Richard Cohen {op-ed, May 22} and Charles Krauthammer {op-ed, May 25} offer an assortment of incidents, events and reactions to deflect responsibility from Israel in the aftermath of the slaying of seven Palestinians by a "deranged" Israeli.

Perhaps it is instructive to consider a few other parallels: (1) Last year a Palestinian grabbed the steering wheel of a bus near Jerusalem forcing it into a ravine killing 14 passengers. The man apparently acted on his own in response to what he felt was harsh Israeli treatment of members of his family. No psychological analyses or results of inkblot tests were publicized in this case: he was labeled a "terrorist" by the Israeli government. (2) Desecrations of cemeteries in France last month were viewed in the broader context of revived antisemitism, not the work of a few unstable individuals. Right wing parties like Jean-Marie Le Pen's were accused of setting an environment in which such repulsive acts could take place. (3) Shortly thereafter, gravestones in Haifa were defaced and "the Arabs" were the early suspects. When the culprit turned out to be a Jew apparently intent on inciting hatred, he was dismissed as "mentally incompetent."

Certainly no country can be held accountable for every act of its citizenry. However, the question of societal underpinnings is a legitimate one. And in a setting where armed force is used to control a population against its will, where gun-slinging settlers are in vogue, where there is talk of mass deportations and mass immigration and where the prospects loom heavily of the formation of a new government that has absolutely no interest in a peace process other than to scuttle it, it is understandable that Palestinians may see more than an isolated incident.

Nor it is fair to characterize events as being manipulated for political purposes as Mr. Cohen suggests and Mr. Krauthammer states. The expressions of rage are from a population demanding the same rights and freedoms that we extol everywhere. The act that set off the most recent turmoil may indeed have been carried out by a "deranged" individual, but the conditions that surrounded it have been created in no small measure by an Israeli society paralyzed by a large faction intent on holding onto the West Bank and Gaza, not for security purposes or because of risks to the state, but because of their dreams of a "Greater Israel." What is really crazy is to pretend otherwise.


Grant Charles Krauthammer his point that Israel is held to a higher moral standard than certain states whose hands are considerably bloodier. This may be a function of an anti-Israel reflex in some quarters. But I'd suggest it has more to do with the unfortunately low expectations we hold regarding the behavior of many regimes and the higher expectations we hold for those, like Israel, who claim a Western character. Surely Israel prefers that it be measured by the latter standard.

Mr. Krauthammer is disturbed that Yitzhak Shamir is being taken to task for the recent massacre by the lone Israeli "madman." It is true, as Mr. Krauthammer states, that Mr. Shamir denounced the murders. It is also true that Jean-Marie Le Pen denounced the recent atrocity committed against the Jewish cemetery in Carpentras. Does Mr. Krauthammer doubt that Mr. Le Pen's French chauvinism contributed to the environment that gave rise to Carpentras? I don't, any more than I doubt that Mr. Shamir's zero-sum nationalism set a tone that made the recent massacre of Palestinians all too predictable.

MARK P. COHEN Silver Spring