Against The Law To
Criticize Israel?

By Terrell E. Arnold
Scholars and journalists who for years have studied, written and talked about the Israeli- Palestinian conflict suddenly are facing a potential brick wall. This wall, not unlike the concrete barrier now being built by Israel to keep out the Palestinians, is designed to silence all discussion of Middle East issues that involves any form of criticism of Israel on any American university campus. The wall, if it were built, would be created in law by senators Rick Santorum (Pa) and Sam Brownback (Kan.) through an amendment to Title VI of the Higher Education Act. Deceptively to be called an amendment to include "ideological diversity and "sexual equality as prerequisites for federal funding, the real purpose of the measure is to require denial of federal funds to any university whose faculty or students, perhaps even guest lecturers, make statements that are in any way critical of Israel. The argument is that any action or statement critical of Israel is perforce anti-Semitic.
Among hardliner supporters of Israel and the Zionists this type of move has been brewing for some time. Critics of Israeli treatment of the Palestinian people have been increasing in number and clarity. But in human relations there are always several ways to deal with criticism. One obviously is to ignore it. A second is to meet criticism head on with superior proofs and arguments. A third is to kill the messenger. A fourth is to assert that the critic is actually the problem. A fifth is to argue that the critic or even everybody does the thing being criticized. A sixth is to assert that the criticism falls within a broad class of statements that are taboo, e.g., anti-Semitism. When all these essentially social control options prove unworkable, as in the Israeli case they have, the last ditch option is to suppress criticism by law.
Note that the optimum choice is and always has been, of course, to modify the behavior being criticized. However, anyone listening and watching closely what Israeli leadership is doing under Sharon and the Likud party knows that there is no intent whatsoever to modify behavior. That would require acquiescence in creation of a Palestinian state as well as acceptance of the Palestinian State as an equal in the family of nations. This, in turn, would require once and for all determinations of the size and shape of Israel. The Zionist dream of a Greater Israel would have to remain just that.
It may not be possible to persuade the Zionists and their supporters, Israelis, fundamentalist Christians, or well-wishers in general that the only solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict lies through recognition of the rights of the Palestinian people. It may not be possible for Israelis and their supporters to face the fact that denial of Palestinian rights and repression of their freedom are the taproots of Palestinian terrorism. Nor may it be possible to persuade the White House and the Congress, as well as the Democratic candidate for President that unconditional support for Israel is not and never has been a winning strategy for the United States. But they all must understand that continued insistence on this posture is courting a national disaster.
This proposed amendment is an echo of Nazi, Communist and other totalitarian forms of censorship. If enacted it would provide cover for increasing Israeli excesses against the Palestinians. That will surely provoke more Palestinian resistance, including more terrorism. Every member of the Senate and House of Representatives who is worth the confidence we placed in them and the salary we pay them should vote against this amendment. Their best strategy would be to prevent it from coming to the floor. To do otherwise would be to pervert our national laws, to willfully corrupt our diplomatic relations with other countries, and to undermine the intellectual freedom of our higher educational system.
George Washington saw the problem clearly, as outlined in his farewell address more than 200 years ago: " . . . a passionate attachment of one nation for another produces a variety of evils. Sympathy for the favorite nation, facilitating the illusion of an imaginary common interest.. and infusing into one the enmities of the other, betrays the former into a participation in the quarrels and the wars of the latter without adequate inducements or justification.. It leads, also, to concessions to the favorite nation of privileges denied to others, which are apt doubly to injure the nation making the concessions, by unnecessarily parting with what ought to have been retained, and by exciting jealousy, ill will and a disposition to retaliate in the parties from whom equal privileges are withheld."
The definition of national interest as Washington saw it has not changed. Nor has the stickiness of the flypaper wrapped around the proposed amendment. We have conceded to no other nation such a license to interfere in our internal affairs. The way for Israel to reduce or eliminate most of the criticism that is abroad today is to clean up its own act.
The writer is a retired Senior Foreign Service Officer of the US Department of State. He will welcome comments at



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