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West Bank warning

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So many trouble spots of the world demand attention that the public may be loath to put still another one on center stage. But with tensions rising in the occupied West Bank it is well not to ignore the Middle East. King Hussein of Jordan actually warns of a new war. He may be speaking partly out of frustration, but this makes his words no less disturbing: ''We are passing through one of the most critical stages we have witnessed in our time,'' he declared. ''It is far more serious than it has ever been.''

The incidents in the West Bank are anguishing: Palestinian Arabs intimidated by Jewish settlers, Jewish settlers the target of rock-throwing Palestinians, Israeli police wounding or killing Palestinian demonstrators (12 since March 6). As the violence grows, fear mounts on both sides, threatening even more violence.

Who is to blame? It would be hard to sort out the rights and wrongs of any one incident. But few would quarrel that the underlying cause remains the Israeli military occupation of the West Bank and the failure to give the ruled Palestinians the right of self-determination. Palestinian Arabs indeed take up stones against Jewish settlers. They feel themselves the helpless victims of an Israeli policy which, more and more, seeks to subjugate them - by expanding Jewish settlements in the West Bank, by trying to implant a pro-Israel civil administration, by harassing Palestinian educational and family life.


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