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What Role Did WS Journal Have in Daniel Pearl's Death?

by Alexander Cockburn

Israeli citizenship only emerged after his death
Ironically, since his captors charged him with being an agent of the American Empire and of Zionism, Pearl was not afraid to file reports contradicting the claims of the State Department or the Pentagon or even of the mad dogs on the Journal's editorial pages, whose ravings fulfill on a weekly basis the most paranoid expectations of a Muslim fanatic.

The Wall Street Journal editorial page wrote, the day after news of Pearl's death was confirmed, that it showed "evil" was still stalking the world, "evil" being the current term of art for "awfulness beyond our comprehension." Now, these editorial writers have spent years writing urgent advisories to whatever U.S. president happens to be in power that the most extreme reactionary forces in Israel must be given unconditional backing. It would take any Islamic fanatic about 15 minutes in a clips library to demonstrate that if bombs are to be dropped on Palestinians, peace overtures shunned, just settlement rejected, then the Wall Street Journal's editorial page is on board.

Might it not have occurred to Pearl's editors, those who assigned him to South Asia, that the fact that he was an Israeli citizen might have put him in extra peril, given the fact that he was seeking to contact an extremely dangerous crowd of Muslim terrorists in Karachi? The fact of his citizenship only emerged after his death, in a report, Feb. 24, in the Israeli newspaper Ha'aretz, by Yossi Melman:

"Professor Yehuda Pearl, father of murdered Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl, has told Ha'aretz that he fears that making public his son's Israeli citizenship could adversely affect investigative efforts by Pakistani police to apprehend the killers and track down the murdered reporter's body. In a telephone conversation from his Los Angeles residence, Professor Pearl expressed regret and anger over the revelation by the Israeli media of his family's 'Israeli connection.' The U.S. media, which was aware of the information, complied with the family's request not to make it public." Then Melman concluded with this minor bombshell: "The American media was asked to comply with this request after information was obtained that confirmed reports that the 38-year-old reporter was dead."

This notwithstanding, it seems to me almost certain that those Pakistani terrorists would have killed any reporter for a U.S. news organization who had the ill fortune to seek an interview at that particular time. Robert Fisk, of the London Independent, who has made more effort than almost any western reporter to present the Muslim point of view, was nearly beaten to death by Afghans in a frontier town a few weeks ago. (The Wall Street Journal editorial page may now be having second thoughts about the headline with which it welcomed Fisk's near-fatal beating: "Hate-Me Crimes: A self-loathing multiculturalist gets his due.")

Fisk wrote in the wake of Pearl's murder about one reason why journalists are becoming more exposed to attack:

"When the Palestinians evacuated Beirut in 1982, I noticed that several French reporters were wearing Palestinian kuffiah scarves. Israeli reporters turned up in occupied southern Lebanon with pistols. Then in the 1991 Gulf War, American and British television reporters started dressing up in military costumes, appearing on screen -- complete with helmets and military camouflage fatigues -- as if they were members of the 82nd Airborne or the Hussars ... What on earth was CNN's Walter Rodgers doing in U.S. Marine costume at the American camp outside Kandahar? Mercifully, someone told him to take it off after his first broadcast. Then Geraldo Rivera of Fox News arrived in Jalalabad with a gun. He fully intended, he said, to kill Osama bin Laden. It was the last straw. The reporter had now become combatant.

"Can we do better? I think so. It's not that reporters in military costume -- Rodgers in his silly Marine helmet, Rivera clowning around with a gun, or even me in my gas cape a decade ago -- helped to kill Daniel Pearl. He was murdered by vicious men. But we are all of us -- dressing up in combatant's clothes or adopting the national dress of people -- helping to erode the shield of neutrality and decency, which saved our lives in the past. If we don't stop now, how can we protest when next our colleagues are seized by ruthless men who claim we are spies?"

Pearl's style was totally alien to the bloodthirsty rantings of his editorial colleagues. He sent excellent dispatches questioning the claims of the Clinton administration that it had been justified in the 1998 destruction via cruise missile of the El Shifa Pharmaceutical Industries plant in the Sudan. Again, he and fellow WSJ reporter Robert Block entered some effective reservations about allegations of Serbian genocide in Kosovo.

Leave the last, beautiful words to Daniel Pearl's widow:

"Revenge would be easy, but it is far more valuable in my opinion to address this problem of terrorism with enough honesty to question our own responsibility as nations and as individuals for the rise of terrorism. My own courage arises from two facts. One is that throughout this ordeal I have been surrounded by people of amazing value. This helps me trust that humanism ultimately will prevail.

"My other hope now -- in my seventh month of pregnancy -- is that I will be able to tell our son that his father carried the flag to end terrorism, raising an unprecedented demand among people from all countries not for revenge but for the values we all share: love, compassion, friendship and citizenship far transcending the so-called clash of civilizations."

© Creators Syndicate

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Albion Monitor February 28, 2002 (

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