The Art and Science of Physical Removal

Part 1: Removing Yourself

I have long been of the opinion, as a Voluntaryist, that there are only two legitimate ways of voting: With your money, in terms what products and services you choose to buy (outside of taxation, of course, where you are effectively given no choice), and with your feet – choosing where you prefer to live, all things and circumstances taken into consideration. It follows, then, that most libertarians of whatever stripe gravitate towards locales where, at least, the politics and general presence of government are not as aggressively antithetical to the basic enjoyment of life as others. For example, at present, I am seriously considering getting out of Vermont sometime during the next few years, and taking up residence in Wyoming – where taxes are both less numerous and lower, the cancerous hysteria of gun control has not yet taken root, and where there is still a rural, low-population environment (not to mention one almost certain to contain a higher percentage of like-minded people). In short, all the things Vermont had once upon a time, and no longer does.

There is certainly nothing wrong or immoral about wishing to improve one’s circumstances by choosing to go and live somewhere else – so long as one has every intention of paying one’s own way rather than leeching from whatever Welfare State may exist in one’s new chosen location. There is nothing wrong with wanting to cohabitate amongst one’s own “tribe,” as it were. Having libertarians (and even a couple of conservatives here and there…maybe) as neighbors is always preferable – to me, at least – than being surrounded by roughly 70% Democratic “progressive” lefties who are almost sexually enthralled by Marxism of every conceivable variant. Surely, the former promises a better life. So, I’ll be investigating that – thoroughly and in full – over the next couple of years. You’ll likely hear from me more on that as things unfold. Stay tuned.

Part 2: Removing Others

So now suppose I’m living my new life happily in the Big Sky Country of Wyoming, enjoying that big boost in freedom that was rapidly dying back over my shoulder there in Vermont…and before too long, the same kind of leftist disease begins to take hold within Wyoming’s Forever West political system.

Hans-Hermann Hoppe has this rather blunt commentary to make about just such a situation: “There can be no tolerance toward democrats and communists in a libertarian social order. They will have to be physically separated and removed from society.”

Now this is not to say, first off, that Wyoming is a strictly “libertarian social order” to begin with. More accurately, it might be characterized as predominantly conservative Republican in flavor – with some inevitable libertarian blandishments as a consequence. That stated, conservative and libertarian camps both, I would think, have a mutual vested interest in seeing that leftist ideology does not gain serious ground or take root in the Wyoming landscape. Such concern can be quite correctly characterized as nothing more nor less than self-defensive in nature: People who are paying few and low taxes, enjoying virtually unrestrained gun rights, and relishing most or all of the trappings of rural rugged individualism do not want these conditions to be reversed or undone – most especially not at the hands of some Marxist-inspired brigade of self-styled do-gooders who believe with almost religious fervor that they’ve come to the unwashed lands to teach the heathens how to live a better, more civilized life under full-on socialism.

So for the conservatives, the solution to this equation is very easy: Out come the pitchforks, and away we go. For the libertarian camp though, there’s a bit of a problem.

Unlike all forms of statism, libertarian ethics demand tolerance. Unlike libertarianism, however, statism requires force. I think you can see the quandary this seems to present.

And I’ll repeat a line from above: Such concern can be quite correctly characterized as nothing more nor less than self-defensive in nature.

Ever since my awakening as a libertarian some 25 years ago now, I have spoken with probably a couple of thousand leftists – from garden-variety Democrats, to hardcore Marxists. Out of all of them, I have come across maybe two who I sincerely believed when they told me that they did not wish their views or economic system to be imposed on others by force. One of them even used the term “libertarian socialist” – which made me laugh derisively at the time. But I’m older now, and no longer laughing. I think that’s a valid term to describe such a philosophical position. I also think, through experience, that scarcely one in a thousand leftists possess a viewpoint of such benign integrity. The overwhelming majority of them are more than willing to use whatever level of violence and brute force they feel is necessary to bend you to their will – to force you to be subjugated to their ideas whether you agree with them or not.

And I will say unequivocally that these are the leftist elements about whom Hoppe is spot-on correct. Those who would agitate and proselytize for the dismantling of a libertarian socio-economic environment – which, no doubt, would have likely taken tremendous efforts and sacrifice in order to build in the first place – in favor of mandatory economic regulations, taxation, gun control, redistribution of wealth, etc. – such individuals must indeed be “physically separated and removed” from the midst of a region or territory which has managed to construct a libertarian society.

