Shouldn't Objectivists take into account the property rights of palestinians whom were driven from their land in 1948?
asked Sep 05 '11 at 19:00
Shouldn't Objectivists take into account the property rights of palestinians whom were driven from their land in 1948?
I see two major issues in this question:
The questioner has phrased the question in a way that attempts to align with Objectivist philosophy, but then alludes to a view of history that is diammetrically at odds with the view generally expressed in the literature of Objectivism, to the extent that Objectivist literature makes reference to history at all in the course of developing and applying Objectivist philosophical principles.
For those interested in the actual history of Israel, the Palestinian region as a whole, and the Arab-Israeli conflict, there is a very substantial and heavily documented article in Wikipedia, titled simply, "Israel." There are also related Wikipedia articles on topics such as "Palestine," "Zionism," and so on. Here are just a few of the relevant historical highlights:
The question mentions "property rights of palestinians" who were "driven from their land," but when did individual Palestinians ever have rights in the first place? Who actually "owned" Palestinian land -- individual, supposedly peace-loving Palestinian farmers and settlers, or some broader, more vague ethnic entity known as "the Palestinian people" as a whole? Was land effectively "owned" by individuals, or by a "collective"? It is actually Israel, not Arab countries, that does the most to recognize and uphold the rights of individuals, including Arabs, living within Israel's territorial boundaries.
The question may have been attempting to avoid the issue of "collective rights" versus individual rights (rights of individuals), but it doesn't entirely succeed. Objectivism, of course, completely denies that there is any such thing as "collective rights" at all. The main Objectivist essay on the topic of "collective rights" appears in VOS, Chap.13, and key excerpts from that essay are available in The Ayn Rand Lexicon, under the topics of "'Collective Righs'" and "National Rights." One overall summarizing passage from those Lexicon topics is the following:
A nation, like any other group, is only a number of individuals and can have no rights other than the rights of its individual citizens. A free nation -- a nation that recognizes, respects and protects the individual rights of its citizens -- has a right to its territorial integrity, its social system and its form of government. The government of such a nation is not the ruler, but the servant or agent of its citizens and has no rights other than the rights delegated to it by the citzens for a specific, delimited task (the task of protecting them from physical force, derived from their right of self-defense)...
The history of countries like Britain, Israel and even the U.S. is far from spotless philosophically, but the fusion of history and philosophy nevertheless makes the difference between the Arab countries and Israel a matter of night and day -- urgently so, considering that the Arab countries, historically and still to this day, have sought nothing less than the total annihilation of Israel (driven by their deeply ingrained mysticism-altruism-collectivism).
The Arabs are one of the least developed cultures...they resent Israel because it's the sole beachhead of modern science and civilization on their continent. When you have civilized men fighting [militant] savages, you support the civilized men, no matter who they are. Israel is a mixed economy inclined toward socialism. But when it comes to the power of the mind -- the development of industry in that wasted desert continent -- versus savages who don't want to use their minds, then if one cares about the future of civilization, don't wait for the [U.S.] government to do something. Give whatever you can.
And Ayn Rand did give. She said it was the first time she had ever "contributed to a public cause: helping Israel in an emergency." (Quoted from Ayn Rand's 1973 Q&A at the Ford Hall Forum, published in Ayn Rand Answers, p. 96.)
Whatever rights the Palestinians may have had...they have lost all rights to anything: not only to land, but to human intercourse. If they lost land, and in response resorted to terrorism -- to the slaughter of innocent citizens -- they deserve whatever any commandos anywhere can do to them....
This evaluation is just as applicable to Arab militants today as it was in 1977. Israel has long sought a simple, fundamental agreement from Arabs: recognition of Israel's right to exist. Militant Arabs have consistently responded: never! In any such irreconcilable conflict between civilization and terrorists, I, like Ayn Rand, want to see civilization prevail.
Yes, Objectivists should take property rights into account in judging the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. However, taking property rights into account does not diminish the moral status of Israel in the way that the questioner apparently thinks that it should, for the reasons discussed below.
As a matter of general principles and in a normal (e.g., non-wartime) context, if any innocent individual—Palestinian or otherwise—is forcibly evicted from property that they own, then that is a rights violation, which is viewed by Objectivism as a terrible wrong.
However, the moral blame for such rights violations generally falls on only the individuals who actually perpetrated them, and not on their innocent neighbors. Israel as a whole can only be blamed for such rights violations under limited circumstances—for example, if it was the government itself that perpetrated the violations, or the government legally sanctioned their performance by others, and so on. Moreover, during wartime the analysis becomes much more complicated—it is still wrong to evict innocent persons from their land during wartime, but those who are engaged in war against you (or supporting the war effort behind the scenes) cannot be considered innocent, and eviction of such enemies would not be wrong.
