Only individuals dedicated to freedom have a right to "self-determination" and to create a state.
Many Americans, Europeans, and even Israelis, have been calling for a Palestinian state run by Yasser Arafat. Far from delivering long-awaited "salvation," such a state would only bring Palestinians more misery and death.
Consider Arafat's and the PLO's long history of terrorism and violence. Over a span of 35 years, Arafat and the PLO have been responsible for the deaths of thousands of Israeli, American, Lebanese, and Palestinian civilians. Through the PLO, Arafat has orchestrated the kidnapping and murder of Israeli school children, the hijacking of airliners, numberless car bombings and death-squad killings. Often Arafat's violence has been targeted at his Arab "brothers," as is evidenced by the PLO's role in Jordanian (1960s-'70s) and Lebanese (1970s-'80s) civil insurrections.
Consider also the track record of the current Palestinian Authority--the temporary governing body of the Gaza Strip and West Bank territories. Arafat is the dictator of the Palestinian Authority in everything but title. The Los Angeles Times has described his domination as stretching "from the largest to the most minor matter." Palestinians live in constant fear of having their property arbitrarily confiscated by Arafat's corrupt "police" force. Laws prohibiting free speech are common and are enforced brutally. To silence those who oppose him, Arafat shuts down radio and TV stations. According to Amnesty International, dissenters are arbitrarily detained, tortured, or "encouraged" at gunpoint to leave the territories. In November 1999 a group of prominent intellectuals who signed a petition accusing Arafat's regime of corruption was summarily jailed. They were lucky; some recalcitrants are assassinated.
Arafat's current regime is barbaric and oppressive. One can logically predict that conditions in an independent Palestinian state would be worse than they are presently.
Viewed in this context of dictatorial rule, the alleged right of Palestinians to "self-determination" is groundless. No group has a right to its own state if what it seeks is a dictatorship. Arafat's "Palestinian self-determination" really means more of Arafat's despotism--it means granting legitimacy to a state that is utterly hostile to its own citizens.
As Ayn Rand wrote, "the right of 'the self-determination of nations' applies only to free societies or to societies seeking to establish freedom; it does not apply to dictatorships." The only legitimate reason to found a new state is to escape tyranny and secure freedom. Thus, America's Founding Fathers rightly fought for independence from England's oppressive rule; the United States was founded on the recognition of individual rights. What Palestinians desire, however, is the "right" to be rightless serfs in a state run by a ruthless dictator. Nobody has a right to create and maintain such a state.
Palestinians would be better off staying under Israeli rule (as some Palestinians admit, when safe to do so). To the extent that the Arabs living in Israel have accepted Western values such as individual responsibility, property rights, and the rule of law, they have thrived. The material evidence of that flourishing can be seen in the relatively high standard of living found in many Arab villages in Israel. Indeed, Palestinians rely on the relative economic freedom and prosperity offered in Israel to make a living.
But Israel also offers Palestinians more precious values.
What Arab country gives its inhabitants the liberty to protest, to publish articles and books opposing the government (as many Jews and Palestinians do in Israel)? What Arab country has free elections or a judicial system in which all are treated equally before the law? None. In Israel, Palestinians have more freedom and more economic opportunities than they have in any Arab country, and than they could possibly have in a future Palestinian state run by the PLO or any other dictatorial group. If the choice is between a Palestinian state run by terrorists like Arafat and remaining under Israeli rule, the latter is by far the better option.
If Palestinians were serious about having their own free state, they would start by deposing and arresting Yasser Arafat for his crimes against his own people. In place of the terrorists now representing them, Palestinians should send to the negotiating table representatives who believe in and honor individual rights--leaders who plan to establish a free civilized country where violence is abhorred and suppressed. Palestinians should treat Israel as an older and wiser neighbor from whom they have much to learn, rather than an enemy to be destroyed. Only when Palestinians are willing to negotiate with Israel on such terms, will they have earned the right to a state of their own.
Yaron Brook is the executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute in Irvine, Calif. The Institute promotes Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand--author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead.
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