Thursday, December 18, 2008

jewish reaction to mumbai

In an interesting piece that explores whether singling out the Jewish victims of the Mumbai attacks for special sympathy was justified, the Jewish Daily Forward takes the community to task for a sort of ethnocentrism in persecution.

The talking point for the article:

On December 5, just one week after terrorist atrocities left at least 180 dead in Mumbai, The Jewish Week of New York published a blistering editorial, consecrating the event as one more milestone in antisemitism.

“And so Mumbai joins Kishinev, Hebron, Berlin, Babi Yar, Maalot, Sbarro’s, Sderot (we could easily mention 150 other sites) to the annals of sudden infamy,” the editorial’s opening declared. Titled “Another Day in Infamy,” the piece mourned the six Jews killed in Mumbai’s Chabad outreach center during the attack and invoked the “more than 2,000 Jews killed by Islamic terrorists in the last decade alone.”

But as Larry Yudelson, a veteran journalist and observant Jew, wrote on his popular blog, Yudeline, “You wouldn’t know from this paragraph — or the eight that follow — that nearly 200 non-Jews were killed in the coordinated terror attacks, whose primary targets were foreigners in Mumbai. The official paper of the UJA-Federation of Greater New York treats them as unpersons.” It was, he wrote, “a particularly egregious example of the particularistic Jewish response.”

I'm not sure why, but India itself seemed to focus more on the handful of Jewish victims than its own dead in the immediate aftermath of the tragedy. Maybe it was the cute kid whose parents were both killed. Maybe it was that they thought it needed to be "sold" to the international community that this wasn't just another spat over Kashmir. But to my mind the idea that the attackers targeted foreigners and Jews was oversold.

I preferred Fareed Zakaria's statement, reproduced below from a Newsweek Q&A:

NEWSWEEK: The events on the ground are unfolding rapidly. But knowing the country as well as you do, what strikes you about the reports we've heard so far?
FAREED ZAKARIA: I think one of the misconceptions we're seeing so far is the assumption that these attacks were aimed primarily at foreigners. Look at their targets. The two hotels they attacked—the Taj and the Oberoi—are old, iconic Indian hotels. It used to be true that these places were affordable only by Westerners. But this is no longer true, and it's one of the big changes over the last ten years in India. The five-star hotels today are filled with Indians. Businessmen, wedding receptions, parties…these are real meeting places now, and even those who cannot afford to stay there often pass through the lobby.

So you think if the aim was to hit Americans, Brits or other Westerners, there would be more target-rich environments?
Absolutely. There's a Marriott, and a Hilton, a Four Seasons….The big American chains all have hotels there, and there are many more distinctly American targets. The Taj and the Oberoi are owned by Indians. My guess is that there will be a lot of Indians involved, and that this will generate a lot of domestic outrage.

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