From The Wall Street Journal
February 20, 2003
This Tide of Madness – The world must stand against the evil that took my son’s life.
By Judea Pearl
Tomorrow will mark the first anniversary of the day the world learned of the murder of my son Daniel Pearl, a reporter for this newspaper. It is time to step back and reflect on the significance of this tragedy.
Much has been written on the new challenges that Danny’s murder represents to international journalism. But relatively little attention was given to one aspect of the motives of the perpetrators, specifically to the role of anti-American and anti-Semitic sentiments in the planning and execution of the murder. In fact, what shocked and united people from all over the world was the nature of those motives.
The murder weapon in Danny’s case was aimed not at a faceless enemy or institution, but at a gentle human being–one whose face is now familiar to millions of people around the world. Danny’s murderers spent a week with him; they must have seen his radiating humanity. Killing him so brutally, and in front of a video camera, marked a new low in man’s inhumanity to man. People of all faiths were thus shocked to realize that mankind can still be dragged to such depths by certain myths and ideologies.
Danny was killed because he represented us, namely the ideals that every civilized person aspires to uphold–modernity, openness, pluralism, freedom of inquiry, truth, honesty and respect for all people. Decent people of all backgrounds have consequently felt personally targeted in this crime, and have been motivated to carry on Danny’s spirit.
Reactions to Danny’s death varied from community to community. In Pakistan, many have condemned the murder as a barbaric act carried out by a minority of fanatics at the fringe of society, while some find absolution in assuming that Danny was a spy. Sadly, anti-Semitism and sympathies with the perpetrators, as revealed in the trial of Omar Sheikh, seem to be more widespread than openly admitted. The trial itself is at a puzzling standstill, with no date set for appeal decision. In Saudi Arabia, the murder video has been used to arouse and recruit new members to terrorist organizations. In Europe, Danny’s murder has been condemned as an attack against journalism, while the anti-American, anti-Jewish sentiments were played down considerably. This is understandable, considering the anti-American and anti-Western sentiment echoed in editorials in some respectable European newspapers.
In contrast, Danny’s captors concentrated on his Jewish and Israeli heritage. Evidently the murderers were confident that Danny’s Jewish connections were sufficient to license the gruesome murder they were about to commit. Such a brazen call to condone the killing of a human being by virtue of his religion or heritage is strongly reminiscent of the horrors perpetrated by Nazi Germany.
In a world governed by reason and leadership, one would expect world leaders to immediately denounce such racist calls before they become an epidemic. However, President Bush was the only world leader to acknowledge the connection between Danny’s murder and the rise of anti-Semitism: “We reject the ancient evil of anti-Semitism whether it is practiced by the killers of Daniel Pearl or by those who burn synagogues in France.” No European head of state rose to John F. Kennedy’s “Ich bin ein Berliner” with the morally equivalent statement “Today, I am a Jew.”
Not surprisingly, our unguided world has seen an alarming rise of anti-Semitic activity in the past year. Tens of millions of Muslims have become unshakably convinced that Jews were responsible for the Sept. 11 attack. Egypt’s state-controlled television aired a 30-part program based on the notorious anti-Semitic book “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” and Egyptians were fed another fantasy, that Jews are plotting to take over the world. Syria’s defense minister, Mustafa Tlas, released the eighth edition of his book, “The Matzah of Zion,” in which he accuses Jews of using the blood of Christians to bake matzah for Passover. And on the sideline, while these flames of hatred were consuming sizable chunks of the world’s population, traditionally vocal champions of antiracism remained silent.
Against this tide of madness the world is about to remember Daniel Pearl–a Jew, a citizen of the world, and a dialogue maker who formed genuine connections among people of different backgrounds. In Danny’s spirit, we have asked every community that plans to commemorate the anniversary of his death to invite a neighboring synagogue, mosque, church or temple of different faith to join in a prayer for a sane and humane world, a world free of the hatred that took Danny’s life. Interfaith memorials will take place, starting tonight, in Los Angeles, New York, Toronto, London and Jerusalem, with additional services planned world-wide.
We hope that the combination of multifaith attendance, joint statements against intolerance, and the unifying global spirit of the day will serve as catalysts for building alliances against the rising tide of fanaticism, dehumanization, and xenophobia.
Dr. Pearl is the father of Daniel Pearl and president of the Daniel Pearl Foundation (www.danielpearl.org).