Petula Dvorak wrote a column for the Washington Post entitled “Words Matter.” Her focus was on the effect words had on the attacks against Planned Parenthood, Black Lives Matter, and Muslim Refugees. It seems to me that she simply wishes to condemn all those who disagree with her point of view and make them shut up.
She remarkably leaves out the words of those that she would never describe as “Islamic” radicals. And yet, the words of the Palestinians and Muslim commentators, journalists, authors and imams that we can easily find at Memri.org, whether in speeches, television shows, sermons, newspapers, and textbooks apparently do not matter to her. The condemnation of words that actually incite people to violence have no place in her article. The use of anti-Semitic tropes, the fact that the Palestinian Authority names buildings, roads and the like after terrorists responsible for killing Jewish civilians in Israel can’t possibly be responsible for violence against anyone. Imams calling the Jewish people the offspring of “pigs and apes” during their sermons don’t really make anyone more likely to go out and start killing, apparently. The head of the Palestinian Authority argues that the random knifing of people in Israel is understandable, but his words are not the sort of words that seem to matter to many commentators. That Mein Kampf remains a perennial bestseller in the Palestinian territories and throughout the Muslim world is apparently not anything to be concerned about and couldn’t possibly have any influence on the chances of peace in the Middle East. That very large percentages of Muslims throughout the world question the reality of the Holocaust, or that their religious leaders regularly demand the death of Israelis could never influence anyone to commit acts of violence. The regular chants of “Death to Israel” or “Death to America” in Iran mean nothing; no one could possibly take them seriously.
Yes, words matter. Words can incite. But it’s not just the rather mild words used by people certain commentators don’t like and against whom they wish to score political points. There’s a difference between disagreeing with someone and inciting violence. All words matter.