Thursday, June 3, 2010

Russ Roberts Wants To Know If The Gaza Embargo Is A Crime?

The Israel-Palestine conflict is like some kind of deadzone where libertarian brainwaves can't get through. So many people who would reject collectivism in any other circumstance suddenly excuse it when it's applied to the Israel-Palestine conflict.

Russ Roberts, co-author of the Austro-libertarian minded Cafe Hayek blog, is an otherwise consistent practitioner of libertarian thinking concerning social issues who nonetheless provides a perfect example of the kind of flawed thinking I've seen so many others make on this particular topic:
My first thought on this comes from someone who recently wrote on Twitter–if the people of Gaza exported fewer rockets, maybe they’d find it easier to import stuff.

Israel gave up sovereignty over Gaza. The result of leaving was an on-going series of rocket attacks on civilians in towns closest to Gaza. No doubt a prosperous Gaza is in Israel’s interest. But how to get there from here? Gaza is ruled by a party, Hamas, that does not recognize Israel’s right to exist and promises its destruction. Hamas was democratically elected by the people of Gaza. They aren’t so good at the rule of law/prosperity thing.

Is the embargo a strategic mistake? Maybe, though it’s easy to encourage Israel to “search for weapons” while sitting safely in the United States. Is it a crime? I’d say the moral responsibility lies elsewhere.
Huh? Let's break this down point-by-point.

First, "the people of Gaza" have not been exporting rockets into Israel. That is a collectivist view of things. The reality is that individual Gazans/Palestinians/Arabs (whatever you want to call them, and whoever they are) have been firing rockets into Israel and other individuals have provided food, shelter, supplies and moral support to these individuals. A third group of individuals has not contributed to either the firing of missles or the support of those firing missles and is therefore innocent and uninvolved. That is the individualist view of things.

Second, it is irrelevant whether Hamas was "democratically elected" or not. This is a rookie, freshman-year political science mistake, which Lysander Spooner ripped to shreds about 140 years ago! There are many reasons why an individual might vote in the first place, and many more reasons after that why they might vote for a group like Hamas. The fact that some people did vote for Hamas does not legitimize their power or "sovereignty" in any meaningful way because they're still a government meaning their power rests on their willingness to aggress against other individuals, Israeli and Palestinian alike. Just because some people voted for Hamas does not then mean that Hamas represents all of the people within their claimed territorial jurisdiction or that their exercise of monopoly violence is justified.

Third and finally, engaging in moralistic finger-pointing does not answer the question "Is the embargo a crime?" The embargo can still be a crime even if Hamas and individual Palestinian people have acted immorally themselves, even as a precedent to the embargo.

And so to answer Roberts question, yes, the Gaza embargo is a crime. It should always be considered a crime for some group of thugs to indiscriminately hold an entire group of people and their commerce hostage in the name of attempting to restrict, control or punish some other group of thugs who claim to represent those people.

Collective punishment for individual crimes is itself a crime because it is the initiation of the use of force and not an act of specific self-defense. It's the same reason why it was wrong for the US military to invade, occupy and subjugate the entire country of Iraq for the crimes and alleged/potential crimes of Saddam Hussein and his WMDs. It's the same reason why it was wrong for the US military to invade, occupy and subjugate the entire country of Afghanistan for the crimes of Osama Bin Laden and the sheltering of Bin Laden by the Taliban.

And finally, it's the same reason why Osama Bin Laden was wrong to launch his attack on the United States on September 11th, 2001, in the name of punishing the American people for the crimes of their democratically elected federal government.

No comments:

Post a Comment