On 20 May, Prof. Paul Eidelberg of Bar-Ilian University described, in these pages, an especially annoying class of Israel critic. These LIERs (Libertarians, Internationalists, Egalitarians, and Relativists) exist either as individuals combining the worst ideas of four political philosophies, or as groups having representation from all four.
People often criticize Israel, fairly or unfairly, from any of these four perspectives. Herewith an analysis of each.
The most common anti-Israel perspectives
Most who criticize Israel come from internationalist, egalitarian, or relativistic perspectives. Prof. Eidelberg aptly described why one adhering to any of these three would criticize Israel.
An internationalist wants to roll all the people of the world into one. The idea of a Jewish state offends such a person.
Why, then, do they not criticize Islam? Possibly because they see Islam as the perfect internationalist religious movement. The “Islamic State,” ironically, illustrates the internationalist principle: its fighters respect no borders. But they respect no borders because they seek to conquer the world. Islam is pan-Arab nationalism in religious dress. Muhammad set it up that way. He wanted a banner for his fellow Arabs to rally behind, to fight the civilizing influence of the Byzantine Empire. A modern Muslim sees anything Western as Byzantine. The Byzantines offered a way of life offensive to an Arab tribal dweller or especially a tribal chief (read sheikh in their language, or aluf in Hebrew—translated as “duke” in the Annals of Esau, Genesis chapter 36, Authorized Version). Muhammad invented Islam and salted its central Recital (Qur’an) with chapter (surah) and verse (ayah) to please any tribal dweller, especially a tribal male. No Jew would go along with this, because Judaism emphasized family and as close to equal rights for women as any faith tradition then had. Furthermore, the Jews could not accept Muhammad as a prophet on the order of Abraham or Moses. Furious when the Jews rejected him, Muhammad wrote the infamous Fighting Words and abrogated his earlier Peaceful Words.
Internationalists recognize none of this. They expect everyone to get along. They then blame any conflict on whoever happens to be strongest at the moment, not him or them who started the use of force. Israel has shown the greater strength so far. Israel wins war after war, and handily. Israel didn’t start these wars. But the internationalists accuse them of doing just that.
An egalitarian holds no person better or worse than any other. But egalitarianism goes beyond equality before the law. The true egalitarian will not recognize differences in intellectual, athletic, or other ability. He then reads how the Jews describe themselves: as God’s chosen people. That he cannot accept.
Egalitarianism compromises even the “hard sciences.” Edwin Hubble put forth the “Copernican Principle” that no perspective in the universe is any different from any other perspective. In other words, the universe has no center. Edwin Hubble made a profound error. In fact, astronomers and cosmologists, if they chose honesty over philosophical imperative, would have to admit the Galaxy in which we live, lies at the center of the universe. John Hartnett (Starlight, Time and the New Physics) described this well. But that offends egalitarian sensibilities.
Anyone who would so distort the sciences, would never accept any particular people as “chosen.” So when the Jews describe themselves as chosen, the egalitarian says to himself, “I’m going to take him down a peg.” All anti-Semitism, beginning with men like Haman the Agagite (see Esther), stems from that premise and that desire. Today Israel inherits that target status.
A relativist considers no moral standard better than any other. Moral forces one to ask: by what standard? The Jews, the original people of Israel, gave the world the best moral system one could ask for: the Ten Commandments. Five of the Ten form the best basis for civil law: no person shall murder, cheat, steal from, lie to or about, or covet the property or relationships of another. Who could object to that? A modern relativist does. An egalitarian also does. Not covet the property of another? The French Revolution gave us the concepts “left” and “right” in politics. And ever since the Jacobins, and continuing with the Paris Communards and the Communists of the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact, covetousness, theft, and libel/slander have formed the basis of the politics and policies of the political left. (The Nazis, and Josef Stalin’s particularly vicious Communists, introduced murder as an instrument of government policy. Thus far, no one has used adultery except as a tool of psychological warfare against a designated enemy.) Israel stands against that sort of thing. Worse yet to a relativist, Israel has something its neighbors actively covet. Israel sits on land with a good source of water. And its people have technological advancement that lets them export technology. All these things offend the relativists. By their way of thinking, Israel should not exist.
The less common anti-Israel perspective
How can libertarianism lead to a criticism of Israel? That results from a taint of relativism that sometimes infects libertarianism.
Strictly speaking, a libertarian wants the liberty to do as he or she sees fit, and would let others also do as they fit. Not everyone who calls himself a libertarian truly qualifies. Senator Jay Rockefeller (D-W.V.) once wished the Federal Communications Commission would shut down the Fox News Channel and the MSNBC channel. No true libertarian would call for a thing like that. Similarly, “civil libertarians” want to do and say as they please with complete freedom. But they do not respect the right of others to object to their behavior in any way. They ought not call themselves libertarians with such an attitude.
The non-aggression principle
Nevertheless, a difficult issue does divide true libertarians: when may one person use force against another? Julien Benda, in La Trahison des Clercs (The Treason of the Intellectuals), anticipated the problem. Justice seems to become suspect when one must use force to back it up. The problem: justice without anything to back it up, has no meaning.
