Monday, December 8, 2008

Mumbai Why Islamists are anti-Semites and why the NYT doubts it

The wonder over Islamist targeting of Jews is peculiar. The founder of modern Islamism, Sayyid Qutb was very explicit about his hatred for Jews. This has nothing to do with Israel or Palestinians, but rather with the same old "World Jewish Plot" and Jewish influence:  
....explaining the purpose of man and his historical role in philosophical terms ... is one of the tricks played by world Jewry, whose purpose is to eliminate all limitations, especially the limitations imposed by faith and religion, so that Jews may penetrate into body politics of the whole world and then may be free to perpetuate their evil designs. At the top of the list of these activities is usury, the aim of which is that all the wealth of mankind end up in the hands of Jewish financial institutions which run on interest. [Milestones, p.110-111]
The Times Doubts Islamic Terrorists are Anti-Semites. Apparently.
Zachary Thacher
by Zachary Thacher, December 3, 2008
Last week, while Islamic terrorists attacked Mumbai, the New York Times covered the event with a sense of confusion and surprise – mimicking what it must have felt to be on the ground in a city suddenly under fire.
When it became clear Jewish New Yorkers were caught in the attacks, the Times went into overdrive to report the latest twist. Unfortunately the first article they published on the Jewish angle contained language that was so naïve as to be offensive.
Fernanda Santos reported the story, Brooklyn Rabbi and Wife Caught in Attacks, where she stated two items that jumped out.
First: "the Holtzbergs' Chabad house became an unlikely target of the terrorist gunmen…"
I dropped my fork at Thanksgiving dinner as I read this on my BlackBerry. It's "unlikely" that Islamic terrorists attack Jews? Since when?
Then, further down, she wrote: "It is not known if the Jewish center was strategically chosen, or if it was an accidental hostage scene."
Now I was mad. What, exactly, is an accidental hostage situation?
"Oh, hey, I just happened to be an evil Muslim radical carrying this AK-47, and since you look like a helpless civilian, and whoa, you're wearing a yarmulke! Might as well take you hostage."
I mean, really? Is that what she meant?
Fortunately no other article I could find in the Times or CNN opined about the terrorists plans, accidental or otherwise. As the killers stalked from the train station to a movie theater and to the Taj and Oberoi luxury hotels, no one questioned if these were unlikely or accidental targets. They just reported the facts. Except for the Times when it came to Jews.
Why were Ms. Santos and her editors so afraid to make the obvious connection between Islamic terrorists and their unarmed Jewish civilian victims? Is the Times, as a mostly center-left news source, afraid of unfairly demonizing terrorist madmen intent on killing as many civilians as possible? Do they really need protection by the Times? I didn't get it. So I emailed the reporter telling her I was upset and confused.
Fernanda Santos' response:
"It was not my intention to dilute the significance of the attack at the Chabad house. The doubt expressed in my story was solely related to the fact that, at the time, our reporters on the ground had not been able to confirm if the Chabad house had been targeted because it is a place of congregation for people of the Jewish faith, which is what I and my editors immediately suspected (and which is, in fact, the most obvious conclusion) or because it is in the middle of Mumbai's tourist district… It is a subtle, yet important distinction, and one that, in spite of all the evidence that Jews are frequent targets of Islamic militants, we could not make with a comfortable degree of certainty in the six hours I had to report and write my article. I apologize if I offended you in any way. That was by no means my intention."
Ms. Santos is a good person and was kind to reply, but now I'm even more confused about the Times editorial policy. It was clear to her and her editors that the Islamic terrorists, like every other Islamic terrorist in the world, are violent anti-Semites -- by definition I might add. And since she only had six hours to report the article, and couldn't interview terrorists to ask them what their goals are, she retreated into safe language that opined about the likeliness and purposefulness of these Jewish targets. Seems reasonable, right?
So why did the Times not feel the need to wonder if the Taj, Oberoi, movie theater or train station (and remember, the attackers came in by boat) were unlikely or accidental targets? Where are the subtle yet important distinctions not brought up for these locations? Why did no other news source have this same problem that Santos and her editors did?
Apparently there's a double standard when it comes to Jews in this news cycle.
No one should demonize Ms. Santos – by all measure she's a hard working reporter who strives to do the right thing – but she did advocate an Orwellian double-speak for Jewish targets, versus secular Western targets. This isn't only unfair, nor is it really over-cautious, it's just ignorant – and this hurts everyone. It denies the truth to all of us, of every color, religion, nationality and political persuasion, about the nature of Islamic terrorism. If the Times is worried about suggesting that Islamic terrorist target Jews, perhaps they could think of the forty Muslims who were killed that day. (Wikipedia reference.) By now it's clear the most frequent victims of Islamic terrorism are innocent Muslims. They deserve better. We as Jews deserve better. The attackers of both peoples should be named for who they are, and not sheltered in the cautious wording of newsroom editors who either don't know better, or need to be reprimanded by their more senior editors.
Perhaps my polite and ultimately positive exchange with Ms. Santos and this blog post will keep the Times on their toes the next time a Jew is attacked by Muslim terrorists. Unfortunately, it's likely this will happen in the near future, and it won't be by accident.

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