Tel Aviv Diary: Aleppo Is Syria's Guernica

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Pablo Picasso's 1937 canvas inspired by the Nazi aerial bombing of Guernica, in support of the Francoist rebels who overthrew the elected Republican government of Spain. Marc Schulman writes that in Tel Aviv, protesters against Russian involvement in the civil war in Syria carried signs with pictures of Aleppo on one side and a picture of Picasso's "Guernica" on the other. Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid

As dusk fell on Tel Aviv, a few dozen demonstrators gathered on a street overlooking the beach, in front of the Sheraton Hotel.

An unusual aggregate of people assembled—Jewish, Arab, Russian immigrants—many carrying Syrian flags, a country with which Israel is officially at war.

The group came together across the street from the Russian Embassy in Tel Aviv to declare that Vladimir Putin is a war criminal, to demand that Russia stop their bombings in Syria, to demand the world stop the barbarity.

They carried signs with pictures of Aleppo on one side and a picture of Picasso's Guernica on the other side. One of the speakers explained that Guernica was a Spanish town held by the Republicans in the Spanish Civil War. It was the first town deliberately destroyed by Luftwaffe bombing and the Spanish government, the first time aerial destruction of the a city was used as a military tactic; Aleppo is the latest example.

Elizabeth Tsurnev, a spokeswoman for the organizers of the rally, sponsored by "The Committee to Help the Syrian People," said the "Russians are not only bombing to aid the [Bashar al-]Assad regime, but they are blocking any international efforts to stop his regime." The regime is committing war crimes daily against the people of Syria, and thanks to Russia nothing can be done.

Furthermore, Tsurnev continued, the situation in Aleppo is getting critical. Last night, a baby died from starvation, and soon the people of the city will face starvation as well.

Tsurnev, who herself immigrated from Russia, said her grandparents had survived the seige of Leningrad in World War II. She had grown up on stories of what that was like, as well as with the slogan "Never Again."

Tsurnev proclaimed that as a Jew she could not sit still while "Never Again" turned into "Again and Again." When asked whether Israel should be doing more, she prevaricated, stating that any overt Israeli actions would be used against the rebels. However, while saying Israel was helping along the border, she said it could still do more.

Demonstrators called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to pull back his cooperation with Putin, proclaiming that an Israeli leader should not work together with a murderer like the Russian president.

The Tel Aviv rally marks one of the few demonstrations that have taken place around the world to protest Russia's actions in Syria. By some accounts, as a result of their bombing, the Russians have now killed more civilians in Syria than all of the civilians killed by ISIS.

The demonstrators had one message for the world: Putin is a dangerous man and ignoring the bombing of Aleppo will only lead to more violence and even greater war crimes—in the same way that ignoring the destruction of Guernica in 1937 did nothing to slow the march to World War II.

Marc Schulman is the editor of Historycentral.com.

Tel Aviv Diary: Aleppo Is Syria's Guernica | Opinion
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