Ayn Rand (Atlas Shrugged) similarly argued: no person may start the use of force against another. Force becomes proper in retaliation against those who start its use. Rand went further: force-in-retaliation, to her, became imperative.
The Ludwig von Mises Institute defines the non-aggression principle in this same way. But several prominent libertarian politicians, among them former Representative Ron Paul (R-Humble, Texas) set forth an entirely different principle. They called it non-aggression. But in fact they advocated pacifism. Pacifism says: no person may defend himself violently, even when such person comes under violent attack. So when Israel takes up arms in her own defense, pacifists criticize Israel even for that.
Short of that, many libertarians construe the non-aggression principle to let a person or country defend itself immediately but not to retaliate. So when the un-worthies of the Islamic Resistance Movement (Harakhat Al-Muqawamah Al-iSlamiyyah, or HAMAS for short) fire rockets into the Western Negev town of Sderot, a libertarian advises: move away! In fact, many libertarians carry that thought to all of Israel: move away! Some of them base that advice on a gross misreading of the history of the region. Others simply say: if a country cannot defend its territory other than by violent retaliation, then that country has no moral way to so defend.
Or if these libertarians do not say that, they certainly imply it by the things they do say. Any libertarian who feels I have inferred wrong, may say something different for the record. But: they must offer a consistent moral case. “I never said that” will not suffice. What did you say, and what did you mean to say? In this Politically Correct time, few dare ask. I not only ask. I insist on an answer.
Why? Because too many libertarians lapse into hypocrisy, on this point:they allow the Arabs more excuses than they allow the people, and especially the armies, of Israel. Nor can they say why they would act differently, if, say, they lived in southern New Jersey and faced daily rocket fire from, for example, Berks County, Pennsylvania. Or if they lived in northern New Jersey, and faced the prospect of guided-missile fire from Port Jervis, New York. Typically they might answer: Negotiate. Fine, if one deals with civilized people. One does not, indeed cannot, negotiate with savages. Obviously we do not yet have enclaves in America where anyone lives who is savage enough to fire rockets into the next town or county or State. The people of Israel do not have that luxury.
Then we hear the last libertarian anti-war claim: war is the health of the State. Any circumstance that calls for war, automatically causes a libertarian to suspect the government set it up as an excuse. Does that, then, make surrender preferable to retaliation or defense? Actually, libertarians deny external threats. We hear now that Osama bin Laden, in the years before his death, kept a library of Western books. Some of those books promoted Nine-eleven Truther theories, that the United States government itself destroyed the World Trade Center to excuse its very military establishment and the deployment of same in retaliation for that attack. (Other Truther theorists flatly accuse Israel of staging that attack to bring the United States into “its” wars.) Osama bin Laden must have laughed his sick hind quarter off to read such trash. Laying aside the attitude of such declared enemies, the people of neither America nor Israel can enjoy liberty inside pine boxes six feet underground. The consistent libertarian must recognize external threats, and common threats, and deal effectively with them. If only a State can deal effectively with an external threat, then a State we must have. (Or else we will live under a foreign State, if we live at all.)
Refusal to recognize a threat as common leads to another criticism, not so much of Israel per se as of any effort or program to assist that country. Let us mind our own business, libertarians say. Who threatens one person, or company, or society, does not necessarily threaten another. So instead of “if you see something, say something,” they shout, “whatever you think you see, keep your trap shut! That is none of your business!” This criticism forms the basis of another: no society has the duty, or even the authority, to “police the world.” Such “isolationism” dominated American political thought – until Pearl Harbor. It also informed American attitudes toward the consistent application of the Muslim Fighting Words during the Bill Clinton administration. Then nineteen modern Assassins put paid to that notion on September 11, 2001. (And now we see it again, with the Truthers.)
To apply that principle in the civil law, libertarians could not allow the authorities, for instance, to arrest Daron Dylon Wint, as they did last night (21 May), for the murders of Savvas Savopoulos, his wife, their son, and their housekeeper. After all, Wint and Savopoulos had a history – a feud. The isolationist strain of thought would demand the rest of society stay out of that quarrel. But that same history clearly shows Wint initiated force. Furthermore, he’s done it before, in other contexts. Criminals and terrorists generally do not stop with one target. This applies equally to, say, HAMAS (see above), Hizbullah (Party of Allah), the Islamic State, the Islamic Republic of Iran, and other enemies of Israel as it does, presumably, to Daron Dylon Wint.
Here, then, are the four parts of LIER theory against Israel. And, by extension, against America itself. America and Israel have enemies in common. Libertarianism can cope with these enemies, if its practitioners apply their philosophical principles correctly. (Which many do not.) Internationalists, egalitarians, and relativists must abandon their erroneous philosophies completely.
Terry A. Hurlbut has been a student of politics, philosophy, and science for more than 35 years. He is a graduate of Yale College and has served as a physician-level laboratory administrator in a 250-bed community hospital. He also is a serious student of the Bible, is conversant in its two primary original languages, and has followed the creation-science movement closely since 1993.
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