On July 22, the Philadelphia Inquirer published an unsigned editorial that, with unabashed moral equivalency, obscures the differences between Israel and its neighbors in terms of hate education, and erases the asymmetry between Israel and Hezbollah.
According to the newspaper, a pair of photographs from Israel and Lebanon prove that children on both sides are taught to hate. One photo is of an Israeli girl writing on an artillery shell. (Although the Inquirer states as fact that the Israeli girl wrote “To Nasrallah, from Israel with love,” it is not clear if she wrote that particular message. The girl may have just been drawing an Israeli flag on the shell.) The other photo is of a Lebanese mother and her newborn son whom she named after a Hezbollah missile.
For years, the Inquirer‘s editorial writers have ignored rampant and well documented incitement against Jews and Israel by Palestinians and the Arab world. When a Palestinian preacher described the Jews as a “cancer” and a “virus” on Palestinian television, the Inquirer had nothing to say. Nor did the newspaper weigh in about young Palestinian boys being taught in summer school “not only that it is good to kill, but also that it is good to die,” or about how “hatred of Israelis is part of [the] kindergarten lesson plan” for some Palestinian children. Anti-Semitism and hatred in Palestinian textbooks also never seemed to concern the Inquirer.
Only when Arab incitement can be presented alongside supposed Israeli “hatred,” does the Inquirer suddenly rise in protest.
What does the newspaper feel “should disturb anyone who shivers and sobs at all of the fighting in the world?” Young Israeli girls who, according to the newspaper, wrote on an Israeli shell a note to the terrorist leader who preaches the destruction of Israel, a man who has said about the Jews that “If they all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide” (Daily Star [Lebanon], 10/23/02).
Moreover, the newspaper suggests that this note to Nasrallah is as disturbing as a Lebanese newborn being named after a missile whose sole intent is to kill Jews. (When a Hezbollah missile inadvertently killed two Israeli Muslim children, Nasrallah expressed his condolences and described them as “martyrs for the Palestinian cause.”)
It is possible that the Israeli girls wanted Nasrallah, the man who wants them and their homeland destroyed, to die himself. But the message did not refer to the Lebanese people, just to the Hezbollah terrorist leader. (Would the Inquirer, shortly after the 9/11 attacks, have been similarly disturbed had a young American child written a note for Osama bin Laden on an American artillery shell?) Regardless of whether one thinks the girls’ inscribing a note on a missile shell at a time when they and their families are being subjected to rocket attacks is disturbing or inappropriate, this isolated incident is no way the same as a Lebanese newborn who will apparently be raised, along with thousands of others, with Nasrallah’s hateful and violent values. (Another photo of newborn Raad shows him being held alongside a poster of Nasrallah. Interestingly, the Inquirer chose not to publish this photo.)
The main shortcoming of the editorial, entitled “When we teach our children to hate,” is that it presents Israeli and Arab societies as equally teaching hate, when in fact there is no such equality. Inculcation of hatred toward Jews and Israel is a governmentally-supported practice in many Arab states. Likewise anti-Semitism and calls to violence against Jews are a core teaching of groups such as Hezbollah. In Israel, the contrary is true. There is no state-sponsored incitement against Arabs. Indeed, such incitement is a punishable offense. The Kach organization, for instance, was banned for promoting hatred. This distinction is undeniable and obvious and the Inquirer‘s seizing on the photo of Israeli girls autographing a missile shell to draw spurious comparisons is deceptive and irresponsible.
The editorial also falls short on other counts. According to the newspaper, both Israeli shells and Lebanese missiles are being used to kill civilians. But unlike the Lebanese missiles, Israeli shells do not target civilians, even if they do sometimes hit them. “The future dims if the young believe that victims of venom are less than human,” the editorial notes. But while the Israeli civilians who have been killed in the conflict are indeed victims of Hezbollah’s overt venom, the Lebanese civilians are unintended casualties, collateral damage in a war started by Hezbollah.