Thus, in considering Israel’s moral status from the perspective of supposed property rights violations, one must answer at least the following questions: Did such rights violations actually occur, and, if so, how widespread were they? Were any such violations merely the actions of disparate individuals, or are the actions properly attributable to Israel as a whole?
The questioner has not presented any evidence that such rights violations actually occurred, much less that they were widespread. The question states that Palestinians were “driven from their land in 1948”. Which Palestinians? How many? Were they “driven” out by the use of force. By whom were they “driven” out? What was the government of Israel’s role?
Moreover, although the “formal” establishment of Israel happened relatively quickly, the settlement of Israel by Jews was taking place for decades prior. Then, immediately upon Israel being formally formed a civil war broke out followed by the First Arab-Israeli War. When the questioner speaks of Palestinians being driven out, is s/he referring to the pre-war settlement, the wartime period, or the post-war period?
My understanding of the factual history is this. As early as 1492 some Jews began settling in Palestine. In 1881, the first modern wave of Jewish settlement in Palestine began, and continued periodically over the next 60 years. As far as I can tell, this early settlement did not involve any widespread or systematic rights violations of Palestinians—the Jewish settlers purchased land legally, or settled on un-owned land. Moreover to the extent any property rights violations at all occurred, they would be attributable only to the individuals who perpetrated them.
As time went on, Palestinians began to oppose the immigration of Jews, causing a riot in 1920 and an attempted uprising against the British (who governed Palestine after WWI) in 1936-1939. There were tensions between the Palestinians and Jewish settlers in the 1930s and 1940s, but I can find no evidence of widespread or systematic property rights violations by Jewish settlers in this era, and, again, to the extent any property rights violations at all occurred, they would be attributable only to the individuals who perpetrated them.
On 29 November 1947, the UN adopted a resolution recommending adopting a proposed plan of that included creating an “Independent Arab State, an Independent Jewish state, and the City of Jerusalem”. The representatives of the Jewish community accepted the plan, but the representatives of the Arab community rejected the plan. Shortly thereafter, Arabs began attacking Jewish targets, and a civil war broke out. According to Wikipedia, 250,000 Palestinian-Arabs “fled or were expelled” incident to this civil war.
Whether this so-called “expulsion” involved rights violations is not clear. Were the Palestinian-Arabs who “fled or were expelled” forced to leave (i.e., was physical force actually initiated against them specifically?), or were they instead simply refugees seeking to avoid war in general but who were not specifically targeted themselves? I have not seen evidence strongly supporting either, but I presume that there was a mixture—I assume most merely fled of their own accord to avoid the war, while some others were actually forced to leave their property.
Obviously, those who left of their own accord cannot claim a rights violation. Moreover, even those who were forced to leave may not be able to claim a rights violations, if they were supporting the Arab war effort (whether materially or through moral support). I presume that a portion of the small percentage who actually had force used against them were supporting the war effort, and thus they were not “innocents”. I also assume that another portion of the small percentage who actually had force used against were not supporting the war effort and were swept up merely because of their ethnicity. These last—those who were innocents but had force used against them—can claim a rights violation, and to the extent that such rights violations occurred, I think most Objectivists would consider each such occurrence to be a terrible wrong.
During the First Arab-Israeli war that immediately followed the civil war, additional refugees fled. The same analysis above applies to these refugees, and under the assumptions stated above, only a small percentage of the refugees had their rights violated.
There are no facts I can find that indicate the actual amount of the Arab refugees that had their rights violated, much less who violated their rights. Under the assumptions stated above, it appears that the amount was proportionally small. One might ask, “but isn’t even one rights violation bad enough?” Well, yes and no. While every such rights violation is a wrong, when it comes to judging a nation as a whole, the number of such violations and who is responsible for them becomes highly relevant. A country cannot be deemed morally bad merely because some rights violations have occurred therein—every country in the world has rights violations occurring therein every day. The moral status of the country depends not upon the mere occurrence of rights violations, but upon what the country does about the violations—do they tolerate or sanction the violations? Did the government itself perpetrate the rights violations?
Thus, it seems to me the moral appraisal of Israel does not suffer when property rights are considered—at least not without some evidence being presented that would change the assumptions I made above. Unless and until such evidence is presented, Israel is entitled to a presumption of innocence, especially given the subsequent track record of both the Israeli’s and the Palestinians.
answered Oct 08 '14 at 10:51