Collectivism and Compensation

Let’s suppose, arguendo, that there exist some individual Palestinians who had identifiable parcels of land in Israel, or in the Occupied Territories, stolen from them, during the 1948 war, or the 1967 war and the occupation that followed it. Considered as a matter of justice — without any claims as to how far the hypothetical represents reality, or bears on the best way to solve the diplomatic conflicts between the state of Israel and its various rival states and quasi-states — should those Palestinians be able to demand that their old parcels of land be returned to them? And if they do, and the parcels aren’t returned on their demand, are they justified in using proportional violence, or designating others to use proportional violence on their behalf, to evict the trespassing occupants currently on their land? In comments at No Treason, Stefan suggested that they would be, and Tim Starr dissented:

Assuming for the sake of argument that some of the land in Israel actually was stolen from individual Palestinians in the Israeli War of Independence (there was absolutely no general policy to do so, see Efraim Karsh’s Fabricating Israeli History on this), I would disagree with Stefan that this fact actually would justify forcible removal of the Israelis from that land and its return to its Palestinian owners.

For one thing, compensation in lieu of returning the property may be more appropriate. Also, is there no statute of limitations for land theft? Furthermore, a good many Jews used to live in Islamic countries that expelled them and confiscated their property — how come that is never brought up by those who want land returned to Palestinians by Israel? Do those Jews not have the right to have their property returned, or to receive compensation for it? Also, what about compensation to the families of all the Israeli victims of Palestinian terrorism?

In fact, Israel is the only country in the Middle East which HAS returned land that it had conquered. Israel returned the Sinai Desert to Egypt as part of its peace treaty with Sadat, and returned land to Jordan as part of its peace treaty with Jordan. Israel also relinquished control of southern Lebanon and the Gaza strip, even though it faced a serious increase in the scale and frequenty of terrorist attacks by Hezbollah and Hamas as a result. Israel has also inflicted ethnic cleansing upon itself twice, once when it returned the Sinai and again when it relinquished Gaza, making sure those territories were nice and judenrein when the Islamo-Nazis took them over.

Israel has also offered tens of billions of dollars in compensation to the Palestinians for any injustices they might have suffered at Israeli hands, but the Palestinians have never offered any compensation to Israel for killing Israeli civilians as a means of achieving Palestinian political goals.

Instead, each of these concessions has been taken as a sign of weakness. Israeli land for peace deals w/ compensation have been taken as invitation to Intifadeh; Israeli withdrawal from Lebanon and Gaza have been taken as invitations to rocket attacks from the territory Israel de-occupied.

In short, Israel has bent over backwards for peace in the Middle East, and the Islamo-Nazis and their international sympathizers on the commie-left and nazi-right have merely replied to each effort by saying that Israel wasn’t bending over far enough.

Comment by Tim Starr — 2/7/2006 @ Feb 07, 06 | 4:58 pm

I objected to the details of Starr’s claims — arguing that there was no reason to suggest that either the perpetrators or disinterested third parties had a right to determine whether land or some pile of money was the appropriate form of compensation for the theft, and that that is properly left up to the victims to decide. And further that Starr’s attempts to dismiss or dicker down the claims of these hypothetical Palestinian victims of land theft on the basis of later terrorism committed by other Palestinians against Israelis, amounted to nothing more than a change of subject, and an exercise in shameless tribal collectivism from beginning to end.

Starr objected to my objections; this is rapidly spiralling way out of the range of the comments space at a [No Treason post][] intended primarily to point out a historical gaffe in an article on Ireland and Ulster at LewRockwell.com. So I bring it here. Here’s Starr’s response to my first objection:

While I agree that it is not primarily up to the beneficiaries because of their obvious conflict of interest, I disagree that it is primarily up to the victims. Victims are usually biased in their own favor, so they also have a conflict of interest.

Disinterested third parties are precisely who ought to be the judge of such things, which is why arbitration by such parties is advocated by anarcho-capitalists like David Friedman and myself. The way that disinterested third-party arbitrators know what the best remedy is for such offenses is by hearing the evidence on all sides of a case.

There’s a perfectly good reason why (genuinely) disinterested third parties should serve as arbiters in disputes in a free society. People in a dispute may be mistaken, or dishonest, about the facts as to whether or not they are victims of aggression (so disinterested third parties may come to the right verdict where the disputants wouldn’t). That’s fine; three cheers for disinterested arbiters. But there’s no question as to the verdict here, or as to proportionality: we’re presuming (arguendo) that the individual Palestinians in question are, and can prove to honest arbiters that they are, victims of land theft.

