Sunday, March 16, 2008

16-Mar-08: The unindicted co-conspirators

The frustration and sadness most Israelis feel in the face of acts of cold-blooded murder like the massacre of schoolboys (see "Terrorism. Their world. Our world.") at a religious seminary in Jerusalem is great.

Seeing how certain other people react makes those feelings even deeper.

Here's a striking example. The editor of an influential British Arab newspaper said yesterday that the celebrations in Gaza that followed the Merkaz Harav murders symbolized the "courage of the Palestinian nation." He is Abd al-Bari Atwan, the editor of Al-Quds Al-Arabi (pictured at right). If, like us, you frequently tune in to BBC World or CNN or SKY News, you'll likely recognize him; he frequently appears on all of them as a "moderate" analyst on news emanating from the Arab world and the Israel/Arab conflict.

Far from being a moderate or objective observer, this highly prejudiced individual has a long track record of partisan and deeply offensive statements directed against Israelis. The winner of Honest Reporting's 2007 Annual Award for Worst Pundit, he attracted attention in April 2007 for saying: "If the Iranian missiles strike Israel, by Allah, I will go to Trafalgar Square and dance with delight."

What does yesterday's Bari Atwan statement say about his own people? If it's true that the courage of the Palestinians is best symbolized by an armed man, carrying an Israeli identification and with an Israeli pay-check in his pocket, walking into a school library and aiming his sophisticated and powerful weapons deliberately and coldly at children, then that "courage" is not courage at all but mere religiously-inspired hatred and zealotry.

How much "courage", in the conventional sense of the word, did it take? He's hardly the first person to commit an act of suicide - this takes no courage. And he is not the first to couple his courage with his hatred. History is filled with examples of the power of hatred. It is not a function of courage but the opposite. Whatever it was that enabled the murderer to carry out the massacre of unarmed children, courage is the last word you ought to be reaching for. In a civilized world, the brutal shooting of unarmed children in a school library ought to be the last quality a nationalist like Atwan would want to attach to his people. But we've learned that civilized categories of behaviour and of politics don't always apply when people like Atwan take the stage.

When you call this hatred courage, you are inspiring others to do the same thing. And precisely this kind of moral confusion is what stands at the heart of the world's struggle against terror. For while some parts of our civilized societies call for action against the terrorists wherever they are, other parts of our civilized societies are encouraging it and making it a "safe" and understandable choice.

This editor of Al-Quds Al-Arabi says he will not condemn the Jerusalem murders. In fact he's quite frank about the fact that he's OK with the killings (see "Mercaz Harav attack was justified"). That's his choice; it's hardly controversial. He joins the United Nations Security Council which could have come out with a firm denunciation of the massacre last week, but somehow did not (see "Libya blocks condemnation of Jerusalem attack").

Condemnation by itself achieves nothing. It has to be accompanied by action. But a deliberate failure to condemn inhuman actions like the massacre of the students in the Merkaz Harav library is a powerful and meaningful statement. It encourages, justifies and legitimizes the action and ensures there will be more in the future.

This is more than a moral failure. It is a criminal act of incitement for which our civilized societies apply legal sanctions.

Unfortunately the moral confusion which accompanies terrorism today will ensure that this British Arab journalist and many others like him will not only not be subject to sanctions but will continue doing damage as invited, objective "moderates", politely given airtime by uncritical, unquestioning program presenters.

For this, it is not possible to forgive the operators of BBC, Sky, CNN, Australia's ABC and other major media channels. Without them, Atwan would be just another in a depressingly long line of spewing partisans on one side of a very bad-tempered argument. But by giving this spokesperson for terror with a global platform and equipping him with the credentials of moderation, they are complicit in an appalling process. It's a process that threatens not only the lives of Israelis and our neighbours but also people in other places which are targeted by the global jihadists.

In other words, everyone.

1 comment:

Alex said...

That was a Hezbollah attack in revenge for Israel killing Mughniyeh in Syria,
look here: