Bill Clinton, in a typically self-satisfied attempt to cast himself as geopolitical diviner, suggests that peace between Israel and Palestine would go a long way toward assuaging the tensions that precipitate terrorism. Although Clinton may enjoy the role of prophet, it doesn’t take much prescience to recognize that he is right, that the violence released on Palestinians by Israel has propagated itself in the form of less sophisticated barbarity throughout the region.
Aggression, like a virus duplicating itself, is highly infectious and endlessly in search of hosts who will do its work. Any movement in the direction of peace and dialogue is likely to have some mitigating effect on terrorist backlash, but it is states themselves that cast a shadow over the actual causes of most conflicts. A great, ornamented machine setting the grasping political class against the producing class, the state is, more than anything else, a violent conflict; its existence, erosive of every non-compulsory kind of relationship between people, is well adapted to throw the common man into desperation and thus into violence.
Clinton is wrong, then, when he exempts the state itself from his argument against violence by saying, “It [peace between Israel and Palestine] would have more impact than anything else that could be done” to reduce terrorism. Clinton’s conception of “peace” in the region is predicated on the assumption that states are legitimate — that the power elites they serve should parley one with another to ensure mutual continuation of their pillage.
But peace, consistently applied, would mean an end to states, which are by definition instruments of coercion. “The state,” taught Ludwig von Mises, “is a human institution, not a superhuman being. He who says ‘state’ means coercion and compulsion” (emphasis mine). We might analogize the unprincipled, half-hearted “peace” prescribed by Clinton to the advocacy for “free enterprise” we so often hear from coordinating oligopolists, all reaping the rewards of state belligerence.
States at nominal “peace” with one another, who “let diplomacy work,” merely agree in trust not to compete for the same slaves; their peace is an affectation of civility to mask a system of modern, corporate vassalage. Consider — as a rebuttal to Clinton’s haughty recommendation for the region — a peace agreement between states in the region and their own citizens, an accord that would necessarily rid society of governments.
Instead, Israel continues to menace occupied Palestine, constantly expanding its territory and imposing Orwellian loyalty oaths on potential citizens. Just this week, as he equated his country to a “living organism,” Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu maintained his truculent posture, encouraging the possibility of U.S. war against Iran.
Still worse, MSNBC reports that “Israel is pushing ahead with plans to build 1,300 new apartments for Jewish families in Arab East Jerusalem,” an area conquered in 1967’s Six-Day War. Israel’s latest land grab — an encroachment into territory that Palestinians want for their own state — offers an illustrative example of the kind of theft underlying all state activity.
This expansionist annexation of land is an especially flagrant illustration of what Benjamin Tucker described as the state’s land monopoly, its invention of bogus property titles for favored elites. While no state, including a hypothetical Palestinian one, could rightfully own any land, libertarians ought to meet Israel’s conduct with stern disapproval. With his own government prosecuting what has, in substance, been an episodic war over the past 60 years, it is no wonder that Netanyahu is keen to depict Iran as “the biggest threat to … the world.”
Since, luckily for Israel, its welfare checks for tanks and bombs courtesy of the U.S. taxpayer will reach almost $6 billion between this year and next, it can afford to bully its neighbors. Israelis and Palestinians, though, need to understand that the real divisions between human beings are caused not by religious, ethnic or cultural differences but by the enormities of the political class the world over. If they can keep us transfixed on those other distinctions, encouraging animosity and disunity, they can carry on their criminal plots uninterrupted.