by Rabbi Avi Shafran
Am Echad Resources
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
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 Orthodox 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 G-d'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 G-d. 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
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.
AM ECHAD RESOURCES
[Rabbi Avi Shafran is director of public affairs for Agudath Israel of
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