In the wake of the recent Obama abstention in the UN security council, I revisited the Block et. al. article making a libertarian case for the legitimacy for Israel, (here), and nearby I came across a debate between Jeremy Hammond and Rafi Faber (here). I found this debate profoundly unsatisfying and I would judge Hammond the clear winner because of arguments that Faber adopted and failed to adopt.
Faber employs the “historical justification argument" which I do not find persuasive - namely, the appeal, on libertarian principles, to inheritance of a homeland from past centuries, establishing a Jewish right of return. I find this, in fact, downright counterproductive as an argument. At best it is a huge stretch and fails to effectively meet the burden of proof against current residents.
What is decisive in my view, and not stressed by Faber, is the recent history prior to 1948. Those attacking the legitimacy of Israel, if they are knowledgeable, appeal not to the fact that land was actually stolen from the people living there, but to the fact that the JNF bought land, as much of it as possible to establish a Jewish homeland, and discriminated against Arabs in employment, made Arabs very afraid that they would be disenfranchised by Jewish immigration and therefore “deprived” them of their land in an illegitimate way. This is Hammond’s approach. And he is regarded as an effective spokesman for the illegitimacy of Israel. He quotes selectively from official Mandate reports and Jewish pronouncements as to the intentions of Jews to do violence to Arabs. And he ignores the role of the emerging Arab nationalist/Islamist (pro-Nazi)-Arab-League-sponsored movement who perpetrated extreme violence against both Jews and Arabs and who clearly pursued the ethnic cleansing of Jews from the land. He attributes the rise in tensions to increased Jewish ambitions to get rid of Arabs and not to the rise of radical Arab Jew-hatred, which he discounts (incredibly). He also ignores (as does Faber) the hundreds of thousands of Arabs who migrated into the area in pursuit of increased economic opportunity as a result of the Jewish settlements. The Jews of pre-1948 had no state power, no army, no taxing authority, with which to appropriate land that they did not buy or settle (in the absence of any residents). Mass immigrations create tensions, no moreso in Israel than elsewhere. Why this rises to the level of an injustice there and not elsewhere is an interesting question.
Surely it is a bogus argument to object to voluntary transactions on the grounds that they created fear in third parties and discriminated against them in employment - this is not a cogent libertarian argument. And surely the argument from voluntary transactions, discriminatory or not, is a valid one. The argument from historical roots serves simply to obscure the issue and this delegitimizes the valid argument. I wish people would drop it.
Once the state was formed, matters changed. But the state was formed in response to the violence that attempted to ethnically cleanse Jews from the area. Subsequent defensive actions and abuses have to be seen in that perspective. Abuses have occurred on both sides, but Israel’s transgressions are hardly the more egregious. Israel is the freest country in the Middle East. Any lasting and credible peace must work around the situation that now exists and not on the fanciful and prejudicial notion of the dismantling of an illegitimate Israel.