- The Washington Times - Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Symbolism matters, and President Obama knows it. When the president spoke at Georgetown University in 2009, his advance team asked that the Roman Catholic university cover an image derived from the first three Greek letters of the name of Jesus Christ. The gold “IHS” monogram inscribed in the hall where Mr. Obama spoke was duly covered by a piece of plywood painted black, and the symbol remained covered over the next day.

No such scruples and sensitivity were prescribed last week when Mr. Obama joined Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas in the West Bank for a news conference under the banner of a larger-than-life image of Yasser Arafat, widely regarded as “the father of modern terrorism.”

In explaining its actions three years ago, the White House said neither Christ nor his church was the issue. “Decisions made about the backdrop for the speech were made to have a consistent background of American flags, which is standard for many presidential events,” a White House spokesman said. “Any suggestions to the contrary are simply false.” Of course. The administration apparently did not object to the president standing against the image of one of the world’s most recognized terrorist.

Arafat’s connection to violence is well known. His Palestine Liberation Organization and Fatah faction bombed civilians, hijacked airplanes and killed schoolchildren. The body count is staggering and includes a number of high-profile attacks, including the murder of 11 Israeli athletes at the Munich Olympics in 1972. The American ambassador to the Sudan, Cleo Noel, was shot at the direction of Arafat in Khartoum in 1973. Arafat was a party to the 1985 hijacking of the cruise ship Achille Lauro, and the killing of an American, Leon Klinghoffer, whose body and wheelchair were thrown overboard.

The president overlooked this sordid history and compounded the memory following his visit last week to the West Bank, where the administration freed $500 million in aid to the Palestinian Authority. Congress had frozen those funds for months to punish the authority. Under the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt has chipped away at the rights of women and of Christians, yet the United States continues to contribute hundreds of millions of dollars to Egypt. Sen. Marco Rubio, Florida Republican, has demanded that foreign aid be tied to political, economic and religious freedoms and human rights reforms. “Our foreign aid is not charity,” says Mr. Rubio. “Our foreign aid is used to advance our foreign policy interests … . We have a right to be concerned.”

Mr. Obama continues to stand in the shadow of terrorists and award millions to radicals. This is called leading from behind, and that’s no place for a president of the United States. We should put our money where our mouth is, projecting a message of responsibility not only for peace, but for justice. By overlooking the deeds of the wicked, the president sends a message, and it’s not the message we should be sending.

The Washington Times