Israel Has a Moral Right to Its Life
By Peter Schwartz and Yaron Brook (Indianapolis Star, July 24, 2002)
As yet another appalling suicide bombing takes place in Israel, killing 19 people and wounding dozens more on a bus packed with schoolchildren in Jerusalem--as Hamas claims credit for the massacre--America's policymakers still insist on seeking an "even-handed," diplomatic solution.
In the past 18 months, Israel's six million citizens have suffered 12,480 terrorist attacks. They have buried more than 400 victims--a per-capita death toll six times that of America on September 11. Yet, in an abhorrent act of injustice, Israel continues to be pressured by the United States into making concessions to Yasser Arafat, the archpatron of those terror attacks. In the long run, this means that Israel is being pressured into sacrificing its basic right to exist.
We should be supporting Israel's right to take whatever military action is needed to defend itself against its nihilistic enemies. Morally and militarily, Israel is America's frontline in the war on terrorism. If America is swayed by Arafat's latest empty rhetoric, and allows him to continue threatening Israel, our own campaign against terrorism becomes sheer hypocrisy and will, ultimately, fail.
Consider the facts and judge for yourself:
The Israelis and the Palestinians are not morally equal
Israel is the only free country in a region dominated by Arab monarchies, theocracies and dictatorships. It is only the citizens of Israel--Arabs and Jews alike--who enjoy the right to express their views, to criticize their government, to form political parties, to publish private newspapers, to hold free elections. When Arab authorities deny the most basic freedoms to their own people, it is obscene for them to start claiming that Israel is violating the Palestinians' rights. All Arab citizens who are genuinely concerned with human rights should, as their very first action, seek to oust their own despotic rulers and adopt the type of free society that characterizes Israel.
Since its founding, Israel has been the victim
Since its founding in 1948, Israel has had to fight five wars--all in self-defense--against 22 hostile Arab dictatorships, and has been repeatedly attacked by Palestinian terrorists. Arafat is responsible for the kidnapping and murder of Israeli schoolchildren, the hijacking of airliners and the car bombings and death-squad killings of thousands of Israeli, American, Lebanese and Palestinian civilians. Today he ardently sponsors such terror groups as Hamas, Islamic Jihad and the al Aksa Brigade.
The land Israel is "occupying" was captured in a war initiated by its Arab neighbors. Like any victim of aggression, Israel has a moral right to control as much land as is necessary to safeguard itself against attack. The Palestinians want to annihilate Israel, while Israel wants simply to be left alone. If there is a moral failing on Israel's part, it consists of its reluctance to take stronger military measures. If it is right for America to bomb al-Qaeda strongholds in Afghanistan--and it is--then it is equally justifiable for Israel to bomb the terrorist strongholds in the occupied territories.
Hatred of Israel, and of the United States, is hatred for Western values
Like America's war against the Taliban and al-Qaeda, the Arab-Israeli dispute is a conflict between opposing philosophies. On the one side are the forces of mysticism, medieval tribalism, dictatorship--and terror; on the other side are the forces of reason, individualism, capitalism--and civilization. Arafat and his sympathizers hate Israel for the same reason that Osama bin Laden and his sympathizers hate America, i.e., for embracing secular, Western values. No "peace process" is possible with such enemies.
This is not an ethnic battle between Jews and Arabs, but a moral battle between those who value the individual's right to be free and those who don't. Those Arabs who value individual freedom are enemies of the Arafat regime and deserve to be embraced by Israel; those Jews who do not value individual freedom deserve to be condemned by Israel.
Israelis have a right to the land
Only Israel has a moral right to establish a government in that area--on the grounds, not of some ethnic or religious heritage, but of a secular, rational principle. Only a state based on political and economic freedom has moral legitimacy. Contrary to what the Palestinians are seeking, there can be no "right" to establish a dictatorship.
