2017-04-26 / Letters

What was Sean Spicer really saying?

White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer, in a press conference following the recent poisonous gas attack by Syria’s President Assad, mistakenly said that even Hitler had not used chemical weapons against civilians the way that Assad has. Many objected to this as a historical inaccuracy.

But I am wondering if it was an unplanned mistake on his part.

Spicer is at the top of his profession and is necessarily a consummate communicator. So how could he have made a glaring historical error like that?

Of course Hitler did use chemical weapons—Zyklon-B gas, to murder millions of people, mostly Jews.

So it made me think that perhaps Spicer did not make a slip of the tongue at all, but rather was communicating something.

The reference to Hitler is a reference to the Holocaust and the Jews.

But how would the Jews be connected to the internal situation in Syria?

Well, Israel is the “land of the Jews,” and Israel is within a short distance of the atrocities in Syria.

A main ethical issue that Jews raised about the Holocaust was: “Why didn’t the world intercede or speak up.” If the situations are in fact similar, an issue that Spicer raised, then apathy and lack of help from other nations may be as wrong in 2017 as it was 1937.

Today the difference is that we have a Jewish state of Israel nearby with undoubtedly the strongest army in the Middle East and one of the stronger ones in the world.

“So, what is stopping Israel,” the world may be asking, “from helping Syrian civilians, including women and children who are being killed, starved, left without water and undergoing poisoned gas attacks?”

For ethical and political observers in the world, the comparison cannot be avoided.

The challenge to Jewish and Israeli ethics is even more obvious, now that Assad is using poisonous gas in a politically “in-your-face” way.

So the question is: “Can Israel justify not intervening in Syria because these are the enemy which has been killing Israelis for decades, and are still killing Jews today?”

Jews, including Israelis, are commanded to be “Or Lagoyim,” an enlightenment of ethics to other nations. It seems tragic to me that I have not seen any reports of rescue efforts.

To be sure, the internal political reality in Israel is difficult, with internal social, political, and family issues that make helping the Syrian enemy whose people created over many wars many bereaved parents, widows, orphans and handicapped individuals in Israel. In addition, there is the argument that when Israel does show mercy to terrorists, they sometimes return later to kill more Israelis.

Israel is treading a fine line between its own safety and national security and saving Syrians.

In the Bible, God has sometimes given Jews a test to see if they would make the right decision

(book of Job). It seems to me this is such a test. I am afraid that if Israel does not make the right decision and act soon, it will miss an opportunity to save many innocent people and that will also leave an ethical stain for posterity, something that can become a pretext for future conflict.

I am afraid that events like the Sabra & Shatila Massacre during the Lebanon War could become trivial in comparison.

The world and God are watching Israel, and the Syrian civilians are suffering for too long.

I believe that human ethics are not expendable. In all of the history of Man, in the very end, correct ethics always wins. 

Itai Rozovsky MD

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