I have a prediction to make with respect to Israel’s retaliation against the people of Gaza in response to the recent attack by Hamas on Israeli citizens. I predict that Israel’s response will not end up settling the longstanding dispute between Israel and the Palestinians. In fact, I will go a step further and predict that the response will produce another equally vicious attack on Israelis sometime in the future, perhaps even 10-15 years from now when the Gaza children who have survived are old enough to initiate another deadly attack on Israelis.
Some mainstream commentators are calling the Hamas attack Israel’s 9/11. I think there is some merit in that comparison. Twenty years ago, here at The Future of Freedom Foundation, we were ardently opposing the U.S. government’s plans to invade Afghanistan in response to the 9/11 attacks. We steadfastly maintained that such an invasion would end up killing and maiming multitudes of innocent people and, consequently, produce a perpetual threat of more terrorist attacks, which would, of course, serve as a justification for the continued destruction of American liberty at the hands of the Pentagon, the CIA, and the NSA.
We argued that the death and destruction resulting from the 9/11 attacks should cause Americans to engage in some serious soul-searching, with the aim of getting America back on the road to a society of liberty, peace, prosperity, and harmony with the world. That meant, we argued, going after suspected terrorists using the legal process (e.g., Interpol, extradition, etc.) and, at the same time, ending the foreign interventionism (e.g., the economic sanctions that killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children and the position of U.S. officials that such deaths were “worth it”) that gave rise to the deep rage that motivated foreigners to initiate vicious attacks against innocent Americans, such as with the 9/11 attacks but also the pre-9/11 terrorist attacks, such as those against the USS Cole, the 1993 WTC attack, etc.
We were attacked unmercifully for taking that position. “You’re a justifier!” our critics cried. “You’re justifying what the terrorists have done.” We were inundated with hate mail and cancellations of support. That was a difficult time for FFF. But we never wavered. As an aside, that’s when I became good friends with Lew Rockwell, another libertarian who was standing this same lonely ground within the libertarian movement against the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. Twenty years later, I can’t help but wonder why there is anyone left, including libertarians who ardently and enthusiastically supported the invasion of Afghanistan and, later, Iraq, who retrospectively still defend the U.S. invasion of those two countries as a response to the 9/11 attacks.
In the immediate aftermath of those vicious 9/11 attacks, vengeance, not wisdom, was all that mattered. The thirst for revenge consumed people’s minds. It didn’t matter how many innocent people would die in a U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. All that mattered was that it was important to kill lots of people, especially if they were Muslims. That was where the notion that Muslims were engaged in a centuries-old quest to establish a worldwide caliphate became popular. It was an easy way to make people feel good about the massive death and destruction that was going to be wreaked by the U.S. war machine on the people of Afghanistan. No one wanted to think about the fact that it was U.S. interventionism that had given rise to the 9/11 attacks and, therefore, that more U.S. interventionism would do more of the same. All that mattered was revenge and vengeance.
There is an important lesson that can be drawn form the Hamas attack on Israel but I’m fairly certain that U.S. interventionists will not want to consider it. The commentators are rightly focusing on Hamas’s killing of Israeli civilians. What they are alluding to is that in a war, it is a vicious war crime to attack civilians. Soldiers fight soldiers and are supposed to do their best to avoid killing civilians.
How does this hold a lesson for Americans? Because of the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki! This is another area in which FFF has been attacked by U.S. interventionists over the years. Every time we point out that those two atomic bombings were war crimes because they targeted civilians, we receive attacks from U.S. interventionists who claim that it was justified to kill all those innocent people as a way to “shorten the war.”
My hunch is that those interventionists who attack us for our position are today rightly attacking Hamas for killing innocent Israeli civilians. But my hunch is that they still do not — and will not — recognize the fundamental inconsistency of their position. If it’s wrong for Hamas to target and kill innocent civilians, why is it right when the U.S. government does it?
The real issue that the Israeli citizenry should be confronting is: How in the world can this dispute be settled once and for all, so that all the death and destruction can be brought to an end? That’s where wisdom comes into play.
I am far from being an expert on the Israeli-Palestinian dispute. But I do consider myself to be an expert in the libertarian philosophy. Some years ago, a statist sent me an email asserting that libertarianism could not serve as a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. He was wrong. Libertarian principles are universal. They apply everywhere.
One of the best articles one could ever read on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict is an FFF article written by Richard Ebeling entitled “Free Market Liberalism and the Israeli-Palestinian Conflict.” In his article, Richard analyzes the two most popular solutions to the conflict: a two-state solution and a one-state solution.
I lean toward the latter. There is no absolutely no reason why Israelis and Palestinians cannot live together peacefully and harmoniously within one nation. After all, Jews and Arabs live here in the United States without killing each other. There is nothing special about the geographic location of Israel that prevents Jews and Arabs from peacefully and harmoniously living together within the same nation in that part of the world. After all, there have been thousands of Arabs living in Israel for decades.
One of Israel’s top concern is that Arabs might outnumber Jews in the country, which might mean that Jews would no longer control the government, in which case Israel might lose its special status as a sanctuary for Jews. That problem could be easily solved with a non-amendable constitutional provision that guarantees that the government will always be Jewish-controlled and Jewish-run. If Arabs don’t like that, they don’t have to move to Israel.
But I have no doubts that regular Palestinians would gladly agree to such a condition in return for a normal life in which they were free to own homes and businesses, engage in commerce, raise their families, accumulate wealth, travel freely, criticize public officials, and exercise all other fundamental rights.
And that’s where libertarianism comes into play. In a society in which the Israeli government’s powers were strictly limited to protecting the rights of everyone in an even, impartial manner, no one would care who was running the government. It’s only when government wields the power to dole out privileges to selected groups or to arbitrarily punish selected groups that people care who wields political power.
And that’s where the big obstacle to peace in the Middle East lies. Both sides are as antithetical to libertarianism as American statists are. Moreover, they both are firmly committed to the obliteration of the other side. Thus, until both sides see the utter futility in this mindset and embrace libertarianism, the death and suffering with go on into perpetuity.
Meanwhile, among the best things Americans could ever do is to prevent our government from providing weaponry, money, or other foreign aid to either Israel or the Palestinians. For that matter, Americans would be wise to terminate all foreign aid to every nation in the world. Best of all, the best thing Americans could ever do for the people of the world is to restore our nation’s sound founding principles of economic liberty, free markets, sound money, voluntary charity, non-interventionism, and a limited-government republic. In other words, we should lead the world to libertarianism by example.