I was stunned to read the letter from Teri Friedman Feb. 3. Where has she been these past two months? Had she been reading carefully nothing more than The Post during this period, she could not have asked the question, "Why Are U.S. Jews Silent?"

American Jewish officials and organizations have been forthright in their reactions and their declarations. They have spoken out clearly and eloquently, saying essentially three things: (1) We deplore the tragic deaths resulting from the violence and understand the frustrations felt by Palestinians after the long occupation; (2) Israel has not only the right but the responsibility, under international law, to put down violence, though some of its actions -- especially the "beatings" policy -- are disproportionate and unacceptable; and (3) Israel should not be blamed, and surely not be solely blamed, for the persistence of the basic causes for the "uprising" -- there would not be today any "Palestinian problem" if the Arab world had not, during all 40 years of Israel's existence, used Palestinian misery as a weapon in its determination to destroy Israel.

The Post has quoted U.S. Jewry's principal spokesman on Israeli affairs, Morris Abram, along these lines. Rabbi Alexander Schindler and other religious leaders have been speaking out and have been quoted widely. The president of the American Jewish Committee, Theodore Ellenoff, addressed an "open letter" to the people of Israel -- published in full in the Jerusalem Post and the Hebrew-language Davar -- which included the following: "There are some forms of force intrinsically intolerable and unacceptable in the kind of humane society Israel has always sought to be."

And if I may presume to associate myself with these distinguished leaders, I was quoted in The Post last Dec. 23 saying that the pictures of "Israeli soldiers roughing up Palestinian kids was tragic news," but we have an obligation also to "address the political and religious leaders who are egging on the rioters."

Of course, if the only kind of "speaking out" that Teri Friedman is calling for is angry denunciation of Israel, she will remain disappointed. Despite misgivings about some recent specific actions, American Jews remain persuaded that Israel is itself saddened by the need to take such actions and that it will welcome any realistic opportunities for solving the basic Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Israel welcomes recent news of a more active American role in advancing the peace process.


Washington Representative

American Jewish Committee