Israel’s Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef on Sunday said Jews have “a moral obligation” to try and stop what he called the genocide taking place in Syria.
“I have said in the past and I will say it again, what’s happening in Syria is genocide of women and children in its cruelest form, using weapons of mass destruction,” he said in a statement. “We have a moral obligation not to keep quiet and to try and stop this massacre.”
He stressed that having been the victims of mass murder in the past, Jews have an obligation to attempt to end the killing.
“As Jews who have experienced genocide, as Jews whose Torah is a light to the nations, it is our moral obligation to try and stop this murder. It is an obligation no less important than the moral obligation to destroy [the] nuclear reactor in Syria,” he said, referring to an Israeli strike in September 2007 that destroyed the reactor being built in the Syrian desert by the Assad regime.
Yosef’s comments came after a suspected chemical attack on the rebel-held town of Douma over the weekend which killed dozens of civilians, including children.
Douma, the last opposition holdout in Eastern Ghouta, was pounded by renewed airstrikes that killed 70 civilians in around 24 hours, while 11 people also suffered breathing problems. First responders have accused forces loyal to Syrian President Bashar Assad of using poisonous chlorine gas to attack the area, which lies northeast of the capital Damascus.
Opposition-linked first responders, known as the White Helmets, reported the attack, saying entire families were found suffocated in their homes and shelters. It reported a death toll from suffocation of more than 40, saying the victims showed signs of gas poisoning including pupil dilation and foaming at the mouth. In a statement, however, it reported a smell resembling chlorine, which would not explain the described symptoms, usually associated with sarin gas.
The rabbi made similar comments about the atrocities happening in Syria in 2016, during an an inter-religious meeting with Palestinian Muslim clerics hosted by President Reuven Rivlin. He said the world must not be silent in the face of the atrocities taking place in the country that has been consumed by civil war since 2011.
“Every day not far from here, as we sit here, men, women and children are murdered in Syria, and particularly in Aleppo,” Yosef said during the meeting.
“Millions of refugees are homeless, hundreds of thousands of others are starved, under siege. They are not our friends, but they are human beings who are suffering a small holocaust.”
Yosef said that Jews in particular, who endured the Holocaust and the murder of six million people as “the world looked on and remained silent,” must not do so now.
“As Jews we must not stay silent. The call must be heard from here: A genocide will not be allowed to go by quietly — not in Syria and not anywhere else, and not against any people.”