10 Jewish-Palestinian Questions: A Jew-ish Libertarian Perspective: Part One

Updated: Jul 27, 2021

Note: Although this series tries to represent Israel fairly and looks to relay seldom-reported information about Israeli-Palestinian-Hamas relations, it is not biased against Palestine. When I began researching this series, I tried very hard to look beneath what many on the left declaimed as “Israeli propaganda”. I wanted to determine the “real story” behind Israel’s side of things.

What I found made me more sympathetic to Israel and the IDF, more sympathetic to the Palestinian people, more sympathetic to the Iranian people, and more outraged against their oppressors in Hamas, Fatah, and the Iranian regime.

Like most Israeli and Palestinian civilians—and in agreement with Israel’s most recent (memory-holed) peace offer extended in 2008—I believe that Israel and Palestine can co-exist, a sentiment shared by many on the ground but not shared by either the Palestinian authority or the Iran-linked militant group Hamas (Israel’s dominant martial aggressor in the current conflict).

I also know that it matters very little, to either Israel or Palestine, what I think.

Finally, I distinguish between Palestine (the state and/or its civilians); the Palestinian authority (Palestine’s governing body, led by President Mahmoud Abbas and the national-socialist democratic party, Fatah); and Hamas (Fatah’s rival faction, a fundamentalist militant organization whose military wing has close ties to Iran).

Fast Facts and Top Lines Covered in this Series:

1. Hamas’ military arm is more of an Iranian outfit than a Palestinian one.

Iran is responsible for a significant portion of Hamas’ funding; and it is likely that in the present conflict, Iran is attacking Israel via Hamas in order to circumvent and retaliate against Israeli strikes at Iran’s own munitions arsenal and nuclear development system. Palestine has never been “free”: first the Ottomans, then the British Empire, then Jordan, and now Iran have violated the Palestinian people’s rights to self-determination. Israel has proposed repeated solutions to eliminate fighting and to divide the territory into two sovereign states. Palestinian authorities have repeatedly rejected these deals, as their charters hinge on the elimination of Israel.

2.Today, many self-identified Palestinian Arabs (sometimes identified as Arab Israelis) and Jewish Israelis live, work, attend school, and serve in the Israeli Knesset (parliament) side-by-side.

Many Palestinian Arabs live peacefully with Jewish Israelis, whom they identify as friends and neighbors (several neighborhoods are ethnically diverse). I have heard from a number of Palestinians and Israelis who refer to one another as best friends, and who could not care less about ethnic or religious distinctions.

Approximately 21% of Israeli residents identify as Palestinian Arabs, whereas about 1% or fewer Palestinian residents (West Bank and Gaza Strip inhabitants) identify as Jews.

3. The above statistics also suggest that Palestinians are 2000% more likely to die in a successful Hamas strike against Israel than Israelis are to die from one of Hamas’ frequent misfires in Palestine.

As of Friday, May 14, close to 25% of all Hamas airstrikes—400 in 1800—were reported to have misfired, killing Palestinians. Hamas rockets that successfully landed in Israel without being obliterated by Israel’s Iron Dome defense system were statistically very likely to have killed or wounded Palestinians along with Israelis. Conveniently for Hamas, media death tolls, which often come from Hamas sources, only report the nationality of the dead—not the nationality of the attackers.

4. Israel does not occupy Gaza, and as of this article’s writing Israel has not occupied Gaza since 2006, when Israel voluntarily ceded territorial sovereignty to Palestine.

Since the voluntary cession, Hamas has overtaken the Gaza Strip. Israel also did not stage a ground offensive against Gaza last week. Recently, Israeli troops tried to deliver humanitarian aid to Gaza civilians and were repelled by mortar fire from Hamas.

5. Israel also voluntarily ceded administrative authority over the Temple Mount—the holiest site in Judaism—immediately following Israel’s victory in the Six-Day War of 1967.

Jews are forbidden from worshipping at the Temple Mount, per the Waqf’s administrative orders, and in an effort to prevent violence from Palestinian ultra-nationalists, who use the nearby Al-Aqsa Mosque as an attack staging site against faithful Jews.

Faithful Muslims, in turn, are also regularly precluded from worshipping at Al-Aqsa by violent outbreaks from lone-wolf Palestinian and Israeli ultra-nationalists, along with occasional Hamas-coordinated attacks.

