Posts tagged Israel

Column on th BBC’s Sorry Journalism

The BBC’s Sorry Journalism

Tibor R. Machan

The BBC recently published the following in a report about the Republican primary contest in Iowa: “Correspondents say a Ron Paul victory in Iowa would be a major embarrassment to the Republican party as many of his views are seen as too libertarian and isolationist. Mr. Paul would order a $1 trillion (£641bn) spending cut, eliminating a number of government agencies, including the Department of Education. He also proposes returning the dollar to a gold standard and cutting all foreign aid, including to Israel….”

“At a recent campaign stop in Iowa a breast cancer survivor began crying after he told her insurance companies should not have to cover those who are already sick, Reuters news agency reports….”

This passage is worth some attention if only because those of us who have sympathies toward Representative Paul’s libertarian politics should not duck out when opponents target him for criticism, be it fair or not. Let me start with the last bit, the treatment of a crying breast cancer survivor as a kind of “gotcha” device versus Paul. (And incidentally, who are those correspondents who say that Paul’s “victory would be a major embarrassment to the Republican party”? Let’s have some names her, some attributions, by BBC!)

Now we all have hopes and wishes that people will be helpful to and supportive of us, especially when we suffer from maladies or hazardous conditions we had no role in bringing about. Casualties of acts of nature do often deserve our sympathy and even help, unless they have been negligent in taking precautionary measures, such as saving up for health insurance. Even in cases when one has been negligent, often others overlook this and tend to be considerate beyond the call of duty, as it were.

Representative Paul and other libertarians are often first in line with offering private support to such people. The citizens of the US are often first in lending a hand to those who have been hit with natural disasters, like a tsunami or earthquake, and the essence of generosity is precisely that, offering private support and aid to those in need.

What Paul and libertarians in general object to is the coerced support given to those in need by governments are expropriate resources from the citizenry, take a sizable chunk of it for administrative expenses, and distribute the funds according to the lights of the politicians and bureaucrats. This kind of forcible distribution of others’ money is what libertarians are against as a matter of principle and Ron Paul is no exception. This does not at all make him or libertarians callous, heartless, cruel or anything of the kind, however much many claim this about them, ones to whom it seems to come very naturally to confiscate other people’s resources and do with it as they think they should. (I explain this in some detail in my book, Generosity, Virtue in Civil Society [1998].)

As to the cuts supported by Ron Paul, I would urge those who are going to give the matter some thought to consider, once again, that these cuts are an effort to eliminate or at least reduce the forcible taking by some people of the resources that belong to others and to which they have no right whatever. All charitable, helpful acts must be voluntary otherwise they have no moral merit whatsoever. Yes, there are some spurious arguments claiming that out good behavior may, indeed must, be imposed upon us by wiser and more virtuous people than we are but it is just a ruse. No one can make other people moral except by example!

This also applied to foreign aid, be it to Israel or Mongolia. People abroad aren’t entitled to the property of Americans or anyone else who has not voluntarily given it to them. Israel is no exception!

Unfortunately this line of thinking is rarely if every presented to readers in an accurate way so they could consider it without bias. Instead journalists have a dogmatic commitment to the coercion involved in government support for the needy, failing to even mention that kind of thinking summarized above and making it appear that those who do share it are monsters.

Lost of people also mistakenly identify the coercive taking of people resources with Robin Hoodism but in fact Robin Hood took back from the tax takers what they forcibly took for the those whom they victimized. The proper approach to seeing people in need is to mount a serious, voluntary effort to secure support for them, starting with one’s own, not to advocate taking from them what belongs to them and what only they have the rightful authority to give away.

Now in a messy world it is very difficult to be principled and trying to be usually brings on the charge of being an ideologue, a blind adherent to simplistic ideas. But in fact it shows integrity, nothing less! And it is time that politicians show some of it because without integrity the game is up anyway–trust, honesty, responsibility and all such virtue go out the window, never mind simple, honest generosity.

