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Peace will come through funding strangulation

Achieving peace between Israel and the Palestinians will depend on a change in Arab leadership, acceptance of the state of Israel's right to exist and control over money funneled to terrorist organizations. At least in the view of one woman.

Judith Lash Balint, author and journalist based in Jerusalem, told a group of about 100 people Wednesday evening at the South Whidbey High School auditorium during a free lecture.

Balint, an occasional guest on CNN, discussed terrorism and issues relating to extreme Islamic fundamentalist groups.

"It is wide-spread knowledge that Islamic relief organizations fund terrorism. Papers found in Arafat's compound prove that he was funded that way. A lot of money comes out of Saudi Arabia," Balint said.

Balint has written for the New York Post, Christian Science Monitor, Jerusalem Post and serves as Jerusalem correspondence for KIRO Radio's Dave Ross Show and is a senior correspondent with The Media Line, a journalism think tank

She is the author of "Jerusalem Diaries: In Tense Times," published by Gefen. During her talk this week, Balint laid out what she believes to be the proper strategy for bringing an end to conflict in Israel.

"The way to deal with modern terrorism is to cut its financing," she said. "The war on terrorism will not be defeated per se, but we can constrict the environment.

"The money issue is key. If we cut off funding for terrorists they are no longer functional... they are (terrorist groups) willing to pay the family of a suicide bomber $25,000. A lot of money for people living on $2 per day." Balint said.

She admits controlling funding which comes through relief organizations can be more difficult.

"On one hand Islamic relief organizations buy shoes for kids and then buy explosives to kill others," Balint said.

During the hour-long lecture Balint defined terrorism, from her perspective, and addressed several misconceptions she believes some of the general public has. She said the United States support for Israel does not make Americans targets for terrorists. The main issue in the region is that many Arab leaders do not acknowledge the right of Israel to exist.

"I am not optimistic that will change," she said.

Still, she acknowledged the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks on the East coast as a bitter learning experience for the United States. The attacks fit her ideas on terrorism perfectly.

"My definition of terror is the intentional use of violence against civilians for political aims," Balint said.

Even so, in Jerusalem, where 20 people were killed earlier this week in a bombing attack on a bus, life is pretty normal even following that attack.

"If you visited me in the middle Jerusalem, you would not know we are in the middle of war," Bliant said. "It's a mechanism we use to survive. We will go on, not give in to terror or let it disrupt our society."

The United States has recognized by executive order 28 terrorist organizations, and according to Balint Syria provides protection for one-quarter of them.

When asked by Freeland businessman, Richard Davis what the extremists world looks like, Balint said those extremists don't want to see any Jews in the area they consider their territory.

"If you look at the logos of all the terrorists organizations, they include an outline of the state of Israel," she said. "It is clear they know what they are trying to destroy, what they hate."

In spite of what's going on now, Balint said,"Jews have always lived next to Arabs for thousands of years, and the reality is Arabs and Jews live and work in proximity in Israel now."

When asked about a Palestian homeland, Balint said before 1967 there was Palestinian state. In fact, before Yassir Arafat, there was no Palestinian leader.

"Palestinians are a conglomeration of Arabs from many countries forced by their dictators to live as refugees," she said.

In Balint's view, the solution for Palestinians is to not to give up but to accept the notion that the state of Israel has a right to exist in that area. If it is allowed to do so, the Palenstians will benefit economically and socially which wouldn't happen under current Arab leaders.

Herb Weissblum, a Clinton resident with a deep interest in the Middle East arranged Wednesday night's program with journalist Balint. He hopes it was the first of a continuing lecture series to be held on the island. He moved to the island after a career as an attorney in Boston. He produces a newsletter by e-mail on international affairs, and is organizing an effort to keep the lecture series going.

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