Americans Should Not Take Sides in Palestine


A curious thing happened to my Twitter feed late last week: the official Twitter account of the Israeli Defense Forces started appearing with greater and greater frequency. This baffled me, as I don’t subscribe to the IDF (indeed, I had no clue they even had Twitter) until I realized that it was all being retweeted by many, many conservative (and even some libertarian) friends.

By now we are well aware of the conflict going on between Hamas in the Gaza Strip and the Israeli government in Jerusalem. I say this, and not between the Palestinian and Israeli people, because I think this is a conflict mostly driven by political ideologies and politicians’ stupidity, and that the vast bulk of the people living in either territory would just want it to stop. They want the rockets to stop falling, the bombs to stop falling, the bulldozing to stop wrecking, the dead to stop dying.

Yet amazingly, Americans all across the right-wing spectrum are chanting for more death, more violence, more destruction, more chaos, in an area that really has nothing to do with anything American and which a victory for either side will mean absolutely nothing for our national interests (aside from, perhaps, whether or not we’ll bring on the Eschaton this year.) Meanwhile, the United States gives over $3 billion a year to Israel in military aid, a cost that—in these dire straits, facing a fiscal cliff—we can and must cut.

Nevermind the budgetary impact—I feel what we’re doing here is deeply immoral.

I will readily agree with those on the right that what Hamas is doing to Israel is terrible. No one should live their lives with the daily fear that a rocket could fall out of the sky and kill them. But I would disagree with them by saying the same right is also shared by Palestinians in Gaza and the West Bank, who live in fear of Israelis marching in with tanks and fighter planes, destroying their homes, and building new ones for Israeli settlements.

“But it is self-defense!” the Israeli apologist would say, “Self-defense against Hamas’ murderous rockets.” But be real now. Who is the aggressor in this instance? The small fly willing to fight back for what has been taken away from him, or the giant elephant who came in and took it all in the first place?

Let me ask you something: if someone came into your home, loudly announced it was his, then forced you out at gunpoint, and then forced you to live in a hovel with no food, no electricity, no running water, no medicine, no anything—would you take that meekly and roll over? Would you just accept that and move on?

Of course you wouldn’t. You would fight back. In America, you would go through the courts. In Palestine, where there are no courts for you to fight in, no legal recourse, you do the only other thing possible—you turn to violence. And in Palestine’s case, there’s a very good argument to be made that it really isn’t violence, because it is self-defense.

What many people ignore is the history of this conflict. Before 1948, there was no Israel, just the Mandate of Palestine under British administration. But in that year, Britain turned it over to the new Israeli government, and by that token deprived the Palestinians of their territory, property, and legal rights. They then got forced out by the incoming Israelis, pushed either into the sea or into refugee camps in Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon, and Syria—not exactly vacation destinations. The Gaza Strip and the West Bank became virtual bantustans, deprived of basic necessities not by market forces but by Israeli government force.

I’m not excusing what Hamas is doing. Killing innocent people is wrong. Hell, killing is wrong, period. But when you see what has been done to them by the Israeli government, when you see the long history that place and people have suffered, it puts it into context. Of course people who have nothing left will turn to violence. It invariably happens. What Israel should be doing is making sure they have other alternatives by opening up markets and creating a safe environment—not blockading and bombing them. (Seriously: “Let’s make them like us by killing them!” is not a good strategy for anything. Ever.)

But even so, that’s not calling on us to get involved to support Palestinians. Our government should just not be involved in foreign affairs, period. Other than securing free trade and the necessary legal agreements to look after our citizens when they’re touring abroad or investing in foreign nations, our government should stay out. After all, it was government support for Israel that led to 9/11, with the never-ending “War on Terror” and the subsequent erosion of civil liberties. I see conservatives now bemoaning the TSA wherever they go, the same TSA that was brought on by 9/11, which was in turn brought on by our unquestioning support of one tiny state in the Middle East.

And then we have stories upon stories of politicians bending the knee to AIPAC—the American Israel Public Affairs Committee—and jumping all around to appease pro-Israel groups. This is ridiculous—American politicians should be putting America and her interests first, not Israel’s. Yet instead, we get just the opposite.

What has to be done is for both sides to recognize that they’ve both committed atrocities—yes, Jerusalem, you too. Simultaneously, America should just get the hell out. A cessation in subsidies for Jerusalem will force Israel to reexamine it’s posture and what they can afford, and may force them to the table to actually deal with the Palestinians on a more equal footing. That may also convince Palestinians to turn away from Hamas and try the road to peace. (After all, they only put Hamas in power after years of violence convinced them the relatively softer Fatah was useless.)

In either case, there is no need for America to intervene. Individual Americans can certainly get involved if they wish, but they’ll do it on their dime and their time. Meanwhile, the rest of us will be concerned with getting this sputtering economy back online and fixing our own problems here at home. After all, that’s where we live, and that’s where we should be minding our business.

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