Any Palestinian state must contain and protect Jews

Copyright Ó 2003, by Alec Rawls


In Israel, Arabs have equal rights with Jews. To be acceptable, any future Palestinian state will have to reciprocate this morality by including Jews and providing them, and everyone else, with full religious, economic and political liberties, including equal protection of the laws. Therein lies the importance of the Jewish settlements in the West Bank.

Right now, there are no Jews in Palestinian areas outside of the settlements. Any Jew caught in Arab lands is murdered. For an Arab to sell land to a Jew is a death penalty crime, according to Palestinian Authority policy. It would be a great step backwards to let these grotesque immoralities be embodied in a new Palestinian state.

In his meeting with Arab leaders at Sharm el-Sheikh in Egypt, President Bush, unaware his microphone was on, expressed “a universal call… the call of all religions, that each person must be free and treated with respect.” At the same time, he has managed to pressure Israeli Prime Minister Ariel Sharon into accepting the goal of a “contiguous” Palestinian state, where the present Jewish settlements in the West Bank would not remain part of Israel.

There is only one way to square these two goals. The settlements must not be dismantled. Rather, the Jews must remain in the settlements and become Jewish citizens of the new Palestinian state, with the same rights as other citizens, including the same freedom of contract to buy and sell land and to conduct business with others. A Palestinian state with no Jews and no equal rights for Jews would establish an Arab model with “freedom for me, but not for thee,” dooming President Bush’s great cause of freedom and respect for all people.

Not only are liberty and equal rights moral requirements in themselves, but they are the keys to understanding right and wrong in the Arab-Israeli conflict, which is the only basis upon which a true settlement can ever be established. In particular, the morality of Israel is based on freedom of contract.

The Jews acquired their land by buying it. The creation of the state of Israel did not confiscate any property from anyone. All property that was owned by Arabs in what became Israel was still owned by Arabs when political power was turned over to the Jewish majority. As for political rights, Israeli Arabs acquired what they never had in any Arab country: full political rights, including the right to vote. In short, no Arab was wronged by the creation of the Jewish state.

The only losses of Arab lands came when the Arabs, without having been wronged, tried to murder the Jews. Israel took what land it had to for purposes of self-defense, which could have justified much more extreme expulsion of Arabs. It would easily have justified shrugging all Arabs who were not Israeli citizens across the river Jordan.

Unfortunately, Israel made the great mistake of being as merciful as possible to what has turned out to be an implacable enemy that is absolutely unwilling to acknowledge or reciprocate goodwill. Terms of surrender for this enemy must finally be forced and settled, and that means first of all being clear that it is the Jews who have acted morally and the Arabs who are in the wrong.

According to Arab morality, white Americans should go into America’s inner cities and kill all the blacks who, like the Jews, migrated without violating the principles of free contract, or liberty of agreement. They didn’t steal anyone’s land. Their migrations were perfectly moral. The only difference between the two cases is that whites did not already try to kill off the blacks fifty years ago and lose a bunch of suburbs in the process. Imagine if there had been such a war in America, and that the blacks won, yet never in the process did they harm the lives or property of any whites living in the cities. Imagine further that in subduing the attacking white suburbs they did much less harm than would have been justified in self-defense. Fantasy, on all counts, but just suppose.

Which would be more immoral? A) Continuing to try to kill off all the blacks after they had proved their morality in this fashion, or B) going in unprovoked today for the first time to try to exterminate blacks, just because they are there.

Continuing to commit murder, as the Palestinians relentlessly do, would seem to be the greater crime. It is compounding unprovoked murder with further unprovoked murder, counting the failure of the first crime as a wrong that needs to be righted, the opposite of moral truth. We know that criminals do continue to try to get away with their crimes in this way. Our job is not to let them.

The Palestinians want a state that will give national expression to their evil. The way to deny it to them is to endow any Palestinian state with a minority population of the hated Jews whose equal rights must be respected on pain of forfeiture of the state. To see the importance of religious and ethnic division to the prospects of achieving a republic (a democracy that maintains liberty under law, as President Bush is trying to insist on) look at the case of Iraq.

Iraq is the most propitious ground for establishing the first Arab republic because it is the only Arab state that is thoroughly riven by religious and ethnic divisions. Thanks to those divisions, the only constitutional structure that has any chance to be agreed upon in Iraq is a federal structure that protects both state’s rights and minority rights.

Under such a structure, the worst that can happen is that the Shiites will be able to turn their own state into a totalitarian theocracy, with substantial exemptions for non-Shiite minorities. So long as the United States stays involved enough to make sure that the constitution is adhered to, the federal structure will prevent the Shiites from being able to impose totalitarianism on states with Kurdish or Sunni or other majorities.

