More than 300 people were murdered in Syria by their own government over the weekend, killed by tank, cannon and mortar fire. Their homes were destroyed and hundreds still remain buried under the ruins. There's a long trail of blood behind these numbers, flickering pictures of small children being thrown from windows and video taken with a cellphone of a man walking, a shot being heard and the man falling to the ground.
More than 300. This happened after days with more modest figures of "only" 15, 35 or 58 killed. It happened here, just across the border, an hour's drive from Kiryat Shmona. A fascist, uncontrollable ruler is butchering his people.
You may say, well, the commentators have been saying for weeks that it will end any minute, the UN Security Council is convening - and now you remember? After all, it's an internal matter in which Arabs are killing Arabs, suddenly you've become a bleeding heart?
You may say that all in all, it's a monstrous event that just proves that you can't believe the Arabs, so we can continue to remain silent and forget any chance of ever reaching an agreement in the region that will be based on understanding, cooperation and, of course, concessions.
For weeks, I've been writing about this and trying to get the attention of human rights organizations. I have devoted the best years of my life and strength to establishing and supporting them, believing that one cannot divide human rights: You may not discriminate against a woman giving birth because she's an Arab, you may not discriminate against an Ethiopian pupil because he's black, and you may not cover up despicable, tyrannical acts, even if they take place near the graves of our patriarchs.
States cannot remain quiet in the face of genocide, let alone human rights groups. But the answers I got were vague mumblings: "It's the job of Amnesty International," or "Look, the world is responding; we're part of the world." But we must pay heed to what's happening right here; that's our job.
In the community in which I've worked since the 1990s, there are many Arab organizations; and in recent weeks, I've been calling them. There are estimates that nearly 10,000 people have been murdered in Syria, and I asked them that after seeing the long rows of bodies, how is it that in all these months there hasn't been a single demonstration against the massacre? Something like the Land Day demonstrations, or the commemoration of the 1956 massacre at Kafr Qasem.
Forget about the Jewish groups, I told them - though someone will have to hold them to account as well someday; but this week marks 10 months of a genocide taking place in an Arab country, and hundreds were slaughtered and thousands were wounded Sunday. The news came out Saturday morning and the weather was fine; all over the world, people organized spontaneous demonstrations and what about you? You, who have relatives and friends there!
All these years, Arab MKs have traveled to seek the favor of the Syrian ruler who is now butchering his people. They sat with the killer-leader, soaking up his every word, and after all that, there isn't a single voice among them saying "Enough bloodshed."
Maybe you are protesting and I just haven't heard it. That's possible. I don't read Arab newspapers. But this isn't meant to be an internal debate that takes place behind closed doors; the entire Israeli people should be part of it.
I know it isn't easy to be the Arab minority in Israel and to come out against someone in the Arab world, but there's a limit. Three hundred killed, thousands wounded, and no demonstration was organized in the central square of Nazareth or Shfaram?
Is Arab blood really so cheap?
I remember October 2000, when 13 Israeli Arab citizens were shot dead by the security forces. The whole country trembled from the demonstrations in the Galilee and in Wadi Ara, there were dialogue tents and a committee of inquiry, condemnations and fiery speeches.
And here we are, in the days of "spring" that have turned into a horrifying winter, and all I hear is the most popular MK in Jewish society, Dr. Ahmed Tibi, taking the podium to read, with unusual fervor, a feuilleton about a wacko racist MK from Yisrael Beiteinu. How brave! How sharp!
He knows that this is idle chatter and a distraction, because today another hundred were slaughtered, not by malicious Jews but by the hands of his own people. But there is no outcry. Neither he nor anyone else from the Arab civil leadership took to the podium to add his voice to the world's demand to stop the killing.
No singers sang, no journalists lamented, and politicians continued to be interviewed on talk shows. Deep down, perhaps, there is shame, pain and acceptance. Perhaps. But all we hear is the silence, the huge and dark quiet that allows the blood of Syrian children to be spilled; because in the internal matters of a murderer like Bashar Assad, it's forbidden to intervene.
It is a silence that will echo for many years to come.
The writer is a journalist and author.
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