6. Ethnically, Palestinian Arabs and Jewish Israelis are in a statistical near-deadlock throughout the region (something that should only matter for those keeping score on identity politics).

Taking the most recent Israeli and Palestinian population statistics, there are approximately 5,934,578 Palestinian Arabs in the region and about 6,894,000 Jewish Israelis.

7. Israel’s inception began with a proposed “two-state solution,” which Israel accepted and Palestine rejected.

In 1947, the U.N. offered to annex equal portions of the former British colony along the West Bank to Palestine (which has never had national sovereignty) and to the nascent state of Israel. Israel accepted; Palestine refused on the principle that neither Jews nor their “state” had any right to exist. Since then, Israel has extended at least eight peace offers, some of which have not been reported by the western press.

8. Hamas’ charter calls for the death of all Jews and the elimination of Israel. Fatah’s political program similarly calls for the obliteration of Israel and the “liquidation” of its people.

These are some of the very few areas in which Hamas and Fatah support one another.

9. Insiders report the Associated Press has willingly and complicitly shared office space with Hamas intelligence operatives for years.

AP have also willingly and complicitly buried stories about Hamas attacks that they have personally witnessed and pumped propaganda efforts that Hamas has staged to look like journalistic “scoops”. Partly in response to Hamas’ intimidation, AP has also refused to report on events and killed stories that would lend Israelis the moral high ground (such as Israel’s aforementioned 2008 peace offering). These craven cover-ups are detailed in an Atlantic whistleblower piece, and a precursor published in Tablet, by former AP Jerusalem Bureau reporter Matti Friedman (who is far more charitable toward his former colleagues than I am able to be at the moment, so I’ll let his expertly written articles do the talking for me. The Atlantic piece is lengthy—and every syllable is worth your time).

10. Essentially, every time humanitarian atrocities are committed against the Palestinian people, Hamas’ propaganda arm coordinates to make sure Israeli Jews in general, and the IDF specifically, are blamed for it.

On the other hand, Israeli attempts to lend humanitarian aid to the people of Palestine are often ignored or shooed away as cynical political ploys. For example, on the morning of Tuesday, May 18, multiple sources (even, finally, the New York Times!) report that Israel opened a section of the Gaza border (held by Hamas) to send in humanitarian aid, including fuel and medical supplies, to Palestinian civilians. As soon as the border crossing opened, Hamas immediately fired mortars against the Israelis, blocking the delivery.

Or, as Al Jazeera reported in the aftermath: “Israel closes Gaza border crossing again, halting aid.”

Such a statement is not “both true and false”: It is neither a lie, nor a truth. It is a deception.


Thursday night, Twitter alerted me that the hashtag #COVID1948 was trending on Twitter. Against my better judgment, I clicked the link.

It is never a good idea to bite on any line that pairs coronavirus clickbait with World War II aftermath clickbait.

Hannah Arendt once wrote an essay, subtitled “The Banality of Evil,” about how the Nazis slowly and deftly convinced the world of Jews’ effectual nonexistence. Among Nazism’s true believers, the antisemitism was real and ideological: impassioned, hateful, and deep.

Along the outer layers, however—within the professional class and throughout progressive society—no one needed to think about hating the Jews, or about why it was “better” to affirm certain sentiments and deny others.

Thinking certain things—or not thinking at all, but acting as though you thought certain things without knowing that you were acting like you were thinking them—was just the sort of thing one did, and decidedly did not think about. One bobbed one’s head at the right signals and trafficked in tropes without “thinking what one was doing” (another Arendtism). One uttered the right affirmations and did not ask the wrong questions because it was unpolitic; because it reflected poorly on one’s professionalism or sociability.

Arendt’s point was not that evil was banal. Her point was that evil spread in banal ways: across settings, through vessels, and within clichés too devoid of independent thought to be either good or evil.

“Both sides” can be a banal phrase through which evil seeps into the air (this is not always so); and so can “both-sides-ism.” So, too, “I’m neutral”; so, too, “you can’t be neutral.” Whether a trope is banal enough to serve as an conduit for evil depends, not on the content of the trope, but the critical self-consciousness of the purveyor.

So often, I find that the news and rhetoric on Israel and Palestine is as flooded by passion as it is swallowed by the banality of evil.

