Parents of slain journalist advocate tolerance
Mother and father of Daniel Pearl, who was killed by terrorists, speak as part of UCI series.
Daily Pilot (March 11, 2006)
by Michael Miller, Daily Pilot
COSTA MESA — It is one of the most famous and chilling statements of identity in recent years. In January 2002, captured by Pakistani terrorists, American journalist Daniel Pearl faced the camera in front of him and uttered a speech that ended with 11 concise words before he was executed: “My father is Jewish. My mother is Jewish. I am Jewish.”
Since then, his parents, Judea and Ruth Pearl, have traveled the world trumpeting their son’s message of tolerance and understanding — and not simply toward Jews. The couple, who immigrated to the United States from Israel in 1960, started the Daniel Pearl Foundation to organize public dialogues, organize humanitarian concerts and sponsor aspiring journalists.
On Friday, the Pearls made their latest stop at the Center Club in Costa Mesa, at a luncheon event hosted by UC Irvine. For nearly an hour, the couple spoke about their son’s life and the need to combat intolerance and terrorism in the post-Sept. 11 world.
“The current wave of terror and hatred is not aimed at a country or policy, but at the entire fabric of civilized society,” Judea Pearl told the audience of about 60.
The luncheon was the latest event organized by UCI’s Center for Unconventional Security Affairs, a body that formed after Sept. 11 to enlighten the public on the changing aspects of terrorism. Over the last year, the group has hosted speeches by anti-land-mine activist Heather Mills McCartney and Third World women’s activist Zainab Salbi, and it plans a seminar on genocide in the fall.
“We believe it is important to solve problems by building bridges,” said Richard Matthew, director of the Center for Unconventional Security Affairs.
At the Center Club, the Pearls took turns making speeches and then answered questions from the audience. When one attendee asked Judea Pearl how he felt about the recent riots over Danish cartoons, Pearl said he found the drawings offensive, but that he believed Muslim fundamentalists were using the scandal to empower themselves.
Copies of the book, “I Am Jewish: Personal Reflections Inspired by the Last Words of Daniel Pearl,” featuring essays by a number of prominent Jews, were distributed to all those in attendance. Throughout the event, the Pearls stressed that their son did not die for any race or religion, but for freedom and democracy in general.
“Our son lived a life that knew no geographical boundaries and had a spirit that knew no prejudices,” Ruth Pearl said.