The question is about the appropriate form of compensation. There may, again, be a place for disinterested mediators if you think that someone is mistaken, or dishonest, about the level or kind of compensation that would be fit for the injury — suppose I knocked a baseball through your window, and you demanded $1,000,000 compensatory damages because of the sentimental value you attached to it. But this is not a case like that. If I steal something from you, then the presumption is that the best kind of compensation is the return of what I stole (plus whatever damages I may owe for the duration of the theft). There are ways that the presumption can be overridden in favor of some equivalent level of compensation paid out in some other good: if the item is fungible without a loss in value to you — suppose I stole $500 from you and you didn’t care whether you got back the specific bills I took from you, or some other bills, or a check — or if the item is no longer distinctly identifiable — suppose I stole a chunk that you took from the Berlin Wall and added it to my collection of indistinguishable Berlin Wall chunks — or if the item itself can’t be returned without inflicting a disproportionate burden on me above and beyond the loss of the stolen good — suppose I stole a bottle of pills from you that I need to take in order to survive, but that you value for purely sentimental reasons. But we’re not looking at a case like that here. There’s no question of proportionality: if you steal my land, then losing the stolen land is not a disproportionate burden to bear. We’re supposing that the parcels of land are identifiable by the specific victims. And if the victims were willing to take the money as compensation instead of the land, then there wouldn’t be any issue at all: they’d just take the money.

So the only question at hand is: which of two proportional forms of compensation — getting your own land back or getting money back in return for your land — is the better form of compensation for a proven victim of land theft? Starr seems to suggest that disinterested third parties have a right to set terms not only as to the verdict, and as to the limits of proportionality in compensation, but also as to which of these two forms of proportional compensation the victim can demand. I reject this completely, because the aim of justice here is restoration, and I reject the notion that third party arbiters can overrule the victim’s own judgment about what best restores them to their proper state as long as the judgment is within the bounds of proportionality. I reject it for roughly for the same reasons that I reject the confiscation of property through eminent domain, even if monetary compensation is paid after the fact. If the monetary compensation offered isn’t enough to make the victim freely turn over her legitimate demands to her own land, then it isn’t enough to satisfy the just demand that she be put back into her own.

So let me suggest to Starr that there are only three possible grounds here on which you could suggest that anybody other than the victims themselves has a right to impose terms as to whether or not individual Palestinian victims of land theft can demand their own land back, or get some other appropriate form of compensation. (1) You could claim that getting the land back is (potentially, at least) disproportionate compensation for having the land stolen from you. But why? Or (2) you could claim that, even though the land is within the range of proportionate compensation, disinterested third parties have reliable epistemic access to the real worth of the land to the victim, independent of, and even overruling, the victim’s own judgment as manifest in her decision not to accept the money as satisfactory compensation. If so, then you could just pay them out the equivalent of the real worth of the land in money, and even if the victim wouldn’t agree that that’s satisfactory, you’d know that that pays off the debt. But how would you know this? (And are you willing to excuse eminent domain seizures on the same grounds?) Or (3) you could argue that the worth to the victim is just irrelevant to the appropriate level of compensation, even if it falls within the bounds of proportionality. But why? What else would you use to determine the injury? What the land is worth to somebody else? Why should the victim care about that? Why should we?

Finally, I should note that this is all in response to Stefan’s hypothetical claim that where there are individual victims of Palestinian land theft, they are justified in using proportional force (or having others use proportional force on their behalf) to make the current inhabitants vacate the stolen land that they are occupying. Whatever form of compensation might be the appropriate outcome of a fair arbitration process, it is important to note that there simply is not a fair arbitration process in existence, and there is absolutely no credible reason to suggest that the Israeli government — whatever its merits — or the governments of various world powers — whatever their merits — or the govenments of the world assembled in the United Nations — whatever their merits — constitute a disinterested third party in this dispute. Given the lack of a substantial arbitration process to participate in, the rights of self-defense revert to their original holders: the aggrieved. So I don’t see how this answered Stefan’s point at all.

In response to my charge of tribalism, Starr replies:

As for my alleged collectivism, where are the Palestinians who are merely innocent victims of Israel, who have never supported any anti-Israeli terrorism? Where is the Palestinian peace faction? Where is the Palestinian support for the legitimate rights of Israelis to live in peace in at least some of the land of Israel? Where can these Palestinians be found, either within the occupied territories themselves or elsewhere, outside the control of either Israel, Hamas, or any of the Arab governments of the world? If there are any such Palestinians, they are so few as to be virtually non-existent and completely irrelevant to this subject.

But what are you asking for? (1) A list of individual Palestinians who have never directly participated in terrorist operations against peaceful Israelis, or (2) a list of individual Palestinians who have never said or believed that terrorism against peaceful Israelis is justified? In either case (a) there are plenty, and (b) it’s bloody well irrelevant, for reasons I’ll mention below. But if (2) is all you mean, this is a plain demand for tyranny; the suggestion would be simply that Palestinians can be robbed of their land — or rather the robbery of their land can be retroactively justified or excused — by the fact that, after the fact, they came to have evil thoughts. Evil thoughts don’t justify violent force, either before or after the fact. The initiation of violence does.

