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Podhoretz and Segal on Ending Conflict in the Middle East

November 21, 1987

The two columns by Norman Podhoretz and Jerome Segal (Op-Ed Page, Nov. 9) advocate opposite views on the preferred policy of the U.S. government and attitude of American Jews toward Israel. And both are wrong.

Podhoretz thinks that Jews who live in America forfeit their right to express views on the Israeli-Arab conflict because they choose not to live in Israel. Yet, Podhoretz contradicts his own premise by suggesting what his position would be if he were an Israeli. To no surprise, as a self-styled "neo-conservative," he sides with the right-wing Likud Party headed by current Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir. So, Podhoretz rejects criticism of Israel's current posture because he supports Shamir, not for the principled rationale he claims. Notwithstanding this minor hypocrisy, on his central point, he is dead wrong. Why should an American Jew be precluded from offering views about the future of a land he loves, contributes to and seeks to preserve? It is not only his right as an American, but his duty as a Jew. Any effort to muzzle American Jews could well erode the vital financial and political support they provide to Israel.

Segal exercises his right to express views. However, his position--that the U.S. government should force Israel to accept particular peace terms--is also wrong. Such unilateral action would undermine the only guarantee there is of Israel's security: the irrevocable support of its American ally. Moreover, it would hurt the U.S. self-interest. This country supports Israel not just because it is the only democracy in the Middle East and not just for overriding moral reasons. It is in our strategic interest to have a strong, stable ally in the world's most volatile region. The United States needs Israel.

In their opposite ways, Podhoretz and Segal are extremists whose views threaten Israel's survival. Their articles, taken together, make an overriding point neither intends: Extremism almost always is mistaken and often counterproductive.

TERRY B. FRIEDMAN

State Assembly

D-Sherman Oaks

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