Moral Equivalence is the idea that both sides of a conflict are equally wrong and equally right. When this perspective is applied to cases where one side is in the wrong and one is in the right, it leads to dangerous pressure on the side that is in the right to appease the side that is in the wrong. The United States Government applies moral equivalence to the Middle East. One of many examples of this occured in a speech by Richard Boucher in June of 2001.
In May 2001 Sharon declared a unilateral cease fire and encouraged Arafat to also cease firing. Arafat refused and after suicide bombings and other attacks Sharon declared that the cease fire was over. At that point Arafat agreed to a cease fire but the shooting of Israelis continued. George Tenet the director of the CIA then came to Israel and brokered an agreement which the Israelis adhered to but the Arabs continued to shoot. The United States response was described by Israel's Arutz 7, June 20, 01 as follows:
5. U.S. SEES BOTH SIDES
Despite the one-sided nature of the violence in Israel, U.S. State
Department spokesman Richard Boucher is going out of his way to equate
Israel with the Palestinians. In response to a general question about the
status of the Tenet ceasefire during yesterday's briefing, he did not
mention the Palestinian violations, yet emphasized no less than five times
the expectations he has from "both sides." Excerpts from his response:
"Over the past few days, as we know, we have seen an upsurge in violence
and in shootings. We certainly regret the loss of life on both sides over
the past few days, and we call on both sides to redouble their efforts to
bring down the violence. We are encouraged by the efforts made by both
sides... But continued success requires good faith and sustained efforts
from both sides to fully implement the work plan. We think both sides need
to focus on sustaining their efforts to fully implement the work plan..."
The United States State Department thinks that by denying reality in this way they will be better able to stop the violence and avoid angering the Arabs. What they are really doing is sending a message to Arafat that he can instigate violence and that he will not be blamed for it. The price is more violence against Israel and an increased likelihood of war in the Middle East.
Don Feder wrote an excellent column about moral equivalence in the left's condemnation of Israel
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