Yoni Leviatan
How to be Jewish: Be good. The end.

Why is a Syrian life worth less?

After a month of war in Gaza, almost everyone who cares about this conflict has made up their mind about how they feel. Either you recognize that Israel has been painted into a corner, with no choice but to defend its citizens in what virtually every Jew in Israel feels is a just war, including champions of the left such as literary giant Amos Oz.

Or your sympathies for the legitimate Palestinian struggle for independence override all common sense notions of morality, and you view Hamas not as a viciously cruel terrorist organization who has done horrendous harm to Palestinian interests and society while leading innocent civilians to their death, but as the all-too-familiar “other man’s freedom-fighter,” which is a noxious phrase used when people have run out of all other arguments to defend ruthless murderers.

But as I said, you’ve most likely made up your mind about this conflict, so I’ll stop trying to sway you and begin to focus on another aspect.

Why do you care?

If you’re a Jew or an Arab, I know why you care. You can stop reading. But I want to know why people who have no direct interests or ties to the region care so much about the Israeli-Palestinian issue that it takes precedence over every other conflict in the Middle East, where the number of innocent Arabs being slaughtered, Muslims and Christians alike, outnumber the civilian casualties in Gaza one hundred-fold. Not ten-fold, but a hundred times greater according to general estimates of 1,500 killed in Gaza vs. 170,000 in Syria as of this writing.

It can’t be the conflict’s length of time when the Syrians have been involved in Lebanon since 1975, only 8 years after the 1967 war which created the occupied territories. Today the link is alive and well, only this time it goes in reverse as Lebanon’s Syrian/Iranian-sponsored terrorists-in-chief, Hezbollah, are helping to torture, rape and kill thousands of Syrian men, women and children. Lots of children.

Therefore, it begs the question that I haven’t been able to get out of my head for almost a year now, ever since the world decided that Syria wasn’t worth the effort to intervene and stop the massacring once they struck a deal that commendably removed the chemical weapons threat diplomatically, but also allowed President Bashar Assad to stay in power, a decision on par with giving Czechoslovakia to Hitler.

Why is a Syrian life worth less?

It is certainly worth less than a Palestinian life, even though with all the suffering the Palestinians have endured I’m quite certain that almost anybody in Syria would rather take their chances under Israeli occupation than Bashar Assad’s regime. But can anyone explain why the reaction to Syria is not even close to the world’s outrage regarding Gaza?

From an outsider’s view there is little ethnic difference in the victims as we’re comparing Arab casualties to Arab casualties. I don’t profess to be an expert on Arab culture so maybe there is some unknown reason why the entire world has chosen to turn a blind eye to the real genocide taking place in 2014, yet again, after we’ve been saying “Never Again” for 70 years? (Take note, Penelope Cruz, since you can’t seem to find a dictionary or a history book.)

Let’s focus on Americans who claim they are speaking out against what’s going in Gaza because their hard-earned taxes are supporting one of the actors involved. First of all, your taxes (and mine) are supporting both actors. While it is no secret that Israel is the second largest beneficiary of US foreign aid (Afghanistan is actually the top recipient with four times the amount of aid given to Israel), the Palestinians are among the world’s largest per capita recipients of international foreign aid, with approximately $5 billion coming from the US since the mid-nineties. That’s direct assistance. There is also the matter of aid from the United Nations, whose largest donor is, of course, the United States.

You know who else receives a ton of US foreign aid? Egypt. You know where else a lot of Arabs have died in the last few years? Egypt.

Why doesn’t that bother the small percentage of Americans who are screaming to sever the bilateral relationship with Israel, a relationship that America also benefits from in many ways? While it might be unknown to those who prefer to cherry-pick their information sources, the CIA knows exactly where to go when it needs to know the facts, and relies heavily on Israeli intelligence in the Middle East, while the US army is relieved of many duties in the region by having one of the best-trained fighting forces in the world keeping watch over Hezbollah, Lebanon, Iran and others.

But don’t take my word for it. As Secretary of State Alexander M. Haig remarked while serving under President Reagan: “Israel is the largest American aircraft carrier in the world that cannot be sunk, does not carry even one American soldier, and is located in a critical region for American national security.” And according to Maj. Gen. George J. Keegan Jr., former head of U.S. Air Force intelligence, America’s military defense capability “owes more to the Israeli intelligence input than it does to any single source of intelligence,” the worth of which he estimated, exceeds “five CIAs.”

Finally, we should stop calling this money “aid” to Israel. Although it is unbelievably appreciated by all Israelis from the Prime Minister on down, this money is not charity in any way. It is a financial incentive created to support the Camp David peace agreement forged between Egypt and Israel in 1978, and roughly 75% must be spent within the United States. All three parties benefit from this investment; militarily, diplomatically and economically. (Maybe we can call it one of those stimulus projects President Obama is so fond of?)

In closing, when it comes to those focusing so intently and passionately (one might say obsessively) on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict without any emotional ties or interests whatsoever, the only reasonable conclusion that can be made why a Syrian life is worth less than a Palestinian’s, is that it isn’t. It simply doesn’t matter who is dying. What’s most important is who is involved, and in this case, it’s the Jews.

If you recognize yourself as a factor in this equation, then the real answer to the question of why a Syrian life is worth less, is because you, sir or madam, are most likely an anti-Semite.


UPDATE: I recognize the accusation of anti-Semitism is a strong one so I’d like to clarify exactly who I’m leveling it at. I am not speaking to the general interest in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, or to those who have a fleeting opinion about who is to blame, which is many times based on biased news reports and ignorance of the facts. I am speaking to the person who is a non-connected yet passionate observer that feels enough focused outrage toward Israel as the perceived sole aggressor that they are driven to become proactive, whether on a personal level through their social media networks, or in a more publicly organized way. I believe if this person has ignored all other transgressions in the Middle East, and is focusing all their “humanitarian efforts” against Israel, then there is a strong undercurrent of anti-Semitism driving their actions, consciously or not.

About the Author
Yoni Leviatan is a British-born, American-raised, Israeli-blooded musician, content producer and writer. His songs have been licensed to MTV, CNN, ESPN, PBS and others while receiving nationwide airplay on over 200 American radio stations. His production work has led to projects with Warner Bros., Waves Audio, Abbey Road Studios, YouTube and Spotify. Originally from Coral Springs, Florida, he's been living in Tel Aviv since 2009 where he spends his free time writing about Israel and politics with articles featured in Newsweek, Times of Israel and The Forward.