Recently I kept seeing adulatory headlines about a new movie called “A Mighty Heart.” There was a virtual saturation bombing of praise of that “major motion picture”, starring Angelina Jolie. I had no idea what it was about, thought it might be a sports story, but it was mentioned so intrusively in so many places over several days that I became suspicious. The anticipated answer soon presented itself: It was of special Jewish interest. It was about the kidnapping and killing of a Jewish journalist, Daniel Pearl.
A major motion picture . . . yet during his life Pearl did nothing more notable than many other reporters. As film critic James Berardinelli wrote, “Most world renowned people have achieved that status as a result of something accomplished during their lives. Unfortunately, Daniel Pearl was among the few who became famous as a result of his death.”
The film was assigned the primary keyword “Anti Semitism” by Internet Movie Database, leaving us with no doubt about its main message. In spite of that and the incredible hype, almost nobody wanted to see it. “A Mighty Heart” fizzled at the box office when released last month and has been called “a mighty disappointment” for Angelina Jolie and Paramount. “The film had its screenings cut in half recently to give it a longer shelf life.” Despite lack of public interest, I expect we'll be treated to TV reruns for years.
Daniel Pearl was a reporter for the “Wall Street Journal”. In Pakistan in 2002, on his way to interview a sheik, he was kidnapped by a group which claimed that Pearl was a CIA agent. They sent the United States a range of demands. When the demands were snubbed, Pearl was then killed in a grisly fashion recorded on videotape. On the Pearl video, pictures of dead Muslims and similar scenes are superimposed around the image of the captive, including pictures of President G.W. Bush shaking hands with Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon. Arabic text reads: ‘”My name is Daniel Pearl. I am a Jewish-American .” The relevancy to his captors of his being Jewish was hatred of Israel, and the belief that US aggressions in the Middle East can be blamed on Zionist influence. Pearl’s final words on the video were "My father is Jewish, my mother is Jewish, I am Jewish," after which he added that a street in Israel's Bene Barak is named after his grandfather.
The point of this post is the disproportionate attention and glorification devoted to one newspaper reporter – not a famous one – when a number of other journalists and Americans killed in the Middle East, including Israel, have quickly sunk into obscurity. The movie has failed, but the mighty machinery that brought it into existence and promoted it also produced a fantastic amount of post-mortem glorification for Daniel Pearl.
Pearl's widow wrote the published memoir, A Mighty Heart , on which the movie was based.
In 2003, a book titled Who Killed Daniel Pearl? was published, authored by Bernard-Henri Lévy.
HBO produced a film titled “The Journalist and The Jihadi: The Murder of Daniel Pearl”, which is still being shown.
Daniel Pearl Music Days have been held worldwide since 2002.
American composer Steve Reich wrote 'The Daniel Variations' in response to Pearl's murder.
In April 2007 Pearl was added to the Holocaust Memorial on Miami Beach as the first non-Holocaust victim.
In May 2007, the Communications Technology Magnet School at Birmingham High School was renamed the Daniel Pearl Journalism and Communications Magnet.
The Anti-Defamation League of B’nai B’rith has created a “prestigious” (of course) ADL Daniel Pearl Award.
The Daniel Pearl Foundation was formed by Pearl's parents, Judea Pearl (B.S. degree in Electrical Engineering from the Technion, Israel) and Ruth. It is understandable that the distressed mother and father would wish to honor and commemorate their son, but the scale of the commemoration is beyond belief, and far beyond the reach of most mothers and fathers. The honorary board of the Daniel Pearl Foundation includes among others, no less than a former president of the United States, Bill Clinton, among many other notables such as Christiane Amanpour, Ted Koppel, and Elie Wiesel. The Foundation appears to have very generous funding.
Pearl's parents published a collection of responses sent to them from around the globe, entitled "I Am Jewish: Personal Reflections Inspired by the Last Words of Daniel Pearl..” Respondents in the “I Am Jewish” collection include Theodore Bikel, Alan Dershowitz, Kirk Douglas, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Larry King, Shimon Peres, Daniel Schorr, Elie Wiesel, and many more.
The purpose of this post will become more dramatically clear in Part 2, when the extravagant glorification of Daniel Pearl will be contrasted with the deliberate neglect of other persons, such as Rachel Corrie, who deserved more fame and commemoration and yet, in contrast to Pearl’s towering pedestal, were deliberately shut away in the dark storerooms of history.