Monday, July 1, 2013

Andrew Pochter: Murdered in Cairo

Last week, while out photographing the demonstrations in Egypt, a Jewish American college student, Andrew Pochter was stabbed to death.

Apparently, his assailant figured out that Pochter was American and delivered the punishment that Islamists reserve for infidels. We do not know whether Pochter identified himself as Jewish.

The death of someone so young and so idealistic is especially sad. If you can’t be idealistic when you are young, when can you?

And yet, Andrew Bostom suggests, Pochter bore all of the hopes and delusions that the American educational system had taught him. According to his mother, he had become a true believing multiculturalist.

One can feel somewhat bemused that a mere college student could be filled with so much missionary zeal that he believed that he could solve the Israeli-Palestinian problem.

Imagining young Andrew reading poems about it to his girlfriend feels more like the theatre of the absurd.

Pochter had set out to save the world. He did it by learning Arabic and by absorbing everything there was to know about Egyptian culture. He had already lived in Morocco and had thrilled when the Arab Spring arrived in that nation. Now, he had decided to move to Egypt and to teach Egyptian schoolchildren.

Either he was fearless or deluded. He seems not to have had any real sense that Cairo might be a dangerous place for an American Jew.

Perhaps he told himself that he was invulnerable because he was standing on the moral high ground. Apparently, no one told him that people who stand on the moral high ground become easy targets.

Pochter was active in the Kenyon College Jewish student group, Hillel. Do you think that anyone associated with Hillel told him how many Jews were living in Egypt today? The answer: around 20.

Did anyone teach him what happened to the rest of Egypt’s Jews? Probably not.

One doubts that he learned about the millions of Jews who had been expelled from Arab and Muslim Middle Eastern nations in the past six decades.

Did he believe that once the Israeli-Palestinian problem was solved by his missionary work these Jews would be granted a right to return to their native countries?

Pochter was doing as he had been taught to do. He was reaching out to people who had a slightly different culture, offering love and empathy, caring and concern. He must have believed that increased understanding could solve the world’s problems and that a compassionate American Jew could show Egypt how to overcome its Islamist hatred.

Our culture being what it is, men who study at prestigious universities like Kenyon College often distinguish themselves with their charity work. Many of them start during high school. It is known to improve their chances of being accepted in elite institutions.

American university culture is in the business of producing and rewarding a certain kind of man: loving, caring compassionate, nurturing...  in touch with his feminine sides.

Sun Tzu recommended that warriors know their enemies and know themselves. Young people like Andrew Pochter know neither their enemies nor themselves.

Pochter did not understand what being an American Jew meant in today’s Egypt. He had no apparent appreciation for the virulent anti-Semitism that exists in Egypt. Perhaps he thought that Egyptians were not anti-Semitic but were just anti-Zionists.

But Pochter was not a warrior, either. Having been trained in American multiculturalism he was surely taught to disparage military virtues in favor of soft values, like caring for children.

In fact, multicultural Americans do not even believe that there is a war going on. The president said that the War on Terror is over. Who are we to think otherwise?

One dislikes having to say that certain people should avoid certain places. Two years ago CBS correspondent Lara Logan was gang raped in Tahrir Square. At the time, I, among other retro types, suggested that it was probably a bad idea to send a woman into such a place. Didn’t the CBS producers understand that Egyptian men are notoriously abusive and aggressive toward women?

The usual suspects were appalled by the notion that a woman should not risk life and limb to do her job. They insisted that a professional woman has every right to go where she wanted to do her job. True enough, she does. That does not mean that she should. Making her a martyr for a cause does not undo the trauma of being gang raped.

“When will they ever learn….”

[Addendum: Jezebel has an article about the rape and about sexual violence against women in Egypt. It's a good column, and it's good that a feminist publication starts talking about the oppression of women in Muslim countries.]


vanderleun said...

"If you can’t be idealistic when you are young, when can you?"