Column on Israel and Obama: What’s Up with That?

Israel & Obama: What’s Up With That?

Tibor R. Machan

Once again I hasten to point out that this isn’t something I know very much about, especially if to understand it one has to be informed about the entire history of the conflict between Israel and Palestine. Still, as my mother used to say in the last years of her life, it is difficult to fathom why Israel is being picked on so much? Is it religion? Is it its closeness to the United States of America?

Some will say Israel is an artificial entity but that cannot be it–nearly every country is an artificial entity. All borders are made up. The only difference is how recently! And, as the work of Professor Barry Smith of SUNY Buffalo has shown, some of them are more sensible, as when they follow some coast line or river, than others, when they attempt to carve out some kind of geometrical area for themselves.

But here the issue of borders is moot. Let’s just realize that when a country has deadly enemies around it, the size of the area which separates it from those enemies makes a lot of difference. President Obama has proposed that Israel go back to the pre-1967 borders where it would be surrounded by such groups as Hamas and separated from them by only six miles. A great many influential people living in these regions are on record wanting Israel to disappear, to be abolished as a country.

Even if one has little sympathy for Israel’s official viewpoint, no one in his right mind can expect the leaders of that country to comply with President Obama’s suggestion. It is a recommendation for suicide.

But why? Mr. Obama himself appears to be committing something near political suicide since a great many Americans of a wide variety of persuasions about Israel would not favor his recommendation. Responses to his proposal confirm this. It just makes no sense given how the main purpose of government is to protect the citizens’ rights and for the Israeli government this must mean keeping the likes of Hamas at a distance that is safe. And no one can argue that by going back to the 1967 borders this task can be achieved, not especially with the great technical advances in the range of offensive weapons since 1967!

So I just do not get it. What is Mr. Obama after? Does he want to endear himself to all those countries that are anti-Israeli? Is he trying to befriend anti-Semites around the world? It isn’t even fathomable that he has thought this through carefully, at least not with the information available to those who have been following his public utterances about the matter. Does he perhaps simply want to foster a total stalemate, given how it makes no sense to think that Israel will follow this suggestion or even that Mr. Obama could believe that Israel would do so.

Whatever one’s view is of Israel it cannot be sensible to demand that the country voluntarily abolish itself. So then what is this all about? Is it just some kind of geopolitical gambit to the effect that Israel can be given up, even after decades of “investment” in the country made at the expense of the American taxpayer? (Not that this could be justified morally but perhaps given the statist nature of most diplomacy it could make some sense.)

Or is it really simply plain, unabashed anti-Semitism? I was once witness to this, when I lived briefly with my father in Munich and in America where he never let up on his virulent hatred of Jews. I remember that it was completely irrational–for instance, at one time he concocted the notion that Jews in Hollywood conspired to cast actors who “looked Jewish” into heroic movie roles so as to gain the Jews favor with the movie going public. His example if I recall right was when MacDonald Carey, who was supposedly Jewish looking by my father’s warped assessment, starred as a hero, opposite Rhonda Fleming, in the movie Odongo (the plot of which I have completely forgotten).

Now I recount this only because it illustrates for me, at least, to what lengths anti-Semites will go to promote their bizarre conspiracy theories about Jews. And my father held a responsible job at Radio Free Europe back then, although he wasn’t very public about his anti-Semitic views by the mid-50s, unlike he was back in the 40s when Hungary was filled with rabid anti-Semites–I believe they were of the Iron Cross persuasion.

So it is not at all unpalatable to me to consider that some highly placed American politicians could well harbor blatant anti-Semitic sentiments. Mind you, none of this comes from any inside information about Mr. Obama and his administration. What it comes from is my desperate effort to make sense of something so senseless as Mr. Obama’s recommendation to Israel that the country commit suicide by going back to the 1967 borders which would certainly leave them utterly vulnerable to destruction by its avowed nearby enemies! Some people do feel about Jews and about Israel in ways that could conceivably lead them to make such proposals.