Syria proves that ‘Never Again’ has not been learned

People die in wars, but even in wars there are laws, rules of engagement, and things that are not done.

April 6, 2017 22:09
2 minute read.
Syria chemical attack

A man breathes through an oxygen mask as another one receives treatments, after what rescue workers described as a suspected gas attack in the town of Khan Sheikhoun in rebel-held Idlib, Syria April 4, 2017. (photo credit: REUTERS)

There are photographs that, when we see them, our hearts can’t help breaking. There are horrors that the heart refuses to accept. There are events that occur and the free world is tested. And in the case of Syria, as citizens die from chemical weapons and children quiver with foam on their lips, the world cannot stand idly by. It must act.

“Do not stand idly by the blood of your neighbor” the Bible warns. Yet, six years into the Syrian conflict, and that is just what international community is doing. It happens that we share a border with Syria though we do not share peace. But when human beings are slaughtered by chemical weapons, none of that matters. Israel opens its hospitals and provides the medical care it can. But the death and destruction that the Syrian people have endured is unequivocally a humanitarian disaster.

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“Never again” was the basis for the founding of the United Nations, established in the wake of the Second World War after the Holocaust and the systemic of millions of Jews. On a day when a dictator murders – using poison gas – his own citizens and harms many more — on a day when solid red lines are crossed, “never again” needs an enforcement mechanism.

“There are interests at play here”, they will tell me, “the choices in Syria are between bad options”. That is true.

So let’s talk not only about or moral obligation, but also about interests — because taking action in Syria is also in our interest. It is the common interest of the free world to free its citizens from the threats of terror and violence. Rogue states and terrorist actors are watching what is happening – and the message that world is sending them will influence their behavior, no less than direct action against them.

When the world demands, and rightly so, that North Korea and Iran abide by its rules regarding unconventional weapons, it is critical that it simultaneously act against unconventional weapons elsewhere.

People die in wars, but even in wars there are laws, rules of engagement, and things that are not done. Unconventional weapons are beyond the pale and unlike collateral damage in a battle, what we see in Syria is a deliberate attack on civilians, war crimes that have the makings of crimes against humanity. Silence and complacency give not only Assad a license to kill, but all radical terrorist actors in the region. An international coalition must address the situation; its immediate task is completing the removal of Syria’s chemical weapons.

The children of Syria are the children of the world - and they are looking at us. Will the world stand idly by as their blood is shed? Can moderate elements still expect that in times of trouble there will be those who will end the horror — or is it better to be on the side of evil? Now is a moment when interests and morality fuse: it is time to act accordingly.

Tzipi Livni is the co-chairman of the Zionist Union and a former foreign minister.

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