Monday, January 30th | 8 Shevat 5783

March 26, 2012 2:07 pm

Tragedies Beyond Belief

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avatar by Ed Koch

8 year old terror victim Miriam Monsonego. Photo: Facebook.

Within the past week, three incidents of depravity have been the subject of news coverage.  Of course, in the world at large, many outrages have occurred, but these three affecting young people had a special impact, and I would like to bring them to your attention.

On March 20th, The New York Times reporter Stephen Castle wrote, “A young man in the care of the Roman Catholic Church in the Netherlands was surgically castrated decades ago after complaining about sexual abuse, according to new evidence that only adds to the scandal engulfing the church there.”

Castle went on, “In 2010, about 2,000 people complained of abuse by priests, church institutions or religious orders in the Netherlands after the Roman Catholic Church commissioned an inquiry.  It finally concluded that the number of actual victims over several decades could be 10 times higher.”

Castle continued, “The victim, Henk Heithuis, lived in Catholic institutions from infancy after being taken into care.  When he complained about sexual abuse to the police, Mr. Heithuis, 20 at the time, was transferred to a Catholic psychiatric hospital before being admitted to the St. Joseph Hospital in Veghel, where he was castrated.  Cornelius Rogge, a sculptor whose family became friends with Mr. Heithuis, informed the Deetman Commission about the case, contacting an investigative journalist and author, Joep Dohmen, when there was no clear sign of a follow-up.  On Dutch television, Mr. Rogge described how he knew that the castration had taken place and said he believed that there were other victims.  ‘We once asked Henk to drop his pants when the women were not present,’ Mr. Rogge said.  ‘He did that.  He was totally maimed. That was a huge shock for us, of course.’   Mr. Heithuis had also described his ordeal verbally, Mr. Rogge said.  ‘He was strapped to a bed,’ Mr. Rogge said, describing Mr. Heithuis’s statement.  ‘In one stroke, his scrotum was cut out.  Then he was taken to an infirmary to rest and recover.  Then the other boys received the same treatment.  He could hear them screaming.'”

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Castle closed the story with, “Mr. Dohmen said that the man accused of abusing Mr. Heithuis was investigated but not prosecuted.  He was transferred to Nova Scotia, where he started a home for boys.”

There is a dispute as to whether the castration was to punish the victim for being a whistleblower or was the medical practice at the time for dealing with homosexuality.  The passage of time is such that the victim’s oppressors – clergy, physicians, laypeople – are probably all dead.  But if not, they should be prosecuted – legislatures can waive statutes of limitation – and if dead, their names should be made known not only in Holland, but worldwide.

We in the United States witnessed a comparable atrocity in 1998 when a young man, Matthew Shepard was strung up on a barbed wire fence in Wyoming to die as though crucified by two homophobes.  It shocked America into understanding how outrageous the attacks physical and verbal were on anyone because of their sexual orientation.  The leaders of the churches and synagogues nationwide should set aside a day of prayer and contrition for the savagery some clergy and others have displayed to gays and lesbians for so long, and political and civic leaders should join them.

The second life destroyed is that of Trayvon Martin, a young black man whose death was described in The Times editorial of March 21st “Trayvon Martin, a 17-year-old student, was shot last month as he walked home one night with a snack in hand.  His killing has stirred national outrage and protests because there is evidence he called out in alarm over his cellphone as the armed stranger closely pursued him.  At the same time, George Zimmerman, the shooter, was on the phone with a police dispatcher, who told him, ‘We don’t need you to do that.’  Mr. Zimmerman, who got out of his car to pursue Mr. Martin, claimed a confrontation occurred that caused him to defend himself because he ‘reasonably believed’ he would be harmed.  The local police in Sanford, Fla., ruled the shooting justifiable under a law that was created to give the benefit of the doubt to people who shoot their guns in public areas and then claim self-defense.  This statute goes well beyond the traditional principles of self-defense in homes.  In 2005, Florida became the first in the nation to adopt this type of measure, with overwhelming bipartisan approval and the signature of Gov. Jeb Bush.  The Department of Justice and state investigators have opened inquiries into the shooting, along with a county grand jury.”

The U.S. in and out of Florida appears aroused and believes quite rightly I think that had Trayvon Martin been white and the shooter, George Zimmerman been black, Zimmerman would have been arrested, prosecuted and jailed pending trial or bail.

The cellphone conversation that Trayvon had with his girlfriend describing his fear of Zimmerman and his shouts for help have caused many, myself included, to believe a murder occurred.

