Naming the Dead

The world’s attention has been riveted by the horrendous natural disaster in Japan. Naoto Kan, the Japanese prime minister, somberly described the damage wrought by the shattering earthquake and tsunami the nation's “worst crisis since World War II.”

That tragedy — and no one can watch the video footage of what happened in northern Japan without a feeling of horror — is everywhere in the news. Another story, smaller in scale, but no less horrific, has received scant notice.  Late Friday night, some yet-to-be-identified people — the sort of people President Obama would doubtless describe as “lone extremists” — cut their way through a security fence and entered the Israeli town of Itamar in the West Bank. They then broke into the house of Udi and Ruth Fogel (36 and 35 years old, respectively), and stabbed them to death along with their 3-month-old daughter, Hadas, and two sons, Elad (3 years old) and Yoav (11).

I first heard about this disgusting act of barbarism from a headline on the Drudge Report. The New York Times, which really never disappoints, today carries a piece under the title “Israel Approves Settlement Construction.” Five members of  “an Israeli family” — antiseptically left unnamed by the Times — were knifed to death in their sleep but the gravamen of the story was that the Israelis responded by deciding to build more settlements on the West Bank, a decision, our former paper of record sniffed, that “the attack and the government response threatened to drive Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking even further out of reach.”

What’s wrong with this picture? The dwindling prospects of “Israeli-Palestinian peacemaking” is not equally the fault of that butchery and Israel’s decision to build more settlements, as the Times implies. That sort of moral equivalence is in fact a moral outrage. But it is standard operating procedure for the New York Times and indeed for much Western media who occasionally leave off playing “blame America first” only to indulge in an inning or two of “blame Israel first.”