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An anarcho-libertarian perspective on Israel

Christian Michel sees Israel’s problems as rooted not in geography but in what it is.

It has been said that Israel is ‘a state in the wrong place’.

But Israel’s problem is not that it is a state in the wrong place (where else should it be?), it is that it is a State. Because it was artificially established from the outside, its sovereignty is questioned inside (as is the case by minorities of so many states set up by their colonial powers, notably in Africa and the ex-Soviet Union).

But Israel’s problems only anticipate those to be faced sooner or later by Belgium, Switzerland, Italy, Spain, to name a few in Europe. A modern State, all the more so if it claims to be democratic, is viable only when it rules a totally homogenous, uniform, undifferentiated population. Yet, whether we like it or not, populations will get more and more differentiated, by fortune, by education, by new ethnic awareness, by culture. States will either have to level down differences through brutal ethnic cleansing and economic intervention, with the risk of stifling innovation and prosperity, let alone human rights; or withdraw.

In my childhood liberal Christian environment, Jews were regarded as the “chosen people”, our “elders in the faith”. When anarchist issues became of interest, Jews appeared to me as the obvious model of a God-given historically proven example that human beings’ social identity is not attached to a land, it is not dependent on some bureaucracy conferring citizenships. We can live collectively without these artificial constructs. Jews managed to do it despite persecutions for 2000 years.

This constant and admirable refusal to be assimilated and reduced to the single dimension of a subject attached to a land and a state is a root of anti-semitism. It is not the ‘deicidal people’ that Hitler hated, but the ‘wandering’ one. Hitler’s fight, his ‘Kampf’, was not so much against Jews as such, as against cosmopolitanism. The Communist was an enemy (the name USSR with no reference to a land was a statement of the internationalist nature of communism at the time), the Capitalist was another one, so were the landless Gypsies and Jews. It is no coincidence, of course, that Jews were so heavily represented in both capitalist and communist elites.

An extraordinary paradox of our time, then, is that Israel is established just when the world is discovering the absurdity of social organizations based on the junction of a territory, a people and a government (ein Reich, ein Volk, ein Führer). Inherited from the French Revolution, the dogma that all three had to go together led to the Versailles Treaty and its disastrous consequences. It is still causing today ethnic cleansing through forced assimilation, deportation or elimination.

The creation of a State of Israel after the Holocaust might have seemed a good idea to some. Jews wanted a country of their own where they would be safe and not dependent on the goodwill of alien governments. It turns out that Jews are safe everywhere except in Israel, and Israel survives only thanks to the goodwill of a few alien governments.

Sacred texts, whether the Bible or the Koran, are metaphors. The universe was not created in 6 days and the Promised Land is not 20,000 sq. km between Eilat and the Golan. Land belongs legitimately to individuals only, not States, and the only Promise to look for is that it will remain your property to enjoy until you give it away, sell it or die. It matters little then that neighbours are Palestinian and Jews, provided they respect property rights. And provided they don’t need to get control of a government, either because no government exists, or it is powerless anyway to redistribute their wealth, subsidize their business, educate their children, run their police, ban what they will eat or drink, dictate how they should dress and when they should fast and close their shops… compare Palestine before the State of Israel and today.

That is the lesson Jews had been teaching us throughout History, how to remain yourself among others. They have discharged themselves of this mission with terrible consequences. Maybe that torch has passed on to Libertarians.

Christian Michel also writes on liberalia.com, one of Europe’s leading libertarian websites. All texts available in English and French.

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