Editorial |

With Eyes on Aleppo, Israel Can't Stand on the Sidelines

Haaretz Editorial
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A still image from a video taken over eastern Aleppo, December 15, 2016.
A still image from a video taken over eastern Aleppo, December 15, 2016. Credit: Syria Syrian Army/Handout via Reuters TV
Haaretz Editorial

In the city of Aleppo, humanity is dying, as the UN envoy to Syria said with chilling precision. Dozens of people have been killed since a cease-fire was announced Tuesday; the truce collapsed within less than a day.

Thousands of civilians are trapped in their homes, which continue to be bombed by the Russian and Syrian air forces. Iranian and Syrian militias are murdering civilians in their homes indiscriminately, and the buses that were supposed to rescue residents from this hell can’t approach the city.

The panicked cries for help that the people sent via cellphones are gradually fading, and fear for their fate has prompted denunciations around the world. Yet not a single significant action has been taken to rescue them.

The international community, which includes both Western and Arab states, is watching this horror show with fury but can’t muster the fortitude for any action against the joint evil of the Russian and Syrian regimes.

A 3-D image of Warsaw, in January, 1945.

As in other parts of the world where massacres have occurred and still are occurring, diplomatic logic has overcome the human impulse. Sending troops into Syria would mean a violent conflict with Russia, and perhaps also with Iran, while bombing Syrian air force bases could invite retaliation against the West’s strategic bases.

Nobody wants to get dragged into World War III because of an Arab city. No government wants to sacrifice its own citizens for a goal that isn’t found in its strategic target bank. After all, the war in Aleppo isn’t against the Islamic State. But for the international community, and no less for Israel, there are other options. A diplomatic war against Russia, similar to that imposed after its war in Ukraine, could be of use.

And on this issue, Israel too could make a contribution. The country that mobilized the world against Iran is also capable of rousing world opinion and putting pressure on global leaders. And yes, this is the moment to mention the Holocaust. Israel can and must encourage the international Jewish community, especially in America, to wield its power. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can also utilize his close relationship with U.S. President-elect Donald Trump.

Israel should also offer to absorb thousands of Syrian refugees and participate in an international effort to help the Syrians under siege. The same Israel that is suffocating Eritrean and Sudanese refugees must now change direction, for the sake of its own history. At the very least, the prime minister must personally appeal to the world and add Israel to the long list of those who view Russia and Syria as war criminals.

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