A couple weeks ago, the Humble Libertarian was nice enough to republish my essay, “Libertarianism, Property Rights, and the Israel-Palestine Conflict.” In that essay, I argued that, if we apply a Lockean/Rothbardian conception of property rights to the Middle East conflict, then we must conclude that Israel/Palestine doesn’t belong to any one ethnic or political group but rather that portions of the land belong to Palestinians and other portions belong to Jews.
Pretty standard libertarian stuff here, and I don’t see how anyone who believes in individual liberty and property rights would object to what I wrote. But, of course, people did object. In the comments section, two racists, both self-described libertarians, claimed that “the Arabs” are the ones to blame for the conflict. When I challenged one of these racists by making an argument based on actual evidence, he simply reaffirmed his position, while adding, “I do not claim to be a middle eastern policy expert.” You don’t say.
Anyway, the next day, one of the Humble Libertarian’s editors, a man named Matt Collins, felt the need to respond to my article by linking to an article written by Aaron Biterman of the Republican Liberty Caucus. Biterman’s article—subtitled “A(nother) Libertarian Defense of Israel”—is pure trash. A racist, historically inaccurate, and decidedly anti-libertarian piece of trash.
I posted a response to it on the RLC website, calling out Biterman for some of his more outrageous claims. ( For my response to his main argument, see below.) When the RLC refused to post my comments (how dare I respond to their propaganda with actual facts), I decided to email them to Biterman, who is evidently too busy to respond to me.
Now, as you can probably tell, I’m absolutely fed up with these charlatans. If you’ve had many dealings with people who describe themselves as libertarians (for example, if you’ve done any political networking on Facebook), you probably realize that such people are hardly rare. At first they seem like good guys. After all, they say they’re against things like tyranny and government abuse, they say they’re for the Bill of Rights and individual liberty.
But if you stick around long enough, you’ll realize that such people are total hypocrites. It turns out that they just don’t like the state when they’re the ones being abused by it. They don’t like taxes when they’re the ones paying them; they don’t like federal regulations when their businesses are the ones being affected; they oppose the Federal Reserve because they know what it’s doing to the value of their money. But these people generally don’t have a problem when the government is hurting someone else.
You’ll rarely hear any of these hypocrites object to the state’s wars or its efforts to deprive terror suspects of their basic civil liberties. If the US military were droppings bombs in places like California and Ohio, then these pseudo-libertarians would undoubtedly object. If the government were refusing to grant habeas corpus to white folks like us, then all hell would break loose. But, as it is, the targets of the War on Terror are just a bunch of brown-skinned, Allah-worshiping Iraqis, Afghans, Pakistanis, and Palestinians, so the likes of Aaron Biterman don’t give a damn.
Now, of course, these people have the right to buy into whatever fascist schemes their little hearts desire. If they want to rally behind warmongers like Rand Paul and Peter Schiff, then that’s their right. But I’m sick of them hijacking the libertarian (small-l libertarian) movement. And I’m sick of real libertarians, people who actually believe in things like the principle of non-aggression, refusing to call out these imposters.
Success, that’s the problem. Most people, including many (most?) sincere libertarians, are so obsessed with success that they become afraid of standing by their principles, they worry that taking a stand against people like Rand Paul will end up “hurting the cause.” Well how pathetic can you be? If the cause consists of people like Rand Paul, then what the hell’s the point?
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Appendix: A brief critique of Aaron Biterman’s “libertarian” argument against Palestinian property rights
In his essay, Biterman claims, among other things, that the 1948 Palestinian refugees shouldn’t be allowed to return to their homes. A strange belief for the Vice Chair of the Republican Liberty Caucus, an organization that “supports individual rights,” believing that “every human being is endowed by nature with inherent rights to life, liberty and property.” If such inherent rights exist, then it follows that the 1948 refugees, or at least most of them, have the right to return to their homes. For, even if one can make the case that some of the refugees forfeited their right to return by committing acts of terrorism, it’s clear that only a small number of them committed such acts, while the vast majority were simply victims of war, individuals who, through no fault of their own, were driven from their homes.