As would, for that matter, anyone from any ideology that sought to reinstitute involuntary political governance in any form.

Legitimate self-defense, after all, should never require apologism.

That said, it is the even smallest potential for “libertarian socialism” that causes me to distance myself somewhat from Hoppe. That one-in-a-thousand leftie who just wants to live peacefully in a commune with his or her buddies down the road – so long as their chosen lifestyle and preferred economic models are kept among themselves and other willing participants who are free to leave at any time – is not and should not be considered a problem. So long as, being the phrase of paramount import here. Hoppe’s absolutism lends itself too readily to a total witch-hunt mentality otherwise. Thus, allow me to offer a revision of his above maxim, more in line with purist libertarian sentiment:

“There can be no tolerance toward democrats and communists who agitate for political and economic control over others in a libertarian social order. They will have to be physically separated and removed from society.”

Liberty, sovereignty, and autonomy are key elements of my own personal vision. Not living as a slave to a bunch of parasitic politicians and soul-sick bureaucrats, as the Left would have us do – all the better to control, manipulate, and dominate us to death. It is a vision worth both projecting and fighting for, I think, especially in the face of a world bent on ever-increasing authoritarianism and control.

I’m thinking I may be able to do that more effectively by physically removing myself to a different geographical locale, surrounded by a different culture. We’ll see. Life is strange, and can take many unexpected twists and turns.

Should I get there, however, when I do, I’ll then be prepared to defend my place, person, and property in it. Not with indiscriminate prejudice against others whose philosophies I find abhorrent, but with a more finely targeted and focused sense of just what is absolutely necessary in order to do so.

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The Idyllic Present

Things that seem idyllic to us from the 1950’s were probably commonplace or even annoying to people then.

The alley full of kids playing kick the can was a dirty mosquito trap. The sandlot was an eyesore. The drug store was just a store. But to us, these are idyllic representations of things we long for.

What normal or annoying things today will seem idyllic in the future?

I started wondering this while sitting on a bench in front of Wal-Mart with my son. We were waiting for my wife and looking at a small fenced enclosure between us and the vast, nicely landscaped parking lot. The enclosure had large trees full of chirping birds. SUVs meandered in and out as we watched the birds and people coming and going from the parking lot.

Retail parking lots seem unsightly and annoying to most people. But as I sat I realized it was all quite pleasant. It reminded of some of the greatest attributes and ideals of our culture. Peaceful commerce. Exchange. Strangers greeting each other. Efforts to make parking both convenient and nice looking. Order, community, spontaneity, and individualism all at once. Convenience and attention to detail.

The suburban shopping scene is taken for granted or looked down on today. Someday, someone will see it in a movie and long to experience such an idyllic setting. They won’t be wrong.

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Randolph Bourne

Nobody asked but …

This morning I listened to Jeff Riggenbach’s podcast, The Libertarian Tradition.  In particular, I heard the episode covering Randolph Bourne’s life and his contribution to the cause of individualism.  The text of Riggenbach‘s presentation is also found at the Randolph Bourne Institute’s web pages.  I realized, too late, that I had failed to mark the 100th year since Bourne’s untimely* death in December 1918.

Bourne packed a lot of ideas into his short life, and did much writing for someone who was repeatedly canned for being so forthright with his ideas.  Today, his legacy includes the Randolph Bourne Institute and its instrument,  Furthermore, Bourne is famous for the very durable quote, “War is the health of the State.”  I urge you to read Wendy McElroy’s exploration of this phrase.

But we would be remiss in ignoring others of Bourne’s observations.  To wit:

The American intellectuals, in their preoccupation with reality, seem to have forgotten that the real enemy is War rather than imperial Germany. There is work to be done to prevent this war of ours from passing into popular mythology as a holy crusade.

The ironist is ironical not because he does not care, but because he cares too much.

Really to believe in human nature while striving to know the thousand forces that warp it from its ideal development-to call for and expect much from men and women, and not to be disappointed and embittered if they fall short- to try to do good with people rather than to them- this is my religion on its human side.

For we do not do what we want to do, but what is easiest and most natural for us to do, and if it is easy for us to do the wrong thing, it is that that we will do.

