was a good president for our country. History will be the judge.

Reasonable people can disagree about the nature and extent of Israel’s policies and responsibility for what President Obama describes as the “unbearable” condition of the Palestinians. But no reasonable person can compare it to the murders and rapes Hamas committed on October 7. Yet that is precisely what Obama did. And in doing so, he provided ammunition to Hamas supporters who seek to justify the murders and rapes by pointing to the allegedly unbearable conditions under which they live. If a condition is unbearable, then it logically follows — at least for Hamas enablers and sympathizers, including those disrupting college campuses across the country — that there are no limits to what can be done to make it bearable.

You can be the most died-in-the-wool, blue-blooded Democrat yet be appalled by Michelle Obama’s hypocrisy and President Obama’s chutzpah. Hollywood will continue to fete the royal couple, just as predictably as it will continue to churn out nonsensical award acceptance speeches like Jonathan Glazer’s. We can set our watches by it.

Rest assured, however, that this is a war against all Jews, everywhere and anywhere. When Nigerian schoolchildren were abducted, Michelle Obama fought for their release and inspired countless others. Sadly, Jews do not seem to count among the well-heeled liberal elites of Washington or Hollywood. We can, and should, call out President Trump’s bad behavior, but the Obamas seemingly are rewarded with Netflix specials and perpetual get-out-of-jail-free cards.

My frustration has nothing to do with politics. It is with a world aligned against us, the cowardly silence of those who know better, and the reckless anti-Israel rhetoric that fuels our enemies. This is a time for taking sides; punting is not an option. Folks like the Obamas need to decide whether they only want to bring back girls who look like their daughters or take a more principled approach and call for the immediate release of all Hamas hostages. I am not holding my breath.

Instead, I will focus my efforts on praying for the immediate release of the hostages and calling out those for whom Jews don’t seem to count. Bring them home now!

Ari M. Berman lives in West Caldwell and is a member of that town’s Congregation Agudath Israel. He is an attorney.

read more: