Once again, the BBC’s policy about using the word “terror” is markedly different than when Jews are killed by Islamists in a French kosher supermarket or in synagogues in Jerusalem, when the BBC avoids it. See item 2 below after the contents. (With thanks to JS for the screen shots.)
* Bari Weiss, Wall Street Journal: “On Friday my phone was blowing up with messages, asking if I’d seen the news. Some expressed disbelief at the headlines. Many said they were crying. None of them were talking about the dozens of people gunned down in Tunisia, France, and Kuwait… They were talking about the only news that mattered: gay marriage. Unlike President Obama, I have always been a staunch supporter of gay marriage, and I cheered the Supreme Court’s ruling making gay marriage legal in all 50 states. But as happy as I was, I was equally upset on Friday – and not just with the Islamists who carried out those savage attacks [but by the] moral relativism [of my friends]… You can’t get married if you’re dead.”
* Whoops: In this clip, a CNN anchor and editor fail to recognize that what they have identified as an “ISIS flag” in a gay rally is actually a flag of sex toys.
* Please “like” these dispatches on Facebook here www.facebook.com/TomGrossMedia, where you can also find other items that are not in these dispatches.
1. Jihadi against jihadi, as ISIS behead al-Qaeda
2. The BBC’s hypocrisy over terrorism
3. “Liking” the Tunisia attack on YouTube
4. The Guardian writes of a “massacre,” a “slaughter,” and of “terrorism”
5. Jihadi accused of French beheading, previously arrested for assaulting Jewish teen
6. French beheading suspect sent “selfie” with severed head, to Canadian contact
7. Vigil for beheading victim
8. Meanwhile activists in the West are targeting… Israel
9. “Love Among the Ruins” (By Bari Weiss, Wall Street Journal, June 27, 2015)
10. “After Tunisia, Kuwait and France we should not be afraid to call evil by its name” (By Jonathan Freedland, The Guardian, June 27, 2015)
[Notes below by Tom Gross]
JIHADI AGAINST JIHADI, AS ISIS BEHEAD AL-QAEDA
A new video released on Friday by Islamic State in Syria shows the brutal beheading of 12 men accused of fighting for the terror group’s Al Qaeda and Jaish al-Islam rivals.
12 masked executioners line up behind 12 kneeling victims, paraded in front of the camera and are beheaded one by one in a sequence that takes several minutes on the film, after “confessing” to the crime of failing to declare allegiance to the Islamic State.
According to ISIS, the executions took place close to the Syrian capital Damascus.
As with other similar videos, the victims are forced to wear brightly-colored orange jumpsuits. The video, which I won’t link to because it is too grizzly and the victims’ screams too awful, is again made in a slick, high-tech way and professionally edited. As I have written before, it is likely that those editing these ISIS videos have prior professional video editing experience, possibly in the West. There are Hollywood-style graphics at the start of the film.
Those killed are clean-shaven. This is unusual for jihadis. It is likely to have been done to them as an additional way to humiliate them before their deaths.
THE BBC’S HYPOCRISY OVER TERRORISM
The BBC -- which refused to call the Jihadist massacre at the French kosher supermarket in January, in which shoppers were executed, “terrorism” -- had no problem calling Friday’s Jihadist attack on the French gas station, in which only one person died, terrorism.
The BBC -- which refused to call the Jihadist massacre of 31 guests at a hotel in Netanya (including Auschwitz survivors, during a Passover meal) terrorism, even when it refers back to it now -- had no problem calling the Jihadist massacre of guests at a hotel in Tunisia terrorism.
The BBC -- which refused to call the massacre of worshippers in synagogues terrorism (for example, those cut to bits by terrorists in the Jerusalem synagogue in November) -- had no problem calling the attack on a Shia mosque in Kuwait on Friday, in which 27 died, terrorism.
Nor is it a question, for the BBC, of whether the victims are British citizens. In the Jerusalem synagogue, as in Tunisia, British citizens were among the victims.
The BBC’s “Editorial Guidelines on Language when Reporting Terrorism” read:
“Our policy is about achieving consistency and accuracy in our journalism… We need to ensure that when we report acts of terror, we do so consistently… The value judgements frequently implicit in the use of the words ‘terrorist’ or ‘terrorist group’ can create inconsistency in their use or, to audiences, raise doubts about our impartiality.”
* Tom Gross adds: I don’t think many have too much doubt at this point about the impartiality of the BBC, which happily forces all TV viewers in the UK to pay for the BBC whether they watch it or not, and as a result is under a British legal requirement to be impartial, but fails time and again, especially if the victims are Jews, or cartoonists.
As The Independent newspaper in London reported in January:
“The Islamists who committed the Charlie Hebdo massacre in Paris should be not be described as “terrorists” by the BBC, a senior executive at the corporation has said.”
* Among my previous articles on this subject:
“LIKING” THE TUNISIA ATTACK ON YOUTUBE
Many Arabic-speakers appear to approve of Friday’s Tunisia terrorist attack, as you can see from the “likes” awarded to this video, which refers to the massacre on the hotel beach as a “party”.
The Tunisian gunman who opened fire on tourists was a local “break-dancing star” and a fan of Real Madrid soccer team, according to press reports.
Among those murdered in Friday’s attack in Tunisia were persons from Britain, Germany, Ukraine, Russia, Belgium and Tunisia.
THE GUARDIAN WRITES OF A “MASSACRE,” A “SLAUGHTER,” AND OF “TERRORISM”
Like the BBC, the Guardian, the influential British newspaper with a sizeable worldwide online readership, almost always refuses to call attacks on Israelis, whether Olympic athletes or holiday makers, whether carried out in Munich, Bulgaria, or elsewhere, “terrorism”.
Yet the first sentence of its lead front page story in this weekend’s international print edition (published yesterday) uses the word “terrorist”. Its page 1 headline starts with the word “Massacre”. Its lead story on page 3 starts with the words “The slaughter”.
To its credit, The Guardian is one of the few papers that did bother to report on the massacre of over 150 Kurdish and other civilians in Kobani on Friday (albeit in a small item on page 26 of its international edition). (* Tom Gross adds: By last night the death toll in Kobani had risen to at least 206 civilians, including many women and children, but by this morning Kurdish forces pushed ISIS out of the town. Entire families have been wiped out, according to AFP.)
Also, The Guardian’s award winning columnist Jonathan Freedland, who is a subscriber to this list, does refer in his column this weekend to the “snuff movie” reported on in this dispatch last week. So do several other journalist subscribers to this list, for example, Bari Weiss writing in The Wall Street Journal yesterday. (I attach the columns of both Jonathan Freedland and Bari Weiss at the end of this dispatch.)
JIHADI ACCUSED OF FRENCH BEHEADING, PREVIOUSLY ARRESTED FOR ASSAULTING JEWISH TEEN
Yassin Salhi, the French Jihadi arrested for carrying out a terror attack at a French industrial gas factory near Lyon on Friday, was arrested for an anti-Semitic attack on a Jewish teenager in 2012, reports the Associated Press.
Salhi, 35, a married father of three, beat up a random Jewish teenager and screamed anti-Semitic abuse at him while they were traveling on a train from Toulouse to Lyon.
I reported on that attack in passing in 2012. The reason I mention it now is because perhaps if the law enforcement authorities (and the media) took more seriously anti-Semitic attacks by Islamists, they might nip in the bud later, often worse attacks on non-Jews.
On Friday, Salhi decapitated his 54-year-old boss at the delivery company for which he worked. His “head was hung onto the fence surrounded by two Islamic flags bearing the Shahada, the profession of the Muslim faith,” French prosecutor Francois Molins said.
The director of the gas plant which was attacked is a Shia Muslim or Iranian origin called Seifi Ghasemi, reports the Daily Telegraph.
(At the end of item 13 in this dispatch in April, there is a short clip of the chief rabbi of Lyon explaining how he gets death threats on a regular basis.)
FRENCH BEHEADING SUSPECT SENT “SELFIE” WITH SEVERED HEAD, TO CANADIAN CONTACT
Yassin Salhi, the French Jihadi accused of decapitating his boss and pinning his head to the gates of a gas factory in France on Friday sent a “selfie” photograph with the severed head, French investigators said yesterday.
The “selfie” picture was sent via the WhatsApp messaging system to a number in Canada, investigators said.
When the Islamic State has beheaded prisoners in Syria, Nigeria and elsewhere, it has photographed and displayed their heads on the Internet to inspire others to do the same.
VIGIL FOR BEHEADING VICTIM
Yesterday, hundreds of people turned out in a vigil to honor slain French beheading victim Herve Cornara. A minute’s silence was held in Saint-Quentin-Fallavier, the town southeast of Lyon where Friday’s attack took place.
Several hundred people gathered outside a housing project in the town of Fontaines-sur-Saone where Cornara, 54, lived. Cornara was the manager of a transportation company that had employed Salhi since March. Agence France Presse (AFP) reports that those gathered said he was “a kind, humble man who was active in the community of the Lyon suburb”.
“He lived on the fifth floor, me on the fourth,” said Leila Bouri, a 24-year-old cafe cashier and French Muslim. “He spoke with all the young people in the neighborhood. He didn’t differentiate between Muslims and non-Muslims. He was friendly to us all.”
MEANWHILE ACTIVISTS IN THE WEST ARE TARGETING… ISRAEL
Hamas are an integral part of the worldwide Sunni Islamist extremist movement. Never mind what they have done to the Jews, what they have done to many fellow Palestinians is hardly any better than what ISIS has done to its victims: dragging them at high speed through the streets of Gaza chained to the backs motorcycles until their skin rips apart, pushing doctors to their deaths off Gaza high-rises, and so on.
The latest pro-Hamas flotilla is on is way, funded by many western well-wishers, and receiving grants form NGOs which themselves are funded by European governments, including the French government.
This Hamas newspaper says “Almost 1,000 participants from 25 countries around the world, including parliamentarians and Tunisia's ex-president, will be on the deck.”
I attach two articles below.
-- Tom Gross
YOU CAN’T GET MARRIED IF YOU’RE DEAD
Love Among the Ruins
* Hurrah for gay marriage. But why do supporters save their vitriol for its foes instead of the barbarians at our gates?
By Bari Weiss
Wall Street Journal
June 27, 2015
On Friday my phone was blowing up with messages, asking if I’d seen the news. Some expressed disbelief at the headlines. Many said they were crying.
None of them were talking about the dozens of people gunned down in Sousse, Tunisia, by a man who, dressed as a tourist, had hidden his Kalashnikov inside a beach umbrella. Not one was crying over the beheading in a terrorist attack at a chemical factory near Lyon, France. The victim’s head was found on a pike near the factory, his body covered with Arabic inscriptions. And no Facebook friends mentioned the first suicide bombing in Kuwait in more than two decades, in which 27 people were murdered in one of the oldest Shiite mosques in the country.
They were talking about the only news that mattered: gay marriage.
Unlike President Obama, I have always been a staunch supporter of gay marriage, and I cheered the Supreme Court’s ruling making gay marriage legal in all 50 states. But as happy as I was, I was equally upset on Friday—and not just with the Islamists who carried out those savage attacks.
Moral relativism has become its own, perverse form of nativism among those who stake their identity on being universalist and progressive.
How else to explain the lack of outrage for the innocents murdered on the beach, while vitriol is heaped on those who express any shred of doubt about the Supreme Court ruling? How else to make sense of the legions of social-justice activists here at home who have nothing to say about countries where justice means flogging, beheading or stoning?
How else to understand those who have dedicated their lives to creating safe spaces for transgender people, yet issue no news releases about gender apartheid in an entire region of the world? How else to justify that at the gay-pride celebrations this weekend in Manhattan there is unlikely to be much mention of the gay men recently thrown off buildings in Syria and Iraq, their still-warm bodies desecrated by mobs?
It is increasingly eerie to live in this split-screen age. Earlier this week I received an email from a progressive Jewish organization about how Judaism teaches “that the preservation of human dignity is important enough to justify overriding our sacred mitzvot.” The rest of the email was about respecting dignity by using preferred gender pronouns.
On my other computer screen, I looked at a photograph of five men in orange jumpsuits, their legs bound. They were trapped like dogs inside a metal cage and hanging above a pool of water. They were drawing their final breaths before their Islamic State captors lowered the cage into the pool and they drowned together.
What was that about human dignity?
The barbarians are at our gates. But inside our offices, schools, churches, synagogues and homes, we are posting photos of rainbows on Twitter. It’s easier to Photoshop images of Justice Scalia as Voldemort than it is to stare evil in the face.
You can’t get married if you’re dead.
FROM BELSEN TO ISIS: YOU CAN’T EXPLAIN THIS BY POLITICS/IDEOLOGY ALONE
After Tunisia, Kuwait and France we should not be afraid to call evil by its name
* The sheer sadism of Islamic State cannot be explained by politics alone. It comes from something deeper and darker
By Jonathan Freedland
June 27, 2015
In France, in Tunisia, in Kuwait – horror upon horror, in a single day. It played out like some kind of gruesome auction, each atrocity bidding against the others for our appalled attention. The opening offer came near Lyon, where a factory was attacked and, more shocking, a severed head was found on top of a gate, and a decapitated body nearby. The French president said the corpse had been inscribed with a message.
From the Tunisian resort of Sousse, holidaymakers tweeted terrified pictures from their barricaded hotel rooms, describing how they had fled from the beach after sounds they had assumed were a daytime fireworks display turned out to be the opening gunshots of a massacre. From Kuwait City, as if to top the rival bids, a suicide bomber walked into a mosque packed with 2,000 people and pressed the button that he hoped would send scores to their deaths.
Each of these acts pulled our gaze from the event its perpetrators had surely hoped would trump all others. On Tuesday an Isis video – “snuff movie” would be the more accurate term – showed five Muslim men, each wearing a Guantánamo-style red jumpsuit, packed into a cage and lowered into a swimming pool. State-of-the-art underwater cameras recorded the men’s dying minutes, the thrashing and flailing as they drowned. (I rely here on reports: my small stance against the so-called Islamic State’s propaganda war is to refuse to watch its propaganda.)
