US war, libertarianism, FoRK, and voices in opposition

Russell Turpin
Sat, 27 Apr 2002 16:17:54 +0000

I find it curious that so many of the people on FoRK
both support further US military action, and claim
a libertarian outlook. Libertarian writings are some
of the major sources I have found in opposition to
further US military action. The article below was
posted to a libertarian mailing list, and is written
by Bill Kelsey, a libertarian activist who grew up
in the Middle East, where his parents were Christian
missionaries. The viewpoint is his, not mine. But I
think the first part of the article explains very
well why Israel is not innocent, why it cannot be
viewed, even now, as a secular state, and why the
Palestinians have a legitimate grievance.

Israel and Its Land
Bill Kelsey

What we are wrestling with is the question of how
long after the displacement of one community by
another does the new community have a legitimate
claim on a piece of territory.  The means of
displacement are a factor in the discussion. The
posting by Clark Patterson in response to Dan
Sullivan prompts this response from me.  I realise
this can be tedious, but since the fragment of
geography known as Israel and Palestine has been a
flashpoint for a potential World War III and is
currently the focus of what will be a long "clash
of civilizations" we must continue to examine this
vigorously.  A hugely disproportionate fraction of
US aid - between a quarter and a half depending on
how the numbers are crunched - goes to the one
tenth of one percent of the world's population
that make up the State of Israel.  Like it or not,
this requires our diligent attention and debate.

Blurred in Clark's response is the demarcation
between private ownership of land versus state
sovereignty.  The purchase or settling of real
estate by an immigrant community does not normally
confer upon it the right to secede and establish a
nation, although this has been done by the settlers
to Texas and the immigrants to Palestine.  The
subject of immigration is a touchy one in America,
especially now, and the libertarian immigration
plank is controversial even within our movement.
Those of us who welcome immigrants are considered
extreme by society at large. Imagine if the
immigrants whose rights we respect went so far as
to declare a secessionist Hispanic nation in Texas,
or a Caribbean Creole nation in Florida, and went
into armed struggle to this end, and terrorized the
majority communities into leaving.

Whether or not the Israeli settlers purchased the
property in dispute is only of partial relevence
to the question of their right to establish state
sovereignty at the expense of the indiginous
inhabitants.  In fact some of the land was purchased
at the beginning, and some developments were in
deserts and swamps, but the majority of it was
eventually confiscated from some very real people
who had some very real houses and farms and orchards
there.  The notion that this was entirely an empty
piece of desert is a piece of propaganda not
believed by Israelis or even disseminated by them
any more.  It was promulgated in some crude works
such as Leon Uris' book Exodus but you will not
find this in any modern Israeli propaganda.  (If
anyone from Israel tells you this they are taking
you for a fool and saying something they do not
believe themselves).  Some parts of Tel Aviv were
built on uninhabited desert.  Others were not.
Ben Gurion airport covers what used to be the
Palestinian town of Lydda, whose inhabitants were
forcibly evicted in 1948.

There are four main phases that I would identify
regarding the Palestinian land alienation.  The
first phase would include legitimate purchases of
land by the first immigrants a century ago.
Palestinians make no claim on this land. (Nor do
they make a claim on land owned by Palestinian
Jews who had lived there for centuries). The second
phase, starting in the 1920's, was more ambiguous
and generated the first hostility towards the
immigrants. According to Middle East custom and
land law, if property is purchased from a landlord
who has tenant farmers, the tenant farmers retain
rights of tenancy.  Jewish settlers purchased such
pieces of property, and acting in accordance with
their own European laws, and protected by the
British mandatory government, evicted and destroyed
the huts of tenants who had hitherto been minding
their own business.  (Old film footage exists of
the settlers doing this with pitchforks).  These
disgruntled peasants moved to the cities to become
day laborers, only to find a campaign in place by
the Histradut to force Jewish employers to fire
their cheap Palestinian laborers and hire the more
expensive European immigrants.  The frustration of
these de-landed dis-employed laborers contributed to
the first communal riots and killings.  Bear in mind
that the immigrants -  by now 20% of the population
- were also openly declaring that the whole country
was theirs and that their intention was to set up
their own State.  Their own literature advocated a
"transfer" of the indigenous inhabitants.  Herzl,
the Zionist ideologue, had generously proposed that
a few be kept in Palestine to catch snakes.