As to the rightful owners of particular pieces of property, Israel's founders--like the homesteaders in the American West--earned ownership to the land by developing it. They arrived in a desolate, sparsely populated region and drained the swamps, irrigated the desert, grew crops and built cities. They worked unclaimed land or purchased it from the owners. They introduced industry, libraries, hospitals, art galleries, universities-and the concept of individual rights. Those Arabs who abandoned their land in order to join the military crusade against Israel forfeited all right to their property. And if there are any peaceful Arabs who were forcibly evicted from their property, they should be entitled to press their claims in the courts of Israel, which, unlike the Arab autocracies, has an independent, objective judiciary--a judiciary that recognizes the principle of property rights.
Palestinians are not "freedom fighters"
The Palestinians want a state, not to secure their freedom, but to perpetuate the dictatorial reign of Arafat's Palestinian Authority. Arafat's "police" brutally expropriate property and silence opposing viewpoints by shutting down radio and TV stations. They systematically arrest, torture and murder peaceful dissenters. To call the militant Palestinians "freedom fighters"--when they support the subjugation of their own people, when they deliberately murder children in the streets or gleefully praise such depravity--is a mind-numbing perversion.
Palestinians have consistently sought to destroy Israel
In 1947 the Palestinians rejected the U.N.'s offer of a state larger than the one they are demanding now. Instead, they joined in a war aimed at wiping Israel from the map. Today, that hostility has only hardened. For example, in a televised public sermon, a Palestinian Imam declared: "God willing, this unjust state [of] Israel, will be erased." Palestinian textbooks are filled with vile, anti-Jewish propaganda, such as this exhortation from a fifth-grade Arabic language text: "The Jihad against the Jew is the religious duty of every Muslim man and woman."
A Palestinian state under Arafat would become a base for terrorism
A Palestinian state headed by Arafat would be a launching pad and a training ground for terrorist organizations targeting, not only Israel, but the United States. Forcing Israelis to accept a Palestinian state under Arafat is like forcing Americans to accept a state the size of Mexico, 12 miles from New York City, ruled by Osama bin Laden. As long as the Palestinians sanction aggression, they should not be permitted their own state.
Arafat's meaningless words will not restore life to his terror-victims--past or future
No rhetoric by Arafat can change the fact that he is a hater of freedom and a destroyer of innocent human life. Imagine Osama bin Laden being enticed by American diplomats to announce: "We strongly condemn operations that target American civilians, especially the last one in New York. We equally condemn the massacres that have been, and are still being, committed by U.S. occupation troops against Taliban civilians in Kandahar, Shah-i-Kot and Tora Bora." Would any sane individual thereby endorse an immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces from Afghanistan and the creation of a Taliban state, headed by bin Laden, alongside America? If not, why should Israel be expected to act so suicidally?
America, for its own benefit, must allow Israel to uphold the principle of self-defense
The growing demand for Israel to negotiate with Arafat comes from an unprincipled, range-of-the-moment mentality. Surrendering to extortion--which the "land-for-peace" catechism endorses--is profoundly immoral and impractical. In the 1938 version of "land for peace," Nazi Germany was appeased by being allowed to take over Czechoslovakia as part of the Aryan people's "homeland"; the result was to encourage Hitler to start a world war.
The Arab-Israeli conflict could become a dress rehearsal for a wider, global conflict. If America now stops Israel from retaliating against Arafat, the father of international terrorism, how can it ever justify retaliation against its own enemies? If we force Israel to appease Arafat, we will be broadcasting, loud and clear, that terrorism can bring America too to its knees.
We should urge our government to recognize that there is only one means of achieving long-term Mideast peace: upholding the principle of a free society, which entails the endorsement of Israel's sweeping retaliation against the scourge of terrorism.
Yaron Brook is the executive director of the Ayn Rand Institute in Irvine, Calif. Peter Schwartz, author of The Foreign Policy of Self-Interest, is a distinguished fellow at the Ayn Rand Institute. The Institute promotes Objectivism, the philosophy of Ayn Rand--author of Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead.
For more articles by Yaron Brook, and his bio, click here.
For more articles by Peter Schwartz, and his bio, click here.
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