In America our radicalism is still simply amateurish and incompetent.

In your reaction to an imagined attack on your country or an insult to its government, you draw closer to the herd for protection, you conform in word and deed, and you insist vehemently that everybody else shall think, speak, and act together. And you fix your adoring gaze upon the State, with a truly filial look, as upon the Father of the flock.

The State is not the nation, and the State can be modified and even abolished in its present form, without harming the nation. On the contrary, with the passing of the dominance of the State, the genuine life-enhancing forces of the nation will be liberated.

We can easily become as much slaves to precaution as we can to fear.

With the shock of war the state comes into its own again.

I had nearly let Randolph Bourne slip into obscurity.  I now make it one of my life’s purposes to keep that from happening.  I heartily commend Bourne to your attention in that spirit.

— Kilgore Forelle

* Bourne was only 32 when he died in 1918’s flu epidemic.

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Identity and Social Constructs

Younger than 10 years old, people generally don’t consider most realms of identity. Some issues regarding sex are considered since children tend to naturally gravitate towards similar interests and sex often weighs heavily on childhood interests.

Once we hit puberty, we become a new type of social creature. We try to discover where we belong, who we are, where/who is our tribe, what ought we desire in life, how will we get what we desire in life, etc. To this ends we experiment, explore and try to carve out a niche for ourselves in the world. For some people this seems relatively simple, while for others it seems such a monumental struggle that can end with suicide.

Often a girl will try out being sexy, cute, quirky, tomboy, and a myriad of other attributes to find out what can stick and work productively at getting attention and finding a sense of belonging. However, that is just one small aspect. The same girl will explore the role she plays to her peers, her family, and every other realm of life. Is she an intellectual? Is she a jock? Is she an artist? Is she sweet? Is she a rebel? All questions and attributes the person is seeking out.

While this search is natural and necessary, it is also total bullshit.

This pubescent (and post-pubescent) search for identity is a negotiation of individual desires with artificial social constructs. The individual must live in society and they need an avenue to build their lives. This means they must negotiate with these social constructs to fulfill their desires. To fully live outside of these constructs is to live outside of society. We must all learn to navigate these waters.

One of the worst things about our journey in this realm is that we are often force into atmosphere with rigid hierarchies, forced association and general inflexibility. This makes it so pressure is high and the consequences seem dire. This makes identity seem so incredibly important, rigid and dire … when it doesn’t have to be.

All identities are bullshit. They are artificial constructs that we are using. Ideally we can use them productively, and ideally they can be flexible, forgiving, and voluntary. As we age and exit forced atmospheres usually the social pressures lift and our identities become less important. We choose our associations and our identities become flexible and much less meaningful. Hopefully, we start seeing identity merely as an artificially means of accomplishing our desires rather than an actual thing we must conform ourselves to. Of course, it doesn’t happen this way for everyone.

I often tell people I happen to be male, but I don’t feel like a man. When I say this I always get a huge look of surprise as they almost anticipate me revealing the new identity I’ve been hiding this whole time. I let them down when I tell them that “man” isn’t a feeling. No matter what I feel I will be a biological male. No matter what I feel, the social construct of “man” will be artificial and bullshit.

I’m not trying to proclaim the end of identity. I’m trying to point out the artificial nature of identity. I advocate a world of voluntary association, role flexibility and individualism where we use identity merely as a flexible description rather than a pigeon hole. I don’t feel like a man because I would have to concretize what a man feels like and I have no desire to pigeon hole myself or anyone else. Biological male means something. The identity of man means nothing.

I pity most people who get lost in identity. These are people pigeonholing themselves. These are people who can’t accept themselves. These are people who can’t negotiate who they are and how they feel with society and so they abandon themselves and opt to become an artificial construct.

At points in our lives we all have felt lost without identity. However, when we have been content with our social lives and liked ourselves most of us have been able to look at identity as a meaningless construct. Identity is only meaningful for someone who is lost. It is a false map that leads you to the wrong destination.

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Economic Systems Transform Culture, Not Vice-Versa

I believe conservatives, classical liberals, constitutionalist, and many libertarians have reverse causation and false historical sentiments in forming a mental construct of how great societies are made and sustained (by their own definition).

