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The government at war is afraid that he can't be acclaimed as a lost American if it's known he died as a Jew.

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Pearl is seen in a January 30 picture taken by his captors.

Between God and the Devil: The Killing of Daniel Pearl

by Kelly Cogswell

MARCH 1, 2002. Turn on the TV any time in the last week, and you're sure to have caught lengthy, humanizing odes to Daniel Pearl, the American journalist kidnapped and brutally killed by Muslim extremists in Pakistan. He was a "just doing his job" Wall Street Journal bureau chief, father-to-be, amateur fiddler, and wit. Or perhaps you saw an outraged politico righteously demanding the immediate extradition of his kidnappers and murderers.

About the fact that Daniel Pearl was compelled to say, "My father is a Jew, my mother is a Jew, and I am a Jew," before his throat was slit, almost nothing. Just an embarrassed silence across the board.

Maybe the government at war is afraid that he can't be acclaimed as a lost American if it's known he died as a Jew. Maybe his family and friends think that if he didn't live as an observant Jew, acknowledging that he died as one somehow detracts from his 38 non-religious years. Maybe his colleagues believe that identity politics have gotten such a bad name in these post-political correctness days of 9/11 unity that any specificity of difference seems crass and unpatriotic, or simply passé.

Or maybe Jew is a word we still choke on and don't want tagged to our newest American hero. Danny Pearl was no dirty, money-grubbing, baby-eating, Christ- and Palestinian-killer. He was an everyday "just doing his job" kind of hero.

After all, Americans are a polite "don't ask, don't tell" kind of people. We ignore unpleasantness (unless it is politically profitable), and imagine it will go away like the exchange of corpses between Israel and Palestine. Besides, turn a blind eye to the Jew- and queer-baiting of our so-called allies like Pakistan and Egypt, whipping up frenzies of cynical bigotry via their autocratic politicians and crowd-controlling mullahs, and maybe the extremists will forget about us.

It's a disinformation campaign our Mr. Ashcroft could be proud of. A Gallup poll released Tuesday shows that in six predominantly Muslim countries only 18 percent believed Arabs carried out the 9/11 attacks in the United States. Many are told by their own governments, religious communities, and press that the attacks are a Jewish conspiracy to drive a wedge between the Muslim and Christian world, or sheer Jewish perversity.

Now, only the truth would be revolutionary. Saudi fanatics did it. Jews didn't.

So Israel's Palestinian policy stinks. Fine. America's big mouth big stick governments get on your nerves. I agree. Hating policies and history, even individual politicians, is reasonable. Hating whole peoples isn't. This new millennium already marked by killings is merely a sign of what Conrad called our miserable ingenuity. How we love to create Devils and Gods and bloody rivers of ways to get their almighty attention. What we turn away from, in both our enemies and ourselves, is the vast continuum of human frailty.

I'm beginning to believe the death of Daniel Pearl, like the attacks on the Twin Towers, is less an act of terrorism against American policy and people, than a kind of earthquake or hurricane, an "act of god." Not them against us, just Us. There is a vast flaw in our species, a failure of the human imagination, that deludes us into creating these monsters and Gods from mere humans, and destroying them in the mistaken belief we have achieved something.

In that credo of dying and killing words, "My father is a Jew, my mother is a Jew, and I am a Jew" is everything and nothing.

Related links:

For The Chosen One, a first-hand account of virulent anti-Semitism in Pakistan, and rare acknowledgement that journalist Daniel Pearl was killed for being a Jew.

For Muslims Doubt Arabs Mounted Sept. 11 Attacks, reporting on the recent Gallup poll.

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