To the Editor:
Irving Schechtman admonishes France for its shipment of arms to Iraq and for supplying Arab countries with material that might lead to an ''Islamic'' A-bomb aimed at Israel (letter Feb. 11). But such words from an American are like the pot calling the frying pan black.
The world's premier merchant of death is the United States.
Moreover, are we to judge Israel -as Mr. Schechtman judges France -by the clients for its armaments? Israeli arms sales to the third world exceed $1 billion annually. Somoza of Nicaragua continued receiving Israeli arms and using them on his own citizens until they chased him to Paraguay. In earlier conflicts between the dictatorships of El Salvador and Honduras and between those of Chile and Argentina, Israeli arms were the common denominator. Argentina's rampant anti-Semitism proved no bar to the purchase from Israel of guided missiles and French-made Mirage fighters.
When generals bankrolled by cocaine traffickers short-circuited Bolivia's recent steps toward democracy, Israel was part of the rush to recognize the brutal new regime. This was history repeating itself: Israel had been second in line, behind the U.S., to recognize the Pinochet-led junta in Chile in 1973.
Yes, France's amoral policies are reprehensible. But are Israel's any more virtuous? JERRY MELDON, Watertown, Mass., Feb. 12, 1981