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LETTER: Foreign Policy Cannot Survive a Double Standard

Re: "Stepping Back"

By Joseph Mandelbaum

To the editors:

I write regarding U.S. aid to Israel is largely in the form of military aid, in response to the Crimson Staff editorial “Stepping Back” (Apr. 1, 2010). It consists of America giving money to Israel for its defense on the condition that Israel buys from American industries. Hence, U.S. aid to Israel is a way for the U.S. government to stimulate its own economy by making Israel purchase from the American defense sector.

If the Crimson Staff wants to talk about using aid in accordance with American principles, then it should first propose that the U.S. reconsider the aid it gives to Arab countries. This aid is given without setting conditions on the Arab governments to adopt true democratic ideals, follow the rule of law, respect women, support gay rights, and observe basic liberties such as freedom of the press—these are all principles shared by America and Israel. Therefore, the Crimson Staff should first suggest that the U.S. reconsider its aid to Saudi Arabia if it is truly committed to the ideals that the U.S. is supposed to uphold.

Whether due to some oversight or hypocrisy, the Crimson Staff has focused its attention on Israel’s shortcomings, applying a double standard to Israel, without making similar claims regarding how the U.S. should use its influence on other countries in the region. There are gays being stoned to death in Egypt; there are roads that are accessible only to Muslims in Saudi Arabia; Jordan recently revoked Jordanian citizenship from some 3,000 Palestinians (I do not recall the Obama administration making a strong public condemnation of this injustice, nor the Crimson Staff demanding the U.S. to pressure the Jordanian government). Instead, the Crimson Staff simply says that if the U.S. distances itself from Israel, it might “foster our relationships with its neighbors.” Foreign policy cannot survive a double standard.

More appalling is the Crimson’s Staff sole criticism of Israel because its settlement policies “undercut the peace process” while blatantly omitting the serious lack of commitment from the Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank toward peace. Hamas in Gaza uses terrorism and fires rockets, hiding cowardly among human shields; Hamas is targeting Israeli civilians and putting their own civilians at risk, thereby committing a crime against humanity on two accounts. Hamas has a greater desire to see Israel destroyed rather than to help Palestinians in Gaza. In the West Bank, the “more moderate” Mahmoud Abbas recently gave his strong approval for the naming of a square after a suicide bomber terrorist (Dalal Mughrabi) who was responsible for the deaths of 37 innocent Israeli civilians. What perverse culture is this that glorifies death, the killing of innocent civilians, and incites hatred? I wonder if the Crimson Staff would similarly propose that the U.S. should reconsider its aid to the Palestinian Authority if its leaders continue to foment hatred. For the Crimson Staff to accuse Israel and its settlements for hurting peace efforts while forgetting the ideology of vitriolic hate and terror that is present among Palestinians is a shameful omission.

There is no moral equivalency between Israel, a free and democratic country in which every citizen is equal under the law, and Israel’s neighbors, which are theocracies and dictatorships. Israel conducts its military operations in self-defense to secure its civilians and targeting terrorists while minimizing civilian casualties. Indeed, British Colonel Richard Kemp said, “The IDF did more to safeguard the rights of civilians in a combat zone than any other army in the history of warfare” regarding Operation Cast Led. I will add that instead of distancing from Israel, the U.S. might even learn a few things from Israel on how to conduct itself morally during war against militants.

The issue of building settlements needs to be addressed in a plan that will bring long lasting peace and security to Israelis and Palestinians. So too must the problem of terrorism and the message of hate that still comes out loudly from the Palestinian side in Gaza and the West Bank be addressed. At least if the Crimson Staff wants the U.S. to reconsider its aid to Israel, then I hope they will stand by their alleged principles and also ask for a reconsideration of aid to Arab countries and the Palestinian Authority in the name of peace, freedom, democracy, and other American ideals.


Cambridge, Mass.

Apr. 2, 2010

Joseph Mandelbaum ’11 is a chemical and physical biology concentrator in Cabot House.

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