There are people who believe that innovation, entrepreneurship, risk taking, hard work and individualism are a result of culture. I think they are wrong. While there is some semblance of a symbiotic relationship between culture and economic system, I believe history shows that culture is the much weaker force and the economic system is the vastly more significant causal mechanism. Essentially, economic systems transform cultures, but cultures rarely transform economic systems.

When we see socialism implemented in a culture with a history of positive virtues, we see those positive virtues disintegrate. When we see capitalism implemented in a culture that is predominantly petty, lethargic and uninspired, we see positive virtues emerge. When the economic system is mixed, we see a mixing of positive and negative attributes (as we see in the West today). I don’t believe you will find culture being the inspiration. Teaching work ethic in a socialistic economy is like teaching work ethic to a slave … who are you benefiting? Your inspirational values will seem like delusional bullshit.

A large perceived flaw with this analysis is that it can’t explain how capitalism ever starts.

I think capitalism is purely an accident, usually it doesn’t start. There have been several point in history where centralized control collapsed but markets still operated. In that period of time, no one was able to grab the reigns of power but peaceful transactions were highly profitable. Later, philosophers came in and acted like they were leading the parade. In short, I think the enlightenment explanation is wrong.

I don’t think liberty and capitalism will be born from people readopting the ideals of the enlightenment. I think liberty and capitalism will be born when centralized powers collapse, no one is able to grasp the reigns of power, but peaceful transaction is highly profitable.

Conservatives, classical liberals, and the other people I previously mentioned want to say that our soul determines our society. I think our society determines our soul. While at the individual level this doesn’t have to be true, there can be high variance in environments and personality to lead people in all sorts of directions. However, when we speak in terms of large amounts of people, the variance gets averaged out into the incentives people live under.

This is uncomfortable for some people to accept because it can make you feel like things will merely have to play out and you don’t determine the course. I would suggest people embrace that attribute and maybe even find some solace in it. We can still determine our own course.

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Depopulating Palestine, Dehumanizing the Palestinians

One might have thought that, in the wake of the Nazi regime’s systematic crimes against humanity last century, dehumanization would have become unthinkable once and for all. Unfortunately, this has not been the case. It has shamefully continued unabated, the assorted perpetrators including, with tragic irony, those who themselves were victims of Nazi dehumanization.

Dehumanization is an apt term because it consists of more than merely murder, massacre, torture, blockade, dispossession, humiliation, and the like. It consists of the very denial of the humanity of the victims and their cultures; it may include attempts to wipe them from the archives and from anyone’s memory. This denial makes simple physical destruction easier: cruel treatment on a mass scale would seem to require that the victimizer view the victim as subhuman, as verminous, as something that infests the surroundings, as something unworthy of the consideration one normally gives even strangers about whom one knows nothing.

The case of the Palestinians is hardly the only case of dehumanization in the post-World War II era. Off the top of my head, I think of the African victims of the European powers (the mistreatment of whom got underway well before the 1930s), of Maoist China, of South Africa, of Rwanda, of Darfur, of Cambodia, of the Central African Republic. What seems to distinguish the Palestinian case (which of course began before World War II) is the sophistication, duration, and outside support of the effort to deny the very existence of people, Muslims and Christians, who have lived for a long time south of Syria and Lebanon and north of Saudi Arabia between the Mediterranean Sea and the Jordan River.

No one better vocalized this denial better than a former Israeli prime minister, Golda Meir, who famously said:

There were no such thing as Palestinians. When was there an independent Palestinian people with a Palestinian state? It was either southern Syria before the First World War, and then it was a Palestine including Jordan. It was not as though there was a Palestinian people in Palestine considering itself as a Palestinian people and we came and threw them out and took their country away from them. They did not exist.

A libertarian approach offers a perspective that tends to get overlooked by conventional analysis. Examining whether the Palestinians as a group constitute a “people” deserving of “national” self-determination or liberation can yield useful information, but that question cannot be fundamental because whether or not “Palestinians” qua communally conscious people lived in “Palestine” before the Israeli statehood movement (Zionism) got underway, we do know this: individual human beings who were not recent European Jewish immigrants legitimately owned property there.

