With Samantha Power needlessly choosing to snub Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech at the United Nations two weeks ago, there is renewed focus on her actions and friendship with Israel. Much more serious, however, is her passivity in the face of the ongoing slaughter of our Arab brothers in Syria.
For many years Samantha Power was my hero. She emerged as one of the world’s foremost voices against genocide. She championed and defended the human rights of oppressed groups everywhere.
She was one of the most outspoken critics of the US government’s historically abysmal failure at confronting and stopping genocide, which she wrote about it in her Pulitzer Prize-winning book, A Problem From Hell: America and the Age of Genocide.
She inspired me and deepened my own commitment to fighting genocide.
I publicly fought in her corner tooth and nail when she was ferociously criticized by many in the Jewish community for being anti-Israel. Anyone who agitated that hard against genocide had to have Jewish support.
But with the slaughter in Syria continuing unabated, and Power being an integral part of an administration that has chosen not to respond to even the gassing of Arab children, we have to ask whether Power will one day end up as a chapter in her own book.
Will she too turn a blind eye to genocide? Will she continue to stay in office even as President Obama has left Syrian President Bashar Assad to slaughter his people and create the worst refugee crisis of the 21st century? I continue to believe that somehow Samantha will turn this all around and persuade the administration to take some kind of action to stop the appalling bloodletting in Syria. I continue to believe that Samantha will not be seduced by power.
But time is running short and her reputation is seriously at stake. Much more importantly, lives are being lost every day and Power’s silent complicity in the administration’s do-nothing approach is deeply troubling.
Samantha must now choose a path that will cement her legacy in history. She faces the same choices that King Saul and King David faced in the Bible. In the first book of Samuel, King Saul begins his kingship as a strong and promising leader but ultimately falls victim to the pressures of his office. But he is followed by King David who starts out with many mistakes and difficulties, but learns to correct wrongs, repent, and ultimately choose a more righteous path, regardless of political pressures and considerations.
They both had great power and influence and at first fearlessly wielded that power to help the truly needy. But one could withstand the seduction of kingship and the other could not.
Saul started out strong and idealistic, but eventually showed more concern with his political stature and strength than his God-given mission. This led him to betray his core principles leading him to finally turn on his most trusted friend and ally, David. He finally went so far as to destroy a city of Levitical priests in his fear that they were turning against him and aiding David. The very people he was sent to protect, he ended up harming. In the end, his failed years in power were forever engraved into the narrative of the Bible. David on the other hand, faced temptations and great challenges, but possessed the humility and inner conviction to admit and rectify his past choices.
These are just some of the Bible’s lessons of the tendency of power to corrupt.
Samantha Power, a source of inspiration to many throughout the world, must resist its pull. There are just too many of us who look up to her and are daily becoming more disillusioned by her failure to challenge the administration’s do-nothing approach to the greatest slaughter of our time.
Power, like Saul, was the perfect candidate to represent the US at the United Nations, a place where attacking Israel takes precedence to stopping daily world atrocities and where Saudi Arabia can be appointed to head a key human rights council without a word of protest. Power, like Saul, began her career fighting the battles of the poor, the weak and the oppressed.
But as she ascends to higher power and faces tremendous political forces and pressures, she must never succumb to the forces at play.
Under Power’s watch at the UN death and chaos is proliferating across the globe.
As mentioned above, Syria has been massacring civilians in the hundreds of thousands and using chemical weapons with impunity. Islamic State is committing genocide against Christians as well as anyone else who does not swear allegiance to them. Russia’s bloodlust for more territory and world influence is increasing daily as it kills thousands of Ukrainian civilians in the process. Iran is threatening to wipe out the Jewish state in a second Holocaust while simultaneously doing everything it can to acquire nuclear weapons. Yet Samantha has never once used her perch at the UN to condemn the daily Iranian genocidal threats against the Jewish state – a point Prime Minister Netanyahu made powerfully in his powerful 44 seconds of silence in his UN address, which Samantha chose to miss.
These atrocities and injustices are just some of countless other world tragedies unfolding as we speak. And yet the US does little to nothing, with Samantha mysteriously being silent in this inaction.
Sadly, Samantha is now being perceived as an unreliable friend of Israel, America’s closest ally. She has several times refused committing to exercising the American Security Council veto should there be a unilateral vote to establish a Palestinian state, which would quickly and inevitably be taken over by Hamas, as was Gaza.
To top it all off, at Prime Minister Netanyahu’s most recent address to the UN, Samantha participated in petty political retribution by boycotting the speech, even though she was in New York City at the time. Some irrelevant excuse about a conference call with President Obama was given, but everyone saw right through it.
The call could easily have taken place an hour later. UN insiders reported that she was told by President Obama to avoid the speech, which she dutifully obeyed.
It’s a shame that Samantha has allowed the powers that be to silence her in this way. She can’t use the all-too-familiar excuse that she is just following orders, because she is the one who castigated earlier political officials in American administrations who stood by while genocide took place. In the past she excoriated this inaction as being not “accidental products of neglect. They were concrete choices made by this country’s most influential decision-makers after unspoken and explicit weighing of costs and benefits.”
Furthermore, she has previously praised brave individuals like Marshall Harris, a desk officer at the State Department, who resigned his post in protest of the government’s refusal to confront genocides.
Power should stay true to her past convictions and protest this failure of policy. If the Obama administration refused to heed her admonitions, Samantha could declare to the world her inability to continue in an administration that is turning a blind eye to the Syrian genocide and refugee problem.
It would be a history making speech to the UN that might just wake the world up to how bad things have gotten. And Samantha would be true to the values she espoused so hauntingly and compellingly in A Problem from Hell.
If she does not make a serious course correction, historians will no doubt point out the irony that an individual as conviction- driven as Power, who pointed a finger at the United States for doing next to nothing to stop genocide over 100 years, ended up becoming a part of The Problem from Hell.The Washington Post calls the author “the most famous rabbi in America.” He is the founder of This World: The Values Network, the world’s leading organization defending Israel in world media. He is the international best-selling author of 30 books, including his most recent, The Israel Warriors Handbook.
Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.