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Claude Salhani

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Not All Terrorism Victims Are Created Equal

Posted: 04/22/2013 2:41 pm

There has been much discussion in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing in the media, in private chat rooms and among recipients of email lists as to why the media gave such prominence to the bombing that killed "only" three people while attacks in other parts of the world that claim far greater numbers hardly get noticed.

That very same Sunday when the two bombs exploded in Boston, 17 car bombs exploded in Iraq killing more than 240 people, yet those attacks were hardly reported by the international media. I believe I was one of the very few, if not the only journalist, who mentioned the attacks in Iraq during a four-hour special report dedicated entirely to the Boston bombing in which I participated live on the US-funded satellite TV network, al-Hurra.

I do not recall seeing or hearing any mention of the tragedies in Iraq in the American media as all the focus centered on the Boston bombings and the ongoing search for the suspected terrorists.

Why this discrepancy, or rather this discrimination, when it comes to reporting on victims of terrorism? Why is it that some lives when seen through Western prisms are worth more than others? Why is it that killing someone on the streets of Boston, Chicago, or Seattle will make front page news while the massacre of 240 Iraqis is hardly worth a line in a newspaper or the few words of text on one's Twitter account?

Why is it when an Israeli is killed by a Hamas-fired missile his or her name will immediately be known, but when 30 Palestinians are killed, they are just a number? What was it that Soviet dictator Josef Stalin said? "A single death is a tragedy, a million deaths is a statistic."

This has never been more accuate than when it comes to deaths from terrorism in the develop world as opposed to those in the developing world. The civil war in Syria has claimed more than 70,000 lives so far. Has the name of a single victim been published in the Western media? Or even in the Arab media for that matter? I believe it would be safe to assume that besides the odd feature on the Syrian events no such reports were made.

Were the unfortunate victims of the Iraqi bombings, the innocent women and children, or as the military prefers to call them, "collateral damage," any less loved by their families and friends than those killed in Boston?

Most certainly not. There is however one major fundamental difference between the victims in Boston and those in Iraq, Lebanon or Palestine. It is not the lack of love that differentiates one victim of terrorism from the other, it is rather the presence of hate.

Allow me explain further: There are numerous reasons why one victim may be considered more "precious" that the next.

Perhaps it ultimately boils down to what constitutes American society, Western European society and a handful of Asian societies versus Middle Eastern and African societies, where respect of individual rights have different meanings and the life of a single person is held in greater respect by those in power. Western societies, while politically divided between liberal and conservative groups still remain united when it comes to acts of terrorism in their own countries.

After the Boston attacks Republicans and Democrats came together to condemn the attacks, as did everyone in the country.

In the United States where despite lapses in respect of individual rights has by all means occurred, which no doubt must have the original signatories of the US Constitution spinning in their graves, still the US remains very much a democratic nation where overall laws are respected, starting with mundane matters such as having the right to dispute a speeding ticket of a parking violation in court where the officer issuing the citation is obliged to appear in traffic court for every ticket issued. Imagine that ever happening in Lebanon, Syria, Egypt or Iran.

In the weeks and months after 9/11 the US has been accused of profiling Arabs, which they have at times done so. But imagine what the reaction would have been in Egypt if an attack of similar magnitude had been carried out in Cairo by 19 Americans?

It is these little differences that add up at the end of the day to make the great differential in the manner in which Americans and Europeans react versus those where bombs tend to go off with some form of semi-regularity.

Does this mean that those who died in Baghdad or Beirut are less loved than those killed in Boston? Once again certainly not. It is not the lack of love in the Middle East that makes the difference but rather the presence of hate which is so powerful; that it outranks love in many respect.

This is how I explained it some years ago when I was being interviewed on a Washington, DC news radio station after publication of my first book. Nearing the end of the live interview the news anchor turned to me and asks: "Do you believe there will ever be peace in the Middle East, and if so what will it take to achieve this; and you only have 30 seconds to respond before we go to commercial break."
My reply was this: "Yes, I do believe there will be peace in the Middle East, but only when the antagonists develop greater love for their children that the hate they harbor for their enemies."

Think about that for a few minutes.

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Claude Salhani, a specialist in conflict resolution, is an independent journalist, political analyst and author of several books on the region. His latest book, 'Islam Without a Veil,' is published by Potomac Books. He tweets @claudesalhani.

 

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