About this Blog

"Ordinary People" is something of an intentional misnomer. I live and work with Palestinians practicing nonviolent resistance to the Israeli occupation. They are doing things that are hardly "ordinary": committing themselves to active nonviolence and to loving their enemies -- following the commands of One who was anything but ordinary. And yet, the Palestinians with whom I work are also very ordinary -- they are not some kind of spiritual superheroes/superheroines who do things most folks can't do. They are simply ordinary people daily committing themselves to living a higher calling -- a calling of love and active nonviolence.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

The "Numbers Game" Part 2

The numbers game will always bother me.

The world keeps insisting that human lives are valued on a sliding scale. Not all people are created equal in the image of God.

Listen to the media. I recently read "Off the Charts: Accuracy in Reporting on Israel/Palestine: The New York Times" by If Americans Knew. (They also produced a report on TV media coverage, but I haven't had the chance to read it yet.) The report focused on the New York Times' coverage of Israeli and Palestinian deaths during two years of the Second Intifada. A synopsis from the report:
In the first study period The Times reported Israeli deaths at a rate 2.8 times higher than Palestinian deaths, and in 2004 this rate increased by almost 30%, to 3.6, widening still further the disparity in coverage. The Times’ coverage of children’s deaths was even more skewed. In the first year of the current uprising, Israeli children’s deaths were reported at 6.8 times the rate of Palestinian children’s deaths. In 2004 this differential also increased, with deaths of Israeli children covered at a rate 7.3 times greater than the deaths of Palestinian children. Given that in 2004 22 times more Palestinian children were killed than Israeli children, this category holds particular importance.
This report covered data from 2000 and 2004. Yet even now the media plays the numbers game. "Israel has the right to protect its civilians." Three Israeli civilians have been killed in this recent war on Gaza. How many Palestinian civilians has the Israeli military killed? (To date, the death toll in Gaza is 1,188 Palestinians -- approximately a third of whom are children.) Where is the international outcry?

Then I remember: To the world, the death of a Palestinian is not worth the same as the death of an Israeli. I watch, horrified, on the news as the Palestinian death toll climbs. And I keep wondering: when will the scale tip? At what Palestinian-to-Israeli death-toll ratio will the world say, "Enough! A life is a life. And every death is a crime against humanity."

When will we end this spiral into madness? When will we hold sacred every human life -- regardless of race, ethnicity, nationality, or religion -- and treasure it as our own?

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