We have no good alternative to methodological individualism; human beings come in individual units. So the individual and his or her rights — including the right to land justly acquired — must have primacy. However important a person’s identification with an ethnic, racial, or national group, or lack thereof, may be, it has no bearing on the question of rights. A “Palestinian” can have no more rights than an unattached atomistic individual or one who identifies as an Asian, an Arab, or a Nabulsi. Therefore, individual self-determination must precede communal self-determination if the latter is to be valid because group rights make sense only if they extend from and are consistent with members’ individual rights.

Morally, we have rights by virtue of our personhood, not by virtue of our inclusion in a subgroup of persons. The idea of rights not rooted in the individual literally is nonsense. Among other things, this means there is no Jewish land, Palestinian land, or land with any other ethnic, racial, or religious qualifier. There is only legitimately and illegitimately acquired land. (In this connection, see this remarkable video of Khaled Sabawi, which focuses on his attempt to reestablish individual property rights in the West Bank through formal registration.)

Thus, even had Golda Meir been right, the establishment of Israel as it took place would have been no less a crime against the territory’s indigenous inhabitants. Likewise, even if one could show that the non-Jews driven from Palestine at gunpoint in 1948 had only recently migrated from elsewhere in the Middle East (which one cannot), this in itself could not justify their expulsion.

But in fact, notwithstanding fabricated and wholly discredited “histories” of Palestine and Israel, it is now uncontroversial to state that the establishment of Israel saw hundreds of thousands of indigenous individuals driven from their ancestral homes and hundreds of others massacred by recent European immigrants (many of them atheists yet nevertheless claiming to be Jewish) with a tenuous connection to Palestine or ancient Israel. H. G. Wells posed a reasonable question: “If it is proper to ‘reconstitute’ a Jewish state which has not existed for two thousand years, why not go back another thousand years and reconstitute the Canaanite state? The Canaanites, unlike the Jews, are still there.” (Quoted in Ian Gilmour and David Gilmour, “Pseudo-Travellers,” London Review of Books, February 1985.) What did Wells mean? The Gilmours explain:

The modern Palestinians are a people of various ethnic origins, descended from the conquerors of Palestine since early Biblical times. Their ancestors are the Canaanites and Philistines who, unlike the Jews, were never deported. They remained in Palestine (which took its name from the Philistines) and their descendants formed, and still form, the core of the indigenous population. In the seventh century, the Muhammadan Arabs brought with them their government, their language and their religion, and a majority of the inhabitants accepted all three. Palestine and its people became Arabised. Yet they remained the same people. There was little racial change in the population because the Arab conquerors were so few in number.

Evidence for this comes from an interesting source, David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, and Itzhak Ben-Zvi, Israel’s second president (and also an historian), in their 1918 book, Eretz Israel in the Past and in the Present. As quoted in Shlomo Sand’s The Invention of the Jewish People, Ben-Gurion and Ben-Zvi wrote:

The fellahin [Palestinian farmers] are not descendants of the Arab conquerors, who captured Eretz Israel and Syria in the seventh century CE. The Arab victors did not destroy the agricultural population they found in the country. They expelled only the alien Byzantine rulers, and did not touch the local population. Nor did the Arabs go in for settlement. Even in their former habitations, the Arabians did not engage in farming.… They did not seek new lands on which to settle their peasantry, which hardly existed. Their whole interest in the new countries was political, religious and material: to rule, to propagate Islam and to collect taxes.

Sand tells us that “historical reason indicates that the population that survived since the seventh century had originated from the Judean farming class that the Muslim conquerors had found when they reached the country.” He then continues with Ben-Gurion and Ben-Zvi’s text:

To argue that after the conquest of Jerusalem by Titus and the failure of the Bar Kokhba revolt Jews altogether ceased to cultivate the land of Eretz Israel is to demonstrate complete ignorance of history and the contemporary literature of Israel…. The Jewish farmer, like any other farmer, was not easily torn from his soil, which had been watered with the sweat and the sweat of his forebears…. Despite the repression and suffering, the rural population remained unchanged.

Sand comments that “this was written thirty years before Israel’s Proclamation of Independence, which asserts that the whole people was forcibly uprooted…. Although the ancient Judean peasants converted to Islam, they had done so for material reasons — chiefly to avoid taxation — which were in no way treasonous. Indeed, by clinging to their soil they remained loyal to their homeland.”

