It's hard to have watched the news in the past few days and not see something about the current conflict going on in the Middle East. Hamas has barraged Israel with rockets within the past year, but that barrage has increased substantially in November. It was refreshing to see the U.S. Department of State condemn Hamas' actions and German Chancellor Angela Merkel's affirmation of Israel's right to self-defense, but unsurprisingly, the United Nations has not denounced the terrorist organization via a UN Security Council Resolution. What does Israel do in response? It begins with killing Hamas military chief Ahmed Jabari on November 14, Since then, Israel has primarily through air strikes in what has been labeled "Operation Pillar of Defense" (עמוד ענן), and in turn, Hamas has escalated its attacks in what it has labelled "Operation Blue Sky" (السماء الزرقاء). A detailed historical account of the Israeli-Arab conflict would be helpful and more prudent. There is so much material to cover in such a small space, and in the interest of time, I provided this very brief explanation as to what has transpired between Israel and Gaza.
The question still remains: if peace is to be embodied within the political philosophy of libertarianism, how can I, as a libertarian, begin to justify what is taking place in the Middle East? I can first respond by saying that what is going on between Israel and Gaza is a military conflict. When you have an organization such as Hamas that is hellbent on your destruction, it makes the situation anything but ideal. Hamas has reneged on its ceasefire from the Gaza War. In 2012 alone, it has fired nearly 2,000 rockets into Israel, which doesn't even count the other rocket launches between Israel's withdrawal from Gaza in 2009 and the end of 2011. The fact that Israel held back from retaliating from attacks that put nearly half of its population at risk for that long of a period is flabbergasting, as well as being able to attest to Israel's self-restraint.
Austrian economist Steve Horowitz published an article today about the Israeli-Palestine conflict from a libertarian standpoint. While I don't agree with everything he had to say, I certainly agree with many of his general points. He brought up a point where Israel shouldn't accept American foreign aid. While I haven't done extensive research on the general effects of foreign aid, I was interested to find a study by the free-market, Israeli think-tank called Jerusalem Institute for Market Studies (JIMS) published on the inefficiencies of foreign aid. That doesn't negate an argument against what Israel is doing, but rather questions its method of funding.
One of his good points Horowitz brought up is that "simple libertarian moral ethics do not apply to this conflict," and arrives to his main point, which was "there is only one state in the Middle East that rests on broadly liberal values, and that is Israel." Israel is not an apartheid state by any means, but rather is a liberal state with democratic institutions. The Palestinian Authority is an authoritarian regime that consists of two oppressive entities: Gaza and the West Bank.
Prior to attacking terrorists, Israel sends Palestinian citizens leaflets warning them of when and where they will attack so that the IDF can avoid civilian casualties (Have you heard of any other military force doing this ever?). Israel does everything it can to protect its citizens. What does Hamas do? It repeatedly fires rockets into Israel and provokes Israel by attacking civilians in a deliberate manner. When Israel decides to retaliate, it has to target Hamas' weaponry. Hamas strategically places its rocket launchers and the terrorists it hides in densely populated civilian areas. As precise as the IDF tries to be with its attacks, this tactic purported by Hamas guarantees maximum civilian casualties. Not only does Hamas show disdain for its own citizens by putting them in the line of fire, but it also renders a lopsided casualty count.
I can hear someone ask "Well, what about Israel? They have to take their fair share of the blame." I hear the words "fair share" and I get somewhat of a gag reflex because what the heck does that even mean in the first place? Does this mean I defend Israel in every policy that it enacts? Of course not! Government is run by human beings, and human beings make mistakes. I am perfectly capable of criticizing Israel when criticism is due. If I couldn't openly and fairly be an "equal opportunity critic," blogging wouldn't be fun, and it would hardly be objective. However, we are talking about the difference between the democratic, free state of Israel versus the totalitarian entity known as Hamas. There is no moral equivalency, and anyone who attempts to do so, especially in the name of moral relativity, lacks anything resembling a moral compass.
Without getting bogged down in history, Israel is a nation-state that has legitimately acquired the land, have its acquisitions legally recognized by the United Nations, and has fought multiple defensive wars to keep that land. Israel has put more than enough effort into fairly securing that land. As such, it has the right to self-defense, as it is afforded by the UN Charter, Article 51. If libertarianism allows for self-defense on an individual level, why shouldn't we allow for that on the international level? If any other country were attacked with hundreds of missiles, it would rightfully be called self-defense because the country is trying to prevent civilian casualties in its country. When Israel does it, well, it's a whole different story marred with double standards.
I would love for the day when Hamas, and even Fatah, are committed to peace. A permanent ceasefire would be great. Enough blood has been shed in this conflict, and quite frankly, warfare is a lousy and inefficient way to allocate limited resources. As nice as it would be if everyone could "just get along," we do have to concede to reality. It's still Hamas' raison d'être to wipe Israel off the map. Fatah cannot even recognize Israel's right to exist. It's hard to criticize Israel not creating a long-term solution when its supposed "partners in peace" are not remotely committed to the idea of peace. It's a tricky situation and I know there are no easy solutions. Until the diplomatic circumstances are more conducive to a long-lasting peace, I'm afraid that Israel will have to justifiably continue with its Operation Pillar of Defense because it's the best option out of a bunch of unsatisfactory options.