The blame game

There’s a good reason many of us were quick to point to Muslims after the Boston Marathon bombings

Boston blast 370 (photo credit: REUTERS/Dan Lampariello)
Boston blast 370
(photo credit: REUTERS/Dan Lampariello)
When I was a kid in the late 1950s and early 1960s, anti-Semitism in the United States was well on the decline. Institutionally it already was nearing extinction, save for the odd country club or other private organization that openly or by way of reputation made it clear that Jews were not welcome.
Yet the memory of anti-Semitism – especially from a period when Jews as a whole were just finding their way in the US, and were subject to genteel quotas and outright hostility – was still palpable. It had been such a formative experience that my grandmother, who came to America as a little girl at the turn of the 20th century, would still, many decades later, lower her voice in public when the conversation turned to Jews or Judaism.
Just as memorable to me as a young boy would be the comment that almost inevitably came in Jewish households after someone unknown had done something heinous: “I hope it wasn’t a Jew.”
BEFORE THE smoke disappeared from the two bombs that went off at this year’s Boston Marathon, most of us were already speculating about who was to blame.
It’s only natural. If you do not have a loved one at or near the scene or are not actively involved in attending to the victims or worrying about damaged or destroyed property, your attention almost immediately moves on to the justice phase: identify, apprehend, try and punish. Someone should be made to pay.
The US, not to say the entire world, is no stranger to such outrages. The more memorable among them can, of course, be blamed on people acting in the name of extreme Islam. As such, the war Washington says it has been waging against terror has been aimed at nations or territories populated mostly or entirely by Muslims. While many believe this war is not being waged as determinedly as it could and should be, Washington certainly has been active, and Islamists say they not only will keep up the fight against the “infidels,” but will seek vengeance for the war itself.
However, in April 1995, a white, Christian American, a military veteran, detonated a truckload of high explosives below a US federal building in Oklahoma City, destroying the structure and killing 168 people and wounding some 800 others. This horrific attack came just two years after a truck bomb went off in a parking garage deep in the bowels of the World Trade Center’s North Tower. While that bomb failed to bring down the building, it did kill six and wound more than 1,000. The work of Islamists, it focused everybody’s attention in that direction and helped to forever weld the word terror to the term Islam.
So when the blame game began for Oklahoma City – which is to say even before anyone began picking through the rubble – lots of people started pointing the finger at Islam. I mean, who else does such things? Although charges were brought against Timothy McVeigh and an accomplice within days, the national mood in the immediate aftermath was such that numerous reports had then-US president Bill Clinton turning down an Israeli offer to send anti-terror experts so as not to further inflame anti-Muslim sentiments.
Oklahoma City threw a wrench into the works that has not been forgotten, so when the bombs went off in Boston on Marathon Monday, the speculation was measured, at least until Thursday evening, when the FBI, having had three days to cross-reference eyewitness accounts with footage from numerous surveillance cameras, released the images of two suspects.
We now had something to work with.
My own first impression was that the two individuals looked at least vaguely Middle Eastern. To judge from the comments of others, including the occasional commentator, I was not alone. It wasn’t until Friday, after a shootout left one of the suspects dead and subject to a background check, that the starkly different approaches to coverage taken by the two American cable news networks available in my living room became one of the more fascinating aspects of the whole thing.
With Chechnya and the story of two wars against Moscow by Muslim separatists now in the mix, the stultifying political correctness of MSNBC saw its commentators busting their buttons to curb “unnecessary speculation,” while the often horrifying political incorrectness of the Fox News Channel seemed to have it doing everything short of inserting the term “Muslim” into every second sentence.
These undeniable flavorings, in fact, continued well into this week. On Tuesday, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow was still busy steering the conversation away from anything Islam. And after Fox ran a story highlighting the fact that the dead suspect had known one of the three victims of a grisly murder committed on the 10th anniversary of 9/11 in the town next to where last week’s shootout took place, the anchor shook her head. “That date, September 11, keeps popping up in conjunction with this story,” she stated – although actually it had been popping up only in some of the more wild conjecture, much of it allowed to proliferate on Fox broadcasts.
As an aside, perhaps the most interesting thing I have yet taken away from the Boston Marathon bombings, though, is the plaintive statement attributed to Ramzan Kadyrov, the man Vladimir Putin set up in Chechnya after two brutal uprisings and two brutal campaigns of suppression.
“We are accustomed to everything that goes wrong in the world being associated with Chechens,” Kadyrov reportedly complained after it became known that the two Boston suspects had ties to Chechnya.
I guess we Israelis who go around bitching that the whole world hates us should now realize we’re not alone.
WHILE MY grandmother and Jews of her generation had no true reason to live in fear that their coreligionists would commit heinous crimes, Muslims living today in America and other Western nations do.
If they were worrying about blame that day in Boston it was primarily because they had yet – and have yet – to stand up en masse and loudly proclaim their abhorrence of Muslim acts of terror.
All too often, even those Muslims who unequivocally distance themselves from attacks or attempted attacks by fellow Muslims on Western targets come up short when the targets are Israelis. Were they to eliminate this distinction, things might be different.
But for the most part this has not happened, and I’m sure people have noticed. (It might help, too, if the world’s media stopped using the term “militant” and began using the term “terrorist” for attacks against Israelis, as they do in every other instance of terror.) Adherents of Islam must end the distinctions and excuses, as well as all the arguments based on moral equivalence. Terror is terror, whether it’s directed against marathon spectators in Boston or bus passengers in Tel Aviv. Muslims must learn this, for when it comes to blame, they have only themselves to blame. ■