A speech by Pilar Rahola at the Daniel Pearl Award, 07/10/2010
Dear friends, good morning.
Without doubt, he must be afraid. He faces the camera, but... where is his gaze aimed? Perhaps towards his family, his ancestral memory, his identity... or perhaps he is looking beyond, towards the broken future, the woman he loves, the son he will never know... His last words... “My name is Daniel Pearl. I am a Jewish American from Encino, California USA”. Today is February 1st, 2002, he is 38 years old and is about to be brutally murdered. “My father's Jewish, my mother's Jewish, I'm Jewish…” The Yemeni that will decapitate him will take almost two minutes to cut off his head. He will begin very slowly, under the ear, to reap the vocal chords and prevent the shout. “My family follows Judaism. We've made numerous family visits to Israel…” From this point on, the brutal narration of a murder whose details, masterly described by Bernard Henry-Levi, would horrify even Dante's own Inferno. The victim turned into a metaphor of the beauty of life. The assassin, symbol of the human being devoid of soul, of the defeat of humanity. Who has turned him into a monster? “Back in the town of Bnei Brak there is a street named after my great grandfather Chaim Pearl who is one of the founders of the town”. And all will be over. His hopes, his loves, his dreams... “My name is Daniel Pearl…” And the executioner will triumphantly display his cleft head before the camera, as a trophy.
Thank you. First of all thank you for this moving day, which commits me beyond doubt, beyond frailty and beyond fear. To be granted the award that bears the name of Daniel Pearl is more than an extraordinary honour, it is a duty. My name is Pilar Rahola, I was born in the old Sepharad, in Catalonia, from a Catholic family, I consider myself a left-winger and I am a journalist. But as a civil-rights fighter, and as a journalist who searches for reported truth, my name is also Daniel Pearl, I was born in Encino and I am Jewish. All those of us who love civilization, those of us who conceive the world under the values of modernity, are and will always be Daniel Pearl. Because beyond our ideological, religious or cultural differences, we are part of a civic inheritance which commits us to democracy. And they have declared war against that inheritance. Daniel Pearl's assassins do not only decapitate helpless victims, murder hundreds in the world's trains, or kill thousands in the cities' skyscrapers. Above all they try to behead the principles of freedom. Daniel Pearl's death, as do the deaths of all those who have fallen under the insanity of Islamic Fundamentalism, concerns us all, and not only for the sake of compassion. It concerns us for it is a bullet that is aimed at each one of us, regardless of our origin. Every woman that breathes with her own lungs and conquests her future, every man who loves culture and progress, every child who is educated to be tolerant and free, every God which doesn't hate but rather loves, every one of them has a bullet with their name written on it. We are faced with a new totalitarianism, natural heir to Stalinism and Nazism, as horrendous as both of them, and perhaps more lethal. The question now is, as it always was: are we doing the right thing to defend ourselves?
I am only a labourer of ideas, and it is not up to me to define the intelligence strategies that fight this ideology. Yet I uphold my critical spirit regarding many political and military decisions , and I do not always like our leaders, nor their actions. However, it is also true that the Islamofascist ideology has left us baffled and frightened, and has shown our weaknesses. Today, free societies are technologically more advanced, militarily stronger, and are more intercommunicated. But our enemy is also stronger than ever. It is the Global Jihad, with the brain and heart in the 8th century, but connected by satellite with 21st century technology. Look at Iran, how it has laughed at the world and moves on, inexorably, towards the fearful nuclear domination. An Islamic Hitler with a nuclear bomb. Who can or wants to stop him? A useless UN, incapable of reacting, beyond rhetoric and bureaucracy? Poor Eleanor Roosevelt, should she wake up and see into what has become her dream of the League of Nations! Can Europe stop it, trapped in its economic ambitions, its infighting and its political incapacity? If the UN doesn't know what is its rôle in the world, Europe doesn't even know what it is itself. Will countries such as China or Russia, countries which are rather allies to this madness, stop it? Will the USA, which every day seems more lost regarding its own rôle in theinternational arena, stop it? Sincerely, the world's only hope seems to be Israel, which, as it defends itself from a monster, defends us all. Dear ADL friends, those of us who believe in a free world have to trust in Eretz Israel: a lighthouse in the heart of darkness.
And beyond Iran, it is also evident that we are unable to stop the ideological phenomenon which sustains Global Islamic Fundamentalism. How many youths, in this precise instant, are reading jihadist texts? How many thousands are being indoctrinated in hatred of the West and in a renewed anti-Semitism, in the schools of “friendly” countries? How many, in our cities' mosques, are nursed with contempt of democracy? How many learn to love their God, hating their neighbour? How many are, right now, using the invention that a Jew helped to develop, Internet, to transmit their deadly ideas? Look at the World. Millions of enslaved women, subjugated by medieval laws, before international indifference. Millions of children who live in enormously rich dictatorships, condemned to poverty and educated as fanatic automatons. Who will prevent their tragedy? In Europe itself, the advance of fundamentalism is enormous, and our democracies seem incapable of stopping it. And it must be remembered that the problem is not a religion, nor a culture, nor a God. The problem is the totalitarian abuse of God.
There is, certainly, an Islam of life and of good harmony with others. But in the World today, there also exists an Islam which is very ill, and that, in its delirium of planetary domination, drags millions of people to their own perdition. So it's not about a clash of civilizations nor of religions. It's about civilization versus barbarity. And within civilization are all those Muslims murdered in busses, trains and in the market queues; the women who struggle for their freedom in the petrodollar dictatorships; the Iranian students, the dissidents... Within barbarity are Hamas, Hezbollah, Al-Qaeda, Jihad Islamiya, the beheaders of people, and those imams who feed their flock with hatred in the World's mosques... The problem isn't the Muslim religion, but the totalitarian ideology that shouts “Hurray for death” while praying to Allah. An ideology that leads, in its macabre death toll, to the death of thousands .
