Rethinking Israel

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I’ve found that when Israel is brought up in conversation, the knee-jerk reaction for many self-proclaimed Libertarians is to rail against the 50-year-old nation. The sentiment towards Israel that pervades your average Libertarian’s thinking is overwhelmingly negative.

Now, that’s not entirely uncalled for. What we see in the media is Israel’s outrageous behavior to their Palestinian neighbors; not only do we hear about the Israeli government encroaching on the right to self-govern by the Palestinian Liberation Organization, we also hear about the violence that accompanies being Israel’s neighbor. It’s not uncommon for the situation in the Gaza Strip or the West Bank to be described as Israel’s “brutal occupation” of territory that shouldn’t belong to them. The suggestion that Israeli-erected borders on the Gaza Strip or the West Bank exist for legitimate security concerns is scoffed at by Libertarians as an excuse; the barriers must be the result of Israel’s disdain for the policies of those elected to govern in those areas.

While these images of Israel provide plenty of fuel for debate, they are only a narrative. As someone who had the privilege to spend the first part of the New Year in Israel, I not only interacted with those issues up-close, but I spent days on the borders of the Gaza Strip, Syria, and Lebanon: and I can tell you that the presentation of Israel we receive is simply inaccurate.

What we don’t see in the media are the young Israeli children who spend their afternoons playing on peculiar-looking playgrounds; playgrounds which, cleverly disguised with bright colors and painted like happy animals, are actually bomb shelters because at any moment their neighborhood might be the target of a rocket from someone in the Gaza strip. What we don’t see is the Israeli Muslim who doesn’t feel safe leaving the country, because in many of the surrounding areas his family and his neighbors would be subject to horrific violence from their own government. What you don’t see are the kibbutz villages that litter the border of the Gaza Strip, Syria, and Lebanon, with families who have lived there for years, perpetually dealing with the reality that is living so close to violent, absolutist rule. We never see footage of the young Israeli mothers who are too scared to take their infants for a walk around their neighborhood, mothers whose flower pots lining their windows are the recycled shells of rockets that have fallen into their yard.

What Libertarians don’t see reported is that the IDF (the Israeli military) are staunch adherents to a policy that forbids the harming of civilians – no matter what. Now most Libertarians, myself included, are absolutely disgusted with the last two American administrations’ treatment of civilians in the Middle East, where indiscriminately bombing villages and drone strikes were commonplace regardless of any “collateral damage” that may occur. So wouldn’t a military that, in the face of threats from quite literally every border of their nation, refuses to harm civilians be something to be praised from the Libertarian side? It should be. But that’s not what is shown in the media. To all of this, I would warn fellow Libertarians to listen to the advice they so staunchly proclaim when discussing domestic issues: do not believe everything you read, and do not trust the media – American or foreign – to give you an accurate depiction of Israel.

Is Israel perfect? Absolutely not. Their government is socialist, they are constantly at war with other nations, and they take about $3 million in U.S. government aid every year. But they are not the ruthless, religious bigots mowing over opposing peoples that we are shown every day. Supporting Israel does not mean continued American intervention, or tattooing the Star of David on your sleeve. But if Libertarians want to be accurately known as the voice for peace, we need to start by making ourselves even more educated about the realities of the Middle East, and be consistent in our consumption of the media.

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