In the wake of the Sept. 11 tragedy, the Empire has published a number of letters critical of Israel, as well as American policy toward Israel. I am deeply troubled by the mixture of fact and fiction in these letters and the implication that the killing of Americans and Israelis is somehow justified by these policies.
It is appropriate to criticize government policies that subjugate the rights of minorities. This criticism would be more responsible, however, if it were prefaced by a firm acknowledgment that nothing justifies the murder of innocent American citizens by al-Qaida and nothing justifies the murder of innocent Israeli citizens by Palestinians.
My friend Lisle Hebert claims that Israel's goal is to return to its biblical borders and drive the Palestinians out. That may be the goal of a vocal minority of religious zealots, but it is not the goal of the majority of Israeli citizens. Most Israelis, like most Palestinians, want nothing more than to be able to live in peace with their neighbors. Mr. Hebert asks for proof of this. The proof is in the historical fact that Israel exchanged land for peace with Egypt when both parties believed that could be done without a threat to either party's security. When this can be done with the Palestinians, there will be peace.
The suggestion that the United States should use its influence to coax Israel into coexisting with a Palestinian State is reasonable as far as it goes. But it is naive to suggest that this can be done simply by withdrawing military or financial support for Israel, without guaranteeing Israel's security. Until very recently, Palestinian Chairman Arafat, like most of Israel's other neighbors, called for the destruction of Israel. While Arafat has verbally retreated from that policy, he is unwilling or unable to control other Palestinian elements that refuse to coexist peacefully with Israel under any circumstances.
I welcome a responsible debate about American policy in the Middle East. There is no room, however, for the tacit suggestion that an appropriate response to perceived political repression includes blowing up American financial centers or Israeli shopping malls, schools, buses, and night clubs.