Wednesday, June 10th, 2009
The minute that news of the shooting got out, the first thing that many were getting ready to say is that we shouldn’t blame all
Islamic supremicists Moslems.
It was a white supremicist? Oh, never mind. Blame ‘em all, just as all anti-abortionists and the conservative supporters in the media (particularly Bill O’Reilly) were widely blamed for the recent murder of the abortion doctor. And all settlers and Orthodox Jews were widely blamed for the guns fired by Baruch Goldstein and Yigal Amir. Only Islamic and Arab terrorists always act alone, disconnected from any global trends in Islamic or Arab politics. This goes back to the 1968 shooting of Bobby Kennedy by Sirhan Sirhan. The media and historical consensus remains that Sirhan was “a lone gunman.” That Sirhan, a Palestinian, chose to kill Kennedy on the first anniversary of the Six-Day War, well, a coincidence.
Even before the World Trade Center stopped smoking, there were newsmen, politicians, rabbis – and a president – telling us not to blame Islam. By contrast, before Rabin stooped breathing, there wasn’t an Orthodox Jew on the planet who didn’t feel we had to answer for it. In fact, introspection was called for, and many of the questions were legitimate.
After the Riverdale terrorist arrests it bothered me when The New York Times buried into the ninth paragraph the fact that the four suspects were Islamic black men, a fact that CNN (May 21) managed to completely avoid in a 700-word story — a remarkable feat of journalistic contortion. Now, in some stories of the Washington shooting, I’m equally sorry that some papers opted not to mention that the one victim, the murdered museum guard, was black.
Here’s the Holocaust Museum story as told by The Washington Post.
A fact is a fact, be it about the terrorist or a victim.
These kind of facts are still important in America, as we’ve seen in the powerful and positive emotions felt by many when a black man was nominated and inaugurated as president. To write the story and not mention that Barack Obama was black would be absurd.
In the museum story, many readers will consider it important and meaningful that a black man died while protecting what is essentially a Jewish museum. A newspaper should include all the facts that contribute to an honest, intelligent, and even emotional discussion of what happened.
Rabbi Saperstein of the Reform movement has some interesting points to make here about the nationwide anti-Semitic crime wave – there’s really no other way to describe it. Euphemisms and avoidance just make those who speak that way sound delusional.
Saperstein: “This represents something else that is perhaps distinct to Jews in America compared to other groups. Other religious targets may be subject to vandalism or even discriminatory acts, but there are few other religious institutions that day in and day out must be concerned about acts of terrorism in the form of bombs, gun attacks, etc. On many levels Jews have been and remain the quintessential victims of religious intolerance and hatred in western civilization.
“I say that knowing that today Muslim mosques have been targeted for vandalism. We just had a murder take place against a doctor in a church this past week and others are subject to acts of prejudice, but the notion of an entire community being concerned that their house of worship, their institutions might be targets of violent acts anywhere in the country still haunts American Jewry today with all of the successes that America’s freedoms have brought to us.”