Radio jock Howard Stern went off on a listener who took Hamas’ side against Israel earlier this week. “If you’re anti-Israel, you’re anti-America!” Stern said, which is both true and probably doesn’t bother Hamas’ staunchest defenders.
Now Joan Rivers is coming to Israel’s defense too. TMZ asked Rivers about the ongoing fight in a street interview. Rivers pulled no punches, saying repeatedly that Hamas started the war, that it hides its weapons in civilian homes, schools and hospitals, and Israel has to defend its people.
“Palestinians, you cannot throw rockets and expect Israel not to defend themselves,” Rivers said. TMZ asks about civilian casualties, and Rivers responds “Don’t you dare put weapons stashes in private homes.” Rivers also slams Selena Gomez for her pro-Palestinian tweet. Rivers goes on to hammer CNN, the BBC and other media who have played up Palestinian casualties without noting that Hamas started the war by firing rockets at Israeli civilians. [Source: PJMedia.com 7/25/14]
Are Howard Stern and Joan Rivers right? It depends how you define “right”; and it depends on what you mean by “America.”
I define America, in its best sense, as consistent with individual rights and freedom. Individual rights rest on the premise that each life is an end itself, and human beings are sovereign over their own personal selves. They have a moral and political right to do whatever they wish, so long as they do not initiate force or fraud against anyone else. (The moment they do is when you need government, but only then.)
I recognize this is not what America is today, and not even what America ever was, not with absolute consistency. But that’s what I have in mind when I think “America,” and perhaps it’s something like what Howard Stern has in mind, as well, even if in some unarticulated or contradictory way. America came closer to this ideal than any society in all of human history, and its founding principles quite closely embodied it.
To a lot of people, the conflict in Israel against Palestinian and Hamas terrorist groups is one of religion. They’re reluctant to take a side, because (to them) it would mean taking a side in favor of Judaism over Islam. Their feeling is, “Who am I to judge one religion over another?”
Judging religion is not the main point here. The point here is freedom. In deciding which side is right in this situation, you must first have a standard of right. The dispute between Israel and its enemies is political. The proper standard of politics and ethics is: Which side is closer to the ideal of protecting the rights of individuals from force? In other words: Which one is closer to America?
In that part of the world, there’s no competition or question. If you desire to be left alone and reasonably free, Israel is the closest you’ll find to serenity and sanity anywhere near the Middle East. Hamas is nothing more than a terrorist gang. Palestine isn’t much better. On the one side, you have a civil government (Israel) which protects the rights of individuals – at least to some extent – and does not interfere with individual rights to nearly the degree religious and other Arab dictatorships do. To belong to Hamas or any Muslim-related organization, you have to surrender any remote idea of separation between church and state. The will of the religious authorities rules over all. This represents the utter and polar opposite of individual rights, freedom or “America” in the sense of being sovereign over your own life.
Most of our Presidents prior to Obama have tried to treat Palestinian or Hamas gangs as more or less morally and politically equivalent to a civilized, semi-individual rights respecting government and society such as Israel. This, of course, is an impossible contradiction and a moral travesty. In the end, they usually end up leaning towards Israel in support. Obama is different, in that he appears to lean more to the other side, if not outright rooting for them. In Israel’s most recent problems with being attacked by Hamas, Obama has essentially abandoned Israel as an ally altogether, stopping just short of saying so. Obama acts the way you’d expect someone to behave if they sided with the anti-Israeli forces, but fear poor election outcomes at home if you take your actual inclination too far.
As for Joan Rivers, she has a valid point, as well. You can’t expect people to be attacked and not defend themselves. A lot of people look at Israel as the victimizer and everyone else as the victim. Why? Because Israel has accomplished way, way more in the span of less than a century than these primitive, religiously fundamentalist and utterly insane “societies” (more accurately called gangs) ever could.
This is neither an attack on Islam, nor a defense of Judaism. It’s simply an observation of how different societies, with different approaches to human life, generate wildly different results. Judaism shows some regard for reason, business, and separation of church from state. Islam shows absolutely none. Compare and contrast the results.
Look at what Israel has accomplished since 1948, and contrast that with the endless centuries of impoverishment, stagnation, near-starvation and despair generated by all of their Arab neighbors. (And don’t count wealth generated by the demand for oil; that’s the product of Western civilization, primarily America, not of anything related to the values of Hamas or Palestine.) Of course Israel’s neighbors are in a bad mood and strike out with violence because of it. But why do they punish their lone role model in that region? They should be emulating Israel, not trying to destroy it.
Antipathy towards Israel reminds me of antipathy towards America. America is the most hated nation on earth, just like Israel is the most hated nation in the Middle East. Each stands out for the enormous stability, sanity and comfort it brings to human life through the high degrees of freedom (including economic freedom) they offer, at least when compared to any alternatives. Each makes everyone else look bad, in comparison; and everyone realizes that the reason they make others look bad is because (relatively speaking) they stand for the things most spat upon throughout human history, with rare exception: reason, science, business, technology and individual human freedom.
Israel and the United States are the real victims here. They’re hated for the very reasons we all should love them.
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