The Los Angeles Times' Megan Stack inserted unsubstantiated and hostile editorializing in her Nov. 10 article about the phenomenon of Israeli youth traveling to India after the army (“Israel’s Dose of Unreality”). Suggesting that the number of Israeli students bettering themselves by studying abroad has dropped in recent years, she writes: “Young Israelis used to go to America or to Europe to study, intern, and build careers. These days, though, they lose themselves in the developing world. Instead of self-improvement, many are looking for debauchery, escapism or some sort of New Age-style spiritual renewal.”
Later in the article she attributes what she claims is a growing attraction to India to Israel’s policies vis-à-vis the Palestinians:
It is also a group that fought for the Jewish state at a time when the support of their countrymen is far from unanimous. Israel is at war with itself over Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s strategy in dealing with Palestinians.
Many fear, and say so ever more openly, that harsh measures imposed on the Palestinians in the name of stifling terrorism will only end up stoking the hatred.
In this vein, Stack quoted Israeli author Gadi Taub: “Suddenly what the army is used for is not so clear. Think what that does to an 18-year-old.”
It is important to note that Stack failed to present any evidence that India’s drug scene is indeed detracting from the number of young Israelis coming to America to study. To the contrary, the number of Israelis studying in America has increased since fighting started in Sept. 2000. According to the Institute of International Education, which receives State Department funding to track foreign students in the United States, the number of Israeli students enrolled in college or university programs in the U.S. in 2002-2003 has increased 8 percent since the 1999-2000 academic year, before the violence started. Thus, three years ago, 3,238 Israelis were enrolled in secondary academic programs in the U.S. Last year, that number jumped by almost 300 to 3,521.
Furthermore, Stack did not substantiate her claim that Israel “is at war with itself over Prime Minister Ariel Sharon’s strategy in dealing with Palestinians.” In fact, polling data show just the opposite: the majority of Israelis back Sharon’s specific policies for dealing with the Palestinians. For example, in an Oct. 10 New Wave survey for Ma’ariv, 66 percent of Israelis polled support the bombing of the Islamic Jihad base in Syria by the air force, 71 percent support the erection of the separation fence, 63 percent believe Ariel should be included in the fence (as Sharon has started to do), and 67 percent do not support the protest letter from Air Force pilots against Israel’s policies in the territories. Similarly, a Dahaf poll for Yediot Achronot (week of Oct. 24) found that 66 percent of Israelis surveyed support the continuation of targeted killings by air and 63 percent think the Israeli military does enough to protect Israeli civilians.