If the Shiites do impose totalitarianism on themselves, they will soon enough tire of it, as the Iranians did after the first ten years of theocratic rule. When they do, republican guarantees will allow them to throw it off, as the Iranians have wished they could do for the last ten years of theological rule. Dissatisfaction with totalitarian rule will only be hastened by the presence of exempted minorities in the Shiite midst.

Five years from now there may or may not be a self-reliant republic in Iraq. Twenty years from now, there almost certainly will be, if we just maintain our commitment to oversee constitutional guarantees in the interim. Doing so will not be a burden. We can use Iraqi oil money to pay for it, so it is simply employment, and Americans have no problem with employment.

The Palestinian’s are a tougher case. They lack the advantage of division. They are a homogeneous evil, united in their criminal ambition to annihilate Israel. A check must be planted in that criminal heart if it is ever to develop into the multi-chambered heart of a moral society. But how to do it? A division into states won’t work. The Palestinians are too homogeneous to provide any check on each other. No division into states would be meaningful (which is not to say it would not be useful).

Neither could the Jewish settlers be included as a state. That would promote separation when, as warring rather than as friendly neighbors (hopefully the Iraqis will be friendly neighbors), separation is what needs to be overcome. Settlements provide an answer.

The current presumption is that, in a two state solution, those settlements that are not dismantled will be incorporated into Israel. Suppose instead that all 200,000 Jews in 146 established settlements become fully fledged Palestinian citizens, along the lines of the full citizenship that Arabs enjoy in Israel. The Palestinian state would be allowed to bar Jewish Palestinians from the military (as Arab Israelis are barred from the Israeli military), and under freedom of contract, no one would have to do business with Jews who doesn’t want to, so long as freedom to contract is not interfered with.

Jews have shown that they know how to do business. In the great majority, they are glad to deal with all who have value to offer. If individual Arabs want to be stupid, they can go the other way. They can refuse to enter into employment or other personal relations with Jews however they prefer. Even in buying and selling, Arabs should of course be free to refuse to sell to Jews, all perfectly consistent with equal protection of freedom of contract.

The only necessary condition on freedom of contract would a ban on deed restrictions and other third party barriers to integration. No one would be allowed to curtail anyone else’s freedom of contract to do business, or not do business, with whomever they want, on whatever terms they want. Equal rights and equal protection would do the same thing in the public sphere: no Jim Crow. The majority must not be allowed to curtail any individual’s freedom of contract.

Under liberty of contract, integration may take a while, but it will be inevitable. The settlements will function like gel-caps, insular so long as they need to be, providing the all important minority presence that is necessary to the establishment of minority rights, yet giving Arabs and Jews the proximity to create the economic and personal relationships that will eventually lead to minority integration and dissemination, including the probable eventual dissolution of ethnic neighborhoods themselves.

Palestinian Jews will be at the mercy of Arab made laws (as Arab Israelis are at the mercy of the Jewish majority), but so long as religious tolerance, individual rights and equal protection are enforced, they will do fine, and mixing will occur. Arabs will find willing sellers from which to buy land in the settlements while Jews from the settlements will find willing sellers of Arab lands. No law would be able to stop it without violating the constitution.

Any limits on sources of funds for such purchases would have to be agreed upon in the constitution, but given whatever rules the Jews and Arabs can agree upon, Arabs and Jews will proceed from there to integrate, as they do in Israel, and in every other pluralistic society. Bit by bit the arteries and chambers of commerce will begin to pulse without regard to religion or ethnicity as those individuals who are concerned with mutual gain rather than racial spite succeed and grow where immoral others stunt and fail.

The fount of backwardness in the Arab world is its moral backwardness. All of the other manifestations of backwardness—economic, technological and political—are simply manifestations of the Arab world’s efforts to find satisfaction in racial and religious hatred. No emerging Arab state can be allowed to manifest that fundamental moral perversion in its laws.

The Palestinians, like the Iraqis, are the remnant of a defeated evil. They should have some scope to choose their own path, but only within the terms that it is the duty of a conquering moral force to impose. Just as the Allies imposed moral requirements on Germany and Japan in the wake of World War II, so too the United States must impose moral requirements on defeated Arab evil. In particular, any Iraqi or Palestinian state must enforce religious tolerance, political rights, economic rights and equal protection. Otherwise their states are still criminal, and must succumb again to conquering moral force.

This article originally appeared in The Stanford Review, Winter '03. Contact


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