Israeli Chief Rabbi on Alleged Chemical Attack: Jews Morally Obliged to End Cruel Syrian Genocide

'This is an obligation no less than the moral obligation was to destroy the nuclear reactor in Syria,' Israel's Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef says

Israel's Chief Sephardic Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef.
\ Moti Milrod

Israel's Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef responded Sunday to reports of a deadly chemical attack on a rebel-held city in Syria and said Jews have a moral obligation to end the "cruel genocide" taking place in the war-torn country.

"I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, a cruel genocide is taking place in Syria, including women and children, with weapons of mass destruction," Yosef said. 

"There is a moral obligation not to remain silent and to try to stop the massacre. As Jews we have been through genocide, as Jews whose Torah is a light to the nations, it is our moral obligation to try to prevent the massacre. This is an obligation no less than the moral obligation was to destroy the nuclear reactor in Syria," the rabbi said.

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According to medical relief organizations and rescue workers, scores of people were killed when Syrian government forces struck the town of Douma, near Damascus, with a chlorine bomb and nerve agents.

Various groups released conflicting reports on the death toll, with the amount of those reportedly killed ranging between 40 and 150. The lifeless bodies of around a dozen children, women and men, some of them with foam at the mouth, were shown in one video circulated by activists. 

The U.S. State Department described the reports as “horrifying” and would, if confirmed, “demand an immediate response by the international community.”

This is not the first time Rabbi Yosef has made such statements. In October 2016, he described the civil war in Syria as a small holocaust, and called on Jews to speak out against the situation.

"I want to make use of this forum and say that as Jews it is forbidden for us to remain silent. The call will come out from here: Genocide cannot be ignored, not in Syria and not anywhere, and not against any people, even if they are not our friends," he said.