Let us be conscious of something tragic. Despite the mirage of our superiority in all fields – military, political, moral – , while we are not losing the battle, neither are we winning it. It's as if we were at the beginning of the Twentieth Century, when Communism seemed to be a liberating ideology. Or in the 1930's, when Hitler only seemed to be a stupid clown, and Chamberlain honoured him. Then, as now, and before the beginning of a global menace, our capacity to respond is poor, timid and erratic. And in some cases, it's directly collaborationist.
Allow me to talk of my planet, the planet of ideas. Intellectuals, journalists, writers, people of thought, are they up to the historic moment they are living? And the leftist groups, who so noisily criticise democratic countries, yet remain silently absent in the struggle against the great tyrannies, are they? No. They are not up to the historic moment.
I take advantage of your enormous prestige, the ADL's prestige, pioneers in the defence of civil rights, and I take advantage of the extraordinary award you place in my hands, borrowing Emile Zola's words, to elevate a sad, but direct, “J'accuse”! (I accuse!). Today most intellectuals and journalists remain deaf, blind and mute before the most serious threats that freedom suffers. And some of their strident proclamations, are the most efficient help that this totalitarian ideology has in the free world.
I accuse journalists and intellectuals of remaining silent before the barbaric oppression of millions of women, condemned to live under medieval laws which amputate them as human beings. No demonstrations, no Obama declaration, no boycott, nothing. These victims interest nobody, perhaps because Israelis or Americans cannot be blamed for their misfortune. And only anti-Americanism and anti-Israelism mobilizes their selective ire. I accuse journalists and intellectuals of remaining silent before the permanent slaughter of hundreds of Muslims, victims of Islamic bombs, whose plight interests nobody because one cannot put the blame on Jews nor on Americans. I accuse journalists and intellectuals of criminalizing Israel to the point of delirium, and of helping to create a mentality that is understanding with Palestinian terrorism.
I accuse them of the new anti-Semitism which hits the World, whose politically correct leftist character, makes it into a very dangerous phenomenon.
I come from a state, Spain, which has suffered the most deadly terrorist attack in Europe. Do you think that that has vaccinated us against intellectual imbecility, against ideological stupidity, against blind dogmatism? Quite the contrary, today the European country most obsessed against Israel is Spain, one of the most anti-American and the most anti-Semite of the continent. There have been some who have even blamed the Israelis of the Atocha railway terrorist attack in Spain. As I wrote quite some time ago, many educated and intelligent people, turn into imbeciles when talking about Israel. In my own home town, Barcelona, the hatred towards Israel has become a left-winger's sign of identity, they are capable of refusing to commemorate the day of the Shoah, due to solidarity with the Palestinians. I have been defamed and menaced, and they have even invented the “crime” of “negationist of the Palestinian holocaust” to try to take me to court. The list of deliriums which present-day Spain generates regarding Israel and the Jewish people only reminds one tragically of Medieval Spain and its expulsion edicts. Today we love the Jewish stones of Toledo and Girona, but we disdain the living Jews, we criminalize Israel and we turn terrorists into heroes. And yet, if our ethical, civic and political ally is not Israel, then which country of the Middle East can it be? The religious dictatorships, the oppressors of women, the fundamentalist fanatics? Spanish intellectuals, and with them a large part of the World's intellectuals, especially the left-wing intellectuals, look upside down, think upside down and upside down establish their hatreds and alliances. Medieval Jews represented culture, medicine, knowledge, and yet they were the ones who were persecuted. Today, Israel, beyond the legitimate criticism of its mistakes, represents the metaphor of all that we must preserve: freedom, the right to exist and religious tolerance. Despite this, Israel is the World's most hated country. Thus, while Islamic fundamentalism grows, exercises violence, kidnaps and kills, the World's liberals look the other way, abandon the victims and scream their slogans against the only country in the World which is menaced with destruction.
These journalists and intellectuals call themselves solidary, liberators, liberals, and yet they are a lunatic left, dogmatic and anti-historical, which abominates solid democracies, while it pardons brutal tyrannies. They are the new Chamberlains, unconscious collaborators of the totalitarianism which is overtaking the World. For we must not forget that freedom is not only won in the political or military battlefield. It is also won in the field of ideas.
That is why my name is Daniel Pearl, and also Guilad Shalit and Wafa Sultan and Ayan Hirsi Ali and Gordon, Edelmiro, Maria Rose, Andrew and Vincent; every one of the names of those murdered in the Twin Towers, in the London Underground, in the trains of Madrid, in the busses of Jerusalem. My name is Sakineh Mohammadi Ashtiani, the woman who had been condemned to be stoned to death in Iran. And all those who have been lapidated. If we are not them, then who are we? If we do not call ourselves with their names, then how do we call ourselves? If we do not defend their values, then which monsters are we defending?
Here, before the ADL, with the immense honour of receiving the Daniel Pearl Award, today, three days before Daniel's birthday, I reaffirm my ethical, journalistic and human commitment. I will not stop being critical with Israel, nor with the United States, nor with my own country. I will not stop explaining the truth, wherever I see it. But I will always remember on which side of the scale I am. The side of freedom, against that of tyrants; the side of women, against that of their oppressors; the side of Jews, against that of anti-Semitism; the side of culture, against that of fanaticism; the side of Israel, against that of its destroyers; the side of commitment, against that of indifference.
Elie Wiesel said: “The opposite of love is not hate, it's indifference. The opposite of beauty is not ugliness, it's indifference. The opposite of faith is not heresy, it's indifference. And the opposite of life is not death, but indifference between life and death”.
Indifference is the anteroom of evil. And against that evil I will always struggle.