What are we to make of these events? What are we to do with what we have witnessed? Experts will look for connections, for common authorship. There will be claims of responsibility. Islamic State has already sought credit for the deaths in Kuwait. There will be analysis aplenty of IS’s position, of the global response, of the nature of contemporary terrorism.
But a simpler thing connects these horrendous incidents. A clue to it came in a quieter moment, one all but lost in the calamity and grief of this bloody Friday. The Queen visited Bergen-Belsen, a Nazi concentration camp liberated 70 years ago, where unspeakable brutality reigned and where 50,000 lost their lives.
Within months of the war’s end in 1945, the political theorist Hannah Arendt wrote: “The problem of evil will be the fundamental question of postwar intellectual life in Europe.” She meant that after the Holocaust – when Europeans had seen what they were capable of – the dominant concern would be understanding how such horror had been possible. As it happened, that contemplation of the Holocaust did not come straight away, and it did not come everywhere. But it did come.
In the process, “the problem of evil” became shorthand for a particular challenge to people of faith: how can one believe in a benevolent, all-powerful God when the world contains such wickedness? The Nazi murder of 6 million Jews, including more than a million children, almost became a point of theology, a standing rebuttal to the possibility of a good God.
But what we saw today confirms that “the problem of evil” is not a historical question. It is a problem of now. And nor does it challenge only religious believers. It surely vexes all of us, as we contemplate a world where such cruelty can happen – whether it was worshippers gunned down in Charleston last week or blown apart in Kuwait today.
I know there are coherent, substantial explanations for all these events. Historical legacies, geopolitical forces, local factors: they are all relevant, but they only go so far. They do not reach the heart of the matter: how is such horror possible?
Take the example of the underwater drowning, so carefully staged and slickly filmed. Anti-Shia sectarianism might explain the killers’ hatred and therefore their motive. The 2003 invasion of Iraq helps explain the killers’ capacity, their ability to wreak such violence: they are only able to rule in Nineveh because US-led forces destroyed the Iraqi state. But that doesn’t explain the sheer sadism on show, the ability of one human being to inflict not just death but such a painful, humiliating death on another.
One option is not to regard it as puzzling at all. Recall the character in Woody Allen’s movie Hannah and Her Sisters, whose response to Arendt’s problem of evil was to say that people who ask how the Holocaust happened are asking the wrong question. “Given what people are, the question is, ‘Why doesn’t it happen more often?’”
The crucial phrase there is “given what people are”. Such a stance rests on a bleak view of human nature. If we believe that people are innately savage creatures who delight in each other’s pain, then it is no surprise the young men of Isis will try to pile one atrocity upon another – torching a man in a cage, executing children, forcing a child to shoot dead an adult – turning sadism into a competitive sport.
But if we have a different view of human beings and their capacity for love and empathy, then the problem of evil persists. We can fall back on psychology, suggesting or even hoping that the men behind today’s horrors were simply unhinged, damaged individuals, no different in kind from Nicholas Salvador, who was committed indefinitely to a secure psychiatric hospital this week, for his beheading of Palmira Silva, an 82-year-old north London grandmother.
Or, if we decide the killers are sane, we can look to the psychology of groups. We can remind ourselves of the post-Holocaust work of Stanley Milgram whose experiments on obedience demonstrated a human willingness to inflict great pain, just so long as one was following the instructions of a trusted authority.
We might turn to those at the cutting edge of “philosophy of mind”, who argue that the self is a collection of fragmented character traits. “In a unified self, it all fits into a coherent whole,” Professor Quassim Cassam of Warwick University explained to me. “But in others, the self is made up of different fragments which are not coherent.” Such people can compartmentalise, complying with human norms in one part of their lives while violating them in another.
A simpler explanation is that the butchers of Islamic State are following an age-old military tactic, one that would have been recognised by Genghis Khan and Attila the Hun: terrify the enemy. Isis drowned those men to make us tremble.
It works too. Holidaymakers will abandon Sousse, at least for a while. But while these crimes sow fear, they also prompt revulsion. And that revulsion is shared. I spoke yesterday with Usama Hasan, an Islamic scholar and one-time jihadist. He spoke of his “disgust” at the evils committed this week, noting how alien they were to Islamic scripture which forbids, for example, the desecration of a corpse.
He said that a battle was under way for civilisation, one that should unite the great societies and religions of the world – Christianity, Islam, Hinduism, Judaism and more – against the vicious death cult that is violent jihadism. It would be a nonsense to speak of such a struggle as a war against evil. A war like that could never be won. Evil is within us and it is, apparently, perennial. But we must not be afraid to name it for what it truly is.