Is Applying Libertarian Principles to Israel Anti-Semitic?

Discussion in 'Politics' started by OPTIONAL777, Feb 23, 2009.


    "Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other. Real patriots who may resist the intrigues of the favorite are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people to surrender their interests.

    ---George Washington’s 1796 Farewell Address---

    Since the United States invasion of Iraq in March, 2003 there seem to be mounting accusations of anti-Semitism by self-described libertarians, Jewish and gentile, towards libertarians throughout the movement who have criticized the state of Israel or its partisans. Included for particular criticism are those who speak up for the property and human rights of the Palestinians.

    These accusations are made despite critiques made on libertarian grounds of opposition to force and fraud and support for individual life, liberty and property. They are made even if the person is an infrequent critic. And they are made with the clear intimation that repeat offenders should be shunned by the libertarian movement and all polite society. The implication is that applying libertarian principles to Israel is anti-Semitic, an implication that a small minority of vocal libertarians, and a great majority of less vocal ones, deny.

    Bigotry is defined as smears and abuse against any group of people, including because of the characteristics, failings or misdeeds of a minority of them. Of course, liberal politicians and media have accused libertarians of being “government haters” because of our disdain for those who profit off state force and fraud. And perhaps some Israel supporters fear libertarians someday will focus their disdain on the state of Israel, becoming "Israel haters." However, any such fear would not justify persistent preemptive strikes that harm the whole libertarian movement.

    In this article I first list relevant libertarian principles, ones which are hardly inherently bigoted or anti-Semitic. I follow with a short overview of general libertarian criticisms of Israel. I continue with a brief history of the "Israel" issue in the libertarian movement, as well as a review of how the issue has come to the fore since the March 2003 United States attack on Iraq. I then analyze the late summer 2003 Ilana Mercer attacks on libertarians in and follow with a brief review of such attacks on rank and file libertarians. Finally I discuss what libertarians should do about these unjust attacks – and challenge them to consider making United States military withdrawal from the Middle East a high movement priority.

    Libertarian Principles

    This listing of relevant libertarian principles seems innocuous enough. And it should be noted they apply equally to all peoples, including Arab Palestinians and Jewish Zionists.

    1) Individualism not collectivism Libertarians believe only individuals have rights. We do not recognize the right of religious, ethnic, racial or ideological groups, governments or groups of governments to use either private or state violence to enforce some collectivist vision on the life, liberty or property of others. We do not accept collectivist rationales like “God’s will”, racial, ethnic or religious superiority, collective historical rights, manifest destiny, colonial prerogative, United Nations sanction or benevolent world hegemony. And we do not defend the sinister machinations of nation states, especially when their claims of “self-defense” are plainly bogus.

    2) Property rights should be inviolate As the Libertarian Party’s platform correctly states, libertarians “oppose all government interference with private property, such as confiscation, nationalization, and eminent domain, and support the prohibition of robbery, trespass, fraud, and misrepresentation.” Property rights are created when individuals or voluntary associations either trade for land or homestead unused or voluntarily abandoned land (as opposed to land whose owners have been driven off in recent times by war, massacres or empty promises). Libertarians support everyone's right of return to unjustly confiscated land. And they have little sympathy for individuals or governments who use force and fraud to confiscate property and then claim the right to defend their stolen loot. (It should be noted this last point is also the position of the international community, as expressed in Article 13 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and as applied over the years to the former Yugoslav republics, Guatemala, South Africa, Kuwait and dispossessed European Jews.)

    3) Might does not make right Libertarians oppose the notion that a group of people (criminal or terrorist gang, “liberation army” or government) which has the military ability to kill people and drive them off their land, has the moral right to do so. While individuals have the right to defend their justly acquired land and the nation to which it belongs, governments do not have the right to confiscate private property of others as “spoils of war” or for alleged “self-defense.”

    4) Military Non-interventionism and No Entangling Alliances The United States government should pursue good relations and free trade with all nations and military alliances with none, refusing to use American lives and wealth for the benefit of foreign allies. It should not attack and occupy foreign nations on bogus evidence of imminent attack on America. It should not succumb to political or military black mail, including nuclear, or bullying from any alleged ally.

