Israelis and Syrians share the violence of Assad. Both people may be asking the same question for the same reason.
Rep. Eric Cantor gave an impassioned speech at AIPAC this year in which he paid tribute to Claude Lanzmann, the French filmmaker of Shoah. Mr. Lanzmann’s ultimate question was “When was it too late for the Jews?” in describing the events of WWII that led to the Holocaust.
In context, October 2009 marks the 40th anniversary reported by Globe and Mail, of a Syrian raid on Lebanese forces who were attempting to stop Fatah attacks against Israel. Even 40 years ago, one year shy of Hafez al-Assad’s power grab in Damascus — while still in the minister of defense uniform — the Assads were encouraging attacks, by proxy, against the State of Israel.
Fast forward to October 2009 and it seems that history has been frozen in time with Rifaat al-Assad’s clone ruling Damascus. Baschar al-Assad is mostly known among Arabs to be, simultaneously, an arsonist and a firefighter, but Israel brings the worst in him. Last week, Assad instigated Hamas to riot on al-Aqsa, which was followed by intentional official condemnation in which Israel was accused of scheming to “.. Judaize Jerusalem and destroy the Mosque”. In one swoop, Assad brought 1.4 billion Muslims against Israel into the picture.
If anyone has any doubts about the antisemitism of the Assads, let this 40-year span be the barometer upon which one gauges this family.
The tragedy with Assad’s defense of Al-Aqsa in Jerusalem is the history of his family when it comes to Mosques and Churches in Syria. In 1982, Hafez and Rifaat al-Assad (Uncle and father to Baschar) turned their heavy artillery on Hama destroying tens of Mosques and Churches. Reflecting recently on the Hama massacre, a moderate Syrian intellectual friend from Hama told me: “If the Israelis ruled Syria, they would be far more humane than the Assads. Just compare our trinket of a Parliament with the Knesset to realize why Israel is so successful.”
Today, Baschar al-Assad is trying to duplicate Hama in Tel Aviv. Very recently, Israel was able to intercept a ship carrying missiles and other offensive weapons destined to Syria and Hezbollah. According to Israel Navy Chief Brig. Gen. Rani Ben-Yehuda, the Francop was carrying ten times the cargo captured in the Karin-A seizure. This is taking place in the shadow of the confidence building measures we saw initiated by the US and France to welcome Assad with open arms. Many analysts are beginning to question the wisdom of such an effort.
And as Lanzmann asked the perennial question in Shoah, we both must ask another quintessential question today: When enough is enough? With history as the compass of human behavior, no one should ignore today’s writings on the wall. No one should believe that one’s fate could be trusted to a concept, an idea, or a policy dictated by another nation or by a ruthless dictator.
There is no doubt that giving peace a chance is an admirable task only the most courageous are able to devote their lives to. But the circumstances at hand deride all efforts. When Assad delivers one ounce of goodwill with a smile, he, concurrently, delivers a pound of poison to your back and given Syria’s importance in the vast sea of problems facing the west, Assad’s delivery of so much poison for so little goodwill is being totally ignored.
The common enemy of Syrians and Israelis alike is Baschar al-Assad. Sharing his violence connects our fate and our desire for security and freedom from terror. With this regime on Israel’s doorstep and in the heart of our beloved Damascus, Israelis are dealing with existential threats, while internally, Syrians of all creeds are dealing with brute oppression coupled with an economic meltdown through an unproductive society.
With Assads’ long arms of terror reaching from Sderot to Deir el-Zor and from Beirut to Baghdad, it is logical to ask: When enough is enough? The answer is: When Syrians and the west face the inevitable in the form of regime change in Syria. Escaping reality may ease the pressure upon leaders already burdened with gargantuan worldly problems but make no mistake about it, the Levant region will continue to simmer, boil, and explode as long as the Assads are in power. No Syrian or Israeli will ever be safe from them.