I got an email this weekend from Daniel Pearl’s parents, who are publishing a book called “I am Jewish,” after the Wall Street Journal reporter’s last words before being executed in Pakistan.
The idea is to get a bunch of writers and thinkers to reflect on this phrase, and what it means to be Jewish. They’re hoping that a diverse set of responses will allow some underlying commonality – and pride – to shine through.
It’s hard to know exactly how to respond. The effort, like the Daniel Pearl Foundation, is a way of transforming a heinous moment into the catalyst for positive thought, unity, and pride. But it’s hard for me to use the ‘rebound effect’ in this way. The “I am Jewish” that Pearl was forced to recite had nothing to do with being Jewish – except in that this word and supposed bloodline was something hated by the people who killed him. Of course, there are no Jews in Pakistan, so the hatred had to do with something else. Some idea about Israel or zionism. Most likely an imported form of anti-Semitism.
But how does one approach these words, “I am Jewish,” when they come in this context? How do they become a source of pride? Is tying this senseless murder to some sort of Jewish pride like turning the destruction of the Shoah (holocaust) into a righteous sacrifice?
Why should a collection of this sort by the parents of a murdered person cause me concern? Have I grown paranoid, or is there something amiss in this transition from bloodshed to inspiring reflection?