After the Oct. 7 slaughter in Israel, author Brigitte Gabriel posted on X (formerly Twitter) about her experiences growing up in Lebanon. She described her childhood in the once-prosperous and peaceful country as "idyllic" and recalled how its capital, Beirut, had been hailed as the "Paris of the Middle East."
All that changed as Muslim extremists gained control of the country and plunged it into war. Both Jewish and Christian families like Gabriel's were persecuted. After the destruction of her home and a decade spent living in a bomb shelter, Gabriel and her family were able to escape to the United States, a country she loves dearly for the opportunities it afforded her.
Gabriel's account reminded me of the decade I spent living in the Detroit area. During that time, I met so many people with stories similar to Gabriel's. They left nations wracked by war and economic privation and came to the United States. In Dearborn, I frequented their pastry shops, where you could buy traditional baklava, and their cafes that featured exotic coffees. My favorite restaurant in Birmingham was famous for its mouthwatering Mediterranean entrees and desserts and was owned by a Lebanese couple who always spoke to me in French. And in Bloomfield Hills, my friends and I patronized a day spa run by a Jewish woman who fled the former Soviet Union with her family when Jews were allowed to leave with only the clothes on their backs and a suitcase in each hand. They emigrated first to Israel and then came here.
I loved hearing these people's stories; I admired their hope, their resilience and their determination. There was nothing remarkable about any of the modest businesses they started here; they simply enabled their owners to live lives in peace and freedom, with some semblance of financial stability. That is all their owners wanted for themselves and their families.
That is what most people want.
We're told that "there will never be peace in the Middle East" because of the centuries-old hostilities between the countries and the peoples there. And yet people from those same countries can come here to the United States and live peacefully, not only in the same nation, but in the same city, the same suburbs, the same neighborhoods.
It is a testament to our founding principles that this is not only possible but commonplace. Those principles are why America is a country of (for the most part) peace and prosperity. It is why so many flee their native countries and come here.
But as sacrosanct and successful as those founding principles have been, their continuity is not inevitable. In that vein, the vicious antisemitism and apparent support for the barbaric murder of Jews and the destruction of Israel that has erupted across the U.S. needs to be a wake-up call.
Mobs have swarmed into our city streets, decrying Israel as an "oppressor" and an "apartheid state." Israel is blamed for making Gaza an "open-air prison," without the corresponding acknowledgment that if the Palestinian "leadership" was not devoting every dollar and ounce of effort into wiping Israel off the map – if they had not spent tens of billions of dollars of foreign aid on instruments of war and terrorism – Gaza could be a little paradise, and its residents would be able to freely go between their home country and Israel the way Americans travel between states. Social media is filled with videos of people tearing down posters of kidnapped Israelis, screaming obscenities at pro-Israel speakers and carrying signs calling for "decolonialization" or the "cleansing" of Jews from the Middle East.
Most Americans are shocked; where has this come from?
In no small part, from our colleges and universities. Consider: Over the past few years, we have seen incident after incident of speakers being shouted down, threatened and even physically attacked. Polls of college students reveal astonishing support for censorship and the characterization of political viewpoints with which they disagree as "hate speech." Some of the most appalling support for Hamas' brutality has taken place on college campuses this month. This week, students at George Washington University projected slogans praising Hamas butchers as "martyrs" and calling for the eradication of Israel onto the campus library named for the family of a Jewish alumnus.
For decades, faculty at American institutions of higher education have been promoting – not merely educating about – uber-leftist philosophies of moral relativism and myriad versions of Marxism. At its core, Marxism is a philosophy rooted in resentment, devoted to the abolition of religion and the replacement of God with government. For the diehard Marxist, there is no "truth," no ultimate arbiter of "right" or "wrong," no natural law, no divine source of fundamental human dignity or inherent individual rights. There is only power and whatever it takes to wield it to bring about the "revolution."
It is no coincidence that antisemitism festers in this climate. And these ideologies are equally antithetical to America's founding principles. The incident at George Washington University is a metaphor: the writing is, literally, on the wall. The same voices calling for the eradication of the state of Israel will not stop there. They will not rest until America – a country expressly founded "under God" and in opposition to totalitarian regimes – is brought to its knees as well.
What has been built here in the United States is not perfect, but it is precious and exceptional, and the successes of people of every conceivable background, ethnicity and socioeconomic class are proof. We cannot permit it to be destroyed from within by the greedy, the corrupt, the ignorant or those who want to marinate perennially in the hostilities of our own bygone eras.
It's time to hold academia accountable.