The third phase of the acquisition of property took
place during the war of 1948.  Although accepted in
the West as a case of the "Israelis accepting
partition and the Arabs rejecting it and attacking
the newborn democracy" the Haganah, Irgun, and
Stern Gang were actively terrorizing Palestinian
villagers into leaving well before any Arab armies
entered Palestine.  The Deir Yassin massacre, which
took place in what was supposed to be the
international Jerusalem zone, was one such
incident.  This was a village not involved in
combat.  After the massacre, led by Manehim Begin,
other armed Israeli factions used loudspeakers and
some very insidious psychological methods to panic
the majority of the Palestinian inhabitants into
leaving.  Every town had its own story.  Some were
massacred, some were allowed to remain if they
surrendered, some surrendered and were evicted,
and some fled on the strength of the rumors about
what was about to happen to them.  Israeli
propaganda will portray those who defended their
homes as being terrorists deserving of eviction,
while at the same time portraying those who tried
to get out of the way of combat as having proven
that they didn't really care for their homes and
hence forfeited them.

The total number of towns and villages completely
depopulated in 1948 is about four hundred and the
people ethnically cleansed numbered about 750,000.
The Israelis have a governmental department called
the Custodian of Absentee Property to administer
the real estate.  In the case of Palestinians who
were displaced from their original villages but
managed to remain within the borders of pre-'67
Israel there is a bureaucratic designation of
"Present Absentee." Documentation exists (from
both Arabs and Israelis) on the Arabic names of the
villages, the amount of land pertaining to each,
when they fell, where the inhabitants went to, and
what became of the village, and the name of the
kibbutz that replaced it.  One of them, Ein Houd,
was just too beautiful to destroy and it has been
made into an artists' and writers' colony.  You can
go there and sit in cafes made of old Palestinian
homes and talk about human rights and property
rights and Ayn Rand and what savages the
Palestinians are.  While the documentation exists
on paper in libraries I find it more intriguing
that the traces of the destroyed villages exists in
the form of the sabra cactus which they had planted
as fencing.  Where bulldozers have removed houses,
mosques, and cemeteries, the cactus keeps growing

The fourth phase of this confiscation of private
real estate would be after the 1967 war to the
present.  In the conquests of 1967 there was
relatively less ethnic cleansing except for the
Syrian Golan heights which were depopulated of
their inhabitants - Bedu, Palestinian refugee,
Circassian, and Syrian Christian and Moslem
communities.  Druse villagers were allowed to stay
along with one Alawi village.

To consolidate the conquests and "create facts"
the Israeli government has encouraged and
subsidized a network of settlements throughout the
West Bank and Gaza.  The word "settlement" does not
quite do justice to the concept of what is going
on.  The most innocuous of the settlements are on
"state" land which might be claimed only by
shepherds for grazing rights and have no
documentation.  Palestinians are forbidden to
settle on this land even though it is contiguous to
their own communities, but huge amounts of money
are spent by the Israelis, courtesy of the US
taxpayer, to bring in foreigners to this land
gained by conquest.  Some settlements are set up on
private land confiscated first for military uses
and then turned over to "soldier-pioneers."  Others
such as Shiloh are set up as "archeological
projects" and still others are set up on the spots
where other settlers have been murdered.  One piece
of land was confiscated on the grounds that there
was an irregularity in a tax payment to the Ottoman
authorities 150 years ago.  In one case the
Jordanian government, which controlled the West
Bank from '48 to '67, had awarded a piece of
unclaimed and unsettled state land to a Bedu
refugee community from Beersheba in exchange for
their service in the Jordanian army.  Although they
had developed the property for about fifteen years,
the documentation and final title deeds had not
been completed when the Israelis captured the West
Bank.  As there was no documentation of their right
to be there these refugees had their water and land
confiscated for the convenience of an Israeli
settlement.  The last specific case I'll mention
(out of thousands) concerns one of six houses in
the East Jerusalem neighborhood of Silwan.  The
inhabitants of these six houses were awakened at
3 am in October of '91 and evicted by armed
settlers from the Aterat Cohanim group backed by
hundreds of Israeli soldiers.  There had been no
warning that there was a potential problem.  Each
house has a story - one was a complete mistake, but
because a dispute had erupted over it the judge
kept both parties out.  The other houses had a
variety of specious excuses for the takeovers and
surprise evictions.  The owner of one of them had
been visiting Amman in 1967 when the Israelis
captured East Jerusalem. He was prevented from
returning but his brother and other members of the
family continued living in the house.  Unbeknownst
to them, because the title holder was absent,
albeit against his will, the title was transferred
to the "Custodian of Absentee Propertee."  There is
a law which allows this and it was done according to
the law.  After a certain number of years the
Custodian has the authority to sell the property in
its custody to the Jewish National Fund, which
purchases property to be held in perpetuity by the
Jewish people.  Once purchased by the JNF, property
can never be sold to a non-Jew.  There is a law
which allows this and the property was transferred
according to the law, again, unbeknownst to the
title holder in Amman or his relatives living in his
house in Silwan.  The JNF has the authority to sell
property in its possession to deserving Jewish
individuals or organizations and again, according to
law, sold the property to Aterat Cohanim, and again,
without the knowledge of the title holder or the
residents.  So one dawn in October 1991, the armed
members of this group banged on the door and threw
out the terrified family and their furniture and
their food.  Israeli apoligists will look you
straight in the eye and tell you that it was all
done according to law.  Americans need to know about
this stuff.

