Pearl video still painful, but also enlightening

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 28, 2002

I didn’t know Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. But in death, he taught me something.

First, a little background. Pearl was kidnapped in Pakistan. Weeks later, he was killed in February.

He was a relatively young reporter looking for a story, seeking a better understanding of our world. He wasn’t hurting anything, but he was in a dark region, with two strikes against him.

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His first strike was one that many of us also share. He was American.

His second strike was that he was Jewish.

For those reasons, he was hated by the Islamic extremists, hated enough for them to kidnap him, use him for political purposes and brutality kill him.

To me, he was yet another of the long stream of journalists, missionaries and aid workers who are thrust into the spotlight when they become victim to someone else’s war.

His only crime was being different than his captors.

Yet even in death, Pearl remained a political tool.

The terrorists released a video showing a clip of Pearl being decapitated.

Obviously, the video was an immediate controversy. The FBI cried foul, lots of people fussed about the brutality of it.

Beyond a passing interest in the culmination of the Pearl’s kidnapping, I paid little attention to the video until last week. I read an article about a newspaper publisher who saw the video and became greatly affected by it.

After reading his story, I did some searching on the Internet and watched the video.

The video has circulated about the Internet. It was intended as propaganda for the terrorists.

Although the gruesome portion only takes up a few brief moments, its impact resonates long after.

My first reaction was simply disgust and anger.

&uot;How could one human being do this to another,&uot; I thought.

Then, after a bit of reflection, my reaction changed to one of confusion, almost a search for understanding. The search was not of trying to understand one criminal’s behavior, but how a group of people can become so affected by their beliefs and values that killing is justifiable.

I fear many Americans who see the video would want to &uot;nuke ’em all&uot; after seeing the horror.

But I don’t think such thinking is the answer.

These people have fought wars and dealt with cultural strife for decades upon decades.

We cannot begin to understand their anger, hatred and bitterness.

Don’t get me wrong; I am not a pacifist.

And the propaganda message in the video made clear that violence would continue. A list of demands scroll past in Arabic and translated in English.

Following the demands, a direct threat is given:

&uot;And if our demands are not met, this seen shall be repeated again and again.&uot;

No doubt, they meant the threat. And no doubt the threat is enough to create hatred among Americans.

Perhaps, we should all be more like Daniel Pearl and seek to understand the world better, rather than try to force that world to fit into our beliefs.

Kevin Cooper is editor of The Natchez Democrat. He can be reached at 445-3541 or by e-mail to