Five Faulty Arguments Against Secession

As a state grows, it always tries to find more ways to limit the freedom of its people. In the best case, this might take the form of pervasive surveillance and perpetual nudges. Yet it rarely stops there. The state might decide to support ill-advised adventurism overseas, establish secret police to track and punish dissenters, or worse. Really, there’s no limit to the atrocities a large state can visit upon its own people or the rest of the world.

Keeping the state limited requires eternal vigilance, but the tendency is for it to grow out of control nonetheless. One obvious method to check a growing state is to split it into two or more smaller ones. The principle of secession, that people may choose to disassociate from a government that no longer serves their interests, seems obvious. Yet once the state has co-opted education, it teaches the people that its borders and unity are sacred, and that any attempt to check its power is evil. This, despite the fact that a significant and permanent minority might exist that would much rather make its own way.

People are taught a variety of ridiculous arguments to oppose any agitators for secession, but I argue that most of these arguments are extremely flawed, especially in the case of the United States. Below, I will break down five of the most faulty (yet somehow most common) arguments against secession. Most of them are vulnerable to a simple reductio ad absurdum, but some will require a little more work. In any case, these five arguments are frequently heard, and, fortunately, easily dispelled.

The Civil War Solved This

A rifle pointed at one’s head is not an argument. Certainly, there are cases in history where one armed group conquered another, yet this is not considered to be philosophy by any reasonable person. If armed duress is an argument, then there is no such thing as robbery. After all, the victim clearly handed over his property voluntarily once the robber’s superior might was made clear.

Another reductio: this statement applies no matter how bad things actually get. Imagine a situation where the U.S. federal government was as nakedly oppressive as the Soviet Union during war communism or the darkest depths of Stalin’s reign. Would some long-past historical event still be a reason not to try and escape the clutches of such a government? No. The purpose of this argument is merely to offer a barely-concealed threat: “Any attempt you make to oppose me,” says the statist, licking his lips eagerly, “will be countered with deadly force.” Can anyone be blamed for trying to sever ties with such a psychopath?

Even worse, this is a particularly strange argument for an American to make. It would be just as reasonable to shoot back, “The Revolutionary War solved this first.” The statist would do well to remember that the revolutionary forces focused their fire on the officers and other leaders of the British occupiers during that conflict.

We Must Stick Together to Remain a Superpower

This is another peculiar argument. The vast majority of states survive just fine without being an international military superpower, and some nations manage to become commercial or economic superpowers without projecting military might on their neighbors. Especially in the case of America, the loss of its ability to bully other countries around the world and mass murder innocents is a feature of secession, not a bug. The military power necessary for effective defense is far lower than that required to project military power halfway across the world.  Less projection of military power leaves more resources for our people to grow and be fulfilled.

Again, this argument can be drawn to absurdity. After all, if it is important for a state to stick together to influence other nations, would it not be even better for existing states to consolidate and increase their influence? The logical conclusion is a world state in which a tiny minority exercises absolute authority over the rest of humanity, cowed into submission and stripped of any notion of sovereignty. Since each person would be a subject of the world state, there would be no hypothetical borders to cite as a reason not to meddle with them. 

Where Will the Lines Be?

One might simply reply that the lines will be wherever the people decide. There is no need to draw up detailed maps and plans for two, or three, or any number of daughter states for the breakup of the U.S. The breakups do not need to follow existing state lines and there is no need to limit the number of daughter states. Let a thousand, or even ten thousand tiny states flourish and serve ten thousand different groups of people. There is no need for the daughter states to even have contiguous borders. America today has non-contiguous borders.

The prospect of small city-states isolated in a sea of rural nation-states is no problem. There are already several prosperous small states in Europe today. The smaller states would have less surplus military might to attack and oppress their neighbors, and they would have the right to band together in mutual defense, or to convince foreign states to aid them in the worst case. It is worth remembering that the U.S. and its allies in Western Europe managed to support West Berlin through over a year of full blockade using 1940s technology. Today, this might be accomplished even more cheaply and easily, and any states attempting to block humanitarian aid would be subject to similar or greater sanctions in a freer world.

Who Will Enforce It?

This is another strange question to hear from an American. Obviously, in the worst case, the people seeking their freedom will. But really, this question is an attempt to steal a base. Why is it a certainty that some kind of enforcement will be necessary? Again, the principles of the Declaration of Independence apply.

