And there is no irony for the killers and their supporters in the fact that the Jew whom they beheaded was a secular Jew, because that merely compounded Pearl's transgressions, and because they are not creatures of irony. Indeed, it is their inability to comprehend the adjectival benefits of "secular" that defines their historical imprisonment. What they do not admire they murder. Their instrument of criticism is the knife.

Owing to the manner in which he died, there will be Jews who will regard Daniel Pearl as a martyr. I have already heard Jewish friends say as much. And the circumstances of Pearl's death are eerily consistent with the requirements of martyrological status in Jewish law and Jewish tradition.

This savage execution puts one vividly in mind of the rabbinical rhetoric of "the Sanctification of the Name." (Here is a random example, from a sermon by a sixteenth-century rabbi in Salonika, commenting on the Psalmist's verse "for thy sake we are killed all the day long": "The Psalmist wishes to say that we regard ourselves daily as if the knife is placed upon our throat to slaughter us for the sanctification of the Name.")

But such an interpretation must be ferociously resisted. To regard Daniel Pearl as a martyr--a martyr for Judaism, a martyr for America, a martyr for modernity, a martyr for democracy--is to concede too much to the perpetrators of his death. Holy victimizers will not be defeated by holy victims. Instead the notion of sacred historical necessity must be repudiated.

This will not be easy in some parts of the world, where politics is still eschatological (and therefore not, strictly speaking, politics at all). History is once again choking on God. But the murder of Daniel Pearl was not a martyrdom, it was an atrocity. Is that not stirring enough? And the beauty of his life is reason enough to lift his memory high. Martyrdom is not the only way of dying not in vain.

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