YOU COULD comb the pages of the Congressional Record for the last 10 days of the session and not find a single reference to the shameful events unfolding in Israel and the occupied territrories.
On the West Bank, Israeli soldiers have been clubbing unarmed teen-age Arab demonstrators into the ground. The week before Christmas, having terrorized relatives of patients who were waiting in the courtyard, Israeli troops stormed into an Arab hospital in Gaza and beat up doctors and nurses.
If the 22 killed and scores wounded had been Israelis, you can imagine the outcry. But the casualties were Palestinians, who are voiceless here, and the silence was awful.
"We were awfully busy getting out of there," said one member of Congress at a holiday party. "You know, we had contra aid and fairness and all that."
But another said more forthrightly, "Of course, nobody spoke out. We are too intimidated. We are afraid of the Israeli lobby. We are afraid of our Jewish constituency. Some of my Jewish voters are as appalled as I am at what's going on, but they don't dare speak out for fear of the others."
Of the presidential candidates, only Jesse Jackson has spoken out, citing a "betrayal of silence." He spent much of his 1984 campaign fighting charges of anti-semitism, and is not heeded.
Sen. Paul Simon said he would not hestitate to speak out on policy differences with Israel -- but forebore to do so in the present instance. Michael Dukakis, who is often more sensible, said, "I think the Israelis can deal with these problems themselves."
That is manifestly not true. Israel badly needs help from her friends, friends who care enough to tell her she is doing everything wrong with the Palestinians, beginning with a refusal to acknowledge that there will never be peace until she deals with the problem of people who were there when the Israelis claimed their own homeland.
The Reagan administration, which is as permissive with Israel as its predecessors, felt obliged to condemn Israeli tactics, calling them "unacceptably harsh." But there was no threat to do anything about it. The president was even-handed in condemning both sides and said nothing about withholding any of the U.S. weapons and funds on which Israeli depends for her survival. Israelis made it official policy during their brutal 1982 invasion of Lebanon that words will never hurt them.
Inside Israel, there is silence. Those Israelis who protested the Lebanon adventure and its attendant barbarities have rallied round their weak leaders. Abba Eban long ago warned his countrymen that annexation of the occupied territories give Israel the choice of either ceasing to be Jewish (because the Arabs will soon outnumber the Jews) or of ceasing to be democratic (because it dares not confer citizenship on an Arab majority).
In the U.S. Jewish community, which was torn apart over Lebanon, the hardshell loyalists are saying that the demonstrations are the work of "outside agitators" and that the unmasked teen-agers are "terrorists." The more moderate urge Israelis to admit that they have a fundamental problem of justice and decency.
The one thing that has caught the attention of the Israelis was a massive strike by Arabs living in Israel. It was, a resident Arab expert told the New York Times, "probably a shock." Israelis, who do not talk to Arabs much, found it hard to believe that Arabs who had been living quietly among them care more about their brother Arabs than their paychecks and their security.
The condescension is inescapable. It is part of the trouble. The Jews have never accepted the Arabs as human beings any more than the Arabs have accepted the existence of a Jewish state.
The Israelis occupied the conquered territories to secure their borders after their great victory in the 1967 war.The territories have been under military rule ever since. The Arabs, some of them living on family land owned for generations, can vote only in municipal elections. They have no self-government. Palestinian youths didn't need the PLO to point out that they were living under apartheid.
A bad situation was made worse by Menachen Begin, who harangued Jews about their God-given rights to the biblical lands of Judea and Samaria and accelerated the pace of Israeli settlement. The prospect of peace with a ratio, in Gaza, of 560,000 Arabs to 2,500 Jews is not powerful. Expulsion of the Palestinians, which is favored by the hard right, would not be tolerated; annexation is, for Abba Ebban's reasons, unworkable. Negotiation is clearly the answer.
But as long as they can depend on U.S. aid and the silence of timid politicians, Israel is likely to pretend that no accommodation is necessary and, when human evidence to the contrary rises up, to go on clubbing it.
Mary McGrory is a Washington Post columnist.