“…it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government…in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

The requirement that a seceding people be certain of their ability to enforce their secession is another absurdity, as it applies no matter how oppressive the state they are seceding from is. At some point, the risk of conflict must overcome the tolerance for tyranny.

Yet, secession may not even require a military response. As noted above, the reduction in state size will discourage military projection. Even one good external ally might have enough deterrent power to dissuade a state from aggression against a seceding people. But the more obvious counterargument is that only a tyrannical state will try to hold people against their will, or punish those who decided to leave. If the two neighboring states so decide, they can coexist with as little military buildup on their borders as France and Belgium, or Belgium and the Netherlands.

We Can’t Let Them Win

This is an argument that cuts both ways—both sides might intransigently claim such, but reality is clearly opposed. Right now, even the most self-righteous leftists and rightists largely ignore their cultural disagreements with the world outside America. Proclaimed efforts to bring progressive values to Afghanistan, etc. are treated as cynical jokes by both sides. Corporations change the logos of their Western branches for progressive issues, but the unchanged logos of their Middle Eastern branches rarely receive significant public backlash.

The great value of secession is that it gives us all an opportunity to re-calibrate the level of our obligations. Once the undesirable actions are outside our borders, there will be much less zeal for moral indignation. The fight to keep pernicious influences away from our children will be lessened, as the other side will be able to run things their way for their own children, whether that leads them to self-destruction or not.

A good tactician realizes when a battle cannot be won and organizes a retreat to regroup. There are groups on all sides that will never be convinced away from their positions. Secession gives the vast middle a chance, and a choice—or choices, ideally. If secession happens, then intransigents on all sides will be able to go their own ways and show the value (or lack thereof) of their policies without forcing them on others. The reach and power of social experimenters will be limited. Those that wish to stay behind and continue the political fight can do so, but the vast energy now wasted on wrangling the state to support certain cultural norms will be drastically reduced, and fuzzy half-measures that never provide clear answers will be largely eliminated.

In conclusion, we have seen that five very common arguments against secession are deeply flawed. Those that are not simply absurd are easily defeated by appeals to logic and history. Secession allows us to reduce military adventurism, decrease the scope of the state, and waste fewer resources fighting undesired cultural influences, especially on education. Secession offers an opportunity for deeply opposed groups to go their own ways and seek happiness on their own terms. The sooner people can be convinced of this smart and peaceful solution, the sooner they can decide their own associations and start living better lives.

TGIF: Let’s NOT Go to War with China

The word that strikes fear in the power elite is China. It’s not fear of an existential threat; rather it’s fear that America is becoming second fiddle in world politics. As a result, some believe, or say they believe, that war with China is inevitable. For them, that’s a fancy word for desirable.

Here’s an idea: let’s not go to war with China. China has nuclear bombs, although not nearly as many as America has. No good would come from war for the people of China, the American people, or almost everyone else if you don’t count the advocates of centralized authoritarian power here and the military-industrial complex. They will make out like bandits and murderers.

The limited choice between regarding China as an enemy (or adversary) and as a competitor is bogus. It’s neither. China is a country with lots of people. Yes, it has a bad centralized government that tells people in some ways what to do. But it’s neither “our” enemy nor “our” competitor. When Americans buy goods assembled in China (though the parts were made in many other places), they are cooperating, indirectly at least, with Chinese individuals acting together as a business firm. American consumers do not compete with Chinese manufacturers. If an American company makes a product that a Chinese firm also makes and exports, that is competition, but it’s against the Chinese firm not the nation of China.

We have to get over seeing the world economy as a race among nation-states. That attitude leads to limits on freedom here, such as tariffs and quotas. Despite much government interference, including from the U.S. government, we still have a world market, and that means a worldwide division of labor, which is cooperation.

No one who values individual liberty would want to live under the Chinese government. No political liberty exists, and economic liberalization is limited. Further, the Chinese government reportedly enslaves one or more groups. Whether that is true, I do not know. But it’s not grounds for war, whether nuclear or conventional.

The Chinese government, of course, looks after its security in its neighborhood, just as the U.S. government does — except that the U.S. government sees the whole world as its neighborhood. It surely doesn’t help that the U.S. government conducts war exercises with Taiwan. China is the target. I presume China spies on the United States, but the U.S. government spies on everyone, as we know from recent revelations. It’s what big (and smaller) powers do. Hide your secrets better.

