Monday, November 15, 2010

(BLOG) A Principled Defense Of Israel

"First let me say that anyone who gives Hamas even an iota of support is morally complicit in genocide. Do I have your attention? Good.

Once upon a time – quite recently in fact – I thought that liberals in general supports Israel. It seemed so obvious. When a relatively free democracy is being attacked by terrorists there should be no doubt. You support the side that is fighting for freedom, not the side struggling to replace freedom with dictatorship. Yet, I find that many so-called liberals refuse to give moral support to Israel, and that they, at least by implication, often stands with Hamas and other organizations (e.g. Hezbollah) that want to see Israel destroyed.

There are a handful of objections that liberals frequently raise against Israel. One is that the Israeli state was created in an improper manner. Another says that Israel is violating the rights of innocent Palestinian civilians. A third that the blockade of the Gaza Strip is illegitimate. And so on. I intend to respond to these arguments in order to defend Israel. A more extensive historical analysis will be published at a later date (albeit in Swedish) by guest blogger Jakob Dlouhý.

Only one detail before we continue. There is no such thing as a Palestinian ethnicity. Palestine is the geographical region that today includes Israel, the West Bank and Gaza (which until 1917 was part of the Ottoman Empire). The existence of a Palestinian ethnicity is simply a media gimmick. Therefore, I do not talk about any Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Instead of Palestine, I say the Palestinian Authority (PNA), and instead of calling the people Palestinians I call them residents on the West Bank and in Gaza.

Israel’s founding is irrelevant

What happened in 1948, when Israel was founded, is irrelevant to assessing the current situation. Each individual is responsible for what he does, but not for what others do or have done. This means that one cannot judge today’s Arabs or Jews for something that happened more than sixty years ago. All those who had executive power in the 40’s are probably dead by now, and those who live (contrary to expectations) lack the power they once had. The point is that guilt cannot be inherited. Knowledge of the historical background of a military conflict provides increased understanding, but when one is to decide which side to support (if any) it is necessary to study the present. One cannot support or fight anything based on what it once was, but no longer is.

Most countries have (or when it has not been historically confirmed, is likely to have) been founded in a manner that is more or less incompatible with liberal principles. But so what? Just take Hong Kong as an example. Today it is one of the world’s freest economies, but it was founded as a result of war (the First Opium War) in 1842. The peace of Nanking meant that China had to cede the island, which became a crown colony under the British occupants. Should we then say that Hong Kong has no right to exist, because of what happened more than 150 years ago? Should we say that it was right to hand it over to Communist China in 1997? Certainly not. The manner in which a country was founded is irrelevant to whether it has a right to exist today. This applies to Israel, as much as it applies to Hong Kong.

We can merely examine various countries, as they are today, and ask which of them respects human rights the most. Israel is not an entirely free country, but it is a relatively secular parliamentary democracy, comparable to countries in the West. 'Palestine', on the other hand, is currently led by PLO and Hamas, the latter being more or less a Nazi-organization whose stated goal is to destroy Israel and replace it with a judenrein Muslim theocracy. This is the crux of the matter. One need not believe that everything Israel does is right, but in terms of essentials, it is Israel that deserves our support.

The PNA is responsible for civilian casualties

Many talk of 'peace in the Middle East' as if peace had an intrinsic value. On the contrary, peace can mean very different things, that differ in terms of desirability. It can mean that you eliminate a threat, or that you let yourself be eliminated by it. It can mean that you fought for and won your freedom, or that you gave up and allowed yourself to be shackled or executed. Peace can prevail between free people, or between masters and slaves. My firm belief is that freedom should prevail over peace; when freedom is threatened resistance, not peace, is desirable.

It is inevitable that civilians suffer in war; a country cannot defend itself against external threats if it must take the enemy’s civilian population into account. The attackers, not the defenders, are morally responsible for civilian deaths. Those who initiated and perpetuates the conflict (in this case the Palestinian Authority) are properly blamed. Israel has every right to fight back against their attackers, and if that results in civilian casualties, the blame is on men like Khaled Meshal and Ismail Haniyeh (both senior leaders of Hamas). Not to mention the many minions who carry out the actual attacks against Israel.

Does this mean that you, assuming the role as store owner, may use a machine gun and kill all your customers, just because one of them is caught shoplifting?

I have heard this comparison more than once, and the answer is no – for several reasons. For example, the shoplifter is not firing Qassam rockets at you, and his goal is not to destroy you and your store. A minor theft is also an isolated incident. A shoplifter can be arrested without it affecting other people. Suppose instead that the shoplifter went out on the street and put up a launch pad for a rocket. He is about to bombard your store, which would kill you and everyone else in the proximity. Do you, in this scenario, have the right to put a stop to his plans, even by means that would risk harming innocent bystanders? Now this scenario is on par with Israel’s actual situation. And the answer is unequivocally yes. You have every right to defend yourself against the threat, even with a machine gun.

