Fifteen years ago, the world watched as a good man, a journalist, was murdered by jihadist terrorists in Pakistan. He was a Wall Street Journal reporter chasing a story about Richard Reid, the shoe bomber. Many of us, mostly Jewish, watched from afar horrified at his being held hostage, but hoping for the best and that he would be released. There was little faith that the State Department would be able to do anything on his behalf. In late February of 2002, a video was released by the terrorists showing his beheading.
Amidst the horror and fear, he chose these words among his last:
My name is Daniel Pearl. I’m a Jewish American from Encino, California, USA. I come from, uh, on my father’s side the family is Zionist. My father’s Jewish, my mother’s Jewish, I’m Jewish. My family follows Judaism. We’ve made numerous family visits to Israel.
This is the short version of Daniel Pearl’s life and death. For more information about Daniel Pearl and his legacy, please visit the Daniel Pearl Foundation.
These words are haunting in an era when Jewish life in the diaspora is at risk because of assimilation and the adoption of causes that are the antithesis of support for Jewish life, both in Israel or elsewhere.
Every year on the anniversary of Daniel Pearl’s murder, I post information about him and a comment on social media. The purpose is that we remember him and the continued struggle against jihadists who see any Jew, journalist or not, as a symbol of evil and a target for annihilation. As global jihadism and the accompanying terrorist attacks spread, it seems as if the denial grows in the west, further allowing this horror to grow and become more violent.
One would think that the vision of the World Trade Center attack would have been etched into the memories of all sane people, but it has been depersonalized, much as all mass murders become over time, even the Shoah. With Daniel Pearl, we have a face, a family, and a legacy; it is more personal. We cry when we read his last words and know that his child was born after his murder. That is real. That is terrorism up close.
But this year’s post was different. Among the comments of remembrance, were two comments from American Jews connecting his death with the new president of the United States, implying that their opposition to him was in some way connected to Daniel Pearl’s murder. One stated that he “mourned” Daniel Pearl’s death therefore he would fight Donald Trump because they are related. Huh? There is no connection between the type of jihadist terrorism that took Daniel Pearl’s life and the present situation in the United States.
These inane comments were removed, but it is an example of the forced move to connect everything to everything. People who believe Trump is bad think they can connect it to something in history that is, in fact, bad. We hear the utmost in ridiculous analogies along the line of “……..is Hitler” by people who believe that anyone they disagree with politically is a genocidal fascist. Intersectionality rules and makes no sense. When American Jews stand by and accept Linda Sarsour’s leadership in the march on Washington, knowing that she has been a supporter of Hamas, but supporting her because she allegedly supports women’s rights and surely is an opponent of the new President, we know that logic has been thrown to the wind. And that everything is at risk of being hijacked by a movement with no moral center, no goals, and no purpose other than to bring down an elected leader.
In an effort to give people a place on social media to speak about their remembrances and emotions regarding Daniel Pearl’s murder, hijackers disrespect what is as sacred a space that you can create on Facebook. Both of those people have now been blocked….two American Jews who I thought were smarter and more compassionate than they actually are and who will use anything, even the sacred memory of a dead Jew, as fodder for their political beliefs.
But we can take a step backward and remember Daniel Pearl with respect for his bravery and legacy. And we can also honor him with dignity and pride in our own Jewish lives. That is the least we can do for him.