Whatever the merits or demerits of the dispute over Taiwan, it is not a matter for the U.S. government. Its claim to be acting for American security is about as believable as a Federal Reserve chairman declaring the American banking system sound. Taiwan, Hong Kong, and some small islands in the South China Sea are not our concern, not if we care about our own liberty and prosperity, not to mention the rest of the world’s. Needless to say, decent people will wish everyone in that region life, liberty, and the freedom to pursue happiness, but a war won’t bring those things.

The concern over China affects other issues, as to be expected. The latest is social networking in the form of TikTok, a social network that 150 million Americans use. Joe Biden and congressional Republicans and Democrats (with honorable exceptions like Sen. Rand Paul) want to ban TikTok because it’s owned by a Chinese company and the Chinese government allegedly uses it, or may use it, to gather information about Americans. This is denied by TikTok’s CEO, who is not Chinese and who has American partners.

The irony here is that the Chinese government notoriously bans and restricts social networks for its people to keep them from learning what the communist party doesn’t want them to learn. In other words, those who would have the U.S. government ban or otherwise interfere with TikTok want the government to be more like the Chinese Communist Party. I can’t find the sense in that.

As we well know the U.S. government has routinely pressured American social networks to ban or restrict information and opinions it did not want the American people to learn. Do we want to give this government even more power? That’s exactly what members of Congress would do; pending legislation (acronym RESTRICT Act) would give the commerce secretary ominously broad and vaguely defined power to interfere with any social network allegedly to protect us from “foreign” influence. You know that can’t be a good idea. The government’s record to date in his regard is alarming. Government-connected organizations and individuals have interfered with the free exchange of ideas over the social networks by claiming that the sources of those ideas are foreign adversaries when in fact they came from Americans, as the Twitter Files about Hamilton 68 have disclosed.

Finally, China surprised everyone by facilitating renewed diplomatic relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia. This is good for several reasons, among them: it signals a waning of America’s role as the self-appointed world guardian. One hopes it will also formally end the brutal Saudi war against the Yemeni people. It should also thwart the U.S. and Israeli governments’ ambition for war with, or capitulation of, Iran and undermine the pursuit of the Abraham Accords, begun under American arms-salesman-in-chief Donald Trump, which aim for a united front against Iran and further marginalization of the Palestinians. The Israeli and the U.S. governments have wanted Saudi Arabia to sign such an accord. (Why hasn’t Biden reinstated the nuclear deal with Iran, which his old boss Barack Obama signed, and end the cruel sanctions against the Iranian people?)

I’ve heard commentators dismiss China’s Middle East diplomacy as naked self-interest because China buys Saudi and Iranian oil and wants uninterrupted commercial relations with both. But if China’s self-interest lies in substituting diplomacy for war, what’s wrong with that? Rational self-interest is a feature, not a bug. There are signs that China may do something similar with Ukraine and Russia. (Zelensky, but not Biden, says he’s interested.) A ceasefire should have been arranged a long time ago.

The American state has been a force for global disruption, misery, and war for a long time. Its repeated bullying over sanctions, regime-change operations, and covert and overt warfare have increasingly disgusted much of the world, which is fed up with the dominance of “the exceptional nation.” That had to happen sooner or later. The U.S. government cannot design a world order. It’s time to liquidate the empire and come home. It not only harms foreigners but also makes Americans unfree and poorer.

Which Aspect of Government Do Anarcho-Capitalists Favor?

The short answer to that question, and an accurate one, is none of the above. That is the very definition of this philosophical perspective: the state is merely a gang of robbers and murderers, and the ideal is to banish it entirely.

States Mr. Libertarian on this matter: “…if you wish to know how libertarians regard the State and any of its acts, simply think of the State as a criminal band, and all of the libertarian attitudes will logically fall into place.”

However, there is indeed an entirely different and also a proper way to answer that question: whichever aspect of it is most compatible with the libertarian ideal of non-initiatory aggression and private property rights is favored by libertarians in any specific case.

For example, during the New Deal, Franklin Delano Roosevelt was for a time balked by the Supreme Court. The former tried to implement a socialist policy, and the latter was having none of it, continually finding his initiatives unconstitutional. FDR threatened court packing and the nine justices caved in.

