Immoral Equivalence

Complaints are being voiced in many circles of American Jewry about what is regarded as the disproportionate focus in much of the mainstream media on Palestinian civilian suffering caused by Israel’s response to Palestinian terror.

However, less important than whether the media has properly balanced its reportage of the respective suffering of Palestinians and Israelis is something else. Rare in many outlets and absent entirely from some is any portrayal of the screaming moral imbalance in the carnage.

When Palestinian civilians are inadvertently harmed in the pursuit of terrorists (and innocent casualties, tragically, are part of every war), the Israeli reaction is anguish and regret; when Israeli civilians are intentionally murdered, there is self-satisfaction and celebration among Palestinians. Israel takes careful precautions to limit casualties on the Palestinian side; Palestinian bombers aim to slaughter Jews, and regard their successes as tickets to popularity and paradise.

As Elie Wiesel recently pointed out in an open letter to President Bush, while Palestinian terrorists were hiding explosives in ambulances, Israeli reservists in Jenin were taking up collections to repay Palestinian families for damage done to their homes.

It seems a hard pill for much of the media to swallow, but, bluntly put, the Jews and their enemies today are no more morally equivalent than are the Peace Corps and Al Qaeda.

Compare Islamic authorities’ exhortations to revenge and jihad and Jew-hatred with the words of Jewish fundamentalists like Rabbi Eliyahu Klugman, a lecturer at an Israeli yeshiva whom the Boston Globe interviewed at the scene of a Jerusalem suicide bombing in March: “Vengeance is God’s alone. The Jewish People have never encouraged the exercise of vengeance by human beings.”

La Difference is evident no less in how the dead are treated. Yaakov Ury, a member of ZAKA, the Orthodox Jewish volunteer corps whose members retrieve whatever is left of the victims of Palestinian bombings for burial, was recently asked what is done with the remains of the bombers. His response: “The Torah teaches us that, no matter what people have done, they are still human beings, and each human is created in the image of God. We treat the bodies respectfully, put them in plastic bags, and give them to the army.” Which, in turn, returns the remains to the bombers’ families or to Palestinian Authority officials.

Contrast that with not only how Palestinians treat living Jews but with how they treat their own fellows whom they suspect or imagine to have “collaborated” with Israel. Photographs of such unfortunates’ dead, brutalized bodies being dragged, gaping wounds still oozing, through the streets, or hung by their feet from telephone poles, are rarely featured in the mainstream press. (A happy exception was The New York Sun, which dared recently to feature a so suspended Palestinian corpse on its front page, evoking an angry letter to the editor from a reader whose breakfast had apparently been ruined. Such is the price of truth.)

A recent New York Times in-depth offering entitled “Anti-Semitism Is Deepening Among Muslims” was a good example of how “open-mindedness” can degrade into empty-headedness. It provided several examples of contemporary Muslim anti-Semitism, including attacks on Jews and Jewish institutions, contemporary blood libels, the availability of the notorious forgery “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” in the Muslim world’s finest hotels and the ubiquity of Nazi-Israeli imagery in the Arab media.

Ever mindful, though, of her allegiance to the journalistic deity of “even-handed objectivity,” The Times’ writer went on to cite a university professor as asserting that both Jews and Muslims engage in hatemongering based on skewed reading of their holy books. To reiterate the point in case any readers had missed it, another academic was quoted later in the piece as concurring that attacks on religions take place “on both sides.”

Curiously and tellingly, though, not a single example of any Jewish demonization of Muslims or Islam was offered.

Nor could it have been. The Jewish Bible, of course, predates the advent of Islam by over 2000 years and thus contains no references at all to Muslims. The Talmud is similarly devoid of references to a faith that was only beginning to spread beyond the Arabian Peninsula when that text was put into its final form.

To be sure, many Jews today are understandably concerned with the apparent widespread desire in much of the contemporary Islamic world to deprive us of life or limb, and are reasonably chagrined its current promotion of Jew-hatred.

But there nevertheless are no similar Jewish attacks on mosques or Muslim schools, no Jewish fabrications about Muslims drinking Jews’ blood and no copies of “Protocols of the Elders of Islam” to be found in Israeli or Jewish-owned hotels, or anywhere at all.

With all due respect to the Old Gray Lady and all her cousins in the mainstream media, those are fit-to-print and trenchant facts, worth not only mentioning but mentioning again and again. Because when it comes to understanding the Middle East, they make all the difference.

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by  Rabbi Avi Shafran
Posted in: Hot Topics