It’s almost sacrilegious to criticize the comments of a grieving father, especially when they’re well-intentioned, yet Judea Pearl’s article in the Wall Street Journal (The Daniel Pearl Standard) has many holes in its reasoning. He writes: “The shocking element in Danny’s murder was that he was killed, not for what he wrote or planned to write, but for what he represented- America, modernity, openness, pluralism, curiosity, dialogue, fairness, objectivity, freedom of inquiry, truth and respect for all people. In short, each and every one of us was targeted in January of 2002.” Though all of these qualities may apply to a description of Daniel Pearl as an individual, and though he may have self-identified as these things, he was killed as a member of a specific group, not as a generic westerner. The words his murderers forced him to spew out before his decapitation were not “I am an American, a journalist, a freedom-loving, pluralistic, curious man.” They were instead, “I am a Jew.” They resonate across centuries of all too familiar anti-semitism and it is unseemly at best and dangerous at worst to distort this truth.
Professor Pearl address the anti-semitic element by quoting the Pakistani Consul General who offered unusual and self-serving condolences to the family: “What can you expect of these people who never saw a Jew in their lives and who have been exposed, day and night, to televised images of Israeli soldiers targeting and killing Palestinian children.” A more pertinent rhetorical question might have been what can you expect of children indoctrinated not by the media, but by the madrassahs and the Koran to despise Jews and to destroy them. The message is driven home way before the corruptions of the press and television take hold. This is not to gainsay the travesty of the western world’s complicity in branding Israel as the main aggressor and violator of human rights. But the problem is a deeper one than the excesses of the press.
And sadly, the problem is not restricted to the vehement anti-semitism of Islamic countries. The Pakistani Consul General must be aware of what is happening all over Europe in countries where Muslims interface with Jews and can’t hide behind the illusion that not having met one might explain the belief that Jews are pigs, worthy of eradication. Surely Muslims all over Europe have been to hospitals where Jewish doctors may have tendered their medical care and Jewish social workers may have attempted to facilitate solutions to their problems. Jewish shopkeepers may have owned some of their neighborhood stores. Familiarity unfortunately doesn’t trump hatred as we should remember the same week as the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.
Showing the world that children and grandmothers were victims in the Dresden firebombing would fall into the category of the Daniel Pearl standard that his father proposes as his son’s legacy of understanding both sides of a conflict. In an example as glaring as this one, we understand (or should understand) that showing both sides is not synonymous with establishing the truth of a situation. Nazism doesn’t become a more sympathetic political position because Germans suffered as well. Germans suffered because their country accepted and rallied behind the reign of terror of their own leader who of course brought far greater destruction to others than to his own people. Similarly, Palestinians have suffered largely at the hands of their own leaders and the leaders of the Arab world. ( Last week, the Egyptians immediately raised the prices of products that Gazans needed to buy- so much for humanitarian concern for the plight of their brethren.) Jews have been the scapegoats for Arab indifference, corruption and underlying desire to rid the Muslim map of the Jewish state. Daniel Pearl was a human scapegoat and symbol of this irrational hate. Are Muslims and westerners ready to acknowledge this? That would be a step in the direction of honoring Daniel Pearl’s memory with a legacy of truth instead of dubious sentiment.
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