What, pray tell, would be the radical libertarian position on this matter? Obviously, to favor the Supreme Court. That is, only in comparison to the president in this case. The support would thus be a relative one. Supporters of economic freedom would rank the initial behavior of the nine justices higher than that of Roosevelt.

Take another case. President Reagan threatened the mayor and City Council of New York City that if the latter strengthened its rent control laws, the federal government would withhold funds from the Big Apple. We stipulate, arguendo, that rent control is an unjustified uncompensated “taking” from landlords, and thus per se unjustified (it also ruins the housing stock of any jurisdiction which implements this policy). Where does the libertarian fall out on this one? In an instance of “strange bedfellows” the supporter of property rights sides with the federal government. Again, not absolutely, of course, only relative to the city authorities.

What about drug legalization? Oregon has decriminalized not only marijuana, but cocaine as well. The federales have not even made legal the former, except for medicinal purposes. On which side of this disparity does the freedom philosophy come down on? Obviously, the former. Hooray for the Beaver State! It is a rights violation to interfere with what adults place into their bodies, on a voluntary basis.

To be sure, libertarians typically side with lower levels of government, vis-à-vis their more centralized counterparts, but only when other things are equal, or at least nearly so. That is because the more powerful is a governmental institution, the greater threat it is to liberty. And, it cannot be denied that that the federal level outranks in this regard the state, as does the latter, the city. But when the more centralized element of the state is clearly on the side of liberty, it violates no libertarian principles to favor that contending party. On the other hand, the disparity must be pretty clear, as it is in the above cases, lest precedent unduly erode the relative power of the less centralized entity.

I realize that what I have said above will appear controversial, even in libertarian circles (even in radical libertarian ones). Every fiber of our being cries out against the central state in Washington DC. Less so against the 50 states, and far less so against the mayors of our towns and cities. After all, if we find the latter obnoxious, we can move away, just a matter of a few miles, and avoid the loathsome practices. Escape from a state is more difficult, unless you live on the border of a contiguous state. If you live near the four corners of Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah, you have three other choices. When you migrate to another state, you might have to commute a bit further, but you can typically keep your job, friends, social groups, intact; the language spoken is the same. To move to an entirely different country, to escape from our masters in Washington DC is entirely a different ball of wax.

Thus, the thought that upon occasion we should prefer the federal government to a local one sticks in our libertarian craws. But upon consideration, I suspect that most libertarians will agree that every once in a rare while, this would indeed be the correct libertarian analysis.

TGIF: Beware of All Tribalism

Tribalism is bad. Sensible people will know what I mean by tribe. It’s not a club based on some common preference like stamp collecting or bowling or cooking. It’s more than that. It involves a judgment-suspending commitment. Nationalism is a good example.

Tribalism is bad because it can erode important social cooperation, which comes in many forms including the division of labor and trade, domestic and foreign. It’s also bad because it encourages people to overlook even the grossest injustice that they would not tolerate if their tribe was on the receiving end.

We lately have witnessed increasing and more virulent tribalism in the area of race and certainly in politics. If you want to see it in action, watch how the Democrats treated journalist Matt Taibbi when he appeared before a House committee recently. It was disgraceful.

But tribalism can occur when you least expect it. For example I was surprised when I watched Mark Steiner of The Real News Network interview Kenneth Roth the other day. Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch (HRW)  from 1993 to 2022, was invited in 2021 to assume a fellowship at Harvard Kennedy School’s Carr Center for Human Rights Policy. But disinvited this year because, he says, after he and HRW had criticized Israel’s apartheid rule over the Palestinians, he was accused of antisemitism. After protests on Roth’s behalf, however, Roth was re-invited. The Kennedy School denies that charges of antisemitism were the reason for the invitation withdrawal (Roth disputes this), instead calling it a mistake and not an attempt to limit debate.

