The Yearning Israeli Jewish Soul Looks Toward Syria

Israel’s victims in Gaza 2014, like Assad’s now, included babies and children; they, too, were cruelly massacred and their numbers were also high enough to shock.

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Victims of the suspected chemical weapons attack lie on the ground in Idlib, Syria on April 4, 2017.
Victims of the suspected chemical weapons attack lie on the ground in Idlib, Syria on April 4, 2017.Credit: /AP
Gideon Levy
Gideon Levy

Suddenly we care about children who’ve been killed. Suddenly Israelis are even shocked by Arab children who’ve been killed. The noted Israeli conscience has been revived. The fundraising is on the way, if only it were possible. See the headlines, look at the pictures from Syria, they’re the main news. It’s touching. Such basic, emotional, human solidarity with no regard for race or gender. Who wouldn’t be stunned by the horror of children having seizures and choking from gas? What Jew can remain apathetic to a chemical massacre?

Indeed, the images from Idlib turn one’s stomach. President Reuven Rivlin was right when he called it “a stain on humanity.” Yedioth Ahronoth was also correct with its headline “Killer of children,” and its double-page spreads of horror photos. At least 100 people were killed in a chemical attack by the forces of the Syrian president. Many of them were children. Every child who’s killed is a world unto himself, and the very use of weapons of mass destruction is a god-awful horror.

Israel has never used weapons of mass destruction. We don’t have any child-killers in our government, and there has never been Syrian-style cruelty and Assad-style bloodlust here. That’s the truth. The 180 babies killed in the summer of 2014 were killed by conventional, legal and even pure weapons. The 366 children also killed in the summer of 2014 met their deaths while playing ball on the beach, in their beds, or while desperately trying to flee.

A Palestinian man carries the body of a boy, whom medics said was killed by a shell fired by an Israeli naval gunboat, on a beach in Gaza City July 16, 2014. Credit: Reuters

They were babies and children just like Assad’s; they were cruelly massacred just like in Idlib, and their numbers are also high enough to shock. They even had names. It’s doubtful their deaths were easier than those of the Syrian children. Horrifying pictures of their killings were published throughout the world. It was enough to watch recently the documentary film “Ambulance” by Mohammed Jabali, who joined a Palestinian ambulance crew in Gaza, attached a camera and recorded the scenes, without any filtering. They looked like Syria. They continued for only 50 days, but given that Gaza’s population is only two million, densely packed and with nowhere to run, one can’t help making a moral comparison to Syria.

The images of Gaza’s children killed in the summer of 2014 were broadcast all over the world, except in one small, irrelevant country. They generated the same disgust as the pictures from Syria on Tuesday. All over the world, but not in Israel. Here they didn’t show us our handiwork. Most Israelis were only exposed to media that censored reality for them, as a public service. Have we ever seen photos of mutilated bodies of babies in Gaza, as we saw Tuesday from Syria? Not in Israel. Were there such pictures? There certainly were. All you need to do is watch “Ambulance,” or search the archives of the BBC and Al Jazeera.

We have mercy on preschool children – as long as they’re not from Gaza, and weren’t killed by the Israel Defense Forces – and we also have mercy on Israelis who shouldn’t, heaven forbid, be exposed to overly harsh images. Images of children we didn’t kill aren’t too harsh. Images of children that Israel killed – the most moral soldiers and pilots in the world – are too difficult for the yearning Jewish soul.

And once the shock of the pictures from Syria fades, another hidden, base thought emerges: Look at them and look at us. Look at who we’re dealing with. Look at those Arabs. That’s the subtext. It’s aimed at easing one’s conscience. It reduces guilt. It’s part of the subliminal brainwashing.

In the summer of 2014, a horror similar to the one in Syria took place in Gaza. That, too, was “a stain on humanity.” It included the mass killing of civilians, of hundreds of women and children, as well as elderly people and even innocent men. Israel committed that massacre. Israel is guilty of it. The world was as shocked by that as it is by Syria, but we accused the horrified world of anti-Semitism. The whole world saw Gaza in 2014. Only the Israelis didn’t see it. Sleep well, with a clear conscience.

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