Thursday, February 14, 2008

Dead Jews aren't Really so Important

So we saw the funny NYT headline announcing the demise of Mughniya, now look at the headline in the Guardian: Car bomb ends life of Hizbullah chief wanted for string of kidnappings and mass murders. (And note that the NYT capitalizes words in titles, as we learned in school, and the Guardian doesn't).

It's a strange title. The car bomb ended the life? Why not simply say killed? And why make the car bomb an independent agent? Why not something like "Terrorist assassinated in Damascus"? But the more ominous note is in the description of the dead man's crimes - if crimes they were, because he was wanted for them, but we don't really know that he did them, right? We suspect, however, that he was involved in a string of kidnappings, and also, by the way, mass murders. Sort of like Al Capone, who was wanted for all sort of beastly things but we know he was a tax evader.

Am I being petty? Perhaps. And perhaps not. These people are professional writers. Words are their tools. Bloggers dash things off without much thought and with no editing, but newspapers, especially those aimed at high-brow readerships, can still be expected to think about the words they choose.

Anyway, the article then spends hundreds of words spelling out the priorities of its author, Ian Black, and his editor. This is most spectacularly obvious when he lists the crimes and victims of the dead man:
1. He took (my italics) western hostages, including two named British ones. I would add that after being taken they were held against their will for a few years, not 2-3 days, and then eventually they were set free, and went back to free lives.
2. He masterminded the bombing of the American embassy in Beirut in 1983, which killed 242 people. Actually, the truth was that he masterminded a number of such attacks, and the numbers of the casualties in all the attacks were considerably higher than 242 - and the 242 number was never true anyway, because while indeed 242 Americans died in the most famous attack, the total number of casualties in that attack alone was well above 300. But why count all those non-Americans?
3. And he was behind the kidnapping (again) of Israeli soldiers and thereby triggered the war of 2006.

End of list, unless you go all the way through - and it's a long and winding report; near the very end of it you'll then find the following paragraph:

"Mughniyeh was one of the most dangerous terrorists ever," said Danny Yatom, who was head of the Mossad when Hizbullah was blamed for killing 120 people in attacks on the Israel embassy and a Jewish community centre in Argentina in the early 90s. Those, in turn, were seen as retaliation for Israel's helicopter assassination of Hizbullah leader Abbas al-Musawi.

It doesn't quite say that there was any clear connection between Mughniya and those attacks in Argentina, but the attacks were only retaliation anyway, for an assassination of a Hizbullah leader.

Reality check: the victims in Argentina were Jews and non-Jews, civilians all, leading their lives two continents away from whatever acts of war Israel and the Hizbbullah were committing on each other. That Mughniya saw a connection between them that was so strong they could be killed for it is obvious. This is the way murderous antisemites see the world. But the Guardian?

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