Viral twitter hashtags have just this sort of duality to them: first churned out in plumes of ire; they cascade across the digital ether and circle into cesspools of banality.

I knew this—and still I clicked.

At first my blood boiled—then it ran completely cold—as I scrolled through an endless stream of star of David = swastika gifs, graphic photographs of children (Israeli or Palestinian—it was impossible to tell) mutilated by explosives (Israeli or Palestinian—it was impossible to tell), and cartoons of the New Jersey-sized sliver of land that’s suddenly become a literal and ideological war zone, cast only in the colors of the Palestinian flag. The words ‘peace = free Palestine’ were emblazoned above the image. Israel was entirely wiped out of the picture.

It did not exist.

Libertarians tend to look askance at the military affairs of Israel—not because they dispute its right to exist or find the Palestinian authority morally blameless—but because Israel seems to serve as a metonym, or at least a composite, for “All Those Foreign Countries That Receive U.S. Taxpayer Money”.

Granted, Israel has received a lot of taxpayer money from the U.S. since, well, about 1948. The #COVID1948 hashtag implies that the creation of the state of Israel was, itself, a virus.

Ask any Zionist, save for the ultra-right-wing ultra-nationalists among them, and they will tell you that they support a Palestinian state. Everything I know about Islam tells me it’s a religion of peace.

(Zionism, for those unaware, is the belief that the people of Israel should have a state. Zionism is not a claim against the people of Palestine, nor against their right to a state.)

Hashtags don’t speak for populations. I’ve never heard a Jew, Israeli or otherwise, refer to the concept of Palestine as a virus. Nor do most Palestinians consider Israelis viral bottom-feeders. There’s a distinction between Hamas, the Palestinian authority, and Palestinian civilians, and we’ll get to it in this series.

All of that ignores the fact that Iran-loyal militant group Hamas receives plenty of U.S. taxpayer money too, albeit indirectly (from the billions of taxpayer dollars funneled to Iran); but suffice it to say, Israel gets plenty as well. (Palestine, too, will be reaping at least $235 million in U.S. funds this year).

As an Iranian man about my age admonished a virtual room last night: “you cannot blame this only on Hamas. If you want to kill a snake, you must cut off the head.”

Peals of light laughter pinged across the microphones of several Israelis in the room, and quicky one of them explained: “My brother, every Iranian says that.”

“Yes! Yes—! We say it because we know,” the gentleman emphasized, “that until the foreign governments stop this aid to the Iranian government, there will be no peace. Their money does not go to the people. We do not see a dime. It goes to the Iranian government, and from there, to Hamas in Palestine. Today you are fighting Hamas, tomorrow Hezbollah, the day after that, maybe another Arafat. You must cut off the head.”

“We just want peace,” another sighed wearily.

The goal of this series is not to vindicate whatever portion of your salary is being spent in Israel, or Palestine, or Iran; nor is it to make you happy that we have a long, storied, and occasionally ill-fated history of rocket-swapping with Israel and… well, you can watch those hearings on YouTube.

The goal of this series is to combat the sphere of misinformation to which libertarians, generally the most pacifistic group of Americans by ideology, are uncharacteristically vulnerable: the distortions pertaining to Israel’s role in the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

I am not going to tell you that the Israeli government is innocent. I am simply going to try, as best as I can, to give you information that is difficult to come by in most Western news outlets. Over four posts, I’ll cover:

  1. Territorial Sovereignty and Encroachment

  2. Ethnic Cleansing and Postponing Elections

  3. Death Tolls and Holy Sites

  4. The IDF, the Press, and the “Moral High Ground”

And I’ll begin now.

Part One, Question 1: Territorial Sovereignty and Encroachment

Question 1. What’s up with “Free Palestine?” Did Israel seize Palestine’s independence from them?

No. When the territory now in dispute was annexed from Great Britain in 1947, Palestine was not a sovereign state. Palestinian territorial sovereignty had passed from Ottoman hands into British colonial dominion and, by the late 1940s, the area had become impossible to manage as a result of unremitting Arab-Jewish violence.

You may have seen this meme circulating on social media, illustrating how Israel’s share of the Israeli-Palestinian territory has changed since 1947. It’s missing some details (along with a 2008 ‘coulda been’ slide). Let’s talk about it (and ignore the misspelling).

