P. David Hornik
June 16, 2006
“Zarqawi felt my son’s breath on his hand as he held the knife against his throat. Zarqawi had to look in his eyes as he did it. George Bush sits there glassy-eyed in his office with pieces of paper and condemns people to death. That to me is a real terrorist.”
Thus spake Michael Berg, father of jihad victim Nick Berg and Green Party candidate for Congress in Delaware, in reaction to Abu Musab al-Zarqawi’s death. “These words are insane,” wrote former New York City mayor Ed Koch, and of course he’s right. But, however insane, Michael Berg’s words are also a fine distillation of a mentality found among many millions of people in Western countries, particularly the elites.
The mentality was well evident over the past week in reaction to Israel’s alleged accidental killing of a Palestinian family on a Gaza beach.
For months, the deliberate firing of hundreds of rockets at Israeli civilians in the town of Sderot and other Gaza-bordering communities had hardly elicited a yawn anywhere but Israel. The fact that most Sderot residents are working-class, dark-skinned Sephardic Jews, many of them (or their forebears) refugees from Arab countries that brutally expelled them some decades ago, did nothing to stir sympathy for them. There is simply no cachet and no romance here, no “Save Sderot” marches on campus, not a whiff of censure of the Palestinian Authority. The Sderot people might as well be George Bush.
Then came an image of a tragically decimated Palestinian family on a beach, and the West sprang into action. The UK Foreign Office said it was “deeply concerned by reports of the deaths from Israeli shelling of civilians”; France’s Foreign Ministry thundered that it “deplores the Israeli bombing on a beach in the Gaza Strip.” The State Department chimed in with only slightly more circumspect language, expressing “regret for the killing and wounding of innocent Palestinians in Gaza today as a result of artillery fire by the Israeli Defense Forces.” UN Secretary-General Koffi Annan called on Israel to “respect human life and international law.”
Gone were the vaunted Western principles of a fair hearing and innocent until proven guilty; the condemnations poured in well before Israel had a chance to investigate the incident and found that an IDF shell could not possibly have been responsible (even then Annan, of course, did not accept the finding). Something else was in the air, something too exciting—an Abu Ghraib, a Haditha, a chance to show, a la Michael Berg, that it is really the Western side who are the brutal abusers and killers. The hunger is so great that even a (supposed) accident, a misfired shell, will do.
If, after all, it is really America and Israel—the only countries (except Britain in Iraq) substantially fighting the jihad—who are the aggressors, then one gets off easy, one only needs to curb these two rogues to continue with one’s luxurious life. Michael Berg, running for office in Delaware, knows in his heart that George Bush is nothing to fear, that he can publicly call him a terrorist, try to wrest power from his political party, and remain perfectly safe. Whether or not a touch crazy, Berg is, though, like the widespread Western mindset he represents, a coward who cannot look evil in the face. He would rather—with words like “felt my son’s breath on his hand . . . had to look in his eyes . . . ” —turn his son’s sadistic killing almost into an act of tenderness than do that.
Almost five years after 9-11, after Madrid, London, the terror war on Israel, and so on, the cowardice—the lunging to pin blame on one’s own side, the eager abandonment of logic and fairness while rushing to embrace moral inversion and idiocy—all this is still so strong as to suggest that the West’s survival is anything but certain.
P. David Hornik is a freelance writer and translator living in Jerusalem. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.