Hamas: A Litmus Test for Libertarians

Recently, while making the libertarian case for support of Israel, I noted that Islamic totalitarianism manifest in the entity of Hamas presents a common enemy to the United States and Israel. Neither nation can suffer a world where the mandates of Islamic totalitarianism are put into practice.

That case was rejected by many professing libertarian associates, who in their response defended Islam and Hamas while demonizing Israel. Their response reminded me that, while professing activists from the various wings of the libertarian movement share many common enemies and many common causes, an important divide remains between objective libertarians (advocates of liberty and its political requirement, proper government) and anarchists who have appropriated the libertarian title.

The distinction is explored in a recent episode of The Peikoff Podcasts by Ayn Rand Institute executive director Yaron Brook. Answering why so many professing libertarians are anti-Israel, Brook explained:

I think that the libertarians who tend to be anti-Israel tend to be in the [Murray Rothbard wing] of the libertarian movement. They tend to be anarchists. They tend to have a deep rooted hatred of government. And it’s interesting [because] they tend to hate free governments more than they hate totalitarian governments. They tend to focus their hatred much more on the American government [and] on the Israeli government than they do on Hamas.

If you’re libertarian, that is if you claim to care about individual liberty, Hamas should be one of the top most hated regimes in the world. You should be celebrating that they are being destroyed and that the Palestinian people might have a chance to be freed from such a totalitarian evil regime like Hamas is.

And yet, libertarians don’t seem to care about the Hamas government, or actually support it, and they focus all their ire [and] all their hatred [and] all their focus on the Israeli government, a government that is in relative terms a rights respecting government, at least as rights respecting as any Western government. Essentially there’s free speech in Israel. There’s freedom of contract. There’s private property, not as much private property as those of us who believe in liberty would like, but much much better than 90% of the countries in the world.

… So I think that this is one of the ugliest manifestations of this fringe element – or not so fringe element – within the libertarian movement, their attitude towards Israel, their attitude towards the United States, their attitude towards foreign policy in general…

Upon further reflection, it occurs to me that advocacy of anarchy requires one to minimize the legitimacy of foreign threats while demonizing any action which government takes to protect citizens. After all, if government can be seen acting properly in defense of liberty, that stands as evidence against anarchism. In this way, anarchists masquerading as libertarians have boxed themselves into a philosophical corner which requires them to become apologists for evil.

(Today’s Fightin Words podcast is on this topic available here. 16:05 minutes long; 15.51 MB file size. Right click here to download this show to your hard drive. Subscribe through iTunes or RSS feed.)