Human Rights Watch and other prestigious human-rights organizations, including Israeli Jewish groups, have certainly criticized Israel for how it abuses the Palestinians. (HRW criticizes many states throughout the world for violating individual rights; it has also criticized the Palestinian Authority, which Israel set up under the Oslo Accords.) In 2021 the HRW report “A Threshold Crossed” stated,

Across these areas and in most aspects of life, Israeli authorities methodically privilege Jewish Israelis and discriminate against Palestinians. Laws, policies, and statements by leading Israeli officials make plain that the objective of maintaining Jewish Israeli control over demographics, political power, and land has long guided government policy. In pursuit of this goal, authorities have dispossessed, confined, forcibly separated, and subjugated Palestinians by virtue of their identity to varying degrees of intensity. In certain areas, as described in this report, these deprivations are so severe that they amount to the crimes against humanity of apartheid and persecution.

The idea that criticism of Israel is ipso facto antisemitic is worse than wrong. It is designed to innoculate Israel against all criticism. And that aim, I believe, is premised on the notion that after the monstrosity of Nazi Germany — indeed, after the long history of anti-Jewish persecution — the normal moral rules do not apply to Jewish people, at least not those in Israel. “How dare you criticize the Jewish State?” is a way to tell Palestinians and their defenders to shut up and go away, stigmatizing them as bigots in the process.

You can imagine my surprise when I heard Roth talk about his case and Israel without discussing the plight of the Palestinians. Here’s the key part of the interview. Roth said:

I am 100 percent Jewish. I totally identify…. I am not advocating for a weak state [of Israel], but even a strong state has to respect rights because ultimately, people’s sense of right and wrong, the sense that everybody has rights that need to be respected is key to the long-term survival of Israel and the Jews, particularly when Israel lives in such a hostile neighborhood where who knows what the crazies in Iran might do if they get a nuclear bomb? So you want these norms against abusing people to be as strong as possible. That’s a critical part of their defense not only of Israel but of Jewish people around the world. [Video at 12:24. Emphasis added.]

He went on to say that although accusing Israel’s critics of antisemitism may strengthen that state by silencing some people, this comes “at the expense of Jews wherever they live and that is not a smart move.” How so? By watering down the term antisemitism, which helps real antisemites.

To give Roth the benefit of the doubt, I’ll emphasize that his organization and he personally have criticized Jewish supremacy and apartheid policies toward the Palestinians. Also, he may have been taking his lead from the interviewer, Mark Steiner. Finally, it is certainly effective to point out that, as he says, “cheapen[ing]” the meaning of antisemitism does Jews no favor, even if it silences some of Israel’s critics.

Still … how could he not even mention the long-suffering Palestinians? He says Israel ought to stop the injustice because “ultimately” the survival of Israel and the Jewish people hangs in the balance. He makes it sound as if it’s all about the Jews and not the Palestinians.

Roth even worked in the “hostile neighborhood” trope and the Iranian “crazies” who allegedly want a nuclear weapon. The main reason for the hostility is that in 1947-48 and in 1967 Israeli forces led by Europeans seeking a Jewish state dispossessed innocent Palestinians of land they had worked and lived on for many generations. They’ve been oppressed and subjected to apartheid policies ever since.

As for Iran, it is a member of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and inspected regularly; plus it signed, along with the Obama administration and several other nations, the redundant JCPOA (Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action), which would have made it even more certain that Iran would not build a bomb. In return, the West would lift the sanctions that have increasingly crushed the Iranian people. But Donald Trump pulled out of the JCPOA, and Biden has yet to restart it. The sanctions continue. Meanwhile, Israel has conducted covert warfare against Iran and has been trying to get the U.S. government to attack Iran.

The point here is that even Kenneth Roth has not escaped tribalism.

TGIF: Hear, O Israel — Give Me Liberty or Give Me Death

An older generation of Americans, including Jewish Americans, admire the colonists who resisted the British king and parliament in the late 1700s. Jewish Americans go further and admire the Judeans who revolted against the Greeks and Romans (twice) in antiquity.

So isn’t it peculiar that they do not applaud the similar Palestinian resistance to Israel’s domination? The most we get from U.S. politicians is Bernie Sanders’s weak statement about putting conditions on the massive aid to Israel, which is in political disarray because its ruling competition wants to subordinate the independent judiciary.