Actually, it can persist for decades and ruin your entire life instead of just your youth.

Bobbye said...

Having read some other posts about Andrew, and the susequent comments, I am of the opinion that Andrew was a budding long term CIA project that somehow got "outed" in Cairo. I doubt that his death was random. Just my opinion.

Sam L. said...

When will they ever learn? I'm guessing they won't. (See Robert Fisk, who thinks the guys who beat him up were right to have done it).

vanderleun said...

Nope. They will never learn. I'm sure that, like the parents of Rachel Corrie, his parents put him up to it. Now they have to live with that little concept for the rest of their miserable lives.

Anonymous said...

Per anthropologists, up to 30% of Stone Age skeletons show death or serious injuries from other people. N.American Indian men were lifetime warriors (Comanches nearly wiped out my ancestors).

In the modern era, we are simply better at killing, and have more people to kill. We also have tons of young men worldwide w/nothing better to do.

Being "anti-war" is ridiculous as being "anti-death". Considering all people as Brothers & Sisters isn't even accepted by most theologians (except in Theory). Human conflict will never end.

First day of Battle of Gettysburg today, 150 years past. -- Rich Lara

JP said...

Places you don't want to go generally:

War zones

Arab countries in the middle of revolutions (see War Zones).


The Moon

The Sun

A vat of industrial chemicals.

I mean, there are *lots* of places that are generally inhospitable.

JP said...

"Considering all people as Brothers & Sisters isn't even accepted by most theologians (except in Theory). Human conflict will never end."

I'm pretty sure that you can ultimately end human conflict.

Going somewhere dangerous, alone, and shorn of your defenses, is not a way to make any kind of progress in that direction, however. Definitely not this century, however, given that massive conflict is already baked into the cake.

It also helps if you have a basic understanding of human nature, psychology, and actual history.

Anonymous said...

Good luck on your quest or assertion that "[you] can ultimately end human conflict."

Seriously, good luck with that one.

Not gonna happen. Reason: human nature. The psychology and actual history are just narrative overlays. We're fallen creatures. Luminous, creative and beautiful, but simultaneously fallen. Every time we delude ourselves into thinking we've got it all figured out, bad #%@& happens.

Success occurs when we hold ourselves to something higher. Relativism ain't it. That's the multicultural, idealistic relativism that Andrew Pochter learned in college. I guarantee you no one's fighting over anything relative in Cairo. Maybe there's more at stake for the Egyptians than solving all the world's problems. Perhaps they want to solve their own. Crazy idea.


Anonymous said...

Idealism meets realism. Idealism loses, as it does every time.

Sincere condolences to the Pochter family.

Soviet of Washington said...

"Young people like Andrew Pochter know neither their enemies nor themselves. "

Actually, they've forgotten that there is even such a concept as 'enemy.' Lee Harris discusses this 'forgetting' in some detail in the preface of his book Civilization and It's Enemies.

Anonymous said...

Sir, your article does nothing except perpetrate victim-blaming. Not very different from this:
This article, on top of being quite poorly written, suffers from the exact stubbornness and inability to step out of boxed-in ideologies that Andrew sought to combat.
As one commenter puts it: "the brevity of this article masks the vast ocean of ignorance residing within its margins."

dr kill said...

A side effect of current American culture is that stupid beliefs not only are without negative consequence but are applauded. It is possible to live a lifetime in modern America and never know the truth.

Not so much in the real world.

Anonymous said...

I didn't read all the posts because I was so saddened and sickened by the article and the initial posts.
I know that Andrew was singled out because he was taking pictures due to his interest in history in the making.
He was not wearing a star of David on his forehead. This was a mob scene and the criminals that stabbed him were looters, they were afraid of being recognized. This was a criminal murder that had nothing to do with religion. Yes he probably looked like a westerner that day.
He was raised as a Christian with a Jewish father. Andrew chose to learn about Jewish culture like he did other cultures. This is what happened, stop trying to make it anything else.