If you are intent on committing murder and getting away with it, don’t just kill one person. Chances are if you are caught, tried and convicted, you will spend the rest of your life in prison, maybe even be executed. However, if you murder hundreds, thousands, even a hundred thousand people, and you merely cease your mayhem, or pretend to, you are then more than likely to go unpunished, possibly even regaled as a hero.
That Yasser Arafat was a terrorist who had engineered and encouraged the deaths of thousands over some four decades, and may have on occasion pulled the trigger or the detonation cord himself, prematurely ending the lives of innocent people, was no secret when on September 13, 1993 he stood on the lawn of the White House, being watched by millions of enthralled viewers worldwide, and shook hands with American President Bill Clinton, Israeli Prime Minister Yitzchak Rabin and Israeli Foreign Minister Shimon Peres after affixing his signature to the doomed Oslo Peace Accords.
Capping his career of mass murder without ever experiencing any retribution, having deviously claimed to put terrorism aside, Yasser Arafat shared the Nobel Peace Prize in 1994.
Shift to autumn 2013. Just a week ago, President Obama made clear his intention to punish Syria’s Bashar Assad specifically for the use of chemical weapons against his own people. According to international accounts over 1,500 men, women and children died gruesome deaths last month after having come into contact with Sarin gas released on the population by the Syrian army. Incongruously, Obama’s intent to punish the Syrian tyrant was based upon the method of slaughter, namely the use of weapons of mass destruction (WMD). The fact that through the use of conventional weapons Assad was, at the time the gas was released, already responsible for mass killing, having played a major role in bringing about more than 100,000 deaths attributed to the conflict over the last two years, was apparently in Obama’s eyes, not sufficiently evil to warrant any earlier punishment or direct intervention.
The news of the last few days is that according to the terms of a compromise plan proposed by Russian President Vladimir Putin, Bashar Assad would turn over his entire remaining stockpile of chemical weapons to international control after which it would be destroyed. The U.S. will then cancel its threatened air strike against Syria. In a speech before the nation President Obama declared that if the destruction of all of Syria’s chemical weapons was verified there would be no further need for a U.S. missile strike. In other words, in spite of his recent deeds, in spite of the mass murder and suffering for which he is directly responsible, punishment, said President Obama, would no longer befit Assad.
Might Assad, assuming he survives the current civil war in his country, also later be eligible for a Nobel Peace Prize having had the courage to stand down his chemical weapons even in the midst of rebellion?
What is the message here? What is the world to learn from this hypocrisy? What does it teach Israel?
There is an expression in Yiddish, “der Olam ist a Golem.” It means, in essence, “the fickle, ignorant, undependable world.”
Arafat was an arch terrorist who went unpunished and received the Nobel Peace Prize.
Now it is likely to be Assad’s turn. While it is certain that he will never be nominated for a Nobel Peace Prize, it should come as no surprise that if his loyalists succeed in putting down the rebels he is likely to live out his life with impunity and unrepentant in Syria, forever under heavy security and threatened only by the potential assassin. Alternatively, sooner or later, he may forfeit his position and go into exile in another country, where, having previously transferred his significant assets, he will be assured shelter and comfort for himself and his family. In either case he will remain unpunished.
Humanists and liberals strongly subscribe to the axiom that might does not make right. This is true in the sense that might, or power, does not define morality. But it does play a significant role in the unfolding of reality, whether or not such reality is deemed morally just or unjust.
Regarding Israel and the ever present threat of a nuclear confrontation with Iran, the lesson for the Jewish state taken from what is currently transpiring in Syria and the response, or lack of a response, to these atrocities by the United States, Europe and the United Nations, is that we have only ourselves and the Creator upon whom to rely. The murders and genocides of well over 100,000 people to date in Syria, 200,000 in Bosnia-Herzegovina between 1992 – 1995, and 800,000 in Rwanda in 1994, while the world looked on, send a poignant and frightening message to Israel and the Jewish People. And then there’s Auschwitz.