Viewpoint: The sounds of silence

When I ask myself why God chose the Middle East as the place to settle his chosen people, I think of the Book of Esther.

Esther talking to Mordechai (photo credit: JORGE GLUSBERG / WIKIMEDIA COMMONS)
Esther talking to Mordechai
ON ISRAEL’S northern border, in its backyard, and on its highest peaks, one of the worst atrocities the Middle East has witnessed has been occurring for several years.
Syria, once lead by the Alawite minority, is now a fragmented, bleeding country with endless battles between the Alawites, Sunnis and ISIS proxies. Israel’s border has become a base for the Iranian army and its Shi’ite alliance with Hezbollah, and under the watchful eye of the Russians.
In the Book of Esther, Mordechai turns to his niece as she fears her fate before confronting King Ahasuerus. He says, “Who knows but that you have come to your royal position for such a time as this?” When I ask myself why God chose the Middle East as the place to settle his chosen people, I think of these words.
Here in Israel, surrounded by fearsome enemies on all sides, it is easy to see what separates good and evil. I can summarize by providing an example of one situation. In the last year, Israel’s field hospitals in the Golan heights have saved hundreds of Syrian refugees from the civil war happening in our backyard, under our eyes. The opportunity to do justice in a place full of horrifying injustice is the only logical reason we were put in this region. We have been positioned for such a time as this.
It is said that good deeds should remain private and silent. It is more noble to give to a cause greater than oneself when the act is devoid of profit or praise. But the issue of Israel’s treatment of Syrian refugees must be put in the public spotlight as it has the potential to broaden the public’s understanding of the region. After seventy years of endless battles with enemies committed to our destruction, the Israeli public has not lost its moral compass. There is no doubt that in the Golan Heights we have the obligation to care for and save as many Syrian lives as possible. In addition to caring for Syrian wounded, during the last few weeks, an Israeli military operation called “Good Neighbor” has sent humanitarian aid to the Syrian side of the border.
As in other disasters, both man-made and natural, Israel is displaying universal and humanistic values. Many of my friends on college campuses across America have asked, “How can I be both progressive and pro-Israel?” Those who are concerned about where Israel’s democracy is heading, as I am, and those who have compassion for the Palestinians, as I do, why have you not waved Israel’s flag on your campuses during the past few weeks and months? Why has your Jewish pride not inspired you to confront the BDS movement and intellectual elite? You could have said that while there are problems in Israel, her moral values and actions on the Syrian border make us proud.
You have remained silent. Why did the sensational media stay silent too? The same media that simplistically reported nonstop about an extremely complicated scenario on the Gaza border. There people are being held captive by Hamas, who sent thousands of citizens to storm Israel’s fenced border. When Israel took actions to protect itself, reporting was continuous.
This, to many Israelis, is the sound of silence.
It is the sound of endless hypocrisy, and the question is why.
I’m not a big fan of what I call Israeli whining, which is the attempt to paint every criticism of Israel as antisemitism. But why is Operation Good Neighbor on Israel’s Syrian border, this act of decency and good, not on the top of international news or in academic world conversation? So, if antisemitism isn’t my answer (although it is part of it), it seems to me that we are in an intellectual crisis in the Western world. The world of academia cannot accept that there is right and wrong; it can’t bear realizing or admitting that Israel’s treatment of Syrian refugees is a reflection of the truth in the region. In this endless jungle of murder and horror, Israel stands as a beacon of Western civilization, which is centered on human life.
So, it is easy to close your eyes and not report it. Because who wants their doctrine of hypocrisy toward the one and only democracy in the Middle East to be so easily thwarted by the realities on the ground? Israel will stand before an enormous dilemma on its borders in the weeks to come. Assad, backed by Russia, has already conquered substantial parts of the southern Golan Heights that were controlled by the Syrian rebels. In the next few weeks, his strategy and mission will come to a crossroads. He recently regained control of the city of Daraa, and his sites are now set on the city of Quneitra – the closest Syrian city to the Israeli border. Israel may be faced with thousands of refugees storming the border. Whether Israel accepts them or not is a complicated issue that will have to take into account, first and foremost, our obligation to protect our citizens. But have no doubt, among Syria’s many bordering countries, those refugees know that Israel is their best chance for getting medical care, assistance and aid.
They will flee toward the Israeli border, the border of a country they were taught is their enemy. They know which country in their region sanctifies life. It is time for that which is known to the Syrian refugees to become equally well-known in the UN Human Rights Council and on university campuses around the world, so that all who question Israel will remember that while Israel may not be perfect, we have a lot to be proud of – but only if we raise our voices together for the truth, instead of covering ourselves with the sound of silence.
The writer is a student at the Shalem Center and co-founder of Speak- Up, a public speaking and political consulting firm The sounds of silence