Sand notes that Ben-Zvi’s 1929 book, Our Population in the Country, took a more “moderate” position on who the fellahin were: “Obviously it would be mistaken to say that all the fellahin are descendants of the ancient Jews, but it can be said of most of them, or their core.” Ben-Zvi also added a second reason for their religious conversion: in Sand’s words, the “fear of being displaced from the soil.” Sand writes that Ben-Zvi’s later book

maintained that immigrants arrived from many places, and the local population was fairly heterogeneous, but the traces left in the language, place-names, legal customs, popular festivals such as that of Nebi Musa (the prophet Moses), and other cultural practices left almost no doubt that “the great majority of the fellahin do not descend from the Arab conquerors but before that, from the Jewish fellahin, who were the foundation of this country before its conquest by Islam.”

History supports this thesis. Sand’s book documents that neither the Romans in the first century CE nor the Arab Muslims six centuries later exiled the Jews:

It must first be emphasized that the Romans never deported entire peoples…. It did not pay to uproot the people of the land, the cultivators of produce, the taxpayers…. They definitely did not deport whole populations in the countries they conquered in the East, nor did they have the means to do so — none of the trucks, trains or great ships available to the modern world.

This stunning fact, support for which Sand found among historians specializing in the area, undermines the official narrative that the modern state of Israel was founded and peopled by long-wandering exiles who finally returned home. Sand explains in various lectures that when he was researching his book he was shocked to find no books about the Roman exile in the Tel Aviv University library. When he consulted the experts in the university’s department of Jewish history, he said he was told, “It wasn’t exactly an exile.” Thus was vindicated the American Reform Jewish movement, which declared in 1885 that it did not regard the Jews outside of Palestine as constituting a diaspora longing to return “home”: “We consider ourselves no longer a nation, but a religious community, and therefore expect neither a return to Palestine, nor a sacrificial worship under the sons of Aaron, nor the restoration of any of the laws concerning the Jewish state.” In 1841, Allan Brownfeld of the American Council for Judaism reports, Rabbi Gustav Poznanski of Temple Beth Elohim in Charleston, South Carolina, spoke for his co-religionists when he said, “This country is our Palestine, this city our Jerusalem, this house of God our temple.” In our time, the idea of a diaspora is disappearing. Jane Eisner, in the Jewish publication The Forwardsays “the negative connotation of ‘Diaspora’ formulated in classic Zionism is fading — with so many Israelis living in Los Angeles and Berlin, how could it not?” She’s pro-Israel, yet she writes, “Let’s leave behind the outdated notion of Diaspora.’” (A few years ago the Israeli newspaper Haaretz reported that Berlin had the “world’s fastest growing Jewish community.”)

The early Zionist affinity for the indigenous population of Palestine faded, Sand writes, when people began to resist the encroachments by the European Jewish newcomers. Sand writes:

From that moment on, the descendants of the Judean peasantry vanished from the Jewish national consciousness and were cast into oblivion. Very soon the modern Palestinian fellahin became, in the eyes of the authorized agents of memory, Arabian immigrants who came in the nineteenth century to an almost empty country and continued to arrive in the twentieth century as the developing Zionist economy, according to the new myth, attracted many thousands of non-Jewish laborers.

The upshot is that since before Biblical times, people have lived continuously in Palestine. Every emissary who scouted the area for Theodor Herzl and his new Zionist project reported the same thing: Palestine was not “a land without a people,” contrary to the claim made in the 1948 Declaration of the Establishment of the State of Israel.

As the Gilmours point out, Ahad Ha’am, a “spiritual Zionist” who had spent time there, reported in 1891, “‘Palestine is not an uninhabited country,’ and has room ‘for only a very small proportion of Jews,’ since there was little untilled soil except for stony hills or sand dunes.” Ha’am and others warned the Zionist movement to respect the indigenous population.

Thus if there was to be a Jewish state, most if not all of the non-Jews would have to go. “Only in a very few places in our colonialisation were we not forced [sic] to transfer the earlier residents,” Ben-Gurion told the 1937 Zionist Congress” (Gilmours). His militias would “be forced” to transfer many more a decade later.

To repeat, it’s a secondary matter whether these individuals thought of themselves as “Palestinians” or whether they perceived themselves to be living in a country called Palestine. They were individuals with rights, and they were dispossessed and made into refugees when they weren’t murdered.

