Sunday, May 8, 2011


The same person sent me a photo that shows Palestinians celebrating the collapse of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11. 2001 next to photos of Americans celebrating the death of Osama bin Laden and asks, "What's the difference?"

I have to say that there is a monumental difference. Those Palestinians were rejoicing in the deaths of thousands of people whose only crime was showing up for work on a Tuesday morning. The Americans were celebrating the death of a man responsible for the attack on the World Trade Center and several other mass murders, a man who would have gone on to murder as many more people as he possibly could had he not been killed.

(And yes, lots of the Palestinians in those photos from ten years ago were little kids who didn't have any real idea what they were cheering about. I do not consider those photos to be in any way representative of most Palestinians, and certainly not of the Palestinians I met and befriended last year in Jerusalem or of Arabic people in general.)

There seem to be two permissible responses to the death of bin Laden. One is to hoot and holler like it's some kind of game your team just won. The other is to sit around and write thoughtful essays about how the celebrations speak to the violent nature of blah-blah-blah....

I don't find either response particularly useful.  Yeah, I know, maybe he'll be seen as a martyr now. So what? And yes, terrorism and the conflicts between the West and the Arab world will not end with his death. I don't think even those revelers in Times Square with their big-ass flags imagine it will. And yes, violence is not good. But sometimes there really is not any other way to deal with certain problems. And this was one of those times.

I think some of the revelry is stupid. But it's to be expected.