(Biterman, it’s worth pointing out, claims that the refugees were not driven from their homes but that “most of the Arabs living within the boundaries were encouraged to leave by the invading Arab armies to facilitate the slaughter of the Jews.” He doesn’t offer any evidence to support this claim for the simple reason, I imagine, that there is no evidence to support it. Israeli historian Benny Morris, himself a Zionist and loyal defender of Israel, divides the Palestinian exodus into four stages. During the first, Morris writes, around 75,000 Palestinians left voluntarily. In the second stage, around 400,000 Palestinians left either as a result of Israeli military attacks or out of fear of such attacks. In the third and fourth stages, another 300,000 fled, mostly “due to clear, direct causes, including brutal expulsions and deliberate harassment.” See Righteous Victims, pp. 256-57.)
Biterman argues that the refugees don’t have the right to return because, if they returned, they would just vote for Hamas, which is “a radical Islamist terrorist organization that seeks to wipe Israel (and all Jews) off the face of the earth and replace it with an Islamic Palestine.” Quoting Yaron Brook of the Ayn Rand Institute, Biterman writes: “Contrary to what the Palestinians are seeking, there can be no ‘right’ to establish a dictatorship.”
Now first of all, it’s absurd to say that Palestinians want to live under an Islamic dictatorship. Yes, it’s true that a large number of Palestinians—although not a majority—voted for Hamas in 2006, but this vote largely reflected the population’s anger with the exceedingly corrupt Fatah-led Palestinian Authority. Shortly after the 2006 election, Khalil Shikaki of Newsweek wrote: “Indeed, the most interesting aspect of the rise of Hamas is that its own voters, as demonstrated in exit polls, do not share its views on the peace process. Three quarters of all Palestinians, including more than 60 percent of Hamas supporters, are willing to support reconciliation between Palestinians and Israelis based on a two-state solution. During the last 10 years, the trend among the Palestinians has been to move away from hard-line attitudes and to embrace moderate ones. Indeed, more than 60 percent of Hamas voters support an immediate return to negotiations with Israel.” And since then, Hamas’ popularity has further declined.
Second, it’s simply not true that Hamas wants to exterminate all Jews. Although the group’s 1988 charter calls for the extermination of the State of Israel, it also makes it clear that Hamas has no intention of wiping out the Jewish people. As the charter states at one point: “Under the shadow of Islam it is possible for the members of the three religions: Islam, Christianity and Judaism to coexist in safety and security.” (For more on this, see my article, “Does Hamas Want a Second Holocaust?”)
Third, for some time now, Hamas’ leaders have said that they will accept a two-state solution if (1) Israel withdraws to the 1967 borders and allows the refugees to return and if (2) the Palestinian people themselves agree to accept this settlement. (See “Hamas Wants to Talk Peace,” as well as Khaled Meshaal’s recent appearance on Charlie Rose.)
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After posting this article, I exchanged a few emails with Dave Nalle, Chairman of the Republican Liberty Caucus. After telling me that my article “makes very little sense” and suggesting that perhaps I’m “some sort of paleocon who’s under the delusion” of being a libertarian, Nalle wrote that I “should take some time to read the RLC statement of principles at www.rlc.org and the disclaimer at the end of Aaron Biterman’s article which points out that the article is his opinion and not some sort of RLC policy statement.”
In response to this latter claim, I wrote:
Yes, I understand that, but why would RLC publish an article that so clearly contradicts its most fundamental principles? I understand why RLC would allow, even encourage, disagreement over some issues. But why allow Biterman to publish such a blatantly anti-libertarian piece of propaganda?
RLC claims that it “supports individual rights” and that it believes that “every human being is endowed by nature with inherent rights to life, liberty and property.” Biterman’s article unmistakably denies that Palestinians should be entitled to these rights. RLC should be ashamed that it published such an article and should remove it immediately.
In response to this, Nalle wrote:
I think he’s entitled the make his arguments. I don’t think either side in the conflict or those who support them have any legitimacy at all, personally. I don’t like choosing between two different sets of murderous despots. I’d have to reread his article again to comment intelligently on it, but my recollection is that he had some points - not entirely convincing, but good enough to explain Rand Paul’s position, which is what the main thrust of the article was.
Of course, Nalle has mischaracterized my position. It’s not as though I’ve simply chosen to side with a different “murderous despot” than Biterman. I’ve chosen to apply a libertarian view of property rights to the Israel-Palestine conflict, while Biterman has merely parroted a bunch of anti-Palestinian propaganda that could have easily come from Israel’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs.
Nalle did also write that, to the best of his knowledge, nobody at RLC deleted the comments I left in response to Biterman’s article. Which would mean that perhaps a computer glitch prevented my comments, but not other people’s, much friendlier, comments from posting. Fine. It’s possible.