The “Paris of the Middle East” Is Not Paris

Winners tend to attract hangers on, and apparently so do high-profile terrorist attacks. Witness the aftermath of the Islamic State assault on Paris.

The New York Times ran a piece Sunday in which various Lebanese figures lamented that Beruit, which suffered an IS bombing just days prior to Paris, failed to receive the same level of global sympathy and support that Paris has.

No landmarks were lit up with the Lebanese flag’s national colors. Facebook did not enable its users to overlay the Lebanese colors on their cover or profile photos.

“The implication, numerous Lebanese commentators complained, was that Arab lives mattered less. Either that, or that their country — relatively calm despite the [Syrian] war next door — was perceived as a place where carnage is the norm, an undifferentiated corner of a basket-case region,” said the Times.

The Netanyahu government and various Israeli commentators were, of course, equally quick to link Paris to Palestinian terrorism. Attacks against Israel are no different from Islamist attacks anywhere else, goes the argument. Israel faces the same threats as everyone else, so we must be natural allies.

That argument is generally dismissed internationally. Instead, Israel’s policies — both real and imagined — are perceived to be the cause of every suicide bombing, car ramming, stabbing, or sniper shooting perpetrated against Jews in Israel.

Everyone else with a political axe to grind — including the proximate cause of the IS chaos in Syria, Basher Assad — also sought to jump on the Paris bandwagon. That includes Sweden, which also linked Paris to Palestinian unrest, but not in the way Netanyahu wished. Sweden sought to convince us that if Israel just gave into Palestinian demands, tragedies such as Paris would be a thing of the past.

That’s just the way it goes. Head-in-the-sand thinking and all.

However, the Times, arguably the world’s most influential news outlet, should know better than to mention Paris and Beirut in the same breath without stating straightforwardly why the situations are incomparable.

The Beirut attack occurred in a Hezbollah-controlled residential and commercial neighborhood. In addition to the usual Sunni-Shiite overtones, it was payback for Hezbollah’s involvement in Syria, just as IS has been promising.

Hezbollah: Designated a terrorist group by the U.S., French, Canadian, Arab Gulf states, and Dutch governments. Hezbollah: Implicated in such terrorist attacks as the 1983 military barracks attack in Beirut that killed 241 American marines and 58 French paratroopers, plus others.

Hezbollah: Blamed for the 1992 and 1994 bombing in Argentina of the Israeli embassy (29 dead) and local Jewish community center (85 dead).

Hezbollah: Blamed for an assortment of other successful and thwarted attacks in Saudi Arabia, Bulgaria, Singapore, Egypt, the United Kingdom, and elsewhere — not the least of which is Israel.

And Hezbollah: As responsible as is anyone, including its puppet-master Iran and even Russia, for Assad still clinging to power.

How can anyone except someone willfully blind to the obvious wonder why Paris has generated an outpouring of real sympathy and Beirut has tended to invoke an attitude of the chickens coming home to roost?

A common enemy does not conflate with equal sympathy.

We should take no joy in any terrorist attack, because innocents — children, if no one else — are always the body counts. That’s true even when our enemies are slaughtered.

But how does the most powerful newspaper in the world, a news organization that on any given day is probably better overall than any of its competitors, so obviously miss the obvious?

About the Author
Ira Rifkin is an award-winning journalist and author ("Spiritual Perspectives on Globalization: Making Sense of Economic & Cultural Upheaval", SkyLight Paths) who has been widely published on issues relating to Israel, American Jewry, globalization and the news media. He lives in Maryland.
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