In which I reveal my Loyalist sympathies

Via Spencer Ackerman is George Gilder’s pretty reprehensible argument in favor of Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories:

[KATHRYN JEAN] LOPEZ: What do you mean these wretched refugees benefited from Israel?

GILDER: The key period was between 1967 and 1987 when the Israelis administered the territories after Arabs refused all negotiations with their famous three “nos.” The Arabs were adamant against trading “land for peace” following their defeat in the ’67 war, so Israel inherited the territories.

During this 20-year period under Israeli rule, some 250,000 Israelis settled in the Territories. These were the supposedly predatory settlers. They supplied the infrastructure of power, water, education, and medical care that attracted nearly ten Arab settlers for every one Israeli. During this period, the economy in the territories grew some 25 percent per year, nearly the fastest in the world, and far faster than that of Israel itself, which was still bogged down in socialism. Arab life expectancy rose from 40 to around 70. Their incomes tripled while their population soared. Seven universities and 2,500 factories were established. It was the golden age for Palestinian Arabs.

Ackerman is right to compare this to the contention – occasionally made by retrograde conservatives/modern-day confederate-sympathizers – that American slavery wasn’t so bad, as it brought Africans to America, which is so much more awesome than Africa, or something.  In fact, you can extend this argument to almost any instance of oppression; British domination of India wasn’t a complete wash, after all, Indians benefited from British education, British industry and British culture.  Yes, a few million Indians had to die for “civilization,” but really, higher prices have been paid for less.

That said, I wonder if George Gilder – or any other American neo-colonialist – would make the same argument in support of Britain’s control over the American colonies.  Again, the United States owes much of its early prosperity to British industry and British markets.  Indeed, it goes far deeper than that; the entire American tradition of self-governance grows out of British conceptions of representative government.  It’s always worth remembering that before the American revolutionaries were revolutionaries, they were Englishmen qua Englishmen fighting for their God-given rights as British citizens.  The logic that Gilder uses to justify Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories almost certainly applies to British occupation of the American territories, and I’m honestly curious as to whether he would have opposed revolutionary efforts to sever America from the crown (for what its worth, I probably would have, if I were a land-owning white dude).

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14 thoughts on “In which I reveal my Loyalist sympathies

  1. Apologists for all sorts of aggressive behavior – whether it be the brutal Israeli occupation, the invasion of Iraq, or the near genocide of the Native Americans – seem to have a uniform belief that the victims of their aggression are lesser creatures and should be thankful that we “set things right.”

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    By the way… I’ve seen an explosion in use of the word ‘qua’ on this blog. What gives? Isn’t ‘as’ shorter, clearer and less pretentious?

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  2. “The logic that Gilder uses to justify Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories almost certainly applies to British occupation of the American territories”

    I don’t think this is all that far outside the generally accepted historical intepretation of the American colonies, is it? It’s discussed quite openly in standard works such as Gordon Wood’s “The Radicalism of the American Revolution.”

    Clearly, the interpretation that the colonies benefited from their affiliations with the Crown are… true. Both in terms of direct economic ties and more deeply embedded cultural and political forces. Does anyone doubt the Founders’ debt to Locke and Smith and all the rest?

    “I’m honestly curious as to whether he would have opposed revolutionary efforts to sever America from the crown (for what its worth, I probably would have, if I were a land-owning white dude). ”

    Yet… the people who spearheaded the revolution were land-owning white dudes.

    All that being said, I am not sure there are that many useful parallels between the colonials and the Palestinians. Perhaps a more useful analogy would be the Crown versus the Indians, or some such.

    That is, I am not sure Geroge Washington=Yassar Arafat holds in any meaningful way.

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    • I agree. Canada by itself is a problem for the comparisons. Had the revolution not happened I’m not sure how much different the U.S. would look today. Maybe there’d be a parliamentary dominion of America? Actually, now that I think about it there probably wouldn’t even be a Canada. The British would probably have been happy to just parcel the whole continent off as one big dominion.

      I’d agree a comparison to Crown vs. Indians is somewhat more accurate though it seems to me there are a lot more layers of complexity involved in the Israel/Palestinian issue than the Colonists/Native Americans comparison possesses.

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    • I don’t know. For purposes of the point in this post, I think the analogy between the American Revolution and Palestine holds, even if it wouldn’t hold in most other contexts. I say that because the point here is that Gilder is relying on a strictly utilitarian calculus in which economic prosperity trumps all other considerations, a calculus that he would have to reject if he were seeking to justify the American Revolution. It’s difficult to see how you can say that it was appropriate for the Revolutionaries to value various liberties over economic prosperity but inappropriate for Palestinians to do so.

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      • I suppose, but it doesn’t work for me since the fact remains that the Revolutionaries were themselves transplanted invaders. Actually on further thought I guess there are parralells since the Palestinians on the ground during each phase of the Israeli invasion/immigration were themselves transplants from an earlier invasion. Good point there.

