How is it possible to read Jonathan Littell's five installments of horror about the current carnage in Syria - published this weekend in the Hebrew edition of Haaretz - and think about anything else? How is it possible to read those five hellish chapters and write about anything else? Not far from where we live, right on the edges of our neighborhood, people thirsty for freedom are being horrifically slaughtered and we cannot help. We don't even try.
Syrian President Bashar Assad, a hi-tech-loving ophthamologist, husband of the beautiful Asma, has turned out to be a monster. The neighbor across the hallway bombards and kills indiscriminately, and the world - including the neighbor Israel - does not lift a finger.
And if the horrors increase? If a holocaust happens there? If masses of Syrian war refugees knock on Israel's door? Will we curl up behind the locked door like a crotchety old lady living alone, hearing nothing, seeing nothing, as long as the door stays locked?
In 1981, during the terrible war between Iran and Iraq, Israel's then prime minister, Menachem Begin, wished "success to both sides." At the weekend we marked, with longing, 20 years since he passed away, but that Begin statement is still one of his lowest and most unfortunate. Let us not rejoice when our enemies fall. We can only hope that no one in Israel is rejoicing over what is now going on in our neighbor's home.
In the face of shells striking their homes, masses of helpless civilians are shouting the traditional cry, "Allah is great." But their Allah is not great at all. The call that implicates every Palestinian in our country as a terror suspect, has become in Syria a heart-rending human cry, but the heart is not rent enough.
Yes, it's true, what can Israel do? Any action it takes will be immediately suspected of being foreign involvement for the benefit of its own narrow and hostile interests. Any statements or actions Israel takes might immediately unite the Syrian people against it.
But still we cannot help but imagine, pause for a moment in an errant illusion, about how things might be different. How it would be if Israel had done more in the past to be accepted into its jungle neighborhood. It could now show the entire world its pretension of being "the only democracy in the Middle East" and justify that title by its actions. If it were really the only democracy in the region, it would by now have been one of the leaders of an international coalition that would emerge to save the Syrian people, just like Europe came out to save Kosovo, and armies in Africa organized to save neighboring peoples.
For Syria, the world does not lift a finger. Russia and China are in fact in favor of the slaughter, because the world is cynical and full of its own narrow interests.
But Israel could have been different. Imagine, for example, if the alliance with Turkey were still in place. Israel and Turkey could be working together to save their neighbor. Imagine what would happen if the prime ministers of Israel and Turkey, the only democracies in the Middle East, were standing together to threaten Assad's regime? If Israel were to devote even a small part of its energies over plans to attack Iran to a campaign to save the Syrian people - how the Arab world would see Israel, how the whole world would perceive it.
But these are all pipe dreams. Israel is not in a position to preach to a neighboring tyrannical regime, and it cannot do a thing without being suspect. And yet, our hearts give us no rest. The cries that rise up from across the border are growing stronger. Therefore, despite all the objections and the limitations, we can no longer accept Israel's equanimity and inaction.
The people who will not forget the indifference and inaction of most of the world during the Holocaust, for whom the indifference of the Jewish community in Palestine at the time still rankles, can no longer keep silent.
The minimum should be a resounding call to our absolute ally, the United States, and to Israel's other friends - do something, right now. Forget for a moment the Iranian threat and the Israeli occupation, join in a rescue of which none is more urgent. Let the world suspect what it suspects; a sincere Israeli call like this will not fall on deaf ears. Wake up, brothers and sisters, the neighborhood is burning. R., the man Littell tells us about whose leg was amputated, cries out for help. His nephew, whose hand was cut off, has already died under torture.
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