Right From Wrong: The dangers of distinction

"Most people know nothing, and care less, about the goings-on in West Africa."

A girl rubs her eye beside her father in an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp, that was set up for Nigerians fleeing the violence committed against them by Boko Haram militants (photo credit: REUTERS)
A girl rubs her eye beside her father in an internally displaced persons (IDP) camp, that was set up for Nigerians fleeing the violence committed against them by Boko Haram militants
(photo credit: REUTERS)
On Wednesday, Boko Haram hit the top of the Global Terrorism Index. The Nigerian organization, which recently aligned itself with Islamic State (IS), earned this distinction for having slaughtered 20,000 people, and causing more than two million others to flee their homes, over the past six years.
The reason this fact has elicited barely a yawn among anyone other than a handful of reporters is because most people know nothing, and care less, about the goings-on in West Africa.
Bleeding-heart Westerners occasionally make a fuss about that area when raising funds for the war on AIDS, but where Islamic barbarism is concerned, no outrage is heard, in spite of the ongoing mass murder taking place in plain sight. The attack in Mali on Saturday also would have been ignored if the luxury hotel where it took place had not been filled with foreign businessmen and airline personnel.
The same goes for Syria. For decades, huge numbers of men, women and children have been tortured, shot, bombed and poisoned by the regimes of Bashar Assad and his father, Hafez, before him. Yet it is only the plight of and fight over the refugees that has caused a stir – and political battles in the West that follow ideological lines.
In contrast, when Paris suffered last Friday night what is being called “France’s 9/11,” the outcry from every corner of the world was swift and loud, even among state sponsors of terrorism bent on subjugating the West.
Discrimination in the realm of victimhood is nothing new. There is less public horror in the face of drug-related murders, for example, or the serial killing of homeless people, than in a single home invasion of a middle- class family.
In the global context, too, distinguishing between different types of victims is rampant. In most cases, it is based on ignorance. In others, racism is at its root. But a particularly common phenomenon involves a psychological defense mechanism that provides solace in the “knowledge” of being members of a protected species.
On the eve of the Holocaust, even many Jews fantasized that their allegiance to Germany, rejection of Judaism and Aryan looks made them immune to the wrath of the Third Reich. Today, much of the West imagines that its sympathy for Muslims will serve as a shield against radical Islam, and don political correctness as though it were a flak jacket.
True ideologues, like US President Barack Obama, take this a step further, believing that jihadist bullies can be coaxed out of their nuclear ambitions and suicide belts through negotiations and memoranda of understanding.
Herein lies the rude awakening the French experienced last weekend.
In spite of the writing on the wall, put there by Muslims who refused to integrate into the society that welcomed them with open arms, they were stunned not only by the magnitude of the carnage – and not only by the ease with which the perpetrators were able to operate – but by the fact that the victims were not targeted for being Jews or for poking fun at Muhammad. They were just a lot of regular people out on the town, enjoying rock music, exquisite cuisine and good wine. Even the soccer game that night was a friendly exhibition match.
In other words, minding their own business, having a liberal attitude and being gentiles (or not visibly Jewish) did not keep any of them safe from IS terrorism.
One can hardly blame Parisians for not grasping this fact, which Islamists keep reiterating in word and deed, when a large swath of the Israeli populace still doesn’t get it. Indeed, as a Western country in every respect other than its neighborhood, the Jewish state is prone to searching for solutions to Islamic terrorism that presuppose a set of falsehoods. And the Palestinian Authority is happy to oblige.
The current surge in terrorism, characterized by so-called “lone wolves” with kitchen knives, is a perfect case in point. The PA leadership has been encouraging a clever strategy that has been circulating on social media.
Telling one another to go out and stab, shoot or run over Orthodox Jews, settlers and Israelis in uniform, the Facebook generation is helping PA President Mahmoud Abbas perpetuate the international and internal Israeli myth that certain victims are more deserving of their fate than others.
If a soldier is wounded, the unprovoked attack looks like a military confrontation between a big, bad IDF officer and a child. When a settler is killed, it can be chalked up to his living “illegally” in the “West Bank.”
Visibly Orthodox victims also appear to be a “fringe” group, nothing like secular Israelis frequenting non-kosher cafes.
This is what the two terrorist attacks in Israel on Thursday – which left five people dead, among them a Palestinian who happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time – had in common. Though the first one took place in secular Tel Aviv, the terrorist went straight to a makeshift synagogue during minha (midday) prayers, attacking men in kippas. The second was carried out near Jewish settlements in Hebron.
Unlike the PA, which garners global sympathy and money by having what it claims is a justifiable grievance against the Jewish state – IS boasts about wanting to annihilate all “infidels” for their heresy.
It is bad enough that a distinction is made between victims of Islamic terrorism, whoever and wherever they are. But it is downright deadly to differentiate between its perpetrators, because they sure don’t pay anyone else the same courtesy.
The writer is the web editor of The Algemeiner (algemeiner.com) and a columnist at Israel Hayom.