As Jews, we learn not to talk about it. We're taught, from an early age, that it's not our business. As leftists, we're taught to interpret it in the broader context, as the understandable outgrowth of occupation, of colonialism, of Western oppression.
So this month, when a Palestinian toddler named Hassan Abu Nada was killed in the crossfire of a Hamas-Fatah gunfight in the northern Gaza town of Beit Lahia, we said nothing. His grandmother was wounded. This was none of our affair.
Just as in December, when Palestinians gunned down three children of a Fatah security chief, boys aged 3 to 9, on their way to school. We knew better than to pass judgment, protest on their behalf, raise our voices.
Just as we kept our opinions to ourselves when, in a Frankfurt court, a Muslim woman whose Muslim husband beat her and threatened to kill her, was denied a divorce. Judge Christa Datz-Winter ruled that "the couple came from a Moroccan cultural milieu in which it is common for husbands to beat their wives," The New York Times reported. "The Koran, she wrote, sanctions such physical abuse."
Just as every morning, when the news of a fresh act of moral obscenity reaches us from Iraq, we swallow hard and shut up. On Sunday, for example, when a Sunni Muslim mosque was stormed, its minaret blown to pieces, and the structure set ablaze, in apparent retaliation for a suicide truck bombing beside a Shi'ite mosque the day before.
Muslims should be able to worship without other Muslims blowing them to mist. Muslim children should be able to go to school and back without other Muslims shattering their bodies with automatic gun fire. Muslim women should be able to live life without worrying that their husbands are within their rights if they beat and threaten to kill them.
And we, as non-Muslims, should be able to say something about it.
Not a simple issue. Especially for those of us Jews and leftists who were educated at places like Berkeley, where we received our degrees in Selective Blindness, with a minor in Understanding the Roots of Violence When Practiced by Muslims.
We were taught to sniff out, publicize and condemn every instance of racism, violence, injustice and humiliation practiced by Israeli Jews against Palestinian Muslims. And that was as it should be. But we were also taught that it was racist to impose our Western values on the acts of Muslims - even, or especially, when it came to the most extreme of Muslims. We can, with facility, therefore, comprehend all Muslim atrocities against Muslims in Iraq as the direct, understandable and legitimate response to the American-British occupation.
We were taught wrong.
We can understand terrorism in Bali, in London, against the Twin Towers, as an outgrowth of anger over American expansionism and Israeli military repression.
We were taught wrong.
There are, of course, many Jews whose selective blindness works in the other direction, condemning Muslims at every opportunity, as though that makes wrongdoing by Jews eminently forgivable and forgettable. As though we are somehow made moral by the moral failings of our neighbors.
This is what we should have been taught: Violations of human rights are violations of human rights, regardless of the cultural background of the perpetrator, regardless of the background of the victim.
This is what we should have retained: One way to demonstrate compassion for victims is to stop showing sensitivity to their tormentors. Even if both are Muslims. Because it's our business to cry out. Because the victims are human beings. Because villains deserve to be denounced.
We were taught to feel guilt, when we should have been taught that wrongdoing is the work of the wrongdoer.
In the end, those of us who excuse Muslim fanatics their outrages against their own, those of us who explain away their crimes by blaming them on the West, or on ourselves, are guilty of racism as well. We are saying, in effect, that they cannot be considered responsible for their actions, as would any other human being.
We are saying, in effect, that we made them who they are.
We are saying, in effect, that the suicide bomber who kills his own lacks the ability to discern right and wrong. We are also saying, in effect, that they can do what they like, to their own.
There is racism in our view, and megalomania, and arrogance, and cowardice, and weakness. Terrorists know this. They feed on it.
They were taught well.
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