To appreciate the Palestinian resistance and daily Israeli attempts at suppression, watch the Mondoweiss video “On the Brink: Jenin’s Rising Resistance” (video and transcript). It begins like this:

Male Voice: “Palestinian health officials say at least nine Palestinians have been killed.” Female voice (Yumna Patel): “It was the bloodiest few [almost five] hours the West Bank had seen in years.” Male voice again: “More than a hundred military vehicles entered the camp [on Jan. 26 this year].” Female voice again: “Ten Palestinians [including two teen-aged boys and a 61-year-old woman sitting in her home] were killed in a single Israeli army raid. Dozens more were injured. Palestinians described it as a massacre, and it all took place in an area of less than half a square kilometer.”

According to host Patel, “The Jenin refugee camp is home to over 15,000 Palestinian refugees, the descendants of those who were forced out of their homes by Zionist militias in 1948, during the creation of the state of Israel.” Jenin is also home to “armed resistance groups who routinely confront Israel soldiers during army incursions into their camp,” On this latest raid Palestinian medics with the Red Crescent were kept by Israeli forces from administering aid.

Contrary to what you may have heard, this is not “antisemitism,” a word used to describe disparate things in different places throughout history, including criticism of Israel’s inhumane treatment of Palestinians that goes back well over 100 years.

“In 2002,” Patel says, “in the midst of the Second Intifada, the Israeli army launched a massive invasion of the Jenin refugee camp following a number of suicide bombings inside Israeli territory. During the invasion, the army killed more than 50 Palestinians and destroyed more than 400 homes in the camp, displacing more than a quarter of the camp’s entire population. More than 20 years later, the effects of the 2002 invasion are still felt in the camp today.”

This is about individual rights and personal autonomy. “During January’s [this year] raid, Mohammad al-Sabbagh witnessed his family home being destroyed for the third time.” Also, “During the army raid on January 26, 21 years after his father was killed, Ziad al-Sabbagh barricaded himself alongside his comrades inside his family home during the army’s assault. Though he made it out alive, he was arrested by Israeli forces. And the al-Sabbagh family home was once again destroyed.”

“It’s death or freedom,” says one fighter. That sounds like Patrick Henry, who purportedly said, “Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!” (March 23, 1775, St. John’s Church, Richmond, Virginia, speech at the Virginia convention.)

The unconscionably inhumane treatment of the Palestinians is either consistent with what are called Jewish values or it is not. If it is, well then… But if it is not, then why has it gone on 56 years after the West Bank, Gaza, and Golan Heights were taken militarily (to be annexed in law or in fact) and 75 years after a group of Europeans declared the existence of Israel (no borders specified) and the Palestinians who managed to stay in Israel, despite the catastrophe (Nakba) of their brethren being driven from their homes, were made no better than second-class citizens (if that), subject to all sorts of government and quasigovernment mistreatment and discrimination? So much for Israel’s Declaration of Independence, which promised that “it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel.” (This took place following a UN General Assembly recommendation that Palestine be divided, with more than half given to Jewish Europeans even though Jews were a minority of the Palestinian population and the UN had no right to partition the land.)

“Back in 2002,” Patel says, “the army framed the deadly invasion of the camp as a defensive measure to prevent future attacks against Israeli citizens. The raid on January 26 was justified for the same reasons. But the residents say that Israel’s frequent raids over the years have only created more resentment and motivated more people to take up arms.”

Jamal Hweil told Patel: “Any person who wants to know the truth has to ask, is the resistance a result or a cause? The cause is the presence of the occupation. The cause is the existence of the [refugee] camp and the displacement of the Palestinian people and the persistence of the refugee issue. The cause is the presence of an occupation of our lands. Resistance isn’t the cause. Resistance is the result.”

As a young Jenin Brigade fighter told Patel: “The world must know that we are not terrorists, as the [Israeli] occupation claims. We are fighters in the name of God. We came out of our mothers’ wombs into this world to fight this occupier, who has stolen our religion, our customs, our traditions, and who has killed our fathers and our brothers. The world needs to know we aren’t terrorists. The occupation is the only terrorist in this world.” He continued:

What pushed me towards resistance are my own personal convictions, from what I’ve seen in my life. We were brought up as kids in the middle of this, every day an army raid, every day an operation, every day someone is arrested, everyday youth are executed, women are executed. The occupation enters the camp and the city without differentiating between the old and the young. It will kill whoever is in its way.

Says Patel: “The Jenin Brigade was started in 2021 by fighters affiliated with the Islamic Jihad movement but has since evolved to include fighters from a number of factions in the camp. The new cross-factional model has since inspired the birth of other groups outside Jenin, who spread messages of Palestinian unity against Israeli occupation.” [Emphasis added.]

