To the World Media, Slavery, War,
and Terror Pale in Comparison to
Mauretania has the highest incidence of slavery in the world, despite the fact that it abolished slavery in 1981. It was the last country on Earth to do so. In 2007, it finally passed a law making it possible to prosecute slaveholders. Nevertheless, Biram Dah Abeid, the founder of the country’s anti-slavery movement, was recently imprisoned. According to an article in The New Yorker, “During his time in prison, the authorities spread a rumor that he was an Israeli agent.”
There has been a bit of recent publicity about slavery in Mauretania. On October 23, 2014, CNN reported that a 15-year-old liberated slave, a young woman named Mbeirika Mint M’barack, was freed after being charged with having had extra-marital sex.
A bit of publicity is better than no publicity. Still, it’s surprising that an issue as dramatic as slavery has not made the headlines.
The war that is going on in Syria, on the other hand, has made the headlines. One aspect of the war, however, is getting little notice – the number of deaths and/or refugees. The number of refugees who have fled to neighboring countries is estimated at 3.9 million. This of course does not include the people who have left their homes for other areas within Syria, perhaps 7.6 million. As for the death toll, it was estimated to be 220,000.
Think of the reaction to the deaths in Syria as compared with the horror that the world expressed about deaths in the summer’s Gaza war, which were estimated at 844 civilians and 890 militants.
Every death is tragic, needless to say, but the condemnation of Israel has been loud and continuing. Yet neither Syria’s President al-Assad nor ISIS has been blamed as often for the shocking numbers of deaths and displacements occurring in Syria.
On the other hand, the bombings of mosques in Yemen did merit a single headline in the New York Times.
At least 130 people died in the suicide bombings of Shiite mosques carried out by ISIS. We might assume that a religious group like ISIS would consider blowing up a mosque a sacrilege. The New York Times thinks so, which is why these outrageous crimes merited a headline. Perhaps we should look upon these attacks as a warning. What might happen if East Jerusalem were part of a Palestinian state? Perhaps rival denominations of Islam would blow up al-Aqsa Mosque and the Dome of the Rock – preferably when there were lots of people there.
And what is the outrage that has drawn the most negative publicity recently? It has been Prime Minister Netanyahu’s speech to Congress, a violation of protocol, since he was invited by House Speaker Boehner and not by President Obama. After the speech, Netanyahu returned to Israel and made some unfortunate and upsetting statements, in campaign speeches, about not being willing to agree to a Palestinian state, and about Israeli Arabs being taken by bus to polling sites.
Netanyahu has since reversed himself a bit on these questions, and the statements were indeed unfortunate. But were they the equivalent of slavery, a bloody civil war, or bombing mosques? The world seems to believe that what Netanyahu did was so much worse than the tragedies of Mauretania, Syria or Yemen. Now that is an outrage.
This article appeared in The algemeiner on March 23, 2015.