43 Years of Freedom

Israel, of course, has not followed the lead of her neighbors. But the bottom line is that Israel has handled the intifada--like all of the other issues it has faced--just as any other democratic nation would. Imperfectly. Looking bad sometimes is the price of freedom in Israel as well as in America.

"THERE WAS SOMETHING deeply moving and deeply stirring to every American in the creation of the new State of Israel," President Harry S Truman recalled a decade after his administration recognized the the new country in 1948. "Here was a country founded on the love of human freedom, just as our own country was based on the ideal of freedom. Here was a country designed to be a haven for the oppressed and persecuted of the earth, just as our own country had been."

No doubt the emergence of a country dedicated to democracy and freedom was "deeply moving and deeply stirring" to America. Those are our values, ones for which we Americans live, fight and die. That's what we did in the Persian Gulf, even though the United States has not yet achieved its own high standards of liberty and justice for all.

And in the Persian Gulf, we all knew who stood with whom. Who was with the United States? All of the world's democracies, including Israel, which absorbed Scud after Scud without retaliating in order to further America's war effort.

So let's not make excuses for Israel, whitewash its less-than-excellent handling of the intifada or apologize for its human rights abuses. The point is not to deny reality. The point, rather, is to understand Israel's situation in light of the neighborhood in which it lives and the constraints it faces, as a democracy, in dealing with them.


Overall, Israel has done a pretty good job. That's why we Americans, as citizens of the world's exclusive democratic club, should go grab our shovels and celebrate the 43rd birthday of a fellow member.

Kenneth A. Katz '93, a Crimson editor, is chair of the Harvard Israel Public Affairs Committee.

Since 1948, Israel has built a society based on Western values...

... and America should salute a job well done.