Starr continues:

Rad Geek also seems to have missed the relevance of Arab/Palestinian offenses against Israelis to the question of Israeli offenses against the Palestinians. The relevance is that the compensation claims tend to cancel each other out and, to the extent that Palestinian offenses against Israelis have been worse than Israeli offenses against Palestinians, it is the Palestinians who have an outstanding debt of compensation which they owe to Israel.

But this is overtly tribalist rot. Israel does not owe a goddamned thing to Palestinians, and Palestinians (let alone Arab/Palestinians, whatever the hell that is intended to mean) don’t owe a goddamned thing to Israel. Ambiguous-collectives do not offend, do not owe, and do not compensate, because they do not act at all.

The question is whether individual Palestinians, not participants in an Arab/Palestinian hive mind, have actionable claims against individual Israelis, not cells in the corporate body of Israel. Suppose we’re talking about someone who was actually materially involved in terrorism against innocent Israelis. If X has land stolen from her by Y, and then X goes on to do unjustified violence to Z — who, by your stipulation is an innocent who had nothing to do with the theft — then that does not cancel out Y‘s obligations to restore X‘s property. Even if Y and Z and happen to be members of the same ethnic group, or subjects claimed by the same self-proclaimed tribal collective-bargaining agent. What it does is create a new obligation that X has to Z. It may be the case, under some imaginable set of circumstances that that obligation from X to Z should be paid to Z out of the compensation that Y pays X. But it certainly provides no justification whatsoever for Y to be left in possession of property that she (ex hypothesi) stole and never did anything to earn. Now let’s suppose that we are talking about a Palestinian who hasn’t ever been materially involved in terrorism against innocent Israelis. Then what happened is that W has a claim to land stolen from her by Y and X unjustifiably attacked Z, where W and X both happen to be Arab/Palestinians (whatever that means) and Y and Z both happen to be Israelis. But it ought to be obvious that in that case X‘s attack on Z has no effect at all on Y‘s obligations towards X. No matter what the tribal affiliations, or citizenship status, of W, X, Y, and Z happen to be.

Starr, however, has made no attempts at all to pick out victims and perpetrators as individuals, or to sort out the individual obligations that those people have towards each other. He has only recited the evils committed by some ill-defined grouping of the heads of Arab states and self-appointed “representatives” or “defenders” of the Palestinians as a people, have committed, and then (attributing responsibility for those crimes to the ambiguous-collective of Palestinians or Arab/Palestinians and identifying the victim as the ambiguous collective of Israel), suggested that this somehow has some bearing on the compensation that is owed between individual Palestinians individual Israelis. That’s why I accused Starr’s comment of being an exercise in tribal collectivism. And why I stand by that charge in light of his clarifications.

As for the peace process, like Stefan, I’m not interested (here) in solving the diplomatic conflict between the state of Israel and the quasi-state in the Palestinian Authority, or between Israel and its various rival states in the region. I’m interested only in determining what it is that justice requires for individual Palestinians and individual Israelis, and have mentioned no other topic. And in that connection I couldn’t possibly be motivated to care a whit about the claims of the PLO, Fatah, Yasser Arafat (!) or the Arab League (!!) to speak for and serve as representatives of, leaders of, or collective-bargaining agents for, all Palestinians everywhere.

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  1. Tim Starr

    My replies to Geek:

    1) I never denied any Palestinians’ right to use “proportional violence” to redress any grievances they may have about land theft, as murdering civilians is not proportional to land theft. “Give me my land back or I’ll murder your children” is not proportional – especially if we have every reason to believe that the land, if returned, will merely be used as a staging ground for more attempts to murder your children. Like most of Geek’s rhetoric, this notion of Palestinian “proportional violence” is mere fantasy.

    2) Yes, I do believe that disinterested third parties have the right to decide not only verdicts but also the damages that may be awarded to the victim. The victim may demand all they want, but they don’t get to unilaterally set the amount of the damages, because this would give them an incentive to hold out indefinitely no matter how high the damage award. (This is a fairly precise description of the Palestinian bargaining strategy.) Yes, I would also apply this same standard in eminent domain cases – my main disagreement with eminent domain seizures is that the accepted justifications for them are too broad, but I do believe they are justifiable in such cases as immediate threats to persons and property, and in those cases I do not believe it just to simply let the victims name any price they want for compensation, no matter how high. To allow victims to unilaterally determine the size of their own damage awards is to encourage perpetual conflict on the basis of allegedly uncompensated victimhood – that is not a principle upon which a free society can be based. With transferable goods like land, the fair market value of it can be estimated with reasonable accuracy in a generally free market society and that can be used to assess the size of the damage award. If that’s not enough for the victims, too bad – utopia is not an option, as we libertarians say to socialists.

