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Friday, June 27, 2003

Kol hakavod to Rabbi Daniel Horowitz

President of the Rabbinical Assoc. of Greater Kansas City stands up in the Kansas City Star:
By Daniel Horowitz
Special to The Star

On June 17, I called to offer condolences to a friend whose wife was blown up in a bus bombing in Jerusalem. Genia Berman, a mother of five, was murdered because she was a Jew who lives in Israel. She was a victim of a campaign conducted by those offended by a Jewish presence in the Middle East.

On June 18, I read Rev. Vern Barnet's column offering his psychological explanation of the Middle East conflict. He suggests there are aggressors, protectors and victims. He writes: "Jews, recalling the Nazi Holocaust...respond to what they see as an Arab threat against their nation by switching to the attack mode while thinking of themselves as victims."

"What they see" -- what Israelis see -- as an Arab threat, is rather well-documented. From pogroms in the 1920s to today's homicidal bombings and genocidal education, the threat to eliminate Israel is very real. This doesn't mean every Arab supports this or that President Bush's "road map" to peace can't be traveled, only that Israel has every reason to take such a threat seriously.

But Barnet believes that Jews are just "recalling the Holocaust" and "switching to the attack mode," as if no Arabs had ever tried to murder them. This smacks of the tired "cycle of violence" line that treats the murdered and the murderer the same.

Incredibly, he casts the Palestinians as former rescuers now become victims, and writes: "Some become so confused in this new role that they become aggressors." These terrorists are not evil, just confused; all they have to do is give up playing a role. He does not acknowledge terrorism and incitement to genocide as factors with which Israel must contend.

Undoubtedly many Palestinians are victims. Everyone understands that innocent Palestinians have died, and that their circumstances are excruciating and often humiliating. But the Palestinians are largely the victims of their own leadership, which has consistently turned away from peace. The Arab-Israeli conflict is a result of this intolerance and rejectionism. The sooner Palestinian leadership changes course, the sooner the entire region will be able to arrive at a lasting peace. But that won't happen through simplistic psychological analysis or by blaming those who respond to such hatred with appropriate means of defense.

Genia Berman didn't wish to play the role of victim. She is a victim, a victim of evil in action and of those who excuse it. And if you don't understand that, you can't broker useful discussion among Jews and Muslims.