    5) Political self-determination and secession Libertarians believe everyone, no matter their religion, ethnicity, ideology, etc., has the right to secede from any political union or colonial or occupied territory on their justly acquired land and to self-govern themselves on it.

    6) Support for Due Process and Opposition to Collective Punishment Libertarians support the due process provisions of criminal law, as well as the consistent and impartial enforcement of laws that protect individual rights. We support restitution for the victim at the expense of the criminal or wrongdoer, even if that wrongdoer is a government. There may be some debate as to whether innocent taxpayers should be forced collectively to pay restitution for the crimes of their own governments, with many preferring to first sell off government assets. But libertarians agree that people who bear no responsibility for a crime, be it done by governments of other nations, or by members of a family without the consent of the family, should not be denied due process or collectively punished.

    7) Freedom of Speech Libertarians defend the rights of individuals to unrestricted freedom of speech, freedom of the press and to dissent from government itself. This means the right to criticize any state anywhere in the world; the right to criticize any special interest or foreign interest influencing government policy - or the libertarian movement; and the right to focus on any issue of interest to the individual, be it, for example, decriminalizing paid sadomasochism, high quality heroin or weapon silencers, without automatically being accused of intending to commit crimes. Similarly libertarians defend one's right to focus on supporting the rights to property and self-determination of any of the hundreds of separatist groups on the planet, including those in the United States, without automatically being accused of supporting bigotry or terrorism.

    8) The Right to Rebel Against Oppressors Libertarians abhor state or rebel violence against innocent civilians, defining that as terrorism. However, they defend the right of individuals and groups to violently rebel against the soldiers and police who enforce the laws of repressive governments, including those of occupying foreign powers. (And let me say here, as I always do, that I wish libertarians would emphasize that such violence should be a last resort, only when all other methods of nonviolent protest, civil disobedience and noncooperation had been rendered impossible, and only in self-defense.) They also support the rights of Americans to supply aid to those rebels. While libertarians may support the right of Americans to also support foreign governments, they do so only to the extent that those governments are not depriving individuals of life, liberty and property. Can anyone who morally or materially supports the oppressive efforts of a foreign government be called a libertarian?

    After the September 11 attacks some pro-interventionist libertarians, including strong supporters of Israel, declared “everything has changed!” -- something they had not declared when extremists botched what they intended to be a similarly devastating terrorist attack on the World Trade Center in 1993. What had changed? It was that neoconservative imperialists now surrounded the United States president, George Bush. They were eager and able to pursue American world dominance with a ruthlessness never before seen, using the specter of “Islamofacists who want to take our freedom" as their bogey man. And far too many self-styled libertarians fell for it. But more about that later.

    Libertarian Criticisms of Israel

    Full story here:
  2. Libertarians who loathe Israel
    Posted: August 13, 2003
    1:00 am Eastern

    By Ilana Mercer

    Admittedly, there is a lot about the Israeli side of the Palestinian-Israeli dispute to be critical of. For one, demolishing the homes of a terrorist's family isn't just or prudent. But it's hard to make sense of a perspective that sees everything Israel does as arch-evil, as is the case with those libertarians who religiously and robotically depict Israel as the devil incarnate.

    So, how about it? Is Israel always wrong? Is there nothing redeeming about a people that revived a desolate land and a long-dead biblical language just over 100 years ago? Can nothing good be said about the thriving cities that have sprung up on what, only a century ago, was swampland and desert?

    Evidently not.

    True, Israel's founding fathers were socialists. Born in collectivism, Israel has been progressing, albeit slowly, toward greater economic freedom. Trade liberalization, financial market reforms, increased privatization and decreased regulation have been part of this historical retreat from socialism. But the steady abolition of state subsidies and the enhancement of competition supported by Sharon's Thatcherite Finance Minister (Bibi Netanyahu) cannot easily offset the effects of endemic violence. Coupled with the slowdown in the U.S. economy, violence is one of the main reasons for the slump in the Israeli economy.

    Although Israel's economy is by no means ideal, it is not much different from Western Europe's Third-Way economies. Still, most libertarians find Israel particularly repugnant. With a respectable per capita GDP of roughly $17,500, compared to the Palestinian Authority's $1,000, Israel apparently has nothing to recommend her.