What has been happening over the past thirty five
years is a process in which the Israeli government
takes over parcels of land in the West Bank and
Gaza, puts the most abrasive immigrants on this
land, confiscates more land to set up defense
perimeters, bulldozes nearby Palestinian orchards,
drills deep wells to provide nice lawns and swimming
pools while drying up Palestinian water sources,
confiscates more land to build access roads,
bulldozes more trees alongside the access roads for
security purposes, and occasionally shoots the
protesting dispossessed.

On a personal level I am a libertarian because of
my lifelong proximity to this unfortunate quarrel.
To wit:  (1)  The state does not have the right to
choose my friends and enemies for me.  Although I
count Israelis among my friends, the state of
Israel is not my friend and my Federal government
has decreed that it is.  When I served in the
Armed Forces the alliance with the State of Israel
took precedence over the oath to support and defend
the Constitution - one of the reasons I resigned.
I also have Palestinian friends and Federal
government requires me to collude in murdering them
through payment of taxes.  (Whether the history I
gave above is accurate or merely my hallucination
becomes irrelevent here - I have lived close to
this, come my conclusions and am entitled to them.
I do not require anyone to support them.
Supporters of Israel require me to finance their
version of history).

(2) The libertarian movement does not believe in
foreign aid.  Israel receives the bulk of it.  The
effect within Israel is to undercut Israelis who
would come to an understanding with the Palestinians
and strengthen the hands of those who are the
sociological and ideological equivalents of the
Ku Klux Klan.

(3)  The libertarian movement believes in avoiding
entangling alliances between the US and foreign
nations.  Israel is an "ally" much as a tapeworm
is ally to its host.

(4)  The libertarian movement would abolish the
income tax.  If this is ever successful I would be
free of subsidizing the murder of my Palestinian
friends and of enabling my Israeli friends to do
things which get them killed in the long run.

(5)  The libertarian movement welcomes immigrants
to our shores and so do I. This is a tough sell.
The presence of a few Vietnamese fishermen in the
Gulf twenty years ago cranked up the Ku Klux Klan.
A demographic change of a few percentage points
makes people very nervous.  We libertarians shock
Americans by welcoming immigrants who make a tiny
demographic dent in our society.  Yet Palestinians
are considered at fault because they had a problem
with a community of 6% expanding to 30%,
establishing a state for its own benefit,
expelling the majority community, confiscating
private property and then continuing the process
for the forseeable future.

(6) Libertarians are against the confiscation of
land under the laws of eminent domain.  This is
done for public works projects all over the world,
but in Israel private property is confiscated from
Palestinians under laws of eminent domain for the
purpose of settling immigrants from Russia, the US,
and many other countries.

I mentioned Deir Yassin, where the Palestinian
inhabitants were massacred. Today on the grounds
of Deir Yassin there is an Israeli mental
institution housing Holocaust survivors who
lost their minds in the concentration camps.
I believe this is symbolic of the situation in its
purest manifestation. Both communities need our
compassionate understanding.  Neither needs our
tax dollars or our weapons.

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