    3) As for the existing processes for peaceful settlement of such disputes, no matter what you say about their absence the fact remains that in virtually all other cases of population transfer in the post-WWII period, no one is resorting to terrorism on the pretext of reclaiming stolen land except the Palestinians. The Germans who were expelled from Czechoslovakia and Poland after WWII are suing to get their property back, and are winning some of the cases. Within the ex-Communist countries of Eastern Europe, victims of nationalization are also getting their property back by peaceful means. So long as there countries have a reasonable degree of judicial independence and rule of law, the process is working to the extent that grievances are not prosecuted by trying to kill civilians.

    4) Evil thoughts ALONE do not justify self-defense, but evil words, such as a conspiracy to commit murder, terrorism, or genocide, COIMBINED with ANY OVERT ACT (even one that would be perfectly innocent all by itself) in furtherance of that agreement, most certainly do justify self-defense. Your standard would exonerate Hitler from culpability for the Holocaust, since he didn’t actually murder any Jews himself, he merely told others to do so. That reductio ad absurdum suffices to refute your theory. Palestinians who vote for Hamas in overwhelming numbers may do so because they are under duress or because they’ve been duped by decades of propaganda, but they still must be fought like any other slave army engaged in aggression against you until they can be liberated and given a chance to reject their aggression against you.

    5) Any theory of justice requiring that Israelis must make it easier for Palestinians to continue trying to murder their children is no theory of justice at all. Natural justice is not a suicide pact, nor does it require passive acceptance of genocide by its intended victims.

  2. Sergio Méndez

    Mr Starr:

    I´ve been reading your discusion with Radgeek, and your last reply here on his blog, and I wonder one thing:

    ¿Where does Radgeek claims or suggests that terrorism -in all its forms- is an adecuate method to resolve Palestinian grievances concerning the properties stolen by Israelites?

    That is my main concern, but I have another one:

    ¿Will you apply the same standard that you apply to palestinians who voted for Hamas or any other extremist group, to israelites who have voted for goverments that expropiated palestinian property, bombed and killed palestinians?

  3. Labyrus

    “Israel” does not owe a goddamned thing* to “Palestinians,” and “Palestinians” (let alone “Arab/Palestinians,” whatever the hell that is intended to mean) don’t owe a goddamned thing* to “Israel.” Ambiguouscollectives do not offend, do not owe, and do not compensate, because they do not act at all.

    I sort of half see the point you’re trying to make here, that institutions are irrelevant in a theory of justice, because it takes individuals to actually carry out crimes, however, I don’t think you can write off “Isreal” as a non-entity so easily in this discussion. Many Isrealis living on stolen land right now do so because the are insulated from the consequences of that theft. They simply don’t know the suffering that was inflicted in order for them to be where they are. The Isreali State is also not just an arbitrary grouping, it is, like any State, a bureaucratized institution which pushes people into certain institutional roles, prevents them from deviating to far from them, and most importantly, seperates people who make decisions to cause suffering from actually seeing firsthand the consequences of their actions.

    “Palestinians” is an arbitrary Catergory for a group of humans. “Isreal” is not, it’s a specific set of institutions. The State of Isreal may be an ambiguously defined entity, but it most certainly exists, and has commited heinous crimes and does indeed owe Palestinians, and the rest of the world, quite a bit.

    That isn’t to say that innocent Isrealis should be in any way liable for the crimes of the Military and Government institutions that claim to act on their behalf, or that a simple legal case could meaningfully resolve anything. I am just saying that their are systemic factors that aggravate if not cause many of the problems related to the land theft issue, and that those systemic factors complicate assigning responsibility or assessing compensation. You may not be able to fine the folks who created the International State System at Westphalia, but in a certain way, they bear partial responsability.

    Tim Starr, not that it’s really all that relevant to the discussion, but I really don’t think you understand the political context surrounding the recent Palestinian election. Also, here’s a fun thought experiment – Name a third party to the Palestinian-Isreali conflict that has no interest whatsoever in the outcome. I’m hard-pressed to think of any, given the far-reaching reprocussions that the situation has. And one more question: hypothetically, if someone went into your house, drove you out with guns and fenced you into a tiny space and forced you to work for them for a substinance diet, but brought children with them, would you completely rule out the use of force for the sake of the children?

  4. Rad Geek

    Labyrus:

    The Isreali State is also not just an arbitrary grouping, it is, like any State, a bureaucratized institution which pushes people into certain institutional roles, prevents them from deviating to far from them, and most importantly, seperates people who make decisions to cause suffering from actually seeing firsthand the consequences of their actions.

