We must not ig­nore this cry

The Jewish Chronicle - - COMMENT - Ey­lon As­lan-Levy

ON Tisha B’Av, Jews world­wide heard the Prophet Jeremiah lament­ing the devastation of Jerusalem by the Baby­lo­ni­ans: “Young and old lie to­gether in the dust of the streets… Now they are blacker than soot; they are not recog­nised in the streets. Their skin has shriv­elled on their bones; it has be­come as dry as a stick.”

The same day, an even more har­row­ing cry was heard from Baby­lon. In the Iraqi par­lia­ment, Yazidi MP Vian Dakhil broke down in tears as she de­scribed the de­struc­tion of an­cient mi­nori­ties by Isis. “Five hun­dred Yazidi boys and men have been slaugh­tered,” she wept, chok­ing. “Our women are be­ing taken cap­tive and sold on the slave mar­ket… A geno­cide cam­paign is tak­ing place right now against the Yazidis… My peo­ple are be­ing slaugh­tered… Save us! Save us... An en­tire re­li­gion is be­ing wiped off the face of the earth.” She has since her­self been in­jured in a he­li­copter crash.

The world is once more watch­ing a geno­cide. The Yazidis are slowly dy­ing of thirst, hav­ing been chased up a moun­tain; Mo­sul is Chris­tian-free for the first time in 1,600 years, af­ter Isis warned Assyr­i­ans to con­vert, flee or face the sword. From be­head­ings to cru­ci­fix­ions and buri­als alive, there is no crime so bar­baric that Isis has not in­flicted on help­less mi­nori­ties in its push for a to­tal­i­tar­ian theoc­racy.

For Jews, this tragedy has es­pe­cial res­o­nance: this used to be us. This is how we lived be­fore we had Is­rael: state­less, de­fence­less, help­less mi­nori­ties un­der the per­pet­ual Damo­clean sword of geno­cide. This is how we lived: at the whim of hos­tile pow­ers and the mercy of an ap­a­thetic or hap­less in­ter­na­tional com­mu­nity. This would have been the fate of Iraqi Jewry, had it not found safe haven in its own sov­er­eign cor­ner of the Mid­dle East. As Isis seeks to elim­i­nate them, Assyr­i­ans, Yazidis and other mi­nori­ties are im­plor­ing the world for one ba­sic, sim­ple de­mand: a safe haven. It is all de­press­ingly fa­mil­iar: we are look­ing in the mir­ror, both star­ing back in time and at a fu­ture that could have been.

One won­ders how his­tory would have evolved if the colo­nial pow­ers had sup­ported the es­tab­lish­ment of sep­a­rate home­lands

Jews know all too well what geno­cide is

for scat­tered mi­nori­ties in the Mid­dle East, in­stead of treat­ing the re­gion as ho­mo­ge­neously Arab (with Is­rael stick­ing out as a sore thumb).

We Jews, for­merly a scat­tered and vul­ner­a­ble mi­nor­ity, have a spe­cial re­spon­si­bil­ity to­wards other mi­nori­ties in the Mid­dle East. The Mizrachim among us are the lucky ones: the ones who got away. And the Ashke­nazim among us know full well the sheer hor­ror of im­pend­ing an­ni­hi­la­tion. When we say “Never Again” we mean it: never again should fun­da­men­tal­ists oblit­er­ate any com­mu­nity. We know all too well what a real geno­cide is.

We have be­gun to wake up: the Board of Deputies has is­sued a state­ment of sol­i­dar­ity. But this isn’t enough. We must stand shoul­der-to-shoul­der with the Assyr­ian com­mu­nity in the UK and ren­der it any as­sis­tance nec­es­sary.

Con­cerned read­ers can do­nate gen­er­ously to the Assyr­ian Aid So­ci­ety; they should also write to their MPs to de­mand tougher ac­tion to de­fend the Yazidis, who can­not be reached by aid or­gan­i­sa­tions but only by an army.

His­tory will de­mand to know where we Jews were while Assyr­i­ans, Yazidis and other mi­nori­ties were be­ing ex­ter­mi­nated in Iraq. We must not say that we looked the other way. We would never for­give our­selves. Ey­lon As­lan-Levy is chair of the na­tional coun­cil of the Union of Jewish Stu­dents

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