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Tuesday, Feb 20, 2024

Constructive Debate May Untangle Complicated Policy Debate

Author: Becky Ruby

I am writing in direct response to Brian Ashley's column, "The Embattled Bipartisan," in the Nov. 7 edition of The Middlebury Campus. However, the gist of my response does not solely address Ashley's article. There has been a surprising and upsetting increase in one-sided accounts of the conflict in the Middle East here at Middlebury, accounts that are critical of Israel. I feel that many of these accounts have misrepresented Israel and the Jewish perspective, as well as espousing false statements as fact.

I would like to comment on some of the recently voiced misconceptions concerning Israel, the Middle East, and America's involvement with the two.

1. America supports Israel not because we feel guilty about World War II (as Ashley proposes) but because Israel has served as a trustworthy allied in a turbulent region of the world. Further, Israel is the only democracy in the region, and like America, is interested in the preservation of that freedom.

2. Israel does not exist today because of American intervention, or even American support. In fact, the American government stayed largely out of the Israel negotiation process during the country's inception. It was Great Britain and Russia who lobbied the UN for the state of Israel.

3. As the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict shows, it is not just Israel who has broken delicate peace treaties. Much so-called Israel aggression is in fact a response to acts of violence against the Israeli people. For all of its setbacks and shortcomings, the Israeli government is trying to come to a peaceful resolution with its neighbors to create established and stable boarders.

4. Ashley fails to mention that while there have been cases of Israel soldiers showing violence toward Palestinian civilians, the same is absolutely true for Palestinian Militants towards Israeli citizens. Perhaps had Ashley's article mentioned the Palestinian terrorists who strap bombs to themselves and detonate them on busses filled with Israeli families, his article would have been a little less critical solely of the Israeli military.

5. Israel is not the "whitest side" of the Middle East conflict, as Ashley speculates. Israel is a racially diverse nation, composed of Russian and European immigrants, Ethiopian immigrants, Arab, Spanish, and Mediterranean populations. America's involvement with Israel is not based on race at all. Keeping in mind the tragic history of the mid to late 20th century, I hope that Ashley will be more cautious in his flippant use of the word "genocide" in the future.

The recent influx of articles and programs critical of Israel in the Middle East on campus has come as a surprise to me, especially in light of the troubles America currently faces. When terrorists attacked America on Sept. 11, it took our country not even two weeks to respond with force. Israel is under terrorist attack every day. No bus, no pizza parlor, no school, no dance club is safe from the violence of extremist Palestinian groups.

I encourage members of the Middlebury College community to join me in seeking to foster a campus dialogue on the Middle East issues mentioned above. This dialogue should take full advantage of the academic setting we find ourselves in. It should be a constructive debate, factually and intellectually based, not an emotional game of blaming.

The situation in the Middle East is far too complex for any college student to aptly describe in a campus newspaper column. However, with constructive debate and discussion, I hope the college community can come to a better understanding of the diverse range of opinions concerning the Middle East situation. A better understanding of these complexities will serve to undermine articles, such as Ashley's, that substitute rhetoric for fact.