    That’s fine. If you want to recommend that the Israeli government offended, or was offended, or owes, or is owed, or should compensate, or should be compensated, I don’t have a beef in principle with that. What I object to is the notion that the ambiguous-collective Israel — which Starr and others are clearly using to include some of the subjects of the Israeli government, as well as the agents of the government and the institutional structure of the government — can offend, or be offended, or owe, or be owed, or compensate, or be compensated. The Israeli government may be thought of as an acting institution; Israel is not.

    Part of the reason I object to this kind of tribalism is that it licenses gross violations of the human rights of Palestinians, on a constant basis, of much the sort that you mention (on the tribalist theory that ambiguous-collective Israel has got a right to defend itself from ambiguous-collective Palestinians, or Arab/Palestinians, or whatever the hell it is). But another reason I object to it is that it also tends to license terrorism against innocent Israelis (on the tribalist theory that any Israeli can rightly be punished for the putative crimes of the ambiguous-collective Israel); and, as I mentioned above, that it tends to stop serious consideration of the compensation that Israeli victims of terrorism are owed for their maiming or the murder of their loved ones. Because if you think (as Starr explicitly suggested) that Israeli Y sitting on property he stole from Palestinian W is supposed to compensate Israeli Z, in whole or in part, for his maiming at the hands of Palestinian X (which is what you have to think if you intend to claim that the claims just cancel each other out) then you need to think a lot harder about who was injured and who benefitted in that case.

    Incidentally, I’m not sure what you’re asking Tim here:

    And one more question: hypothetically, if someone went into your house, drove you out with guns and fenced you into a tiny space and forced you to work for them for a substinance diet, but brought children with them, would you completely rule out the use of force for the sake of the children?

    Are you asking whether risk to innocent third parties (in this case the children) necessarily rules out the use of force in order to regain your house and livelihood from trespassers? If so, it’s true there are cases of self-defense where the blame for the murder of innocent third parties may fall on the person who put them in harm’s way rather than the person who actually killed them, but that certainly doesn’t license a general campaign of targeting innocent civilians, or of targeting aggressors when you know that civilians will also be killed in the process. Roderick has a good discussion of this in his paper Thinking Our Anger (search for the section on Eric).

  5. Tim Starr

    Mr. Mendez:

    Radgeek’s argument is that Palestinian terrorism is at least in part motivated by the allegedly legitimate grievance of land theft by Israelis from Palestinians in the Israeli War of Independence. My concern has been to show that Palestinian terrorism preceded the Israeli War of Independence by decades thanks to Palestinian Nazis like Haj Amin al-Husseini, and that similar population transfers elsewhere around the same time period have not “motivated” terrorism against the present possessors of the land. Simply put: For the most part, Palestinians have no legitimate grievances against Israelis, and even if they did that would not suffice to cause their terrorism against Israelis.

    Further, I have argued that by resorting to terrorism against Israeli civilians, the Palestinians have largely forfeited any legitimate claims to lost land they may have once had. Those who try to get remedy for an injustice by perpetrating even greater injustice forfeit their claim to justice.

    As for your other question, yes, if the Israelis ever start trying to kill Palestinian civilians or steal their land (as opposed to killing or displacing them as an unavoidable by-product of trying to kill Palestinian combatants), I will hold them to the same standard. Given the Israeli track record and culture, I consider it highly unlikely that they will ever do so.

    Tim Starr
    Fight For Liberty!

  6. Tim Starr

    Labyrus:

    1) When I get accused of not understanding something by someone who does not explain what I allegedly do not understand, the accusation is usually false.

    2) It’s trivially easy to come up with a disinterested third party to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. How about Botswana? Costa Rica? Japan? Finland? New Zealand?

    3) As for your analogy, while I disagree that it is comparable to the Palestinian experience, even in that scenario I would not completely rule out the use of force for the sake of protecting the children, but I would hold that whomever was using force to try to remedy the injustice would be obligated to try not to harm the children. Israelis do that, Palestinians don’t.

    Tim Starr Fight For Liberty!

  7. labyrus

    If you want to recommend that the Israeli government offended, or was offended, or owes, or is owed, or should compensate, or should be compensated, I don’t have a beef in principle with that. What I object to is the notion that the ambiguous-collective “Israel” — which Starr and others are clearly using to include some of the subjects of the Israeli government, as well as the agents of the government and the institutional structure of the government — can offend, or be offended, or owe, or be owed, or compensate, or be compensated.

    Okay, that’s fine. I just wanted to establish the distinction. I think it is an important factor in this discussion because there are a number of Isreali civilians living on Palestinian land that did not drive the Palestinians out by force, are propably only somewhat aware of how the land came to be part of Isreal. These people purchased the land, and it isn’t theirs, but in my mind, they can’t really be the ones liable. I think there are a lot of parralels to Native Land issues here in North America. There are a number of situations in Canada (I’m less familier with the situation in the States) where the government has arbitrarily decided that disputed land was “Crown Land” and sold it to an unsuspecting third party, resulting in the third party becoming embroiled in a heated dispute and sometimes liable for damages.

