Saturday, January 18th | 21 Tevet 5780

June 20, 2017 1:33 pm

A Righteous Israel Must Bomb Assad’s Crematoria

avatar by Shmuley Boteach


Children in Aleppo, Syria. Photo: UN.

For more than six years now, Syrian President Bashar Assad has waged a vicious war against his own people.

So far, nearly half-a-million people have been killed. And according to the Syrian Network for Human Rights, at least 207,000 of those were civilians — including 23,000 women and 24,000 children. Ninety-four percent of those civilians were killed by Syria, Iran and Russia. Then there are the 117,000 people who have been detained by Assad — or who have “disappeared.”

These are the grim statistics of Assad’s blood-drenched campaign of self-preservation in Syria.

The details of this slaughter are just as disturbing. Assad has launched rockets against civilian centers, used heavy artillery to attack medical centers, besieged and starved entire neighborhoods, dropped exploding kegs of gasoline on noncombatants and used lethal nerve gas against women and children.

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That a man can be allowed to wreak this kind of destruction upon the very people that he is supposed to protect stains the reputation of our entire generation.

Nevertheless, Israel has chosen to stay out of the conflict. Although the Jewish state has offered humanitarian assistance — providing medical care to the wounded — it has not taken steps to end the slaughter, presumably because doing so would introduce too many risks to a nation that does not lack them. Israel simply does not have the military bandwidth to end a conflict of this scope, without drawing on the resources that ensure its own security.

In addition, any military action taken by Israel to end the slaughter would likely be interpreted by its enemies as a hostile, rather than humanitarian, act.

And so, Israel has stayed its hand.

Now, however, the time has come to act.

Last month, the US State Department released satellite imagery of Assad’s notorious Saydnaya Detention Center, where thousands of people have died of starvation, torture and summary execution. The photos, however, revealed something that — despite the towering bar of cruelty set by Assad — was still shocking. There, on the southern side of the prison complex, was a fully-functioning crematoria.

A crematoria, operating just 140 miles from the Jewish state, in the year 2017, is an abomination.

Assad has, apparently, taken his genocidal ambitions to a whole new level. We now have concrete evidence that he has built ovens to incinerate the corpses of his victims, erasing any trace that they so much as lived.

Like the Nazis before them, the the Assad regime murderers seek to destroy evidence of mass murder and thereby evade justice. Indeed, they seem to believe that they can simply burn the evidence of our century’s greatest crime.

That crematoria could exist more than 70 years after the Holocaust is an affront to the Jewish people and a disgrace to all mankind. More importantly, it is something that we Jews cannot tolerate.

These crematoria must be destroyed. Israel should take the lead.

Israel has already risen as a global leader in business, hi-tech, agriculture, water-technologies and the arts. But the leadership Israel should truly seek is its commitment to humankind’s most cherish values — chief among which is the sacredness of human life.

Israel is the homeland of the Jewish people. We are the people of the book; we are known first and foremost for the morals and values that we bequeathed mankind. We taught the world the Ten Commandments. We carried God’s message, “Thou shalt not murder.” It is our Torah that proclaims, “Thou shalt not stand idly by the blood of thy neighbor.” It was we who announced that “in the image of God was mankind created.”

And then — when we suffered the greatest slaughter in the history of all mankind — we declared to the world, “Never Again.”

So how can we stand idly by as innocent people are turned into ashes? Especially when those ashes float in the skies over Israel.

If we do not take the lead in sanctifying human life, how can we expect others to follow?

And we have no excuse. To bomb the crematoria would not require an Israeli invasion, or risk Israel being drawn into a wider war. It could be accomplished with a surgical strike — a strike that would echo with sacred symbolism, and give meaning to everything that we as a people hold dear.

At this most critical moment, Israel must take the global lead and destroy these blatant symbols of Nazi inhumanity.

In a speech in July 1944 — as the question of bombing the Auschwitz death camp was being debated and ultimately dismissed the Allies — David Ben-Gurion posed a question to West: “If instead of Jews, thousands of English, American or Russian women, children, and aged had been tortured every day, burned to death, asphyxiated in gas chambers — would you have acted in the same way?”

If this is what we demanded of our allies, we must surely demand it of ourselves.

My children who live in Israel recently organized a protest outside the Knesset demanding that Israel utilize its military might to destroy the Syria crematoria in the name of Jewish decency and Jewish values. Another protest is planned soon. I hope you will all join a growing movement to make Israel not only a technology superpower, but a light unto the nations.

Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, “America’s Rabbi,” whom the Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America,” is the international bestselling author of 30 books including his most recent “The Israel Warrior.” Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.

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