The purpose of Jeane Kirkpatrick's review of "a little Mideast history" {op-ed, Jan. 18} was to demonstrate that the predicament in which Israel finds itself -- having to cope with an increasingly rebellious Palestinian population -- resulted not from anything Israel itself did but from the malevolent intransigence of Israel's Arab neighbors and the PLO.

There is nothing unusual about activists for a variety of causes misrepresenting or making selective use of the historical record. But Kirkpatrick is more than a prominent political figure and protagonist of causes; she is also professor of government at Georgetown University. The writers of this article, all of whom teach Middle East history at the same institution, hold Prof. Kirkpatrick to higher standards of scholarship and intellectual integrity. Our colleague is wrong or mostly wrong on every historical point she makes, and that is embarrassing.

Kirkpatrick writes that "Israel's occupation of the territories came in 1967 after Israel's Arab neighbors had, for the second time, launched a war designed to eliminate the new state." Sheis wrong. While it is true that in the '40smost Arabs wanted to prevent the creation ofa Jewish state and that in 1967 many still harbored the dream that it could be eliminated, they did not launch either of these wars; the Zionists did.

In the last years of World War II, Jewish underground forces in Palestine began a campaign of harassment designed to force Britain and/or the international community to recognize a Jewish state. This guerrilla war escalated progressively until, by 1947, it became a full-scale civil war between Jewish and Palestinian communities. Only toward the very end, when British forces had left and the Jews had proclaimed the modern state of Israel, did troops of the surrounding Arab states enter Palestine in a vain attempt to assist their brethren.

The years 1966 and 1967 were a time of rising Middle East tensions characterized by escalating provocations and counterprovocations and increasingly shrill rhetoric on all sides. On the morning of June 5, Israel launched what it calls a preemptive war against Egypt, after which Jordan and Syria -- pursuant to their treaty obligations -- also went to war. Scholarly standards clearly permit Prof. Kirkpatrick to justify Israel's starting this war if she feels so inclined; they do not permit her to claim that others launched it and still less to proceed from this incorrect assertion to the conclusion that those others bear sole responsibility for its consequences.

A central element in this peculiar review of Middle East history is the writer's assertion that after 40 years "Israel's Arab neighbors still refuse to accept Israel's existence." Kirkpatrick writes that two Arab heads of state -- Bashir Gemayel and Anwar Sadat -- were assassinated for "the crime of making peace." Bashir Gemayel and Anwar Sadat were unpopular with many of their compatriots for fistfuls of reasons, most of which had nothing to do with their policies toward Israel. If Prof. Kirkpatrick had treated the central historiographical problem of causation so cavalierly in any of our seminars, she would have been very disappointed with her grade.

Kirkpatrick states that "Israel's neighbors have doggedly refused to enter negotiations that would provide secure borders for all -- as called for by U.N. Security Council Resolutions 242 and 338." The fact is that Israel and all its sovereign neighbors had accepted Resolution 242 as a basis for settlement by the early '70s.

The most relevant clauses of that document are (1) "the inadmissibility of the acquisition of territory by war"; (2) "withdrawal of Israeli armed forces from territories of recent conflict"; (3) "respect for and acknowledgment of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every state in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force."

Resolution 242 is a study in diplomatic ambiguity, not to say obfuscation. The Arab states, seconded in most respects even by the United States until the Reagan era, have always held that since it is inadmissible for Israel to acquire territory by war (1), it must return to the pre-1967 war lines (2), in return for which the Arabs are to recognize Israel and renounce the use or threat of force on it (3). Israel, on the other hand, notes the absence of the definite article before the word "territories" (2) and the right to "secure" boundaries (3) to claim a right under the same resolution to annex such territory as it deems necessary for its security. Following its own interpretation, Israel has annexed Jerusalem and the Golan Heights and spent billions to establish Jewish colonies in almost every corner of the other territories. The Arabs call this expansionism and aggression and perceive no propensity on Israel's part to exchange territory for peace. Kirkpatrick's truncated and one-sided rendering of Resolution 242 adds another layer of mystification to a tragic standoff.

Our colleague's idiosyncratic excursion through history also maintains that the PLO murders anyone who wants to negotiate with Israel. While there have regrettably been a handful of political murders of Palestinians by Palestinians, there have also been murders, maimings, imprisonments and deportations of Palestinians by Israelis for taking political positions Israel disapproves of. This violence cannot obscure the fact that since the middle '70s the PLO leadership has reiterated again and again its eagerness to sit down in an international conference to negotiate with Israel under the same kind of auspices that launched Israel itself earlier in the century.

If, as Kirkpatrick states, Israelis consider a Palestinian state incompatible with Israel's interests, this may be good enough reason in their eyes to refuse forever to address the agenda of the Palestinian nationalists. In this case, the occupation can continue as long as Israel maintains the material and moral strength to keep the populations repressed. But Kirkpatrick's contention that the occupation persists because Palestinians refuse to talk to the Israelis is disproved by the historical record of a dozen years. -- John Ruedy, Ibrahim Ibrahim, Judith Tucker, Hisham Sharabi and Amira Sonbol The writers teach Middle East history at Georgetown University.