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On Supporting Israel

Josh writes to ask, "Why do you support Israel?"

How do I love thee? Let me count the ways…

All comedy aside, it's a very important question. At root, it's a matter of shared values. Israel is far from a perfect state (as is the United States) but compared to its neighbors it stands in sharp relief as a bastion of civilization amid a backdrop of dictatorship and human misery.

The Arab nations exhibit many or all of the seven factors of noncompetitive states:

  • Restrictions on the free flow of information.
  • The subjugation of women.
  • Inability to accept responsibility for individual or collective failure.
  • The extended family or clan as the basic unit of social organization.
  • Domination by a restrictive religion.
  • A low valuation of education.
  • Low prestige assigned to work.

Israel exhibits none of them. Israel is successful and competitive, and in many of its cities Arabs and Jews live and work together peacefully and prosper. For example, the microprocessor in my laptop was designed at an Intel site in Haifa. I interact with several people there (both Arab and Jew, in the same team) on an occasional basis. They're extremely smart people and accomplish very valuable work. They're professionals. Within Israel, people thrive in peace under a decent government.

So I'm perplexed by Josh's next question:

Isn't it inconsistent of Israel to demand fundamental rights for the safety of their citizens while denying basic human rights of non-radical, law abiding Palestinians?

I do not believe that Israel denies the basic human rights of non-radical, law abiding Palestinians. On the contrary, it is the Palestinian leadership that does so. For example, Arafat's Fatah organization attempted to murder Zohair Hamdan, an Arab, for petitioning for signatures of Arabs in Jerusalem who were opposed to Arafat's rule. Arafat is a dictator and a tyrant who tolerates no dissent. That's denying basic human rights.

If Israel acted in a way that promoted the rights of ordinary Palestinians while prosecuting radical elements with deadly force, I would probably side with Israel. Instead, I read about Israel building settlements in Palestinian land. I read about Israel attacking the Palestinian security forces on several occasions, then subsequently demanding that Palestinian leadership enforce security and stop terrorists. Israel actively makes it impossible for the Palestinians to act on Israel's demands, and then points to Palestine's failures when justifying Israel's actions.

The Palestinians have no land. The "occupied territories" belong to Israel proper. Israel acquired that land as the result of several wars instigated by its Arab neighbors who intended to destroy the state of Israel. It bears pointing out that while Egypt and Jordan do not allow Palestinian refugees into their countries, Israel welcomes them into its cities and allows them to work. This is a significant security risk, but they do it anyway.

As for Israeli attacks on Palestinian security forces, they only look horrible until you realize that the Palestinian Authority does not negotiate in good faith. Palestinian jails are a revolving door for terrorists, and Arafat's Fatah organization funds their activities. The Palestinian Authority is not serious when it claims to crack down on terrorism. Those words are for journalists only. Arafat is legendary for saying soothing things in English and then inciting violence in Arabic. Peace is not Arafat's goal — he could have had that many times — his goal is maintaining power. If he was interested in peace, the Palestinian media and classrooms (which he controls; there's no freedom of speech) would not be filled with anti-Jewish propaganda.

Gillerman's argument is compelling, but is constructed in a way that absolves Israel of any moral responsibility for the situation. I believe Israel is just as responsible for the existence of terrorism as the members of the Palestinian government, such as it is, that fail to act to prevent it. Israel's actions undermine the moral clarity of their arguments. How do you reconcile these inconsistencies? Or do you even see them as inconsistent?

The Israelis are serious about negotiating a peace. But a negotiated peace isn't possible so long as the Palestinians are unwilling to give up the "right of return" — because it would mean the destruction of the state of Israel. When two groups have fundamentally incompatible demands, negotiation is impossible. Arafat has deliberately prolonged the crisis by corrupting the education of Palestinian children, teaching them to hate Jews and that martyrdom is glorious.

Israel has demonstrated its willingness to coexist with Arabs in places like Haifa, and the success is apparent. It is long past time for the Palestinians to demonstrate their willingness to coexist with Jews, instead of trying to blow them up or push them into the sea.

I grant that Israel is partly responsible for the existence of terrorism against its citizens. They could have killed Arafat a long time ago, and ought to kill him today. He's the constant factor over several decades of conflict. That's not a coincidence.


Worth reading:

  1. Everything Steven Den Beste has written about Israel. He has shaped my view of the conflict more than any other single source.
  2. "In Moral Defense of Israel", a special publication from the Ayn Rand Institute. It's even more stridently pro-Israel than what you've read here, if such a thing is possible.

… and before anyone asks, I am not Jewish, neither ethnically nor religiously.

Tiny Island