    The PA, on the other hand – with no economy, no free speech and press, no independent courts, no sound contract laws, and no individual or property rights – wins the sympathies of legions of freedom lovers hands down. That hundreds of millions of dollars in foreign aid have done nothing to change this bleak reality bothers anti-Israel libertarians only in so far as to point out that Israel is to blame.

    If this seems a little harsh, it is to be expected – irrational hatred is harsh.

    Consider the Israeli fence now inspiring hyperbolic hysteria among libertarians. What can a leadership do to stop its people from being blown up in the streets as they go about their daily lives? (That is, besides following the libertarian prescription of Stephen P. Halbrook and turning Israel into a multicultural potage with a Right of Return for any self-styled, United Nations Relief and Works Agency-sponsored "Palestinian" agitator.)

    If you are the United States of America, you commit to frisking old ladies on airplanes and reducing far-away, unrelated nations to rubble. At the same time, you leave your own borders as porous as possible, while working to disarm and dispossess your people.

    That's the American way.

    Israel has a different idea. She defends her own turf aggressively. In a last-ditch attempt to physically stop attacks on its civilian population, Israel began erecting a security fence along the West Bank. Yet a mechanical barrier is construed by the gifted libertarian writer, Justin Raimondo, as "an act of aggression ... a land grab of huge proportions ..." What most reasonable people would view as a desperate defensive measure is to Raimondo a symbol of Israeli sadism.

    The comparisons between the Israeli fence and the wall between East and West Berlin are theatrically invoked: "Mr. Sharon, tear down that wall," rings Raimondo's cleverly adapted Reagan classic. (An equally plaintive plea from Israelis went unheard. So I'll make it for them: "Mahmoud Abbas, alias Abu Mazen, aka Yasser Arafat, stop blowing up Israelis.")

    Raimondo thereafter follows with an idealized description (omitting opportunity costs) of the wonders the wall can't thwart: "Markets conquer all; they leap over walls, over oceans, to create the most complex, interconnected, international division of labor possible ..."

    I, too, love free markets. But open borders are not a prerequisite for free trade. People can trade goods very well without trading places. Moreover, and forgive me for chuckling, but the libertarian hate of Israel leads them to periodically forget that her comparative and competitive advantage is in knowledge-based hi-tech industries. Israel's natural trading partners are the U.S. and the E.U. With all due respect, Israel needs the economic powerhouse that is the PA like China needs trade with a tribe of rain-forest-dwelling Pygmies. The theory of free trade, which is always a positive-sum game, ought not to be compared with the dubious "benefits" of unfettered movement of people across borders (especially ones with bombs strapped beneath their clothing).

    Notwithstanding that libertarians, very plainly, believe that the Palestinians have a universal right to Israeli labor markets, it's worth noting that just as the United States can do without the hordes of Mexicans streaming across the borders, so too can Israel do without Palestinian cheap labor if the dangers of an open border exceed the benefits. If Israel (and the U.S. for that matter) eliminated her socialistic minimum-wage laws, which prohibit agriculture from hiring Israelis at a true market price, namely below minimum wage, Israelis – Jews and Arabs alike – would do farm work.

    Indeed, irrational hatred for "an isolated Sparta, bristling with weaponry and little else" even prompts libertarians to forget their welfare economics. Without American aid, Raimondo menacingly warns, Israel will cease to exist.

    Come again?

    First off, aid is just a fraction of Israeli GDP, so the point is laughable. More significantly, foreign aid, like welfare, exacerbates the problems it is supposed to ameliorate. As a government-to-government transfer, foreign aid serves to entrench and grow the bureaucracy and the public sector in general at the expense of the taxpayer and the private productive economy.

    A free-market proponent ought to know that American aid, if anything, retards Israel's progress. Cut Israel loose – it'll be for the best. In the absence of U.S. loans and cash grants, she would be forced to economize. Capital, including the billions in private voluntary Jewish donations, will be channeled to its best use and will flow to where it is most productive.

    Unlike her neighbors, Israel has what Peter Bauer, author of the seminal "Dissent on Development," called "the faculties, attitudes and institutions favorable to material progress." Without foreign aid, she would gallop toward a freer economy.

