The Dark Side of Israelby Imad-ad-Dean Ahmad
Why should Americans support a socialist, racist, theocratic state?
Some libertarians claim that it is only a commitment to abstract general principle that forces us to oppose U.S. government aid to Israel. In other words, we should support the ideological concept of aid to Israel, opposing only the fact that our tax dollars are being used to achieve it. Yet if one examines the situation with a more critical eye, one finds that the laws and policies of Israel are blatantly contrary to the tenets of libertarianism ― the universality of individual rights, a commitment to nonaggression, and the right to hold private property. In fact, Israel is an uncompromisingly racist, militarist, and collectivist entity, and has been so from the time of its conception.
The racism of Israel is transparent in the policy of “the Law of Return.” Any Jew may become a full citizen Israel, but non-Jewish Palestinians of Israeli birth who emigrated or were expelled may not return. Thus, Samuel Sheinbein can escape trial in the United States, where he was accused of the brutal murder and mutilation of a fellow student, by fleeing to Israel and claiming the Right of Return; yet my mother, born and raised in Jerusalem, couldn’t return home to escape a parking ticket.
Palestinians who remain in their homeland are granted only second-class citizenship. They are barred from receiving many of the subsidies of the heavily socialized state, although they are not exempt from the oppressive tax rates. In fact, many Palestinians in Israel are treated as “present absentees,” denied the right to return to their villages. Israeli authorities systematically use government regulatory devices against Palestinians to prevent them from building or expanding their houses, refusing them the building permits routinely granted to Jewish citizens. For the Palestinian residents of Jerusalem, things are worst of all. Their homeland is illegally occupied, yet Israel treats them no better than visitors. They are considered “permanent residents,” whose residency permits can be taken away if they go abroad. Jews may have dual citizenship (and many do), but a non-Jewish Jerusalemite loses his residency if he acquires American citizenship. Arab Jerusalemites who marry people from outside the city must choose between giving up their residency and leaving town because non-Jews are not allowed to obtain residency.
The definition of Jew in Israel is racial and not religious. Under Israeli law, having a Jewish mother is what makes a person a Jew. An Israeli need not follow the Mosaic law nor even believe in God to qualify as a Jew as long as his mother meets the ethnic requirements. (On the other hand, the Israeli High Court has ruled that Messianic Jews ― meaning Jews who accept Jesus as the Messiah ― lose their status as Jews. Apparently Jews who question the ultra-orthodox definitions of Judaism are considered as little worthy of citizenship as Palestinians.) Although Jewish teachings do not promote discrimination against non-Jews, the so-called Jewish state of Israel binds itself less to actual religion than to ethnicity. Israel grants full citizenship, including property rights, subsidies, and individual rights to any person of any nationality, as long as that person is of Jewish ethnicity. Ben Gurion University political geographer Oren Yiftachel has rightly noted that such a form of government is an “ethno-cracy” rather than a democracy.
Israel’s militarism has been defended by the claim that it is a tiny Jewish nation in a sea of hostile Arabs. However, this hostility is not the result of religious disagreements, as is maliciously suggested by pro-Israeli supporters. Arab aggression is far from a permanent factor in the history of the Middle East, a fact clearly demonstrated by the historical coexistence of Jews and Arabs under Muslim rule. In fact, although the Romans expelled the Jews from Jerusalem, the second Caliph, Umar, allowed the Jews to return when the Muslims captured Jerusalem in the seventh century. This was in direct contrast to the desires of the Christians inhabitants, who wished the Jews to remain exiled, and was in fact the sole Christian request that Umar did not fulfill. Centuries later, the Crusaders banned the Jews after massacring Jewish, Muslim, and Arab Christian occupants of the city. When Saladin recaptured the city, he allowed the Jews to return. The Hashemite kings Abdullah (who ruled Jerusalem from 1948-52) and Hussein (who succeeded him through 1967) departed from this tradition and excluded the Jews from Jerusalem, but they did not do so on the grounds of religious bigotry. Rather, they acted in direct response to the actions of Jews ― in retaliation for the Zionist expulsion of the Palestinians from their homes and lands. Pro-Israeli factions may claim that Arabs hate Jews on principle, but history makes clear that this is not the case. The heightened militarism of the country is therefore inappropriate and may even be a direct cause of many of the conflicts which Israel blames on its Arab neighbors.
The most interesting issue to libertarians is that of private property rights. Even the most pro-Zionist libertarian will criticize Israel for its staunch socialism. The collectivism of Israel, however, is not just a simple flaw in Zionism, but the core of the ideology. To appreciate this, one should note that at the time of Israel’s foundation, Jews (Zionist and non-Zionist alike) owned less than seven percent of the territory. This included land recently acquired from absentee landlords. The Jewish National Fund demanded that the new government should use its power of eminent domain in order to “acquire this year . . . as much land as it acquired in 47 years of unremitting effort.”1 This land was not to be turned over to private Jewish ownership, but was to be collectively owned by the Jewish people. This meant two things: it would never again be put into private hands, and it would never again be rented or leased by non-Jews. Under current laws, the same restrictions apply to state-owned land.
A recent example of the Israeli disregard for private property was the takeover of land near the village of Dir Kadis. A press release, issued by the Israeli Peace Bloc (Gush Shalom), noted that verbal protests by the Palestinian titleholders to the land were ignored. On May 23, 1999, when villagers tried to stop the bulldozers from leveling their property, Israeli soldiers shot tear gas canisters into their houses, wounding several people, including children, and causing one woman to suffer miscarriage. The justifications for such actions vary from the ever-popular seizures by the military for “security needs” to the claiming of land “abandoned” by refugees. In the occupied territories, Israelis employ a series of strategies to pressure the indigenous people to leave: The curfews that force people to remain indoors as many as 22 hours a day, the closures that prevent them from going to work, and the road system that cuts farms in half exemplify the difficult conditions Palestinians struggle against, simply to keep land which, under any private property law, should be theirs without question. Outright deportations, though illegal under international law, constitute yet another weapon in the Israeli arsenal.
Land is not the only target of looting. Israel does not have enough water to support the large numbers of immigrants it needs to outpace the fecund Arab population. To maintain the stream of immigrants, the Zionist lobby induced the U.S. Congress to endorse stricter immigration laws to make it more difficult for Jews from the former Soviet block to enter the United States. Unable to come to their first-choice destination, most emigrants end up in Israel, where the water supply falls short of supporting the artificially increased population. As a result, the Israelis raid the aquifer in the occupied territories to meet their needs.2 When Palestinians’ wells go dry, a negative response ― or indifferent silence ― meets their request for permits to dig deeper wells. Meanwhile, the illegal settlers get all the water they want from the dropping aquifer, while they live on land that has been illegally seized. There is no question that Israel’s policies regarding land ownership and water rights are not simply biased against Palestinians, but violent and illegal, and above all contrary to the fundamental concept of private property.
Too many libertarians, in spite of rejecting the need for government funding of foreign countries, feel that it is morally correct to support Israel. Yet morality cannot be divided from the consequences of action. The very foundation of Israel’s present existence should be anathema to any libertarian who disagrees that race should supercede all other factors when it comes to granting or denying citizenship and basic rights, that history should be ignored when justifying militarism, and that private property rights can be overruled in favor of government-mandated collectivism.