“It’s a message,” Patel says, “that hadn’t been heard in years, and it has appealed primarily to young men, who have grown increasingly disillusioned with their own leaders after decades of political infighting and a stalled peace process.” [Emphasis added.]

As one fighter says, “When this generation witnesses this frustration, when it sees a dead end on the political horizon, when it sees the worsening economic conditions, what do you expect from these youths?”

Ammar Izz al-Din told Patel: “Enough of the ‘negotiations.’ These negotiations have brought us nothing. Since I was born I’ve been hearing about negotiations, and it’s all been for nothing. You can’t negotiate with Israel.”

I’m not endorsing violence, but this despair is Israel’s — its rulers’ and most of its people’s — fault; they have all refused to address the Palestinians’ legitimate grievances. The former head of the World Zionist Organization, Nahum Goldmann, wrote in his 1969 autobiography that Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, told him that were he an Arab, he wouldn’t talk to Israel’s founders because “We had taken their country.” (And let’s remember how the Israelites came to possess all of Canaan in the first place, according to the book of Joshua in the Hebrew Bible.)

A day after the latest Israeli raid, a Palestinian resident of East Jerusalem whose grandfather was killed by an Israeli settler in 1998, “killed seven people inside an illegal Israeli settlement in occupied East Jerusalem.” He was killed at the scene. Yet the government of Benjamin Netanyahu cracked down, Patel reports, “announcing sweeping measures that rights groups warned amounted to collective punishment…. At the same time, Israeli settlers in the West Bank carried out a series of ‘revenge’ attacks against Palestinians, burning people’s homes and cars, hurling rocks at Palestinian vehicles, and even shooting at Palestinians with live ammunition. It was reported that in a single night, settlers carried out close to 150 attacks against Palestinians and their property.”

Why care about this? Because the U.S. government, influenced by the Israel lobby (Rep. Ilhan Omar was essentially right when she said it was “all about the Benjamins;” for some politicians it is), gives billions in military aid to Israel every year. And Netanyahu, with his eyes on Iran as a world, threatens to start a war or to goad America. into starting it.

It may be worth a reminder that the prophet Hosea (4:1-2, 6-7, 9) said, “Hear the word of the Lord, ye children of Israel: for the Lord hath a controversy with the inhabitants of the land, because there is no truth, nor mercy, nor knowledge of God in the land. By swearing, and lying, and killing, and stealing, and committing adultery, they break out, and blood toucheth blood…. My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee…. As they were increased, so they sinned against me: therefore will I change their glory into shame…. and I will punish them for their ways….”

And Jeremiah (32:42), “For thus saith the Lord; …I have brought all this great evil upon this [‘my’] people.”

And Ezekiel (7:8) says, “Now will I shortly pour out my fury upon thee [‘Israel’], and accomplish mine anger upon thee: and I will judge thee according to thy ways, and will recompense thee for all thine abominations.”

I’m not saying this, and I don’t buy it. But it’s in The Book!

Admittedly this is a god who reportedly ordered genocide against other Canaanites and was angrier at the children of Israel for worshiping other gods than for anything else. But the remnant of anti-Zionist Jews (bless their hearts) such as the American Council for Judaism interpret unfaithfulness to include a failure to act justly. and idolatry as the placement of the Jewish state above all else. It is ironic that Israel does not heed its own foundational, if allegorical, texts.

Thomas Jefferson’s statement concerning American slavery, in his Notes on the State of Virginia, comes to mind: “Indeed I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just….”

Of course the reason for Israel and Jewish Americans to behave justly toward the Palestinians is not Yahweh’s wrath. It’s justice itself!

As I wrote in Coming to Palestine

Realization of the [Zionist] dream of a Jewish state logically entailed the dispossession and expulsion of the Palestinians, who by the common standard of justice were legitimate owners of their land. Those who remained were made third-class citizens or even worse in an apartheid state. The countless micro offenses against those individuals were compounded by a macro offense: the destruction of their flourishing culture, communities, and country….. [H]ere’s one thing advocates of universal freedom and justice can say: The rights of the Palestinians must not be plastered over by irrelevant claims about the Jewish State’s right to exist.


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