A defender of Israel’s Gaza incursion emailed anti-Islamists the following excerpt from a front page story, “Fighter Sees His Paradise in Gaza’s Pain,” in the January 9 New York Times:
21 year old militant with Islamic Jihad awaits treatment for shrapnel wounds:
“Hurry, I must get back so I can keep fighting…We are fighting the Israelis…When we fire we run, but they hit back so fast. We run into the houses to get away.”
He continued smiling. “Why are you so happy?,” the reporter asked.
“Look around you. Don’t you see that these people are hurting?”
“But I am from the people too.” he said with his smile incandescent.
“They lost their loved ones as martyrs. They should be happy. I want to be a martyr, too.”
I’d seen the original story in the Times where that bright, shining smile lit up the madness of Jihadis. But there was something vital missing from the e-mailer’s excerpt. Right after Times reporter Taghreed El-Khodary entered her own story to address the happy militant – “Look around you.” – she brought readers inside the hospital’s emergency room:
A girl who looked about 18 screamed as a surgeon removed shrapnel from her leg. An elderly man was soaked in blood. A baby a few weeks old and slightly wounded looked around helplessly. A man lay with parts of his brain coming out. His family wailed at his side.
Only then did El-Khodary turn back to ask the militant: “Don’t you see that these people are hurting?”
Her story of the smiley Jihadi stuck with me in part because she nailed the pain the wannabe martyr refused to take in. But it seems the Jihadi wasn’t the only imperfect witness. I suspect the “pro-Israeli” e-mailer cut El-Khodary’s passage on the victims in that hospital because it brings home the excruciating consequences of the Gaza incursion. Jihadists who provoke Israel bear much responsibility for causing the suffering of Palestinian civilians but so do Israeli politicians and the population who overwhelmingly support the operation in Gaza.