In Coming to Palestine I defended, from a libertarian perspective, the Palestinians against Israeli/Zionist oppression. I am reluctant to repeat that case in a far shorter form here, but the horrendous current events throughout Palestine/Israel, including the Gaza Strip and East Jerusalem, cry out for comment. I can do no better than to link to Caitlin Johnstone’s piece “Fifteen Thoughts on Palestine.” It deserves careful reading.
I will add only a few thoughts. The mainstream criticism of the Palestinians, who object to being dominated by a settler colonial state, boils down to “But Hamas….” (This is not to say, of course, that all would be well if Hamas disappeared.) My answer to that objection is this: how long will take to learn that relentless oppression of a group breeds and nourishes the most violent (“extremist”) faction of that group? If you want the violence-minded constituents not to rise to the top or to fade away, you must stop oppressing the group! Don’t make violence appear to be the only alternative because all peaceful paths have been blocked.
Yet that is what Israelis and their bipartisan American-backers have consistently done for decades with their phony “peace process” and other subterfuge.
I don’t like Hamas. Even though it has moderated its aims and has given signs of accepting of two-state solution, it’s a far cry from having a libertarian orientation. For one thing, launching even its crude rockets toward civilians is wrong, however understandable. I attach that final phrase because many residents of the Gaza Strip are refugees from earlier expulsions perpetrated by pre-state Zionist paramilitary forces and then the Israeli military. One of the places where refugees were driven from is Sderot, which is a rocket target favored by Hamas. Still, I condemn targeting civilians.
That said, we must never forget who the aggrieved party is: the Palestinians, who were driven from land they had lived on and worked for generations – all for the sake of building a Jewish state. Let’s also remember that at one time much Jewish opposition was expressed against the idea of a Jewish state in part because it would require mistreatment of the Palestinians. (Again, see my book.)
Finally, ceasefire talk is in the air, both from Hamas and the UN (and opposed by the Biden administration). Yet Israeli foreign ministry spokesman Lior Haiat says, “We don’t think this is the right time for a ceasefire.”
That’s the worst thing a government spokesman or leader can say when that government is pulverizing essentially defense people. Keep in mind that under “normal” conditions the people of Gaza are treated worse than prison inmates, subjected to bad water, restricted food and medical supplies, and complete control over entry and exit by the Israeli military.
It’s always time for a ceasefire, followed by real good-faith efforts to relieve the Palestinians in Gaza and elsewhere of the oppression they have suffered for so many years.
Sheldon Richman is the executive editor of The Libertarian Institute, senior fellow and chair of the trustees of the Center for a Stateless Society, and a contributing editor at Antiwar.com. He is the former senior editor at the Cato Institute and Institute for Humane Studies, former editor of The Freeman, published by the Foundation for Economic Education, and former vice president at the Future of Freedom Foundation. His latest book is What Social Animals Owe to Each Other.