The State of Israel is a rather controversial point in international politics. Between 2006 and 2015, the United Nations condemned Israel more than any other single state (see below). Indeed, former Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon has been quoted as saying that the UN has ordered a “disproportionate number of resolutions…criticizing Israel“. Outside of the UN, Canada and other nations have begun to fund organizations tied to Hamas, a terrorist organization espousing views of Islamic Nationalism and Antisemitism.
All of this anti-Zionism, in my opinion, amounts to nothing constructive for the United States. As I will explain in this essay, it is not out of partisanship, but out of common sense that the U.S.A. should support Israel.
First off, we should begin with a basic historical background. With the decline of the Ottoman Empire and through a series of complicated political treaties done by the League of Nations, Britain obtained control of Israel, Palestine, and certain surrounding areas which became known as the British Mandate Palestine. From this confusing title comes a common anti-Zionist misconception, namely, that Israel and Jews “occupied Palestine.” While it is true that the current State of Israel occupies the land that was once British Mandate Palestine, it is untrue that no Jews or Zionists had been there previously.
In 1948, the United Nations issued a partition plan for a Jewish and Palestinian State. Before the date that partition was meant to occur, in response to British policies that refused Holocaust survivors emigration to Mandate Palestine, David Ben-Gurion and others issues the Israeli Declaration of Independence. In the ensuing weeks, Arab forces invaded and attacked Israel and Israeli towns. The State of Israel fought them off and eventually counter-invaded the Golan Heights and the Sinai Peninsula. Though many anti-Zionists claim that this is a sign of Israeli Militarism, it is clear that the complex political-military situation cannot be reduced to a simplistic dichotomy of Israeli aggression. Indeed, Israel has long been friendly with Jordan and Egypt, and this friendliness is a source of stability in the Middle East.
Now that we have examined and diffused the historical arguments against Zionism, we can take into account historical arguments for supporting the State of Israel:
- Since the UN, UK, and US supported the creation of the Jewish State, we should support them in conflicts that arise from the existence of the Jewish State.
- Given the fact that the U.S. failed to fight the Holocaust promptly, we owe it to the Jewish people (as West Germany recognized under Konrad Adenauer) to fight for a home for their people.
- Given the fact that Israel seems open to peace, we have the special opportunity to be an armed arbitrator in this dispute.
Beyond the historical, we have modern day reasons to support Israel as well. While some may worry that the State of Israel is a nationalistic enterprise due to their conscription policy, it is in fact the freest state in the Middle East. According to the Cato Institute’s Human Freedom Index, Israel ranks 52 for total freedom, with its economic freedom rank from The Heritage Foundation’s Index of Economic Freedom 36th. The next place in the Middle East on Cato’s list is Turkey, with Rank 73; the average rank for the Middle East is 117, and the second lowest ranked nation (Yemen, at 158) is in the Middle East. For the Heritage Economic list, Israel ranks better than all but two Middle Eastern countries. It is this very clear that the State of Israel has little empirically present repressive qualities to its regime. Further, many of the problematic parts of Israeli politics (including conscription) are actions that are taken mostly out of the need to defend the State against foreign aggression. Given the increasing rarity of Western republics across the globe (and especially in the Middle East), the United States has a duty to promote stability, economic freedom, and personal liberty through support for Israel. Indeed, while one might find my statement an argument for nation-building, it is apparent that the State of Israel is already both legitimate and legitimately free.
Personally, I find the existence of a free, Western, liberal nation justification enough for support for it. As Jonah Goldberg writes,
… my position on Israel is pretty close to my position on, say, Great Britain, Japan, or Australia. It’s a democratic country. It respects the rule of law. It’s a strategic ally. And, that’s sort of about it. It’s not complicated. […]
If Britain were somehow surrounded and besieged by existential enemies. my position — and I hope America’s position — would be: “We’re with the Brits.” That doesn’t mean we’d automatically send troops or start a war and all that. Those are prudential, tactical, questions to be worked out with our allies, etc. But the principle couldn’t be simpler.
However, I understand the concerns of many libertarians who lie further to my left on military and geopolitical issues. They might say that support for Israel is direct aggression against Muslim nations, and point to the Palestinians stuck in warfare as proof of the poisonous effects of support for Israel. However, the former of these is fallacious because it assumes that the existence of Israel itself is the cause of the intolerance of some Middle Eastern Nations. The latter of these claims wrongly places the blame of warfare squarely on Israel. The conflict between the PLO, Hamas, and Israel is one of several loosely organized groups (who often use terrorism as a military tactic) against a well-defined government-run army. It is clear that Palestine will suffer, as Israel has, from the universal cost of war: namely, human lives.
Beyond the fact that Israel is a bastion of humanity in a sea of uncertainty and barbarism, it is a matter of geopolitical necessity to have a legitimate, non-OPEC ally in the region for security and stability purposes. Israel acts as a check on Saudi-Emirati power, and sits strategically between West Asia and North Africa. Further, Israel benefits the U.S. economy, with 13 billion dollars of exports to and 22 billion dollars of imports from Israel in 2016 alone. Finally, consider the fact that support for Israel will make Israel more likely to depend on and trust the U.S.A., meaning that peace talks will be more likely to have an effect when they come.
Now, it is necessary to say that the U.S. must support Israel in a constructive manner. American support must not be done such that it solely props up war or the Israeli government; aiding Israel militarily and politically when necessary is fine, but not ideal in the long-run. Instead, American aid should come in the form of trade agreements, infrastructure aid, immigration reform, greater dual-citizenship opportunities, and the creation of capital channels to the Israeli economy. However, the argument that our money is wasted on Israel is incorrect: the severe geopolitical costs of losing Israel (not only in terms of strategy but also in terms of radicalization, power vacuum between West Asia and North Africa, and trade) far outweigh the costs of the principle of support. Further, the United States should support some form of representation (either a two- or three-state solution, or one state with resettlement retribution) for Palestinians, and ensure that these people are not being unjustly harmed. However, it is overwhelmingly the case—historically, philosophically, economically, and politically—that the United States should support the State of Israel.