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Jeff Jacoby of the Boston Globe and the Death of Ezra Schwartz

Over the years I have become quite accustomed to seeing Jeff Jacoby’s displays of deep provincial ignorance and casual pro-American and pro-Jewish chauvinism on the opinion pages of the Boston Globe.

You think I’m going a bit over the top?

Well, take a look—to cite just one example—at the column Jacoby wrote on April 2, 2006 (Letter to a Mensch-in-Training) that is replete with presumptions about the superior moral status that accrues to those who attend Hebrew day schools and are raised in keeping with Jewish traditions.

Can you imagine the outrage that would have ensued had the columnist in question been a Black Muslim waxing poetic about the self-evident moral advantages of having his child educated in a school run by that particular ethno-religious group?

But we are, of course, talking about America and the American media environment where certain people have many more rights than others.

Which brings us to Jacoby’s November 25th Boston Globe column centering on what he sees as the insufficiently vigorous US government condemnation of the recent killing of Ezra Schwartz, a Boston-area teenager doing a gap year in Israeli-occupied Palestine.

In the piece, Schwartz is portrayed as a blameless innocent gunned down by savages.

What Mr. Jacoby does not mention, nor will he or the many others that share his views ever mention, is a very salient fact: Mr. Schwartz was a foreign national living on illegally-seized land who was actively collaborating with the army of occupation.

He was, therefore, no innocent.

Sound harsh?

Well, let’s test the proposition.

Imagine what would happen if a young Arab-American, stirred by an atavistic love for his people, were to go the Middle East and, like Schwartz, enter a war zone and start delivering care packages to one or another of the armed Arab factions found there.

If the US authorities were to find out about his actions, he would be quickly branded a terrorist, given a summary trial and sent away for many, many years on charges of “providing material support for terrorism”.

And should this same US citizen be killed while aiding his beloved foreign army of choice, no one would shed a tear. And, needless to say his death would never make it to the pages of the Boston Globe or any other US newspaper.

Yet, when someone like Mr. Schwartz goes and puts himself in the line of fire by living on illegally-seized land and actively helping the military that is brutally enforcing the 48 year-long campaign of ethnic cleansing taking place upon it, we are told by Jacoby and many others (like the New England Patriot-owning Kraft family who ordered Schwartz be honored with a moment of silence before Monday’s game against the Buffalo Bills) that we should see him as an innocent victim and be outraged by his unfortunate fate.

This is institutionalized ethnic privilege defined. And it has no legitimate place under our system of laws, nor any halfway honest system of journalism.

Either we allow and support the right of all American citizens to go overseas and support the ancestral military cause of their choice or we ban such activities altogether.

But as Jacoby has long-demonstrated, simple issues of principle such as this one are hard to recognize, never mind act upon, when you believe, deep down, that some types of people are inherently more moral, and therefore more deserving of our empathy, than others.

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Thomas S. Harrington is a professor of Iberian Studies at Trinity College in Hartford, Connecticut and the author of the recently released  Livin’ la Vida Barroca: American Culture in a Time of Imperial Orthodoxies.

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