TCS Daily

Tortured by Symbols: A New Flag Controversy

By Rondi Adamson - February 4, 2005 12:00 AM

Parsing torture is in vogue. Bloggers and columnists ask: Are water-boarding and using guard dogs to cause fear, torture? I say yes. Some say no. But I know for sure what isn't torture: Wrapping a detainee in an Israeli flag. Yet the Israeli flag reference is found -- most recently in television reports and newspaper stories regarding Alberto Gonzales' confirmation -- on lists which include sexual humiliation, kicking and beating, all of which I would consider torture. One must wonder what "wrapping someone in an Israeli flag" is doing in such company. For it is not torture, nor is it inhumane. It has also been listed with forcing a Muslim to eat pork or drink alcohol. While I don't see that as torture, per se, it is certainly inhumane and abusive, depending on the detainee's commitment to his religion. And in the war against Jihadists, where our enemies seek to destroy religious freedom, and every other freedom, these methods are unacceptable and contrary to what we represent. But wrapping someone in an Israeli flag is different.

If we call it torture to wrap someone in an Israeli flag, are we not concurring with Islamofascists that there is something inherently offensive about the mere existence of the State of Israel? We ought to either say that wrapping someone in any flag at all is torture, or else cease from referring to the wrapping of detainees in the Israeli flag as a form of torture or even as a form of abuse. Would anyone think twice if we wrapped someone in a Swiss flag? How is the Israeli flag offensive, unless all flags are? It seems to me that by including it in these discussions we are tacitly saying we will cede to the beliefs of Islamist murderers. Why should we respect those views, or yield on such points?

We should be sensitive to other cultures. But do we have to be sensitive to someone's desire to destroy Israel, or to someone's hatred of Israel? Surely hatred of Jews and the destruction of the Jewish State is not, like shunning alcohol and pork, a part of real Islam. It is a deviation that must mortify moderate Muslims. By referring to a detainee at Camp X-Ray, wrapped in an Israeli flag, as a torture victim, we are giving de facto approval to anti-Semitism. I am not saying one shouldn't criticize Israeli policies, or that doing so makes someone anti-Semitic. Many Israelis take their own government to task. But Islamofascists don't want to "criticize" Israeli policies. They want to obliterate Israel.

Whether wrapping detainees in Israeli flags has actually made any of them talk is another matter. If it works, why not? If it doesn't, why bother? Were citizens of Israel, on the other hand, offended by this use of their flag, that would be the strongest argument against such practices. But worrying about the feelings of people who would like to see an Israel-free map of the world, and who long for the 8th century, is not an argument of any kind. It is a waste of time and energy.

That, more than anything, is the point. Last week we commemorated the liberation of Auschwitz, the first of many horrors Allied soldiers would find sixty years ago. These horrors still beggar the imagination. Yet decades after the few Jews of Europe who weren't slaughtered were driven into the Middle East, new (and some old) enemies want to drive them off the planet. By showing even an iota of regard for someone's revulsion at the sight of an Israeli flag, we are aiding and abetting those enemies.

Rondi Adamson is a writer in Toronto.



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