Imagine for a moment that all reporting about the U.S. war on terrorism was presented without reference to September 11. American attacks from the air using B-52s and F-16s against fighters armed with smaller weapons would seem quite disproportionate. Our stated intention to kill as many members of al Qaeda as possible might be condemned, by our own State Department as "excessive" and "contributing to the cycle of violence."

But U.S. actions are never presented that way, because everyone acknowledges that we have the perfect right to defend ourselves against those who have done us grave harm. Nor are we asked to sit by and wait for our enemies to do us even more catastrophic damage if they get the chance.

But when it comes to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, the context is removed. Bleeding Israel is daily exhorted to stop contributing the cycle of violence. Her teenagers are blown to bits at discotheques. Her babies are approached outside a synagogue by a suicide bomber who waits until he is next to the strollers before blowing himself apart. Her adolescent boys who wander off in the desert and get lost are torn to pieces. And all this is applauded and celebrated by Yasser Arafat and most of the Arab governments in the region.

Alone among nations apparently, Israel is not permitted to engage in simple self-defense.

Some Arabs (those among the minority who acknowledge that Arabs are responsible) condemned the bombing of the World Trade Center. But not a single Islamic scholar or cleric has condemned the systematic policy of blowing up Israeli civilians. Israelis are demoralized and terrified. Restaurants and shops are nearly empty. And alone among nations apparently, Israel is not permitted to engage in simple self-defense.

Nearly every dispatch from the Middle East lacks basic context. Here are some of the facts to keep in mind when reading these flawed reports.

The Palestine Liberation Organization was not formed in order to secure a Palestinian state on the West Bank and Gaza. It was created in 1964, when both territories were under Arab sovereignty. Jordan and Egypt did not create a state for the Palestinians because they preferred to keep the refugees angry and homeless.

It is not "Palestinian land." There has never been an independent Palestinian state on the land between the Mediterranean and the Jordan River. The area -- which always contained Arabs and Jews -- was under Ottoman control for several hundred years until World War I, then British control under the League of Nations Mandate and finally under United Nations control.

Israel came into possession of the West Bank and Gaza only because she was attacked again by five Arab armies in 1967.

The United Nations approved a partition plan in 1947 that would have created two states, one Jewish and one Arab. The Jews accepted this arrangement. The Arabs refused. Five Arab armies invaded the new state of Israel. In the ensuing war, thousands of refugees fled. Jews fled Arab nations for Israel, and Arabs fled Israel for Jordan, Egypt and Lebanon. The Jewish refugees became full citizens of Israel. The Palestinian refugees became pawns. Israel came into possession of the West Bank and Gaza only because she was attacked again by five Arab armies in 1967.

If the Palestinians are fighting for a state on the West Bank and Gaza, why do their maps show Palestine as filling the entire territory that is now Israel? Why do they marinate their people in Hitlerian anti-Semitism and anti-Americanism? Further, why -- when Ehud Barak offered just such a state, or 95 percent of it -- did Mr. Arafat walk away and start this latest round of violence? Palestinian spokesmen say it wasn't everything they wanted. But if they truly want a separate state on so-called "occupied territory," why did Mr. Barak's offer not form the basis for further talks?

The Palestinians are said to be chafing under the "occupation." But in obedience to the Oslo process, Israel has given administrative authority over 98 percent of the Palestinians in the disputed territories to Mr. Arafat. Israel has further permitted the Palestinian Authority to arm 40,000 "police."

If the Saudi "peace plan" were serious -- and not an attempt to divert attention from the Saudi role in September 11 and its sponsorship of Islamic extremism worldwide -- why didn't Saudi Arabia offer it before?

Why is it impossible for the Palestinian Authority to give Israel what Mr. Sharon has demanded -- just three days of respite from terror attacks?