First appeared in print in The Rhinoceros Times, Greensboro, NC
Jews, Christians, Civilians, and the Qur'an
I few days ago I got a letter from an Israeli reader who has been following this column.
"I find your comments on my country very encouraging," he writes. "Israel is often condemned by the world for defending herself against terrorism. The world media often twists the facts and shows Israel -- an island of democracy in the Middle East -- as an oppressor, merely because we shoot back at those who attack us, those who kill more of our civilians daily.
"Ya'akov Kirschen once asked if it were possible that the world is mad, and only we are sane. He answered himself with a 'yes.' In this day, when the Western world supports America's actions in Afghanistan but condemns Israel for attacking Palestinian terrorists, it is reassuring to hear a sane voice."
One of the worst possible outcomes of this war would be for the U.S. to pressure Israel to make a single tiny concession to the Palestinian Authority.
The most recent outrage against Israeli civilians was done by Al Fatah, Yasser Arafat's own organization within the PLO. Either Arafat is too weak to control his own people, in which case there is no point in negotiating with him since he won't be able to keep any agreement, or Arafat has just been exposed, once again, as a liar who keeps no promises, but uses each concession from Israel as a basis to demand even more concessions.
Why would we even think of pressuring Israel to give in to the promise-breakers of the Palestinian Authority?
Because we're trying to hold together a fragile coalition, and if Israel does anything to protect itself against terrorism, we're afraid we'll lose some of the Muslim coalition members.
Well, guess what? If we can only hold the coalition together by pressuring Israel to keep dealing with terrorists who never keep treaties, then the coalition is worse than useless.
If the 11 September attacks on the U.S. turn out to result in Israeli concessions, then guess what? There'll be more attacks!
On the contrary, our position ought to be that Israel has just as much right to defend itself against terrorism by attacking the sources of that terror as we have.
And if, in the process of defending itself, Israel inadvertently kills or injures some civilians (as we have done in Afghanistan) then the cause of that is not Israel, but the terrorists who forced them to take military action. Those civilians would all be alive if the Palestinian people weren't giving such overwhelming support to the suicide bombing campaign. The killers are not the Israelis.
Just as the cause of any civilian deaths in Afghanistan is not the United States. If the government of Afghanistan had not harbored and promoted Al-Qaida's campaign of terror that led to 11 September, and had not continued to protect them even afterward, there would have been no civilian deaths from U.S. bombs in Afghanistan this year.
The killers of civilians in Afghanistan are Al-Qaida and the Taliban. We had no other way to eliminate the terrorist threat against us than to go after the governments that sponsored terrorism, and that sort of military action will always cause civilian casualties no matter how hard you try to avoid them.
I, for one, am sick of headlines like the one that led the News & Record on Sunday: "Afghans: U.S. bombs kill many."
The story underneath the headline explained that Afghan leaders of one city claimed that U.S. bombs that struck nearby had killed perhaps as many as a hundred civilians. We were told that U.S. officials said that, after reviewing the film, they categorically denied that any mistake was made.
The story -- which came from the New York Times service -- was more or less "impartial." But the headline -- and the decision to put it as the lead on the front page -- were not.
You see, there were no quotation marks used. There is a huge difference in meaning between "Afghans: U.S. bombs kill many" and "Afghans: 'U.S. bombs kill many'"
Without the quotation marks, the headline asserts that the accusation is true, whereas with the quotation marks, the headline merely states that some Afghans are making an accusation. Imagine the lawsuit if a paper ran a headline like: "Car owners: Ford Mustangs kill many." Or: "Customers: McDonald's burgers kill many."
Many people read nothing more than the headline. What story did the News & Record tell them?
Our enemies' propaganda campaign has a goal of persuading Americans that our government is killing civilians in Afghanistan, thus trying to make us believe that our actions are just as evil as the actions of those who killed Americans on 11 September.
An equally accurate headline on the same story would have been: "U.S. denies bombs went astray."
And a better news judgment would have been that this non-story did not belong on the front page.
Once again, wouldn't it be nice if we had a pro-American press in the U.S.? You know, the kind of press that wouldn't run anti-American propaganda unless there was actual evidence that our government was wrong?
Anyway, in case you're wondering how it's done, press coverage can be slanted by something as simple as quotation marks -- putting them in, or leaving them off.
In an earlier piece I stated that the Qur'an referred to Christians and Jews as Shaitans. Having been challenged on that, I checked and found that I was indeed in error. While the Qur'an is thick with anti-Christian and anti-Jewish vitriol, and while the enemies of Islam are often referred to as Shaitans or servants of Shaitan, at no point does the Qur'an make an explicit connection. I apologize for the error.
Since 11 September, many have tried to prove that Islam condemns terrorism by quoting the passage in the Qur'an that says, "Whoever slays a soul, unless it be for manslaughter or for mischief in the land, it is as though he slew all men."
But what does it mean, to do "mischief in the land"? Well, elsewhere the Qur'an explicitly states that Christians and Jews are those who receive "the book" but don't obey it. "And when it is said to them, do not make mischief in the land, they say: We are but peacemakers. Now surely they themselves are the mischief makers, but they do not perceive."
Doesn't that sound like their view of America?
And what should be done to us? "The punishment of those who wage war against Allah and his apostle and strive to make mischief in the land is only this, that they should be murdered or crucified or their hands and their feet should be cut off on opposite sides or they should be imprisoned; this shall be as a disgrace for them in this world, and in the hereafter they shall have a grievous chastisement."
I think running planes into buildings fits in the category "they should be murdered."
My point is not that Islam is evil; my point is that our enemies who want to kill Americans and Israelis -- Christians and Jews -- can find all the justification they want in the Qur'an. Just as American slaveowners found "justification" for their vile practice in the Bible.
By the way, I'm not the only one to make inaccurate statements about the Qur'an. In an editorial in Monday's News & Record, the writer stated that the Qur'an admits that Jesus was "divine."
But the opposite is true. The Qur'an explicitly states, "The Messiah, son of Mary is but an apostle; apostles before him have indeed passed away; and his mother was a truthful woman...." In other words, Mary might have been a virgin visited by an angel, but Jesus most definitely was not divine, according to the Qur'an.
Let's all make a resolution to actually read the Qur'an before trying to tell people what it says.
"And fight in the way of Allah with those who fight with you.... And kill them wherever you find them, and drive them out from whence they drove you out." You can bet this was read, over and over, by those who attacked us on 11 September.
Copyright © 2001 by Orson Scott Card.
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