Cindy McCain, director of the World Food Program, reports that parts of Gaza are in famine. According to the New York Times, rebuilding all the homes in the Gaza Strip could take until the next century. Currently, a number of countries have cut diplomatic ties with Israel, and Turkey has said that it will suspend trade with Israel until a there’s a permanent cease-fire in Gaza.

Meanwhile, Joseph Biden, president of the United States, along with a compliant U.S. Congress, refuses to pressure the Netanyahu government with anything more severe than tsk-tsk tongue-lashings without any material consequence. Given this reality, it’s no wonder why colleges and universities in the United States are currently in turmoil, and that students today feel much as we did (those of us now in our 70s and 80s) when the Vietnam War killed more and more of our generation in the paddy fields and villages of Vietnam. President Biden did not fight in that war. He seems to be proud that he stayed above the fray in college, viewing the war then as just a poor policy choice and not a moral disaster. He now has a chance with the current war between Israel and Palestine to reclaim some moral high ground that he failed to embrace in his youth.

There are still a significant number of us from that ’60s generation still alive who remember those times. I have a childhood friend whose name is engraved on the Vietnam Veterans Memorial wall in Washington. I have friends who resisted the draft and served up to three years in prison. I have gone to Vietnam to build homes with Habitat with Humanity, both with soldiers who were medics during that time and with draft resisters. We all took different paths than Joe Biden.

President Biden has an opportunity now to reflect deeply on what happened in and to Vietnam during our youth while politicians refused to act forcefully. History has proven that Vietnam was a moral disaster. Gaza is one now. Currently, Benjamin Netanyahu is claiming that he plans to go into Rafah with or without a cease-fire agreement. Time may be short, but history’s memory will be long if such a disastrous path is pursued.

I implore President Biden to find the courage to break rank with his own hesitancy and speak out, not through surrogates, but publicly to the current Israeli government. No more bombing. No incursion into Rafah. A permanent cease-fire. An exchange of hostages. Right now, Biden is ultimately just rubber-stamping whatever Benjamin Netanyahu decides. Time to show some courage and to back up words with actions, such as the curtailment of arms and trade agreements until these basic demands are secured.

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