MAY 21, 1956
NEW YORK—News this past week that more arms are being shipped from a North Carolina port to Saudi Arabia must come, I am sure, as a shock to many Americans. The explanation that this was part of the original agreement does not change the fact that these arms are on their way. We loftily say that we would not sell arms to Israel because we do not wish to enter into an arms race in competition with the Soviet Union. Yet it seems to me that this is exactly what we are doing, and in doing it we are increasing the danger surrounding the state of Israel.
It seems odd to me that our State Department and our government have not recognized from the first that basically our objective in the Near East must be to help the people of all the countries to have a better life. There may be efforts in some of the Arab countries toward more democratic government; but by and large these countries have not been democratically governed and the people remain poor, with little to make life worth living. Israel is the one country in that area with a concept of a representative form of government and a democratic way of life. If peace could be brought about there, Israel might well prove to be a beacon light to demonstrate how life in that area of the world can become more worthwhile and happier for the individual human being.
Now that we have embarked on the arms race, however, we are not helping anybody when we refuse to equalize the military strength in Israel so that it will not be a temptation to its neighbors. If these have a preponderance in arms, they may come to believe that they can easily drive the Israelis into the sea.
Our over-anxiety to be friendly with the Arab nations is easily understood, for we have an age-old tradition of friendship for the Arab people. We also have a great investment in oil in some of these countries, as have the British, and naturally our oil interests are not eager to have us jeopardize these investments. We would not, however, be the only ones affected. The Arab states themselves would feel a more serious loss. In spite of their emotional feelings, therefore, I think we can count on a certain amount of hardheaded business consideration where their own financial interests are concerned as well as ours.
This shipment of arms on top of our weak attitude about the Arab states' treatment of American citizens, no matter what their religion may be, is really an affront to all American citizens. None of them can be sure that the same kind of treatment will not be given them for other reasons at some future time. It might become a temptation to treat our Irish Catholics or our German Protestants in the same way at some future date. I think we need to go back to some of the thinking of our past leaders who would not brook any discrimination by any country against American citizens, no matter what their ancestry or religion might be.