    As to your second question, my question was sort of a musing about the ethics of resisting occupation. Most people would agree that it’s morally okay to fight an invading army with force, but if after awhile that army sets up permanent settlements and brings civilians into occupied land. Once again, parrallels with the occupation and settlement of the Americas come to mind.

    In this situation, I think there has been a deliberate attempt, expecially with the establishment of settlements by the Isreali government, to use their civilian population as a military weapon, and while I don’t think it’s ethically okay to blow up civilians, I’m wondering how exactly that sort of occupation can be ethically resisted. The specific question was me trying to challenge Tim to imagine himself in a similar situation before making sweeping generalisations about Palestinians.

  8. Rad Geek

    Tim Starr:

    Radgeek’s argument is that Palestinian terrorism is at least in part motivated by the allegedly legitimate grievance of land theft by Israelis from Palestinians in the Israeli War of Independence.

    No it’s not. Where did you get this? I explicitly characterized the use of terrorism as a violation of rights and was following up on your reply to a comment by Stefan in which he was explicitly suggesting that something other than terrorism might be justified.

    My interest is in the question of what an individual Palestinian who could prove a claim of land theft would be entitled to demand thereby.

    As far as the motives of terrorist groups go, they actually have quite a few different motives, depending on the faction that they’re aligned with — some of them Islamist, some of them secular-nationalist, some of them Communist, etc. — but whatever their motives, they’re all a pack of death-dealing dickheads. What else is new? My concern here isn’t with making excuses for terrorism, but rather in figuring out what innocent victims have the right to demand.

    My argument with you lies secondarily in questions about just restitution and who gets to determine it, but primarily in statements like these:

    … no one is resorting to terrorism on the pretext of reclaiming stolen land except the Palestinians.

    And:

    Any theory of justice requiring that Israelis must make it easier for Palestinians to continue trying to murder their children is no theory of justice at all.

    And, to sum it all up:

    Further, I have argued that by resorting to terrorism against Israeli civilians, the Palestinians have largely forfeited any legitimate claims to lost land they may have once had. Those who try to get remedy for an injustice by perpetrating even greater injustice forfeit their claim to justice.

    My complaint is that this is tribalism of the basest sort, with no warrant except for a doctrine of collective guilt and collective obligation. If W has land stolen by Y, and then X later commits an unjustifiable act of violence against Z, that doesn’t eliminate Y’s obligation to W, or create any new obligation that W has to Z. Even if W and X happen to be members of the same ethnic group, or subjects of the same state or quasi-state. And even if Y and Z also happen to be members of the same ethnic group, or subjects of the same state or quasi-state. The idea that obligations between people who are not related by anything other than tribal affiliation can cancel each other out has no basis except for overt collectivism.

    The best that you’ve been able to produce as an overt act to demonstrate the guilt of individual Palestinians who aren’t materially involved in terrorist operations is the outcome of a recent government election. To which I reply simply, pull the other one You then suggest that Palestinians (all of them? all the time?), even if duped or coerced and themselves innocent, may be considered conscripts of a slave army in an unjust war targeting (inter alia) Israeli civilians, and so can be attacked or at least denied access to their land on that ground, as long as — what? I’m not clear here on what you’re suggesting to be the qualifying condition for being considered an enlistee. Is this supposed to justify confiscation of property against all Palestinians? Just those who voted for Hamas? Something else?

  9. Tim Starr

    Geek:

    1) I didn’t accuse you of trying to JUSTIFY Palestinian terrorism, so your protestations that you didn’t are beside the point. What I take issue with is your EXPLANATION of Palestinian terrorism.

    2) You keep wanting to rip the question of justice for any individual wronged Palestinians out of the context of the Israeli-Palestinian War. All Palestinians are under the rule of a totalitarian regime which murders dissenters as “collaborators” with the Zionist Entity. Even if they would rather not support the ongoing terrorist war against Israelis, they are forced to do so; this also holds true even if they actually did suffer injustice at Israeli hands at some time since the start of the Israeli War of Independence.

    So long as there is a Palestinian war against Israelis, there can be no justice for any Palestinians who were wronged by Israelis. This is because for the Israelies to return land or make compensation for injustice to the Palestinians before the war is over is for the Israelis to enrich and thereby strengthen and embolden their enemies.

    3) As for your claim that I employ collective guilt, all sorts of overt acts of Palestinians qualify them as being presumptive supporters of anti-Israeli terrorism – protest marches, smuggling tunnels into their homes, use of their homes as weapons factories or storage areas, members of their family who participate in atrocities, etc.

