A Tipping Point in Syria?

The U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, which monitors signs of imminent genocide around the world, has this to say about events in Syria:

There is abundant evidence that crimes against humanity are being committed by the Syrian government and allied militias. The United Nations has estimated that more than 10,000 people have been killed though unofficial estimates put the number at more than 14,000. Tens of thousands of additional civilians have been arbitrarily and illegally detained, and many of them are feared dead. Some 100,000 people have fled the country, and as many as 300,000 may be displaced within Syria. A new report this week accuses the government of using young children as human shields.

The reported massacres of civilians in the past two weeks have made clear the increasing sectarian nature of the violence. Neighborhoods and villages are being targeted solely on the basis of religious affiliation. Some, including a senior UN official, have characterized the situation as civil war, and the deteriorating situation raises the risk of genocidal acts.

Unless the international community steps up its efforts to alter the trajectory of the violence, tens of thousands or more civilians are at risk of group targeted violence, including members of Syria's ethnic and religious populations--Sunni Muslims, Druze, Christians, Kurds, and Alawites, among others.

"We have learned from the Holocaust and other cases the warning signs of genocide, and we see some of those signs in Syria today," said Tom Bernstein, chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council. "While there is not an easy or obvious route to end the conflict, it is vital that the international community act before it is too late to avoid a greater humanitarian and moral catastrophe. Once again we must not fail to act because the task seemed too great and the results unsure."

Don't worry, though: The President's new Atrocities Prevention Board will swing into action soon, I'm sure.

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Jeffrey Goldberg is a national correspondent for The Atlantic and a recipient of the National Magazine Award for Reporting. He is the author of Prisoners: A Story of Friendship and Terror. More

Before joining The Atlantic in 2007, Goldberg was a Middle East correspondent, and the Washington correspondent, for The New Yorker. He was previouslly a correspondent for The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine. He has also written for the Jewish Daily Forward and was a columnist for The Jerusalem Post.

Goldberg's book Prisoners was hailed as one of the best books of 2006 by the Los Angeles Times, The New York Times, The Washington Post, Slate, The Progressive, Washingtonian magazine, and Playboy. He received the 2003 National Magazine Award for Reporting for his coverage of Islamic terrorism and the 2005 Anti-Defamation League Daniel Pearl Prize. He is also the winner of the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists prize for best international investigative journalist; the Overseas Press Club award for best human-rights reporting; and the Abraham Cahan Prize in Journalism.

In 2001, Goldberg was appointed the Syrkin Fellow in Letters of the Jerusalem Foundation, and in 2002 he became a public-policy scholar at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars in Washington, D.C.