As individual human beings, they obviously cared about their homes and communities, whether rural or urban, and thus could be counted on to resist proposals that they be “transferred” — expelled — from their homes to somewhere else — even to places where people spoke a similar language (though the dialects might differ) and practiced the same religion. To assume otherwise is to see these individuals as less than human.

In fact, though, we can find signs of “national” (for lack of a better term in the context of anti-colonial resistance) self-consciousness at different times and in different stages of development. “Islam and the Ottoman Empire were the broadest and most meaningful socio-cultural and political entities, but there developed a type of proto-national sense regarding Filastin, as it was termed, from the seventeenth century on,” writes Khaled M. Safi, a historian at Al-Aqsa University. Safi quotes a distinguished historian of the Arab world, Albert Hourani (“The Fertile Crescent in the Eighteenth Century” in A Vision of History: Near Eastern and Other Essays, 1961):

Since the central [Ottoman] Government could no longer control the Empire, it could no longer serve as the focus of loyalty and solidarity. Thus we can observe in the course of the eighteenth century a strengthening of the communal loyalties which had always formed the basis of Ottoman society, and a regrouping of the peoples of the Empire around those authorities which could give them what the Imperial Government no longer gave: a defense against disorder and a system of law regulating the relations of man and man.

Hourani continued: “It was the pressure of these local forces which gave a new form to the relationship between the Ottoman Government and the provinces. All over the Empire, there arose local ruling groups loyal to the Sultan but possessing a force, a stability and to some degree an autonomy of their own. It was only through the mediation of these groups that the Ottoman Empire was still able to keep some sort of moral and material hold on its subjects.”

Palestinian consciousness, however, seems to have preceded the 17th century. The famous 10th-century Arab geographer Al-Muqaddasi, who was born in Jerusalem, describes Palestine (or Filastin) in great deal, including its lush farmland and nourishing natural waters, in his book, Description of Syria, Including Palestine. Nazmi Al-Ju’beh, an historian at  Birzeit University, writes in “Palestinian Identity and Cultural Heritage” that Al-Muqaddasi “uses the terminology ‘Palestine’ and ‘Palestinian’ with the clear-cut meaning of geographic belonging and identity.”

Later, inhabitants of Palestine resisted Napoleon’s army and in 1834, peasants there rebelled, unsuccessfully, against the taxes and conscription imposed by the Egyptian Ibrahim Pasha. Such threats by perceived foreigners tend to create a communal consciousness. Safi concludes, “The revolt [against the Egyptians, that is, against other Arab Muslims] indicates the presence of an embryonic territorial and therefore social and political awareness.”

In the early 1920s, after the French (under the Sykes-Picot Agreement) forbade independent Arab rule of greater Syria, of which Palestine was regarded as the southern province, Arab leaders were determined to defend the independence of Palestine. The British of course would have none of that; it ruled Palestine under the League of Nations mandate system that incorporated the 1917 Balfour Declaration‘s endorsement of the “establishment in Palestine of a national home for the Jewish people.” The victims of British and French duplicity, like their forebears, tended to develop, or rather increase, a communal identity. This identity was already solidifying as the Zionist plan for an exclusivist state became a reality on the ground through the eviction of fellahin and city dwellers from properties purchased by Jewish individuals and organizations; in Zionist eyes these were Jewish lands that had to be redeemed after their defilement by non-Jews. (Stephen Halbrook’s valuable “The Alienation of a Homeland” shows that only a small percentage of those properties were purchased from individual tillers of the soil. Most were acquired from absentee feudal landlords in Beirut and elsewhere who had never established ownership in a Lockean manner, that is, by mixing their labor with the land.)

The dehumanization of the Palestinians was manifest in the Western attitude that these individuals saw themselves merely as undifferentiated members of an Arab horde, indifferent to their immediate surroundings, that is, to their homes, towns, villages, farming communities, market connections, and ultimately their larger homeland, and thus would accept “transfer” to other Arab areas. No westerner ever thought of himself in such nonhuman terms, but thinking of Palestinians that way came easy. That’s the stuff of mass injustice, of literal and cultural genocide.

Realization of the dream of a Jewish state logically entailed the dispossession and expulsion of the Palestinians, who by the common standard of justice were legitimate owners of their land. Those who remained were made third-class citizens or even worsein the apartheid state. The countless micro offenses against those individuals were compounded by the macro offense: the destruction of their flourishing culture, communities, and country.

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