Ten years ago this week, Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl was kidnapped by Islamic terrorists in Pakistan, after he had been lured into what he thought was an interview with Sheikh Mubarak Ali Gilani about the links between al Qaeda and the “shoe bomber” Richard Reid. The shadowy Pakistani group that kidnapped Pearl accused him of being a spy for the CIA, and made several demands, including the release of Pakistani detainees from Guantanamo. Nine days later, Pearl was murdered and beheaded, and on February 21, a video was released called “The Slaughter of the Spy-Journalist, the Jew Daniel Pearl.” The footage showed Pearl’s “confession” and brutal decapitation, interspersed with images of dead Muslims, George Bush shaking hands with Ariel Sharon, and Palestinians allegedly killed by Israeli Defense Forces, including 12-year-old Muhammad al-Dura, whose death was later exposed as a Palestinian fabrication. Later, captured 9⁄11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed would brag to interrogators that he personally had beheaded Pearl. As for his abductor, Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, though tried and condemned to death, still lives in a Pakistani jail cell, from which according to some reports he has planned other terrorist attacks.
The killing of Pearl concentrated much of what Andrew McCarthy calls the “willful blindness” of many in the West to the Islamic roots of the perpetrators’ violence. At the time, most of the media mainly decried Pearl’s death because he was a reporter. Worse yet were the comments that scolded the terrorists for not understanding that American journalists are neutral observers whose impartiality could help them get their story out. As a New York Times editorial put it,
“The terrible irony of Mr. Pearl’s murder is that he and other independent journalists have been trying to present a detailed and informed portrait of the mindset, motives and grievances of the Islamic fundamentalists in the wake of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11 and the war in Afghanistan. That work will continue despite the killing, but the kidnappers have only undermined their cause by their acts.”
The professional corruption of the mainstream-media was revealed in this statement, with its claims that journalists are objective (mostly false) and have no loyalties to their own country and people (mostly true), and that the murderers had a legitimate “cause” and “grievances” (moral idiocy and cowardice).
Most commentary also ignored the Koranic-inspired anti-Semitism of the words Pearl was forced to say in the execution video: “My name is Daniel Pearl. I am a Jewish American from Encino, California U.S.A. I come from, uh, on my father’s side the family is Zionist. My father’s Jewish, my mother’s Jewish, I’m Jewish. My family follows Judaism. We’ve made numerous family visits to Israel. Back in the town of Bnei Brak there is a street named after my great grandfather Chaim Pearl who is one of the founders of the town.”
The claim that Pearl was a C.I.A. agent was obviously a pretext; his real offense was being a Jew, a race the Koran calls “laden with Allah’s anger,” destined to suffer forever “abasement and poverty” and eventually to be transformed into “apes and swine.” In emphasizing Pearl’s Jewish ancestry and Zionist connections, the terrorists were conforming to the genocidal ambitions of many Muslims, from Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has vowed to “wipe Israel from the map,” to the Muslim Brother affiliate Hamas, whose charter quotes the hadith proclaiming, “The Day of Judgment will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say ‘O Muslims, O Abdulla, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.’” As for the beheading, that too has its justification in Koran 8.12: “I will cast terror into the hearts of those who disbelieve. Therefore strike off their heads.”
Then and now, this religiously inspired, rank anti-Semitism is rationalized as a response to Israel’s so-called “occupation” of Muslim lands and oppression of the Palestinians. In 2010, General David Petraeus testified to Congress that the Israeli-Arab conflict “foments anti-American sentiment, due to a perception of U.S. favoritism for Israel.” Rather than Islamic ideology, Petraeus asserted that “Arab anger over the Palestinian question” accounts for terrorism: “al-Qaeda and other militant groups exploit that anger to mobilize support.” But Petraeus was simply repeating received wisdom, examples of which are legion, ranging from historian Tony Judt’s claim that European Muslim immigrant anti-Semitic attacks are “a direct outcome of the festering crisis in the Middle East,” to French foreign minister Hubert Védrine’s assertion that immigrant violence and crime arise from “compassion for the Palestinians” on the part of Muslims, who “get agitated when they see what is happening.”
This trope of “resistance” to unjust “oppression” continues to rationalize brutal murders such as Daniel Pearl’s, leading to what his father, Judah Pearl, called the “normalization of evil.”
Thus those who, like the New York Times, believe that Islamic terrorists have legitimate “grievances” consider terrorist murder and suicide bombing attacks as an unfortunate but understandable tactic given the disproportion of military power between them and their oppressors. As Judah Pearl pointed out in 2009, this mentality was on display in Jimmy Carter’s despicable libel Palestine: Peace Not Apartheid: “It is imperative,” Carter wrote, “that the general Arab community and all significant Palestinian groups make it clear that they will end the suicide bombings and other acts of terrorism when international laws and the ultimate goals of the Road-map for Peace are accepted by Israel.” In Carter’s calculus, terrorism isn’t inherently evil, but rather a legitimate tactic of the weak. This rationalizing of terrorism finds its most repugnant expression in the “cycle of violence” formula, which ignores moral responsibility and blurs the distinction between the violence of terrorism and that used to prevent it. Bill Moyers indulged this evasion on PBS when he elevated the genocidal Hamas to a “resistance” movement and opined that “each [side] greases the cycle of violence, as one man’s terrorism becomes another’s resistance to oppression.” But Carter’s and Moyer’s excusing of terrorist violence has long been codified in the United Nations, where in 1974 Resolutions 3236 and 3237 recognized the terrorist Palestinian Organization as the legitimate representative of the Palestinian people; and in the Geneva Convention’s Protocol I, which extended legal combatant status and POW protection to virtually anyone fighting in a conflict, including terrorists.
Ten years after the murder of Daniel Pearl, too many people in government and the media still deny the roots of jihadism in traditional Islamic doctrine, still practice journalism rife with political and ideological bias, still refuse to acknowledge the genocidal anti-Semitism of many Muslims, still indulge a specious moral equivalence that rationalizes terrorist violence as “resistance,” and still look to an international legal community that has repeatedly exposed its ideological corruption. And these unlearned lessons still hamstring our response to jihadist terror.
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