(Or almost ignore the misspelling.)

Notwithstanding that this image glosses the number of declared Palestinians who live peacefully in Israel (approximately one in five Israeli inhabitants are Palestinian), versus declared Israelis in Palestine (one in one hundred, at most)—the graphics are important. Particularly so because of the dates on the bottom right of each one.

History Time!

Image #1, 1946: Accurate on the surface—though worth noting we’re not looking at a free Palestine, but a British colonial state. Colonial Palestine contained significant populations of Jews and Arabs, who were constantly at one another’s throats.

This image shows a demographically heterogeneous (albeit plurality Arab) territory that, politically speaking, “belongs” to neither Jews nor Arabs.

Image #2, 1947 “UN Plan”: What was wrong with this picture? Nothing—for the Jewish population of Palestine. For the militant Arab population, the problem was the legitimation of the current Jewish population’s presence in the region.

In 1947, the United Nations offered to split colonial Palestine between the Jews and the regional Arabs, giving each party sovereignty over a portion of the territory. The Jews accepted the offer; the Arabs rejected it, alleging that the Jews had no right to a state of their own.

In 1948, the Jews issued a Declaration of Independence, and the Palestinian Arabs, along with Lebanon, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, and North Yemen, invaded. (The future Israel did get a little outside help from volunteer troops in Mahal.)

Eventually—or at least provisionally—the Jews prevailed—a victory that Tolerant Progressives™ the world over now commemorate with the ‘COVID1948’ hashtag and protests in the streets of major urban areas, including U.S. cities like my own.

When State A and State B are both offered sovereignty over separate territories; State A accepts; State B rejects; State A is gung-ho enough about the whole independence thing to fight for it; and State B is gung-ho enough about the whole “no independence for anyone if it means independence for State A,” thing to fight back (and to enlist the help of States C, D, E, F, G, H, and I); you get…

Image #3, 1949–1967: Independent Israelis. In 1949, Palestine passed into the conservatorship of the Kingdom of Jordan; and in 1950, Jordan granted Palestinians Jordanian citizenship rights.

What happened in 1967—after 18 years—to make Israel discontented with its current position in the region?

The same thing.

Jordan (including Palestine), Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, and Pakistan decided to seize Israel and wage genocide against Israeli Jews. Again, Israel prevailed, and—for the first time in Jewish history—their people took ownership of the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site.

The Temple Mount is also home to the Al-Aqsa Mosque, Islam’s third holiest site (no, I don’t know how anyone does these rankings). When Israel acquired the Temple Mount, they were so intent to make this shared holy site a place of peace that they immediately relinquished administrative ownership to Jordan (the custodian of Palestine), on the condition that Israelis could remain responsible for maintaining the security there, acting per Jordanian mandate. This makes sense from all angles, seeing as Israel had just demonstrated that its defense capacity outstripped the combined military powers of Jordan, Syria, Egypt, Iraq, Lebanon, and Pakistan.

One of the first things Palestinian-Jordanian authorities did, in turn, was make it illegal for Jews to pray at the Temple Mount.

“In 1500 years, the Jews only took the Temple Mount once,” says Jason Harris of the Jew Oughta Know Podcast; “and the first thing they did was hand it back to the Muslims—and the Palestinian leaders know this.”

The prohibition continues to this day.

Missing Image #4, 2006 Voluntary Israeli Retreat: More recently (2006), Israel cleared IDF forces out of Gaza entirely, ceding total sovereignty to Palestine. Since then, the Iranian-backed militant outfit Hamas has overtaken the area and established de facto territorial authority along the strip. Hamas and the Palestinian Authority have been accused of multiple human rights abuses against Palestinian civilians in the area.

Missing Image #5, 2008 Peace Plan: In 2008, Israel put forward yet another peace offering that would have paved the way to the chimerical “two-state solution” neoliberals love so much (no shade; I dig it, too). You can read about what that would have looked like in the first reference link of this article (okay, here). Again, Palestinian authorities rejected the offer.

In 2011, an independent human rights commission found the Palestinian Authority and Hamas responsible for a number of human rights violations against Palestinian civilians, including press censorship and intimidation; torture; unjustified arrests; and arbitrary detentions.

So, yes—we should free Palestine. And that can coincide with Zionism.