    I understand that libertarians like Sheldon Richman (and the Holocaust-denying Institute for Historical Review) believe, mistakenly, that all "the land" belongs to the Arabs. No doubt, American libertarians speak with the authority that comes from having the finest fathers a nation could wish for. How can Israel's humble, evidently uninspiring ideological beginnings compare (cynicism alert) with founders who fought for their freedom and their land?

    But let me ask my fellow libertarians this: When last did an American man fight honorably for his land, his home, his women, and his children? The men of the South circa 1861?

    I thought so.

    As much as libertarians hate them, Israelis, at least, defend what they perceive to be their land, their homes and their freedoms.
  3. Context is everything: American libertarians and Israel, part 1
    Posted on 02.21.04 by Thomas L. Knapp

    Libertarians are by nature a contrarian lot, and I’ve yet to see a real-world issue that we can’t mangle beyond recognition with a little debate. Nonetheless, the question of the Arab-Israeli conflict holds pride of place among vexatious issues that divide the freedom movement.

    In a recent article, published in Liberty For All, Carol Moore makes a valiant attempt to frame the Arab-Israeli conflict — and, more importantly, the implications of that conflict for the United States and for the freedom movement in the United States — in terms of universally applicable libertarian principles. My intention with this article is not to argue the validity of those principles. I stipulate to them. Instead, I intend to attempt to place the Arab-Israeli conflict in context, both with regard to the principles themselves (part one of this series) and to the practical application of those principles by an American freedom movement and, more specifically, the Libertarian Party (coming soon).

    A disclosure of interests is first in order: On balance, I consider myself to be a supporter of Israel. I do not mean, by this, that I support the Israeli government per se (I’m an anarchist; the Israeli government is a state; you do the math). Nor do I mean that I support each and every claim that might be made by that government or its supporters. I do, however, believe the following things:

    * That, by comparison to the Arab states surrounding it, including but not limited to the “Palestinian Authority,” Israel is an oasis of freedom and respect for human rights, including the property rights of Jews and Arabs alike.

    * That Israel’s response to attacks upon it — both of a military and terrorist character — has been, if anything, restrained by comparison to those attacks.

    * That the people — as opposed to the state — of Israel have valid claims to live where they live and as they live, generally speaking. That is to say that while claim to title of this house or that farm may be the subject of legitimate dispute, there is no valid claim that “Israel is stolen land,” with the Israelis playing the part of armed robber to the Arab’s hapless victimhood.

    I will attempt to defend those claims in the argument below, but that defense will be interwoven with a more general response to Ms. Moore’s article in its entirety.

    Ms. Moore begins with a cautionary quote from George Washington.

    “Excessive partiality for one foreign nation and excessive dislike of another cause those whom they actuate to see danger only on one side, and serve to veil and even second the arts of influence on the other,” said America’s first president upon the occasion of his retirement from public life. “Real patriots who may resist the intrigues of the favorite are liable to become suspected and odious, while its tools and dupes usurp the applause and confidence of the people to surrender their interests.”

    Cautionary indeed, both as Ms. Moore intended to apply it and in another way. Israel’s is not the only party with its advocates and lobbyists. While the power of the Israeli lobby in the US is formidable, the fact is that the Arab cause has its uncritical defenders as well. On any campus, at any leftist gathering, in any political debate, Israel’s opponents may be found “actuate[d] to see danger only on one side,” and denominating their counterparts as “odious.” So let us set aside the notion that libertarians who take one or the other side (or neither) where the Arab conflict is involved necessarily function as “tools and dupes” — or accept the notion that while one side may, the other side may as well.

    “[T]here seem to be mounting accusations of anti-Semitism by self-described libertarians, Jewish and gentile, towards libertarians throughout the movement who have criticized the state of Israel or its partisans,” says Ms. Moore. “Included for particular criticism are those who speak up for the property and human rights of the Palestinians.” This phenomenon does, indeed, exist. So does its counterpart, that being the characterization of libertarians throughout the movement who have defended Israel or criticized its enemies as being bigoted against Arabs, or even as active agents of Ariel Sharon, the Likud Party, the Jewish Defense League and so forth.

    Once again, the coin has two sides. The whole issue unleashes temper and exhausts patience on all sides. It is, perversely, simple enough that it inherently draws people to one side or another, yet complex enough that the arguments of each side quickly become incomprehensible and therefore subject to not undeserved characterization as sophistry by those on the other side.