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  3. Ah the settlements. It’s funny business in Israel (I have some friends there). The general Israeli consensus is that they will have to go. They’re demographic cyanide for the state. But the settlers have a deep entrenched interest in the government, a lot of institutional supports and such put into place that are going to take a lot of political oomph to remove. The settlers are a huge minority but they’re a passionate minority and they’ll have to be literally dragged kicking and screaming out of the west bank. Kadima was formed very much for this kind of action but when they extricated themselves from Gaza a combination of Sharon’s very untimely stroke and the rainstorm of rockets from the returned territory flattened that initiative. From my own conversations the situation appears to be that:
    -Most Israelis agree that the settlements will have to go (except the ones they don’t consider settlements around Jerusalem for which they want to exchange equal amounts of territory from within Israel proper).
    -Having experienced the debacle of Gaza, most Israelis only want to go through the trouble and effort of dragging their fundamentalist wing out of the territories if they can get something semi-concrete from the Palestinians and Arabs in return like meaningful attempts to prevent terrorism, recognition, a genuine end to incitement, a final status agreement on borders or maybe an end to the nonsensical right of return demands.

    I’d add that Israel’s Parliamentary system really hobbles the country on this subject. The fundamentalist parties can magnify their dedication into some meaningful clout and can threaten to bring down governments. If the government was elected to set terms like in the U.S. the settlements quite possibly would be gone by now.

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  4. Gilder’s argument is, indeed, reprehensible, an inhumane utilitarian (as Mark puts it) calculus that is doubtful on its own terms. We can never know, had the Palestinian and other Arab leaderships been willing to trade peace and a recognition of Israel for land as far back as soon after the ’67 war, or even ’73, when they could all feel a little better, how the Palestinian people might have fared economically in their own state these many years. Israel, and ardent – even while critical – supporters of Israel do not benefit from the support of the likes of Gilder.

    That said, there are aspects of your post I’ll take issue with, Jamelle. Ackerman does not directly compare Gilder’s callous claim about the Palestinians to the heinous claim about slavery. He cites the latter as an example of Horowitz’s gambits. He would be wrong to make such a comparison. However unfortunate have been the lives of Palestinians these many years, they are not an enslaved people – far from it. Entertaining the comparison, even for purposes of considering the economic gain argument Gilder raises, presents the danger – if not done very carefully – of seriously maligning Israel.

    Next, your use of variants of the expression “Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories” is problematic in two ways. The exact range of your reference is, I grant, unclear, but accordingly leaves open the easy reading of a) a set of lands that were legally established as the land of the Palestinian people and b) that Israel occupies (all) of them. One can be a firm supporter of the creation of a Palestinian state on the West Bank and in Gaza, as I am, while still wishing accuracy in the way we all articulate the situation. These lands were part of Britain’s Palestine Mandate, but so was what is now Israel. Then the West Bank, for one, was governed by Jordan. At the time of the ’67 war there was no plan by Jordan to relinquish control of that territory for the creation of a Palestinian state. Though pretty much everyone other than fanatical Israeli settlers recognizes now that those lands will one day form the basis of a Palestinian state, “Israeli occupation of Palestinian territories” offers the suggestion that there were lands that belonged to the Palestinians and that Israel occupied them.

    I know that the term “Palestinian territories” is one of several commonly used formulations, but especially in conjunction with “Israeli occupation” it helps to establish a reality in language (I play here off the “reality on the ground” that Likud hoped to establish through the settlements) that is false. Likewise, though the term occupation is used almost as a syntactical connector between Israel and Palestinians, it needs to be remembered that for almost all of the time since 1993, the majority of the Palestinian people – however difficult their lives – have not lived under Israeli occupation but under the governance of some kind of Palestinian authority.

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  5. Ironically some of the neo-confederates at Lew Rockwell have been arguing of late that it would have been better if America remained a British colony. I suppose though that it’s part of a consistent anti-War stance.

    Howard Zinn argues as well it would have been better if America remained a British Colony.

    Honestly Toryish conservatives like Gilder I don’t see why this argument should act as such a reductio ad absurdum. So what if America remained a British Colony, then we’d be more like Canada. How horrible that would be.

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  6. Actually, to really annoy the K-Lo’s—and especially the Horowitzes—of the world, the better comparison would be to the Roman conquest of the Hebrews. The Hebrews were, after all, one of the more civilized tribes of the Middle East, but still fairly backwards before the Romans conquered them. Remember “Life of Brian”—“But apart from the sanitation, the medicine, education, wine, public order, irrigation, roads, a freshwater system, and public health, what have the Romans ever done for us?” Yet the Hebrews were never properly grateful!

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  7. “For purposes of the point in this post, I think the analogy between the American Revolution and Palestine holds,”

    Except Washington and Jefferson were never offered independence four times and rejected those offer because they wanted to take over all of England and kick the English out.

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