Paul Greenberg
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Aleppo is burning. You can read about it day after day on the front pages, or on the websites of Syrians trying to organize support for their fight against the latest Assad. Caught between regulars and irregulars, thugs in uniform and out, Aleppo's inhabitants run for cover, or hunker down where they are and wait for the next air raid, the next suicide bombing, the next massacre. Or just the next bus out. Which could be blown to smithereens. By either side.

The choices grow limited: Is it better to be killed by the grandly styled Free Syrian Army or the unfree one? Stay or head for the border -- and, if so, which one? Turkey, Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq? Troubles wait there, too. Or stay put and hope that this, too, shall pass. But it doesn't. It intensifies.

The other night, fires swept through Aleppo's souk, the covered market in the old walled city, destroying hundreds of centuries-old shops. Flames danced where once perfumes and spices and silken fabrics from the East were laid out in rich profusion.

Syria's civil war has finally reached the largely Kurdish part of the country in the north. The Kurds had hoped to stay out of it. They can't. And won't. The war is reaching over the border. Turkey and Syria have begun exchanging artillery fire. Unlike the scenes in Syria, only a few civilians have been killed in Turkey. So far. War, like fire, must be snuffed out or it will spread. This one is spreading.

The world does little except stand by, occasionally issuing pious proclamations. See the collected works of the Hon. Hillary Clinton, our secretary of state, for a wide assortment of them. Take your choice of the most meaningless. As is customary on these occasions, solemn resolutions devoid of resolve are adopted at the UN.

Distinguished representatives of Russia, China and Iran -- the new axis of evil -- object to anything that might resemble action. Their client state might object even as it crumbles, taking as many innocent victims as it can with it. The flames spread, refugees huddle, children die. Nothing new there. Certainly not for Aleppo. It's seen this before.

In 1947, mobs rampaged through its streets protesting a vote by the UN's General Assembly to partition Palestine into two states, one Jewish, one Arab. Intolerable. Outrageous. What, the Israelites are back after all these centuries, and even want their country back? The nerve!

Enraged, the rioters burned down the old synagogue where the city's Jewish community kept its greatest treasure -- a priceless medieval manuscript known to biblical scholars as the Aleppo Codex, or in Hebrew the Keter Aram Zova -- the Crown of Aleppo in popular parlance.
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Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.