Why Libertarians Might Not Take Israel's Side in the Latest Gaza Skirmishes


As a ceasefire is announced today in Gaza, John Glaser at Bleeding Heart Libertarians blog offers some reasons a libertarian might take special care to not take Israel's side in that (hopefully squashed for now) conflict.


As things stand, and as everyone knows, the US is not a neutral player in the conflict. Israel receives over $3 billion in aid from Washington every year, not including the mountains of military hardware and expertise that the Israeli Defense Forces are now unleashing on the Palestinians….

Israel's violence and abuse of the Palestinians – supported with unparalleled US backing – is immeasurably greater than Palestinian violence towards Israel, and therefore rightly attracts far more criticism. Secondly, Americans are supporting and giving sanction to Israel's violence towards Palestinians, and therefore a simple moral calculus leads us properly to focus on that violence, as opposed to any that we are not directly responsible for…

Just what is America supporting? Well, for 45 years Israel has militarily occupied Palestinian territory in the West Bank and Gaza, while using unqualified support from the United States to block the wildly popular political settlement based on the borders set in 1948…

 Not only has the occupation continued, but Israel has been slowly seizing more and more territory. In the West Bank, Israel has been demolishing Palestinian homes that have rested on that land for generations and building up Israeli settlements in their place, paid for by the Israeli state which also subsidizes Israeli citizens willing to live there…

Gazans have some legitimate reasons to feel aggrieved by the Israeli state:

Israel unilaterally withdrew its military forces and settlers from Gaza in 2005. This has led many Israeli leaders to claim they made a major concession to the Palestinians, without much in return. In a free election, which was heavily monitored by international organizations, Gazans elected Hamas to power in 2006. Israel decided they voted the wrong way and proceeded to impose an economic blockade on all of Gaza, for what they described as security reasons. The blockade has been devastating. Israel uses the coercive power of the state to block the flow of goods and people in and out of Gaza and it has resulted in severe poverty and suffering.

Israel claims the economic blockade on Gaza is in place for security reasons, but it includes purely economic and humanitarian resources as well as other non-military items including children's toys….

In a January 2008 secret Israeli document released in a recent court case, Israel decided to allow Gazans to eat 2,279 calories worth of food each day, as if they were dogs in a cage. They estimated therefore that they would allow 1,836 grams of food per person, per day. The policy was summed up by Dov Weisglass, an adviser to former Prime Minister Ehud Olmert, years before the document was written. "The idea is to put the Palestinians on a diet, but not to make them die of hunger," Weisglass said, claiming the hunger pangs are supposed to coerce Palestinians to force Hamas out of government.

These realities, and many more that I don't have the space to explain here, are what motivate libertarians like me to emphasize Israel's crimes over those of the few Palestinians in Gaza who launch rockets into Israel…

Glaser is responding to the argument (made on the Bleeding Heart Libertarian blog by Steve Horwitz) that since the Israeli state is--its military actions notwithstanding--a more liberal state than ones its Arab neighbors seem ever likely to establish, libertarians might want to give them some consideration on those grounds. Glaser doesn't see it that way:

Even if Israel were incomparably better for liberty than all of its neighbors, that still wouldn't excuse Israel of its crimes and it still shouldn't convince libertarians to favor Israel in its conflict with the Palestinians.

This latest clash between Israel and Hamas has rightly prompted many libertarians to object, loudly once again, to US-Israeli policies. Israel's latest bombardment of Gaza began when a lull in cross border violence was broken on Nov. 8th – not with rocket fire into Israel – but with Israeli tanks invading southern Gaza and shooting and killing a 13-year old boy. Gaza militants responded by shooting an anti-tank missile at an IDF vehicle, wounding four soldiers. Then Israel significantly escalated airstrikes…

Hamas has indeed launch over 1,000 rockets into Israel, most of them blocked by Israel's missile defense system. Five Israelis died, tragically. On the other side, Israel has unleashed countless airstrikes into Gaza, killing over 145 Palestinians and wounding more than 900, most of them civilian men, women, and children.

Since the end of the last war (which Israel also instigated) in 2009, 16 times as many Palestinians have been killed by Israel than Gaza militants have killed Israelis.

With proportions like these, and with the limited context I provided above, I think libertarians, especially leaders of the movement looked up to by so many, should not hesitate to roundly condemn Israel's actions…

I wrote back in July 2006 an annoyingly still timely piece on the proper allocation of blame in a previous Israel-involved Middle Eastern military conflict, this time against Hezbollah in Lebanon.