As the perennial tensions in Israel have again erupted into armed conflict, the western apologists for Israel’s enemies have reignited calls for “restraint” on the part of Israel. Peace, they maintain, can only be achieved through Israel adopting a policy of pacifism, through Israel’s unilateral renunciation of warfare, and through Israel recognizing as legitimate a government that wants to destroy it. Such critics — largely on the Left and among the more objectionable Libertarian ranks — claim that doing so would break the much decried “cycle of violence.” While many make arguments based on misreadings of history, ethnonationalist rationalizations for Palestine, or religiously grounded arguments for either side, still others characterize the conflict’s perpetuation in the twenty-first century as an endless response loop, with each side reacting to the last attack of the other ad infinitum. It takes but one side, they argue, to simply refuse to react and the cycle will be broken, and lasting peace will be within reach.
Such claims are nothing but modern manifestations of the notion that the Axis Powers could be appeased by ceding the Sudetenland to Germany, or that the Soviet Union could be persuaded towards lasting peace via the unilateral disarmament of the US and its NATO allies. By refusing to acknowledge or to evaluate the nature of the ideologies behind the conflict, the self-proclaimed humanitarians have granted undue legitimacy to brutes and have attempted to tie the hands of those just powers that would seek to eliminate such threats. They have treated as morally equal the two starkly different forces involved and, as a result, have prolonged the very conflict that they profess a wish to conclude.
Peace at all costs is a slave’s peace. I quote from my essay “The U.N. – Irrelevant, Ineffective, and Immoral”:
“[T]he metaphysical result of placing peace above such values as ‘liberty’ and ‘justice’ is neither life nor peace – it is death. Because pacifists reject the use of force, even in unequivocal cases of self-defense, the proverbial door is thrown open for any Attila to enter without opposition. The victims on the other side of that door then subject themselves to the absolute rule of any mindless brute that decides to seek power… Quite literally, pacifism is a self-destroying doctrine. It cannot sustain itself and, so long as it seeks peace regardless of what sacrifices must be made to achieve it, it will ultimately be destroyed by the first aggressor that does not hold peace as a value.”
More simply, peace has value insofar as it is the natural result of men respecting one another’s rights, but it is not an end to be pursued at the expense of man’s rights. Where individual rights have been abridged, conflict becomes necessary. When these conflicts are domestic, they are resolved by the police and the courts (or the ballot, in the case of political conflicts in free states). When these conflicts are international, they are resolved by diplomats — or by armies. Only when the violation has been remedied and the source neutralized can “peace” again become the normal state of affairs.
The source of the conflict in Israel, however, has been coddled and shielded for decades, protected from punition by the western nations who have labelled it a terrorist organization. Hamas, the ruling party in the splinter of the Palestinian authority operating within Gaza, is an authoritarian regime with Islamic governance as its guiding philosophy. It calls for the destruction of Israel and the institutionalization of Islamic law, considering non-Muslims as second-class citizens at best – expendable at worst.
Why then should Israel – a European-style republic that respects the rights of Jews and Muslims alike – restrain itself when dealing with such a threat? “Because,” respond Hamas’s apologists, “Hamas was democratically elected, and Israel must respect the democratic decision of the Palestinian people,” taking for granted the false belief that democracy is the hallmark of a state’s legitimacy. Simply because it is the “democratic consensus” of the people of Gaza that Israel should be wiped off the face of the earth does not mean that Israel should sit on its hands and accept the waves of democracy it receives in the forms of rockets, kidnappings, and suicide bombings.
Or else, the apologists appeal to the oversimplified explanation of “blowback” – that Israel’s actions have led to the rise of Hamas and that the solution is for Israel to not respond. Were Israel to simply stop retaliating, they argue, the Palestinian Arabs would feel no need to turn to Hamas for defense and Hamas would lose political clout. It is the same type of concrete-bound foreign policy once advocated by former congressman and presidential candidate Ron Paul, who argued that the Islamic Republic of Iran should be allowed to obtain nuclear weapons as an attempt to de-escalate tensions.
Yet the forces behind Hamas – or any ruling government – are not concrete-bound. Hamas is not in power due to concrete circumstances any more than the Soviets were in power due to the concrete conditions of the Russian working class, or the Nazis due to the conditions of the German people. Rather, governing parties rise and fall with the ideologies that spawn them. The more a nation explicitly or implicitly accepts a certain ideology, the more likely that ideology will achieve a political manifestation.
