It’s early yet, but the earthquake in Japan may prove to be the biggest story of 2011. Certainly the fallout (I hope not literally) will be with us for some time. A strange confluence of events – earthquake, tsunami, nuclear reactor disaster – make Japan a flashpoint for the world.

Still, I have noticed a silence from the media this week concerning the grotesque murders in Itamar, Israel.

Besides Japan, the media are reporting on Barack Obama’s NCAA Tournament picks, the lives of various vapid celebrities and reviews for video games.

Should the slaughter of a family by Palestinian terrorists rate some coverage? So far the news has trickled-in. And the real point of today’s column is the fact that Christian media are really silent about the murders of Udi and Ruth Fogel and three of their children: Yoav, Elad, Hadas. They had names.

A Google search reveals a smattering of articles. The Guardian did present a fairly even-handed account, although reporter Harriet Sherwood did make sure to mention frequently that the now-defiant Israelis have pledged to build more “settlements.” As if the international community needed more reason to decry the “settlements.” The Guardian article also included this curious line:

“But no one anticipated the shocking bloodshed of Friday night.”

Like who, the Palestinians? As has been pointed out by a few astute media watchers, PA President Mahmoud Abbas did condemn the murders, but not in Arabic. In English, on Israeli television and for the consumption of Western media, Abbas and his Fatah cohorts routinely say the right things, but not to their own people. In fact, PA officials often show up for ceremonies commemorating the murderous actions of terrorists, such as naming soccer fields after them. This is double-speak that would have made Stalin proud. In fact, Palestinian school textbooks sound like they were produced by the staff of Pravda.

Otherwise, media coverage has been sparse, save for predictable places like the Jerusalem Post.

Writing for the Huffington Post, Palestinian journalist Daoud Kuttab said this: “The brutal and inhumane killing of the Fogel family in Itamar is unacceptable and indefensible. No matter what anyone might say about the illegality of Jewish settlements in the occupied territories, murder is murder, and murder of civilians irrespective of the circumstances must be denounced and rejected at all levels.”

He then goes on to a lengthy discussion of the “settlements.” If the murders are indefensible and unacceptable – of course they are – why not say that and that only? Why propagandize about “settlements”?

Yet it is Christian media in America that should be spotlighted in this story. Charisma online, one of the flagships of Charisma Media, owned by long-time Israel supporter Stephen Strang, did a terrific piece on the murders.

But Charisma is lonely when it comes to Christian outlets reporting on this huge and despicable story.

Writing for The New English Review, Dexter Van Zile gets to the heart of the matter. His reporting is courageous, because in my opinion, it is becoming more popular in American Christian circles to not only view Israel negatively, but to lambaste the Jewish state. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the mainline churches, which is the point Van Zile makes in his article:

“Given the horrific details of the murder, it would seem reasonable that the churches in the U.S. that were so quick to condemn Israel in the past few years as it responded to attacks on its citizens from Gaza and Lebanon and during the Second Intifada would offer a word of condemnation of this most recent attack itself. The killer (or killers) slit a little baby’s throat.

Yes, the tragedy in Japan has attracted a lot of attention and justifiably so. But in light of the manner in which mainline churches in the U.S. have directed so much of their attention to the Arab-Israeli conflict in recent years – with most of their criticism directed at Israel – a word of comfort on behalf of the Israeli victims and a word of admonition to Palestinian leaders would seem obligatory. …

As of this writing (the morning of March 16, 2011), it appears that the five mainline churches that could usually be counted on to condemn Israel have said nothing about the attack. The websites of the Presbyterian Church (USA), the United Church of Christ, the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America, the United Methodist Church and the Episcopal Church have no reference to the attack at all. This morning, plugging “Itamar” into the search engine of the UMC’s website yielded a link to a Jerusalem Post article about how Palestinian officials have attempted to blame foreign workers for the murders, but otherwise, nothing.

And as of this writing, there’s no reference to it on the World Council of Churches website, nor is there any mention of it on the
website of the National Council of Churches.”

You won’t read much about this from the mainline. Dexter Van Zile’s article, though, is a real watershed for accurate reporting, since he highlights a huge weakness in the Christian left’s depiction of the Arab-Israeli conflict. Pro-Israel Christians should really take the initiative now and monitor mainline news services. When they condemn Israel and the “settlements” in the future, call them on it. Their moral failure in reporting on the Arab-Israeli conflict in a one-sided manner will never be the same again.

By roasting Israel for decades, mainline media’s silence on the murders of the Fogel family will be a stain on the church for a long time to come.

Israeli journalist Caroline Glick is one of my favorite journalists. Her reporting of this massacre is must-reading. Glick, Van Zile and a handful of others are shining a light on a problem that has attached itself to virtually the entire international community: Jewish life seems cheap to too many.

Technology has brought publishing opportunities to the masses. I read many astute observers who work tirelessly to bring important stories to light. It is profoundly disturbing that their counterparts in the mainline and even evangelical communities are silent in the wake of the murders in Itamar, in the heart of the Land of Israel.

Here’s a parting thought/shot: I issue a challenge to Christianity Today magazine, thought by many to be the flagship publication of the evangelical world – produce a feature on the Fogel family. It would provide a counter-balance to the magazine’s drift to the left on the Arab-Israel conflict.

Additionally: To Brian McLaren, the alleged sage of the Emergent community, please tell us what you think about the Fogel murders. You never miss an opportunity to castigate Israel for “settlements” and other alleged sins, like the need to show justice and mercy to Arab neighbors.

This week, Mr. McLaren, you have used your blog to promote your new book, “Naked Spirituality,” and this morning, “a note and poem from a reader.”

Have the Fogels crossed your mind?

Dear reader, consider checking McLaren’s website frequently in the coming days. If you can wade through the narcissism, look for a tidbit about the Fogel family.

Just don’t hold your breath until you find it!

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