When Libby Frank was a peace activist during the Vietnam War era, colleagues came up to her and asked that she address U.S. policy in Israel.

Angela Cesere
Henry Herskovitz of the group Jewish Witnesses for Peace and Friends sits in on a discussion criticizing U.S. foreign policy towards Israel in the Koessler Room of the Michigan League. (ALEXANDER DZIADOSZ/Daily)

“They would whisper in my ear that they weren’t happy about what America was doing over there,” said Frank, a former executive director of the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom.

She suggested they hold a meeting about the issue, but they declined because they were afraid it would bring bad publicity to their organization. Frank said they should go through with it anyway, and she said they did. It would become one of the first times Frank questioned the U.S. government’s support of Israel.

Frank, who spoke last night in the Michigan League’s Koessler room, has been questioning those policies ever since, even when her view has not been popular.

“The whole peace movement in this country doesn’t address what the U.S. is doing over there,” she said. “For years, the corporate media has been leading the public to believe that America is altruistic in Israel.”

She urged people to examine the United States’s role in the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict more closely.

She likened the situation to the current conflict in Iraq, pointing out that she believes America has the same policy and morality in Israel as in Iraq.

Frank said she believes that the two countries’ partnership is based not on Israel’s security, but on a need to control oil flowing from the region and to provide lucrative weapons markets. For example, the United States requires Israel to use 76 percent of the billions of its dollars it receives in aid to buy U.S. arms, she said.

But Naama Yaron, co-chair of the Israel Conference, a campus group that organizes a yearly conference on Israel, said she can see the benefits of the U.S.-Israel partnership from both sides of the issue.

“I was born in Israel and I have dual citizenship,” she said. “As an American, I see the benefits of supporting Israel. We need a democratic friend over there, especially in the war on terror.”

Yaron said she believes that many countries and people can’t understand the reasons for Israel’s existence and that is why they send armies and suicide bombers, but that America is one of the few who understand.

“Sometimes America is Israel’s only friend,” she said.

But peace and justice are not possible in the war-torn area until the United States withdraws, Frank said.

Frank made it clear that she believes that the partnership between the two countries is supported equally on both sides.

“I agree Israel is a willing partner to United States, but we tend to blame Israel for the conflict over there, why don’t we blame the United States?”

Alana Kuhn, co-chair of the campus group called the American Movement For Israel, said that peace talks would be hindered if the United States altered its current policies toward Israel.

“The U.S. has been involved in the talks during the whole process,” Kuhn said. “Asking them not to be a moderator would hinder any hope of a future of peace in the program.”

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