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Hope vs Despair
by Judy Lash Balint
Israel Insider
March 30, 2004

According to Israeli journalist Doron Rosenblum, Israel has plunged "into the depths of despair, bereavement and failure." We have, according to the Haaretz writer, deteriorated "willingly and with full awareness, down the slopes of the sewage (sic) of history." Further, he states, Israel is now "one of the most hated, most isolated and most miserable places to be on the planet." (Haaretz Magazine, March 26, 2004)

Another prominent Israeli, Labor MK Avram Burg, decided to air his pique in the London Sunday Telegraph (March 28, 2004) in an op ed entitled The Zionist Dream is Doomed. Here, Burg, a former speaker of the Knesset, reiterates a theme he sounded first, last September in the International Herald Tribune.

In his London piece, Burg writes: "The countdown to the end of Israeli society has begun." Incredibly, this member of Israel's elite goes on to justify homicide bombers by explaining to the Brits that, "They [Arabs] consign themselves to Allah in our places of recreation, because their own lives are torture. They spill their own blood in our restaurants, because they have children and parents at home who are hungry and humiliated."

Burg's late father, Yosef--a long-serving Israeli Cabinet minister--was my mother's teacher in Leipzig during the 1930s. Life for Jews there was indeed "torture," and our parents were "hungry and humiliated." No Jew resorted to blowing themselves up in restaurants or night clubs, did they Avram?

The sheer ignorance and wilfull self delusion displayed by this member of our ruling elite is daunting. Even a cursory examination of some of the more notable bombers illustrates the fallacy of his claims.

At least eight suicide bombers of the past three years were students at Al- Najah university in Nablus. Izzadin Masri, the 23-year-old who murdered 15 people at Jerusalem's Sbarro restaurant in 2002 was the son of a prosperous restaurant owner. Ayat Akhras, 18, a straight-A student, months away from graduation and then marriage killed two Israelis outside a supermarket in Kiryat Yovel. The two terrorists from upper middle class British backgrounds who killed three people at the Mike's Place disco on Tel Aviv's beachfront, had never even stepped foot in Israel before--how could they have felt Israeli "oppression?"

As Rohan Gunaratna, a terrorism specialist at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland categorically states: "You hear people say that these are all desperate people, or poor people whose families need the money. This is nonsense."

"These are rational people, not necessarily uneducated or impoverished," adds retired Air Force Maj. Gen. Todd Stewart, director of the Program for International and Homeland Security at Ohio State University in Columbus.

"These operatives, typically men in their early 20s, came from diverse social, economic and work backgrounds. They have at least as much education as the general population where they grew up, and usually more. They are seldom fatherless, friendless, jobless or hopeless."

Why does Burg have such trouble accepting the fact that the murderers are motivated by hatred, not humiliation? How have we arrived at the point where some leaders of Israeli society have bought into the propaganda of the enemy?

It's a complex cocktail of pyschological and emotional factors on both the individual and national level.

Still there's at least one group of Israelis who are actively fighting the culture of despair disseminated by the Burg and Rosenblum crowd. Some long-time immigrants from English-speaking countries are expressing optimism and even gratitude for being in the country.

Caroline Glick, an American immigrant and columnist for The Jerusalem Post who served in the Israeli Army during her early years in the country, told a packed and attentive Jerusalem audience recently that there is cause for optimism about the future.

Citing positive changes in the region--from the overthrow and capture of Saddam Hussein to the US's new attitude toward Syria--an upswing in the local Israeli economy and a history of astonishing achievement building a country in 55 years, Glick's prognosis was diamterically opposed to that of her Israeli journalist colleague.

Barbara Scher, another veteran American immigrant and CEO of the Docustar Company, organized an upbeat event in Raanana, just north of Tel Aviv last week Celebrating Life in Israel. Along with the music and food, several immigrants rose to explain why they came and why they are still here. Miserable Rosenblum and despairing Burg should have been there.