Consider what the pacifist argument implies. The greater the threat, the lesser one’s right to defend oneself. If you get attacked by an aggressive military power you should passively await your demise. Instead of placing blame where it belongs – on the attacker – it puts it on the victims. I cannot think of any argument that more effectively undermines a country’s liberty. We see that Israel, in part due to such external pressure, often has to abstain from appropriately defending itself.

The blockade of the Gaza Strip is legitimate

Since 2007, Israel (together with Egypt) has maintained a blockade of the Gaza Strip. This is done to, as far as possible, prevent Hamas from importing weapons and other military equipment intended to achieve Israel’s annihilation.

It is sometimes argued that the blockade is an obstacle to free trade. This summer, for example, the Swedish liberal Johan Norberg wrote that it 'sabotages cross-border trade, which can establish contact and friendship.' I cannot for the life of me understand how 'friendship' between Israel and the PNA would benefit from Hamas acquiring more weapons to bombard the Israelis with. Norberg writes that blockades 'often strengthens the rulers', which is true. They give columnists like himself a reason to criticize Israel, which in the long run weakens Israel’s position in its conflict with the PNA. In the end, Israel cannot lift a finger without being condemned by the outside world, unless the finger is aimed at its own destruction. Norberg writes that Israel 'makes its neighbors bitter.' Of course. The Israelis insist on not dying.

One thing needs to be sorted out: it should not be legal to sell military equipment to terrorists. To assist the Palestinian Authority or Hamas in acquiring weapons is not free trade. It is to participate in genocide. The blockade is obviously not perfect. Hamas gets weapons anyway, and the measure strikes back at Israel in the form of foreign criticism. But what should Israel do? Sit idly by whilst its executioners grow stronger – not likely.

Hamas is something as exotic as a beloved Islamofascist terrorist organization. In Sweden, one quickly becomes badgered if one says anything bad about Hamas, as if there is nothing wrong with wanting to destroy all freedom in the Middle East, and to 'drive the Jews into the sea'. According to the Swedish debate, the Israelis are bad because they don’t cooperate with Hamas to fulfill this noble purpose – in fact so bad that it might be excusable to bombard them with thousands of rockets over many years. The same people who hold these views are quick to condemn Nazi Germany, and show outrage over the xenophobic Sweden Democrats who entered parliament in 2010. How is that for coming in like a lion and going out like a lamb?

Israel’s Enemy: The Morality of Death

What morality prevents the world from providing Israel with the necessary support for a triumph of freedom? The answer is the morality of altruism; it is the morality that says that life is not meant to be lived, but sacrificed. The Israelis want to live their lives. Hamas and its ilk are willing to sacrifice themselves and others to put a religious dictatorship in Israel’s place, and thus institutionalize the morality of sacrifice. It is not difficult to see which side appeals to traditional morality.

Decorum prevents most people from explicitly supporting terrorism and genocide. It does not prevent them from condemning the selfish Israel, a country that only aspires to its own freedom, and refuses to sacrifice itself for the civilians on the West Bank and in Gaza. Thus it falls on Israel to extend a hand to the Palestinian Authority rather than vice versa. Thus, Israel should apologize for its selfishness, lay down its weapons, and start cooperating with its executioners. The moral thing is for Israel to sacrifice itself, to accept its doom – so that peace may prevail.

To expressly support terrorism is wrong, but indirectly supporting it, by denouncing Israel’s struggle against it – that is right and proper! Here, the law of excluded middle applies. Either one denounces terror, genocide, and the Palestinian Authority. Or one does not.

Altruism is the main culprit behind arguments like 'but fewer die on Israel’s side' and 'but Israel is bigger and stronger than the PNA'. Implicit in these arguments is that Israel has a right to self-defence, only when they become weaker and when more Israelis have died, in other words: the weaker party in a conflict is always right. To speak plainly, this means that one has a right to exercise terror, so long as it is directed against anyone who is bigger and stronger than oneself. Why? Because the big and strong should sacrifice themselves for the weak! Thus, it is only right that Israel give concessions, undermines its advantage, and allows more Israelis to die. (This ignores the fact that Israel certainly has more enemies than the Palestinian Authority. In practice it stands against the whole Arab world – and compared to the whole Arab world, Israel is, of course, the smaller and weaker party.)

When Objectivists say that altruism is the morality of death it is not to sound bombastic. They mean it – literally.

A Brief Summary

This is a one-way apology. I think it is urgent to present one. Most texts on Israel get lost in a maze of concrete events, as if one had to know the tiniest of details from 1948 onwards in order to make up one’s mind. I have chosen to focus on what I regard as some of the essentials, and to reason based on simple principles of individual rights and human dignity. My judgement is that Israel has a right to exist and defend itself. As I have said, I don’t think Israel is always right about everything, but that it, in terms of essentials, deserves our support.

Let me conclude by saying that anyone who gives Hamas even an iota of support is morally complicit in genocide. Do I have your attention? Good." (source)

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