The writers who rebutted Hyman Bookbinder's criticism of Colman McCarthy's flagrantly unfair and unbalanced article, which charged that "the Israel Army has systematically become a child-killer," were as misguided as McCarthy {Free for All, July 28}. They distorted Bookbinder's comments in the same way that McCarthy distorted the picture in Israel.

During his long and distinguished service with the American Jewish Committee in Washington, Bookbinder has been recognized as a man of integrity and intellectual honesty and as a strong advocate of civil rights and human rights. He has been a leader in nearly every major civil rights bill in modern U.S. history and is a member of the Middle East Human Rights Watch, which is a watch guard for violations of human rights by both Israelis and Palestinians.

Missing from both McCarthy's original column and the Free for All responses were the following facts:

While the intifada may have started from legitimate grievances about Israeli control over Palestinian lives, Israel's occupation of the West Bank and Gaza arose from a defensive war against a united Arab force of Egypt, Syria and Jordan, which had controlled the territories from the time of Israel's independence.

Israel has waited more than 20 years for Jordan and the Palestinians to recognize its right to exist and to enter negotiations about the future of the territories. Instead, wars, economic boycotts, ostracism at the United Nations and terrorism have been employed against Israel.

It has not been Israel's choice to employ force against Palestinians, let alone children. It is the Palestinians who have chosen to express their desire for self-determination through violent means.

Deaths in the past year from violence of Palestinian against Palestinian far exceed deaths of Palestinians of any age at the hands of Israeli troops. Those Palestinians brave enough to seek peaceful negotiations with Israel have been killed at the insistence of the Palestine Liberation Organization.

There is a civil war, albeit a low-level one, in the territories. Just as Lincoln suspended the writ of habeas corpus during our own Civil War, so too Israel has employed tactics against Palestinian violence that do not always measure up to the standards Israel has set for itself and has followed in peacetime. There is no imperative for Israel to accept national suicide when its existence is threatened by Palestinians who assert a right to take back not just the West Bank and Gaza but all of Israel.

All of this was missed by McCarthy and the Free for All writers.

The fact Bookbinder noted remains: if Palestinians, and indeed other Arab states, would follow the example of Egypt and recognize Israel and negotiate with it, the bloodshed on all sides would cease. -- Stuart E. Eizenstat The writer was chief domestic policy adviser to President Jimmy Carter.