Gaza, like much of the Middle East and North Africa (MENA), is in the midst of a cultural Dark Age. The ruling philosophy behind regimes and factions such as Hamas in Palestine, the ayatollahs in the Islamic Republic of Iran, Hezbollah in Lebanon, the Muslim Brotherhood throughout the region, the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan, and now, potentially, an Islamic caliphate under the patronage of ISIS, is strict Islamism, with Islamic totalitarianism as its greatest natural extension. It is an ideology that treats women as property; that forbids heresy, blasphemy, and apostasy under punishment of death; that requires three witnesses to convict a man of rape – and to save the victim from charges of fornication; that threatens homosexuals with death; and that denies even the most basic individual rights. Whether one wishes to squabble over whether this is “true Islam” is irrelevant to the fact that it is Islam as practiced throughout much of the MENA by anywhere from 15 to 25 percent of Muslims (180 to 300 million people), and it is the philosophy behind Hamas. It is the philosophy that Hamas’s apologists are inadvertently defending.
Such a philosophy has no political legitimacy, nor does any state that institutionalizes it. No matter how much the Leftist and the errant Libertarian might argue that Gaza is a “sovereign” territory with a right to govern itself (and, consequently, defend itself from invaders), the small territory has forgone its own sovereignty when it denied sovereignty (that is, individual rights) to the individuals within its jurisdiction. A state’s relative legitimacy on the world stage is a function of the extent to which it respects the rights of the individual, and any states that adopt Islamic totalitarianism as their political system have as little legitimacy as (or even less than) the worst fascist and socialist dictatorships of the twentieth century, or the modern day Democratic People’s Republic of Korea. (For more on this topic, see “No Right to Exist – Understanding the Sovereignty of Nations.”)
Israel, oppositely, is a European-styled free society with considerably more respect for the individual rights of all within its jurisdiction – Jew or Muslim, Hebrew or Arab. Its Basic Laws (which have served as an interim constitution for decades) explicitly protect the rights of life, liberty, and privacy. Other rights are recognized in principles established before the creation of the Basic Laws (e.g., speech, religion, protest, equality before the law, etc.). It is not blameless, as its mixed economic policies continue to violate rights in the same way as European and American mixed economic policies violate rights, and its use of eminent domain is particularly far-reaching and reproachable. Nevertheless, Israel affords its citizens far greater sovereignty than does any of its neighbors and, as a result, would be entirely just in doing all that is necessary to protect itself from its totalitarian neighbors, including Hamas. Its goal – the protection of its citizenry through the elimination of international threats – should be the only standard determining how much it should restrain itself.
In the process, there will be casualties. Such is the nature of war, but Israel’s leadership is absolutely correct when it asserts that Hamas is responsible both for the military and civilian casualties that occur during the conflict. This goes beyond the question of whether Hamas is using Palestinians as human shields (which all reports indicate it is doing) to the question of initiation. Hamas is the initiator in both the immediate and broader senses. At an immediate level, it executed four teenage boys and began firing rockets into Israel. In a broader sense, Hamas is the initiator by virtue of being the party that seeks to restrict individual rights in pursuit of an Islamist ideology – both within its own jurisdiction, and beyond. As such, Hamas’s refusal to disarm and disband – or to accept multiple ceasefire offers – is the reason for the conflict.
So long as Hamas exists, and so long as it neighbors a secular, western state that respects the rights of the individual, war will continue in that region. So long as Palestinians continue to elect Hamas and it holds ultimate power in Gaza, despite the debates over the more tempered Palestinian Authority’s role, it must be accepted as the representative of the Palestinian people within the Gaza Strip. Until Palestinians reject Hamas’s authority and pursue a change in leadership, this conflict will in no way subside. And so long as Hamas leads Gaza in assaulting Israel and denying the legitimate international sovereignty due to it, Israel is justified in continuing the conflict and carrying it to its necessary conclusion: the destruction of Hamas. If this requires the reoccupation of Gaza for decades, so be it.
If it requires generations of removing Islamism from Gaza’s institutions and schools before the people of Gaza cease to support an Islamist government that will continue to be a threat to its neighbor, so be it. The Left and its pacifist allies among Libertarians will continue to scream accusations of “apartheid” from across an ocean, but until they come to understand the nature of war, the ideologies that spawn it, and the immense threat that political Islam presents to both Israel and the entire West, so be it.