Moral Equivalence in the Middle East

Posted: Jun 16, 2003 12:00 AM

In an interview last week, the questioner asked me, “What do you do about the hardliners on both sides who don’t want peace?”  Perhaps without realizing it, the person—who was by no means an apologist for Palestinian terrorists—equated the terrorists who intentionally murder civilians and the Israelis who do not wish to unilaterally lay down their arms while those terrorists continue to slaughter innocents.

  The coverage of the “violence” that followed the President’s Mideast trip has largely read like the equivalent of a chess match.  Hamas refuses to halt suicide bombs.  Israel targets a top Hamas leader.  Suicide bombing in Jerusalem kills 16.  Israel “retaliates” with a strike in Gaza.  What’s at work is probably not anti-Semitism, but a misguided attempt at objectivity.  But reporting “facts” in a moral vacuum is not objectivity; it is, in fact, just the opposite.  Absent proper context, the situation can seem as if it is two equally justifiable sides making moves and countermoves, nothing more.

  Though Mahmoud Abbas, the figurehead leader of the Palestinian Authority, called Israel’s attempted killing of Hamas terrorist mastermind Abdel Aziz Rantisi a “terrorist” attack, Israel’s actions can in no way be likened to those committed by people whose raison d’etre is the killing of innocent Jews.  It can be argued that Israel has not always made the smartest political moves and that it even uses too much force on occasion, but its goal is not the destruction of the Palestinian people.  Yet they face an enemy who will not stop until the Jews are driven into the sea.

  The cause of Palestinian statehood is merely fig leaf cover for Islamic fundamentalist terrorists with an unquenchable thirst for Jewish blood.  Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon understands this, which is why he has lined up behind the fundamentally flawed “roadmap”—the Palestinian terrorist organizations will torpedo the peace plan regardless of what Israel does.  And at least so far, Palestinian figurehead Mahmoud Abbas is content to let them do so, though the real reason may be that with the security forces still under Arafat’s thumb, Abbas has no ability to forcibly combat the likes of Hamas and the al Aqsa Martyrs Brigade.  But since Sharon does not want to allow the continued murder of innocent Israelis, his military forces are at least attempting to do what Abbas will not—or cannot—do.

  Clouding the moral color of each side’s respective actions was none other than President Bush, who said he was “troubled” by Israel’s attempted assassination of Hamas leader Rantisi.  Although many on Capitol Hill and elsewhere were furious at the remark, Bush has done as much as anybody to put the current situation in the proper context.  On his way to the Mideast, President Bush visited Nazi death camps at Auschwitz and Birkenau, thereby unmistakably linking the Holocaust with the actions of today’s terrorists.  If only the media could learn from the President.

  A recent Reuters news wire story on the funeral of a one-year-old Palestinian girl curiously avoids referring to her father, a committed member of Hamas, as a “terrorist.”  The man who dedicated his life to the slaughter of innocent Jews was, according to Reuters, a “militant” who was one of the “heroes of the Palestinian struggle.”  What “struggle”?  The “struggle” to murder innocents while they shop, eat, or ride on a bus?  The “struggle” to intentionally kill small children?  Reuters did not define the “Palestinian struggle,” but given that the article refers to all terrorists as merely “militants,” it is safe to assume that the “struggle” was the one supposedly for statehood.

  Far more common, though less pernicious, than Reuters’ choice of labels is the media’s tendency to lump together all “violence” in one category.  Many news outlets have a running tally indicating the total number killed since the recent peace talks, often with no distinction between Israelis and Palestinians, between civilians and terrorists, or between civilians killed intentionally by terrorists or those killed unintentionally in targeted attacks on terrorists.  The numbers, though, actually mean little.  Those who understand the real goal of Palestinian terrorists also understand the painful truth: the murder of innocent Israelis is never going to stop.