    Combine that with the facts that the Palestinians both target Israeli civilians and do not distinguish themselves from Palestinian civilians, and that there has never been any organized Palestinian group that has been opposed to anti-Israeli terrorism and in favor of peaceful coexistence with Israel, that suffices to establish the presumption that pretty much all Palestinians support their anti-Israeli war, at least as much as any conscript in any other war. I would be perfectly willing to give any individual Palestinians who may be innocent a chance to rebut this presumption in some sort of impartial hearing once the war is over.

  10. Rad Geek

    Tim Starr:

    1) I didn’t accuse you of trying to JUSTIFY Palestinian terrorism, so your protestations that you didn’t are beside the point. What I take issue with is your EXPLANATION of Palestinian terrorism.

    My bad; I apologize for misreading you. However, I’m not trying to explain or offer potential motives for the use of terrorism by some Palestinians, either. As I said above, terrorist groups have lots of motives, only some of which are connected in any significant way with the theft of other Palestinians’ land. I never suggested that the land theft against some Palestinians explains the later use of terrorism by other Palestinians (and in fact have very little interest in how far that’s true, since it wouldn’t affect the moral status of the terrorism whether it’s true or not).

    All Palestinians are under the rule of a totalitarian regime which murders dissenters as collaborators with the Zionist Entity.

    This is false. Accepting that your characterization of the quasi-state in the Occupied Territories is accurate — although authoritarian or reign of terror would be a much more accurate phrase than totalitarian here — not all Palestinians live in the Occupied Territories in the first place; a number of them live in Israel and a number of others live as refugees in other countries.

    This is because for the Israelies to return land or make compensation for injustice to the Palestinians before the war is over is for the Israelis to enrich and thereby strengthen and embolden their enemies.

    I don’t give a damn about whether or not enemies are emboldened; people’s lives and property are not Post-It notes that you can use to write messages for the opposition. As for the claim that it will strengthen enemies, you first have to show (1) that the individual Palestinian demanding the land back is an enemy, (2) refusing to give the land back will somehow materially aid individual innocent Israelis in defending themselves from aggression, and (3) the material contribution that it makes is proportional to the force involved in denying the individual Palestinian’s demands to her or his own land.

    You have so far only attempted to demonstrate that (1) is true of each and every Palestinian (everywhere? all the time?), and weakly waved at some kind of reason for thinking that (2) is true. I think your case for (1) remains extraordinarily weak, unless you stiffen it up by helping yourself to collectivist language about the alleged obligations and offenses of Israel and Palestinians (as you repeatedly did). And your vague mention of the bare possibility that some individual Palestinian might, after having her land returned to her, contribute the awesome resources of a home and maybe an olive grove to the cause of genocidal terrorism doesn’t even amount to a case for (2); it’s at best a promissory note awaiting further evidence that this constitutes an actionable threat. (And note that the case for that threat, as well as for (1), declines dramatically if the parcel of land happens to be within the 1948 boundaries of Israel proper, rather than in the Occupied Territories, since you can no longer claim that that Palestinian is personally subject to the reign of terror you mention above to justify the treatment of all Palestinians as conscripts.)

    As for (3), you’ve offered nothing so far; which is alarming, since if you don’t offer any considerations of proportionality then you’ve offered no reasons to think that it wouldn’t be justified to deliberately target Palestinian civilians for death in military operations (in spite of claiming elsewhere that this is an important virtue on the part of the IDF), or from simply killing all Palestinians in the Occupied Territories (by, say, poisoning the well or deploying mobile killing units) in the name of defense against terrorism. After all, if there are no Palestinians, there will be no Palestinian terrorism, and you’ve declared that they all count as enemies who can legitimately be targeted. (In fact, I’d suggest that your description of them as conscripts in a slave army ratchets up the level of acceptable force to where there’s no reason that this would be unacceptable. Soldiers in an aggressing army can be killed at will if they don’t surrender to your direct control.)

    3) As for your claim that I employ collective guilt, all sorts of overt acts of Palestinians qualify them as being presumptive supporters of anti-Israeli terrorism – protest marches,

    Are you suggesting that joining a protest march constitutes an overt act of aggression against the innocent victims of a war? (E.G. that anyone who so much as played the drums in a military parade during an unjust war would thereby make themselves a legitimate military target?

    smuggling tunnels into their homes, use of their homes as weapons factories or storage areas,

    If an individual Palestinian has helped smuggle or manufacture or store arms to terrorist groups and there’s good reason to believe that she will also use the land she’s demanding back to do so, then that may constitute a good reason to refuse to give the land back until the terrorist campaigns end. That’s fine; but of how many individual Palestinian victims of land theft is this true? I don’t know, and if you know you’ve certainly made no effort to say. I’d like to suggest that that’s because you’ve been talking, so far, as if merely invoking the tribal affiliations of Israelis and Palestinians did your argumentative work for you.

    members of their family who participate in atrocities,

    This is absurd. You can’t deny that you’re relying on collective guilt and collective punishment, and then propose that people be punished for the crimes of their family members.

