Nothing is sadder than the death of a child. When someone dies ahead of his or her time we are filled with sympathy for a promise unfulfilled, a life unlived.
Thus, the world is saddened by the death of Kayla Mueller. Since we suspect that she was murdered by ISIS terrorists while attempting to bring aid to those who have been suffering during the war in Syria and Iraq, we especially admire her sacrifice.
It seems that Kayla Mueller put herself in danger in order to help the human victims of terrorism.
If such is the case, it makes sense for people to see her as an incipient saint. Mike Barnicle and Charlotte Alter, to choose two writers, have declared her to be the best that America has to offer, a role model for the millennial generation.
If you believe that martyrdom is the highest human achievement and if you believe that those who work for a living, bring up their children and contribute to their communities are lesser beings, the argument makes some sense.
She wasn’t there for a big salary, media attention or the pursuit of celebrity. Clearly, what she was doing was who she was. And she was not a novice when it came to lending herself to those in need.
According to reports in her hometown newspaper, she had volunteered at a women’s homeless shelter and a HIV-AIDS clinic in Prescott. Before she arrived in Turkey, she had been to India and Israel helping in refugee settlements there. She was learning Arabic to better communicate with those crushed and on the run from violence.
Charlotte Alter does Barnicle one better:
If we’re looking for tips on how to act and how to be, Mueller’s newly released letter home to her family is a better textbook than any quirky essay collection by a 28-year old or professional memoir. It reveals that Mueller represented the best qualities of the millennial generation–our idealism, our optimism, and our love of our families–without the troublesome ones.
Millennials are generally thought to be more socially aware and idealistic than their parents. And they are increasingly demonstrating their idealism throughhashtag activism, socially responsible investing, and mobile charity donation (crowdfunding site Fundly said in 2013 that 58% of its users were 34 or younger.)
But that wasn’t enough for Mueller–she wanted to get her hands dirty, first by demonstrating on campus, then by living in the Palestinian territories (sleeping in front of homes threatened by Israeli bulldozers, and escorting children to school) and finally going to Turkey to provide support to Syrian refugees. “I will always seek God,” she wrote in a letter to her family in 2011, before she was kidnapped on her way to a bus station in Syria. “Some people find God in church. Some people find God in nature. Some people find God in love; I find God in suffering. I’ve known for some time what my life’s work is, using my hands as tools to relieve suffering.”
Surely, Alter is making a case for sainthood. She, like Barnicle, wants America’s young people to emulate Kayla Mueller.
Both writers are in awe of Mueller’s spirituality, her disinterest in material things, her love of the oppressed and the downtrodden, her willingness to martyr herself for the cause.
And yet, for what cause did Mueller martyr herself?
Enquiring minds should want to know.
It’s well and good to say that Mueller was serving the inchoate and ill-defined mass called “humanity,” but she also signed on to specific causes, and once you do that, your transcendent virtue becomes a political statement.
If Mueller’s life and death are used to recruit people into causes that we ought rightly to reject, we ought to take a step back before nominating her for sainthood.
When we look beyond the obvious, we find some troubling details.
This morning the Washington Post reported on Mueller's work with the pro-Palestinian, anti-Israeli group: the International Solidarity Movement. As it happened, the group mourned her as one of its own. They highlighted her commitment to the Palestinian cause.
That cause, it should not need repeating, is the destruction of the state of Israel. The ISM and other such groups have no concern whatever for the humanity of Jews. In fact, their propaganda demeans and denigrates Jews to the point where they are made to seem inhuman.
The Post reported:
Of Mueller’s time with the movement, the organization wrote Tuesday that Kayla had “worked with Palestinians non-violently resisting the Israeli occupation” in the West Bank.
“She marched with us and faced the military that occupies our land side by side with us. For this, Kayla will always live in our hearts,” said Abdullah Abu Rahma, coordinator of weekly protests in the Palestinian village of Bil’in, which has farmland on the other side of Israel’s separation barrier dividing Israeli and Palestinian territory.
It's worth mentioning, if only in passing, that Israel constructed the barrier as a response to repeated attacks by Palestinian terrorists during an intifada. And it is also worth noting that the construction of that wall caused those terrorist attacks to diminish significantly.
As you may know, Israeli policy has long been to demolish the homes of Palestinian terrorists. Activists like Rachel Corrie and Kayla Mueller chose to lie down in front of these homes to prevent the destruction.
Mueller herself wrote:
I could tell a few stories about sleeping in front of half demolished buildings waiting for the one night when the bulldozers come to finish them off; fearing sleep because you don’t know what could wake you.... I could tell a few stories about walking children home from school because settlers next door are keen to throw stones, threaten and curse at them.
The smell and taste of tear gas has lodged itself in the pores of my throat and the skin around my nose, mouth and eyes. It still burns when I close them. It still hangs in the air like invisible fire burning the oxygen I breathe. When I cry tears for this land, my eyes still sting. This land that is beautiful as the poetry of the mystics. This land with the people whose hearts are more expansive than any wall that any man could ever build.
Young and idealistic she no doubt was, but Mueller was actively supporting groups that promoted and countenanced terrorism.
Ron Radosh points out that Mueller had been captivated by the narrative wherein the Israelis are an oppressive occupying force and Palestinian terrorists are freedom fighters.
He quotes Mueller:
Oppression greets us from all angles. Oppression wails from the soldiers radio and floats through tear gas clouds in the air. Oppression explodes with every sound bomb and sinks deeper into the heart of the mother who has lost her son. But resistance is nestled in the cracks in the wall, resistance flows from the minaret 5 times a day and resistance sits quietly in jail knowing its time will come again. Resistance lives in the grieving mother’s wails and resistance lives in the anger at the lies broadcasted across the globe. Though it is sometimes hard to see and even harder sometimes to harbor, resistance lives. Do not be fooled, resistance lives.
Radosh also reports:
Like Corrie, Ms. Mueller’s work in the Middle East was not that of a humanitarian and non-partisan aid person, but rather, as the ISM statement put it, she “worked with Palestinians nonviolently resisting the confiscation and demolitions of their homes and lands.” She bragged in her internet posts of working in anti-Israel demonstrations in East Jerusalem, in an area which an Israeli court decision recognized as one in which Israelis had a legal right to build homes in. She also supported the throwing of rocks by Palestinians at Israelis, viewing that as a just tactic of the oppressed.
Mueller was a partisan. She was an activist. She embraced the cause of Palestine and was, at the very least, so blinded by her love for "humanity" that she did not know that she was being duped.