Tuesday, December 02, 2008
MUMBAI Massacre : Deadly Media Euphemisms
By ABRAHAM COOPER & HAROLD BRACKMAN THE international media have already morphed the horrific slaughter in Mumbai into the murky realm of euphemism and apologetics. Al Jazeera and The Guardian label the terrorists "gunmen"; CNN calls them "militants." Some analysts identified the underlying cause as the Kashmir dispute between India and Pakistan. Psychological guru Deepak Chopra called it the result of "collateral damage" from the US war on terrorism and the Iraq war. But how does the especially bloodthirsty attack on Mumbai's Nariman-Chabad House fit into this puzzle palace? The New York Times theorized that Chabad House may have been an "accidental hostage scene." The BBC initially chose to hide the Jewish character of the target by describing it as just "an office building." Al Jazeera refused to show Chabad House as the site of the carnage. Some Western media outlets unsympathetically labeled victims there as "ultra-Orthodox" or "missionaries." Contrary to these fantasies, the all-too-obvious truth is now being confirmed: * The Times of India reported that some of the terrorists, claiming to be Malaysian students, rented nearby space in order to scout out Chabad. * The Indian doctor who conducted the post-mortems related in a shaken voice that: "Of all the bodies, the Israeli victims bore the maximum torture marks. It was clear that they were killed on the 26th [the first day of the attacks] itself. It was obvious that they were tied up and tortured before they were killed." * The only captured terrorist, Ajmal Kamal, confessed under interrogation that his fellow murderers were specifically ordered to target the Jews killed at Chabad. It's not only close India-Israeli ties that the terrorists wanted to destroy. It's likely that Mumbai's age-old history of hospitality to Jews made the Nariman-Chabad House a strategic target. Mumbai is notable for two distinctive Jewish communities: Bagdhadi Jews, whose ancestors first arrived as traders about 250 years ago, and the Bene Israel, descendants of Judean Jews shipwrecked off the Indian coast 2,100 years ago. Among traditional Hindus forbidden to press oil from seeds, the Bene Israel found a welcome niche as the "Saturday Oil Presser Caste." Experiencing almost no discrimination, they were accorded high status in Indian society - one served as Gandhi's personal physician. Now the survivors and loved ones of all the innocent victims of the Mumbai massacres begin the heartbreaking task of picking up the shattered pieces of their lives. But the families of the Chabad House victims have to also live with the double standard that lets the world look the other way when Jews are targets of terror. At a house of fellowship and prayer, nine religious people were bound, tortured and executed because they were Jews - just as Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl had his head cut off in Pakistan because, as he told his kidnappers, "I am Jewish." Terrorism may not succeed in destroying our civilization - but politically correct euphemisms and apologetics are already crippling our ability to defend it. One cameraman who saw armed police refusing to open fire on the Mumbai terrorists lamented that he didn't have a gun instead of a camera. Yet what the world desperately needs today is not armed media, but reporters brave enough to tell the truth. Rabbi Abraham Cooper is associate dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center. Harold Brackman, a historian, is a consultant for the center.