    … there has never been any organized Palestinian group that has been opposed to anti-Israeli terrorism and in favor of peaceful coexistence with Israel …

    This is not true. For example, there is the Palestinian Center for Rapprochement between Peoples, based in Beit Sahour, Israelis and Palestinians for Non-Violence, and other groups have actively promoted non-violence and peaceful coexistence.

    You claim that I keep wanting to rip the question of justice for any individual wronged Palestinians out of the context of the Israeli-Palestinian War. That’s not accurate: what I do want to do, however, is suggest that a state of war between two self-appointed tribal collective-bargaining agents doesn’t mean that it’s open season on the lives, land, or livelihoods of the subjects claimed by the aggressor. Before you can justify attacking people or confiscating their property, or (what comes to the same thing) refusing to return stolen property and attacking them if they try to reclaim it, you have to actually make some effort to demonstrate that this serves a legitimate military aim, and that the level of force you’re engaging in is proportional to the aim that it serves. You’ve done very little toward this, and my primary complaint throughout is that you’re using collectivist language in order to try to beg off actually making your case at the level of individuals.

  11. Tim Starr

    Geek:

    I’d like to start with a point of agreement between us: I, too, hold that a state of war does not make it “open season on the lives, land, or livelihoods of the subjects claimed by the aggressor.” I may arrive at that conclusion in a different way than you and we may disagree about the scope of permissible collateral damage, but I also regard it as obligatory to minimize collateral damage as much as possible. Nor do I hold that simply because a civilian may be contributing in some small way to aggression committed by his or her State that this makes that civilian a legitimate target, as I do hold to a standard of proportionality when it comes to the use of force.

    As for “Palestinians” living in Israel, aside from the ones in Jerusalem (a special case due to the special status of that city) they are Israeli citizens, not “Palestinians,” and as such are not relevant to this discussion as they are not at war with Israel. While you are right that there are Palestinians living outside Israel and the disputed territories, they are by and large supporters of the anti-Israeli Jihad (including libertarian Palestinians like Dean Ahmad). There may also be some Palestinian peace groups, but they unfortunately do not represent a significant portion of Palestinian opinion.

    You wrote:

    “I don’t give a damn about whether or not “enemies” are “emboldened”…”

    I.e., you don’t care if the granting of your demands would aid and abet the ongoing Palestinian attempts at genocide against the Israelis. I do.

    As for your attempt to put the burden of proof upon me to show that any individual Palestinian is an enemy of Israel, “Palestinians” who swore not to make war upon Israelis after the Israeli War of Independence became Israeli citizens. There are about a million such Israeli Arabs today who are full-fledged citizens of Israel. Of the remaining Palestinians who have not sworn off war against Israelis, public opinion polls, Palestinian Authority elections (in which even the so-called moderates like Mahmoud Abbas are Holocaust Deniers), and the decades-long track record of Palestinian actions all indicate the same conclusion: That the vast majority of Palestinians support the anti-Israeli Jihad. You may want to continue to presume Palestinians innocent until proven guilty in the face of all this evidence to the contrary, but I see no reason to do so.

    As for showing that returning land to such Palestinians will help the anti-Israeli Jihad, we need look no further than the recent Israeli withdrawal from Gaza, which resulted in the Gaza strip becoming a base for Hamas missile attacks against Israel. The Israeli withdrawal from southern Lebanon also led to an escalation of Hezbollah violence against Israel.

    As for the material contribution of land occupied by individual Palestinians to the anti-Israeli Jihad, there are all sorts of ways that such properties are materially used for that purpose. The houses in Jenin contained bomb factories for suicide bomb vests; the houses in Rafah had tunnels that went under the border into Egypt and were used for smuggling weapons into Gaza; they can also serve as safe houses for terrorists and their commanders, such as the building that Sheikh Yassin was in when he was killed by an Israeli air strike.

    As for alleged collective punishment of Palestinians for the crimes of their family members, when Palestinian children are raised by their parents to become a suicide bomber, perpetrates their suicide bombings, and are then praised publicly by their families for their act of mass-murder, the family bears some responsiblity as an accomplice to the crime. On what grounds would you deny this?

    As for the legitimate military aim of confiscating/destroying Palestinian property, and refusing to allow them to return, I can easily think of several, and could probably think of more:

    1) Stopping/preventing the use of that property for terrorist purposes, as with bomb factories, safe houses, and smuggling tunnels;

    2) Depriving the families of suicide bombers of the benefit of their family member’s martyrdom by cancelling out the “insurance” payments made to the families by Saudi Arabian charities, etc.

    3) Establishing defensible boundaries against enemy attacks.

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