Defending Israel

THE MAIL

To the Editors of The Crimson:

I always find it sad when seemingly intelligent people find themselves hopelessly lost in the thickets of a complex problem. This seems to be where George Bisharat has left himself after his thoroughly confused letter (3 17 83) which attempted to respond to the often overly vehement, but generally sensible critiques of his misguided editorial (3 6 83)

Mr Bisharat generously decided to further muddle only two of the contested points, and to these I will confine myself.

1. The question of responsibility for the massacre at Shatila and Sabra is actually an easily resolved one. The Israeli Commission on the massacre divided responsibility into "direct" and "indirect" realms, and then took the unprecedented step of holding Israel's leaders "indirectly" responsible, and thus subject to punishment (conversely when at Nuremberg, the concept of indirect responsibility was first promulgated, it was done so by revenge seeking victors of a terrible war--the Israelis submitted themselves to this type of scrutiny voluntarily). The fact that the Phalangist butchers who slaughtered their own Arab brethren have not even been named, let alone punished, did not prevent the removal of Ariel Sharon from the Defense Ministry, or the forced retirement of two generals.

The Israelis have thus accepted their indirect responsibility for the massacre and have acted in a way which affirms the strength of their morality, a morality which is utterly tacking in her Arab neighbors, but expected of Israel by a demanding and perhaps hypocritical world. Mr. Bisharat wishes to go further, however, and seems to say that the Israelis foresaw the probability of a massacre and gave the Phalangists as much aid as possible in carrying it out. This interpretation, tempting though it may be for those with a blind hatred of Israel, simply does not make sense: after having proclaimed to the world its intention to prevent chaos in West Beirut following the assassination of Beshir Gemayel, why would Israel then promote a massacre of Palestinians for which it knew it would be held responsible? The conclusions of the Commission are the only logical ones--the possibility of a massacre should have been foreseen but, sadly, was not, and the leaders who failed to prevent the massacre were punished for failing to foresee what they should have foreseen, and not for anything that they actually did.

2. Mr. Bisharat also seems confused on the subject of Israel's justification for the war in Lebanon last summer. His single valid point in a four paragraph tirade is that there were no terrorist attacks on Israel by the PLO cadres entrenched in Lebanon between July, 1981 and the beginning of the war. But does this necessarily make Israel's advance to Beirut an unjustifiable act of aggression? I think not.

Over the course of 10 years the PLO had built up in Lebanon a state within a state (in order to achieve this the PLO was directly responsible for massacres far worse than the one for which Israel was held indirectly responsible--but I suppose a PLO Commission on massacres is unlikely) complete with a small, but well-equipped army. If we combine this with the fact that the PLO's declared purpose is the destruction of Israel, one wonders not why Israel invaded, but why it waited so long to end a situation intolerable to any sovereign nation.

Mr. Bisharat seems not to see this, for he argues that Israel, fearful of peace with the PLO, sought to wipe out this increasingly viable negotiating partner. It is clear that the Begin Government is not exactly enamored with the prospect of co-existing with a Palestinian state on the West Bank, but then, let us fairly note, the PLO is equally (if not more) hesitant about accepting Israel as a neighbor. Neither is ready to negotiate, but Israel loses little by delay. The PLO, on the other hand, in refusing to cease calling for Israel's destruction, demonstrates that Mr. Bisharat has no monopoly on muddled thinking, for soon Israel's settlement plan will be complete, and the West Bank virtually lost to the Palestinians forever. If the PLO truly desires peace, let us see the PLO immediately arrange for simultaneous recognition between it and Israel (an action which will lead to America's recognition of the PLO), and then call for negotiations without preconditions over the future of the West Bank. Such an action is, of course, entirely improbable, since all the protestations heard from the PLO about its truly peaceful intentions are, much like Mr. Bisharat's letter, self-righteous claptrap. Eric Stecket '84