    From her initial, and not unreasonable, recital of the current state of the argument, Ms. Moore proceeds to the enunciation of libertarian principles, followed by a summary of “libertarian criticisms of Israel.”

    Ms. Moore’s first stated principle is “individualism not collectivism.” She accurately summarizes that principle thusly: “Libertarians believe only individuals have rights. We do not recognize the right of religious, ethnic, racial or ideological groups, governments or groups of governments to use either private or state violence to enforce some collectivist vision on the life, liberty or property of others. … we do not defend the sinister machinations of nation states, especially when their claims of ’self-defense’ are plainly bogus.”

    In the “criticism” section, I do not find any argument to this principle other than the assertion, made without elaboration, that the Israeli treatment — specifically, forced relocation — of Arabs constitutes “ethnic cleansing.” I am willing to stipulate that forced relocation of people based on their ethnicity meets that definition.

    It is here, however, that context becomes critical — for, if the forced relocation of populations based on a collective designation of the individuals in that population is “ethnic cleansing,” then Israeli conduct of that activity, while odious, is no more odious than the same activity is when it is conducted by other entities against the same population. Yet the accusations of “ethnic cleansing,” on the part of anti-Israel libertarians, are reserved exclusively for Israel. No mention is made of the fact that the 55-year diaspora of an arbitrarily designated population of “Palestinians,” many of whom have never set foot on the land they refer to as home, has been lived largely behind barbed wire erected by … the Arab states.

    Throughout the Arab world, “Palestinians” remain a people apart, collectivized perhaps to some extent of their own accord, and to some extent by the state of Israel, but also by Arab states. A “Palestinian” who has lived in Syria, Jordan, Iraq or Egypt since 1948 — or who, perhaps, was even born in one of those countries — is not an individual in the eyes of those states. He is a “Palestinian,” whether he is born in Cairo or Kuwait City … the latter being unlikely for some time now, given the collective expulsion of those so designated by the Kuwaiti government following the 1991 war.

    The astute reader will note, of course, that this is no defense of Israel. If “ethnic cleansing” is wrong when Arab states do it — and it is — then it is equally wrong when Israel does it. The key point here, however, is that among libertarians who oppose Israel, short shrift is given to the fact that all parties are equally wrong. Condemnation is reserved to Israel and Israel alone; the plight of the “Palestinian” population is entirely the fault of Israel, and no one else is to blame, in any respect, for that plight.

    Full story here:
  4. The LP is no longer very libertarian at all

    In a poll offered at, 52% of respondents answered that the current Israeli military operation in Gaza is justified. 15% answered maybe with 34% voting no.

    In a struggle that can be documented as recently as the early 1900s with the Sykes-Picot Agreement and the Balfour Declaration (which incidentally, occurred before the Holocaust) or as anciently as the Hebrew Bible, who can say that they know enough to judge either side of the dispute?

    What I do know is that it’s not libertarian AT ALL to justify a war action that may be unjust.

    I have many friends who may blanch at my position here; my friends with homes in Israel certainly have a different interest in these unceasing skirmishes. My online buddy, Eric has written that he sees the Palestinians animal-like. I think if Eric would perhaps set aside his obvious bias- he is of the Jewish faith- and look at this even from the vantage point of conservative politics starting with United Nations Resolution 181, he would have to admit that the matter was meant to be convoluted.

    To the people of faith who seem to desire war to facilitate a return to the Holy Land of each of your religions I’d ask, “Don’t you trust your god enough to do it? Can’t you realize that the most recent conflicts in that area were brought about, at least somewhat, by the desires of men and their efforts at imperialism?”

    I’m not an expert with regard to religion or Mid-East history but I’m smart enough to know that I don’t have definitive answers. I am smart enough to know that for a libertarian, the only correct answers to the question posed by the LP are maybe or no. Maybe would show that you have really thought about the crisis and have found the humility to recognize that you don’t have all the answers; no would indicate that in the absence of all the answers, you would err on the side of caution and life. The yes answers show the hubris of the current crop of LPers and I guess I should thank my lucky stars that national can only attract 311 voters to its online poll.

    ~ by Miche on January 7, 2009.