They have been operating in sleeper cells within the mock civilization that was left behind by the European colonialists as the First World War drew to a close in Middle East. With Syria’s lid blown off, President Bashar al-Assad’s tribe and its various affiliates have been fighting the Sunni tribes that were in power before November 1970, when Assad’s father staged a coup and had his loyalists appointed to senior positions in the military and the government. Do the various tribes in Syria have anything in common?
My heart goes out to the average Syrian who has found himself in the crossfire, a victim of a war among the barbarians. That said, Israel should not get involved. Its help should be limited to humanitarian aid. We must not accept the simplistic narrative that there are good guys vs. bad guys in Syria. Each side in this conflict is just as barbaric as the other. Perhaps even more so.
Those who eat their opponent’s heart (I am not making this up) and then rationalize this cannibalistic act, could ultimately use weapons of mass destruction. They are no different from Assad and his allies, Hezbollah and Iran.
There is one area where there is no daylight between the two warring factions: they both have an unlimited supply of hatred toward Israel. If those sides see an opening, they might try to increase the number of incidents that encroach on Israeli territory.
We have no dog in this race. Should Israel decide to back one side or another, it will have provided the Arabs in the Middle East and leftists all over the world with what they had been searching for all along (where it was most convenient): a way to blame Israel for the Syrian civil war.
The Bible tells us, “He that passeth by, and meddleth with strife belonging not to him, is like one that taketh a dog by the ears” (Proverbs 26:17). According to the biblical commentator Rashi (Rabbi Shlomo Yitzchaki), this is akin to making a dog bite you for nothing. In other words, the Syrians will tell us, “This is none of your business; we are now going to combine forces against you.”
But despite all that, you cannot just ignore the helpless victims. So we can intervene through nonmilitary methods, like conveying to the Russian Embassy our displeasure with the Kremlin’s support of the evil Syrian regime. The Russians are very sensitive when it comes to the way they are perceived; international pressure on Russian embassies around the world could make Russian President Vladimir Putin pressure Assad and he, in turn, would scale back some of his actions.
Despite all of what has been described above, there are some wise Israelis who have already decided that Israel is the culprit. One of them is Yedioth Ahronoth analyst Shimon Shiffer, whose column on Sunday defended U.S. President Barack Obama’s wavering on Syria and continued deliberations on the matter. Towards the end of the column, Shiffer inserted a passage that matches the rhetoric of those advocating territorial concessions, the same people who have until recently wanted Israel to hand the Golan Heights over to the Assad family, who would in turn provide for Israel’s security needs.
“I dare to assume,” Shiffer wrote, “that had the two parties [Israel and Syria] reached an accord, we would not have witnessed this civil war, whose outcome is anyone’s guess.” Eureka! The Syrian conflict is Israel’s fault.
Why didn’t we pursue the path Shiffer and his friends had advocated? Why didn’t we let the Golan Heights come under the control of the Assad family and forsake our security? Had a deal been signed with Assad, the bloody encounters of the Syrian civil war would have take place right above the Sea of Galilee; no Israeli/Jewish community would have been safe. Pro-Syrian sleeper cells would become active, too. This is all just common sense.
But the Left’s orthodoxy is still wedded to the dogma that the conflict with our enemies is mainly about territory. There are still many among us who accept this folly; they are awarded airtime and column inches. Jews have always had a knack for being the devil’s advocate.
Dror Eydar is a columnist for Israel Hayom.