Ten years ago this week, Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, a young, successful, handsome man, was kidnapped and slaughtered by Islamic terrorists in Pakistan. His offense was being a Jew.
In the moments before Pearl was killed at the age of 38, he was videotaped saying bravely: “My father is Jewish, my mother is Jewish, I am Jewish.” In another segment Daniel said, “My family on my father’s side is Zionist.” In the third statement, he said, “My family follows Judaism. Back in the town of Bnei Brak there is a street named after my great-grandfather, Chaim Pearl, who was one of the founders of the town.”
Ten years after the murder, Daniel’s parents, Judea and Ruth Pearl, continue to speak about the pride Daniel took in their heritage, and they see him as a shining example of the best in the Jewish tradition. But the barbarous murder of this American Jew, who was married to a beautiful, young French wife and expecting his first child, Adam, didn’t awaken global public opinion to the most significant truth of our times: Today, every Jew in the world is on the frontlines of war.
Daniel is a modern-day Jewish hero, one whose valor shines brightly for the entire world to see. His words serve as a reminder of Jewish courage and pride. Daniel’s face resembles that of missing Airman Ron Arad, another youthful face that is both the love and nightmare of the Jewish State. We have a few photos of his emaciated and dying body, and a short clip in which Ron says: “I am an Israeli soldier.”
Pearl’s proud face resembles that of another Israeli, Nissim Toledano, whose 20th death anniversary we will probably be forgotten this year. Indeed, very few people today remember Nissim. He was an Israeli border policeman murdered by the Hamas terrorists who abducted him. It was not a declaration of war against “occupation.” It was an act of war against the Jews: The murder of an Israeli, inside Israel, because he is a Jew and an Israeli.
Jewish, naïve and innocent
In the grimmest photo, Pearl has his head lowered, a chain around his wrists. A man with his face covered clutches Pearl by the hair, pointing a pistol at his temple. In another photo, his bare feet can be seen, a bit of the chain dangling from his oversized sweatpants.
Those bare feet reminded me of an Israeli boy named Ofir Rahum, who lived in Ashkelon. One day, he received a message on his computer from an older Palestinian girl who lived in Ramallah. Without telling anyone, Ofir put on his best clothes and took the first bus he could. The girl came to pick him up in Jerusalem. He didn’t even realize when the car entered Ramallah. It is difficult to describe what they did to him. He was Jewish, naïve and innocent.
Why has Ofir’s story never been showcased as an example of what ethnic-religious anti-Jewish hatred can do? We have to ask the same question about Daniel Pearl. Each and every one of us should pause for a minute and reflect on the very real hell Daniel, Ofir, Nissim and Ron went through.
Two other Israelis faced a similar hell on in October 2000, when they took the wrong turn and ended up in Ramallah, where they were lynched. The doctors were able to assign names to those pitiful bodies only through fingerprints and dental records. Like Daniel Pearl, one of the two Israeli reservists, Vadim Norzich, had just married Irina, who would soon give birth to his son.
All of these Jews were born into the post-Auschwitz era. Yet they were abducted and killed just because they were Jewish. That’s why although I have never met Daniel, I will always remember him.
Giulio Meotti, a journalist with Il Foglio, is the author of the book A New Shoah: The Untold Story of Israel's Victims of Terrorism