Who Killed Daniel PearL? by Bernard-Henri Levy (Melville House), 454 pages, $38.95 cloth. Rating: NNNNN Rating: NNNNN
It was historic in the annals of anti-Jewish hatred - the first filmed ritual slaughter of a Jew. The man in the video, pronouncing his Jewishness before his head is sliced off, was Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl. He was a liberal and an American Jew who, while working in a totalitarian land, possessed a curious mind.
Two years after that snuff film was recorded, French journalist and philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy tries to uncover the real forces that brought Pearl to his imprisonment and martyrdom.
He does it very well.
BHL, as he's known in France, takes the reader on a gripping journey through Pakistan's labyrinth of secrets and violence. He's a Jewish intellectual following the same path that led to the beheading of his protagonist.
At the hotel where Pearl spent the night before his abduction, we learn that it's the headquarters of Islamic militants returning from fighting Indians in Kashmir.
The tension builds as BHL makes his way into the grand madrasa in Karachi, a school devoted to the glorification of Osama bin Laden and the war against Jews and the West.
There are two main characters in the book, Daniel Pearl and his assassin, the London-raised, highly educated hijacker and Islamic extremist Omar Sheikh, and BHL seems to penetrate the minds of both. He makes a compelling case that the real force behind the killing was rogue elements of the ISI, Pakistan's intelligence service.
Levy believes the true danger to the West lies not in Baghdad, but in the Pakistani poverty that bred the al Qaeda cadre and the powerful spy network that helped nurse it into being.
This is the best book of investigative journalism since All The President's Men.
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