For over six years now, Bashar Assad has waged a vicious war against his own people.
So far, nearly half a million have been killed. According to the Syrian Network for Human Rights, at least 207,000 were civilians.
Of that number, 23,000 were women and 24,000 children. Ninety-four percent of those civilians were killed by Assad’s Iranian- Russian-Syrian alliance. This, besides the 117,000 who have been detained or disappeared by the Assad regime since the start of the slaughter. They are, of course, most likely to never be seen again.
These are the grim statistics of Assad’s blood-drenched campaign of self-preservation.
The details of this slaughter are just as disturbing.
Assad has launched rockets against civilian centers, rained heavy artillery on medical centers, besieged and starved entire neighborhoods, dropped combusting kegs of gasoline on non-combatants, and deployed lethal nerve-gas against women and children.
That a man can be allowed to wreak destruction upon the very people he is meant to protect stains the reputation of our entire generation. That he can then practice the most brutal acts of barbarism while never paying more than a token price blackens that stain to the point where it will remain forever.
Nevertheless, the State of Israel has chosen to stay out of the conflict. The Jewish state has offered humanitarian assistance, providing medical care to the wounded brought to its border and aid to those beyond it, even as far as the Syrian refugees in Europe. Still, Israel 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 in Syria to end the slaughter would likely be interpreted by its enemies as hostile rather than humanitarian.
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 have died of starvation, torture and summary execution. The photos, however, revealed something which, despite the towering bar of cruelty set by Assad, was shocking in the absolute. There, on the southern side of the prison complex, was a fully-functioning crematoria.
A crematoria, operating just 225 km.
from the Jewish state, in the year 2017, is an abomination.
Assad had, 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.
This gruesome tactic was employed first by the Nazis in the 1940s to eradicate the remains, and even the very memory, of our uncles, aunts, grandparents and cousins whom they slaughtered by the millions.
To use ovens to systematically burn those whom you murder is the very essence of evil. And yet, the most horrific feature of these machines is their purpose. Like the Nazis before them, the murderers of the Assad regime seek to destroy evidence of mass murder and thereby evade justice.
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 we Jews cannot for a moment 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 in its commitment to humankind’s most cherished values, chief among them the sacredness of human life.
Israel is the homeland of the Jewish People.
We are the People of the Book, known first and foremost for the morals and values we bequeathed mankind. It was we who taught the world The Ten Commandments.
It was we who carried God’s message, “Thou shalt not murder.” It is our Torah which 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 it was we who suffered the greatest slaughter in the history of all mankind, it is we who declared to the world, “Never Again!” How can we, then, stand idly by as innocent people are turned into ashes? How much more so when the ashes of those bodies floats in the skies over Israel.
If we do not take the lead in sanctifying human life, then how can we expect others to follow? Here, too, we have no excuse. To bomb the crematoria would not require an Israeli invasion or being drawn into a wider war.
It could be accomplished with a surgical strike – a strike that would ring with sacred symbolism and give meaning to everything we as a people hold dear.
In such a critical moment, Israel must take the global lead and destroy these blatant symbols of 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 the Allies: “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.
Here in the United States, Father’s Day has just passed, and the other day, I had a seminal moment of parental pride. My children, who live in Israel, organized a protest outside the Knesset demanding that Israel utilize its military might to destroy the Syrian crematoria in the name of Jewish decency and values. Another protest is planned soon. I hope you will all join a growing movement to make Israel not only a technological superpower but a light unto the nations as well.The author, “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.