To the credit of Rev. Al Sharpton, he is leading, with Trayvon’s family, the black community in a call for justice.  This catastrophe is one that should involve all of us without regard to race or ethnicity.  A young man was apparently killed because of his color or race.  Americans should think of Trayvon as their child and stand with his parents until justice is done.  President Obama summed it up for all of us when he said, “If I had a son, he’d look like Trayvon.”

The third tragedy involved the shooting deaths of several Jews in Toulouse, France – Rabbi Jonathan Sandler, an instructor at a religious school; his two young sons, Arye, 6 and Gabriel, 3; and the daughter of the school’s principal, Miriam Monsonego, 8.  The three children had dual French-Israeli citizenship.

The rabbi and the children were shot by an Islamist terrorist, Mohammed Merah, of Algerian descent who, tracked down by the French police and army, after a 30-hour siege, jumped out of a window to his death.  Before killing himself, he had apparently on a prior occasion also killed three French paratroopers.  The murderer claimed he was a member of al-Qaeda.

The burial of Miriam Monsonego, the eight-year-old girl, who before the terrorist shot her in the head, was dragged by the hair as he videotaped himself carrying out the heinous murder of the child.  The Israeli newspaper Haaretz writer Alan Kaufman described the scene in an unforgettable way: “For two days and nights now I have been unable to shake the image from my head: the black-clad man, identity concealed by a motorcycle helmet, gun in hand, chases 8-year old Miriam Monsonego into the courtyard of Toulouse’s Ozar Hatorah school, grabs her by the hair, puts the barrel of his .45 to her temple and fires.  It jams.  Calmly, still holding onto Miriam’s hair, he switches guns to another, a 9 mm., puts the barrel to her temple, fires so closely that her skin gets powder-burned.  The calm cold calculation of it reminds [one] of the ease of Nazi soldiers, portrayed in films such as ‘Schindler’s List’ and ‘In Darkness’, as they took Jewish lives, including those of one million Jewish children.”  Merah had videotaped the murders and posted the videos on a Jihadist website.

The Times reported on March 21st that at her funeral, “In a wrenching eulogy, Avishai Monsonego, the older brother of Miriam, cried in Hebrew: ‘Miriam, I am not worried about you.  Since a young age you have been speaking with the Holy One, blessed be he.’  He said he had only one request of God — to give his parents the strength to carry on.”

Jews, and in particular Israeli Jews, suffered an additional indignities and outrageous attack when Catherine Ashton, the European Union’s foreign policy chief, comparing what happened at the Jewish school in Toulouse and equating the killing of the 3 Jewish children simply because they were Jewish with the deaths of Muslim children in Gaza.  The Times reported on March 20th, “In the transcript of her comments released by the European Union, she continues: ‘The Belgian children having lost their lives in a terrible tragedy, and when we think of what happened in Toulouse today, when we remember what happened in Norway a year ago, when we know what is happening in Syria, when we see what is happening in Gaza and in different parts of the world — we remember young people and children who lose their lives.'”

Understandably outraged at her comparing the terrorist attack on the Jewish school by an Islamist terrorist affiliated with al-Qaeda to a war going on with Hamas, a terrorist organization governing Gaza and assaulting Israel with barrages of rockets – on a recent day, 150 indiscriminately fired at Israeli towns – Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu, according to the Times, said, “that he was ‘infuriated’ by what he called ‘the comparison between a deliberate massacre of children and the defensive, surgical actions’ of the Israeli military that he said were ‘intended to hit terrorists who use children as a human shield.'”

The equivalency of the two situations in the view of the European Union’s foreign policy chief speaks volumes on her feelings concerning the State of Israel, and we know she is not alone in coupling the terrorist government administering Gaza and the State of Israel daily defending itself from Islamist terrorist threats and attacks, including the existential threat from Iran.  Later, Ms. Ashton said through a spokesman “she had not intended to draw any parallel.”  Wanna bet?

The Islamist terrorists want to kill us – us meaning Jews and Christians – here an Islamist terrorist deliberately killed Jewish children simply because they were Jewish.

People have been aroused by these three episodes involving, at the time of the incident years ago, a young gay man, a black 17-year-old adolescent and an 8-year-old Jewish girl.  How do we use that anger?  People have to speak out in every community denouncing the bigotry in those and similar cases – sexual, racial and religious, particularly the religious and political leaders, worldwide.

We must hold those who engage in these hate driven acts severely accountable.

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