Israel and the Palestinians: Disputed Land “Belongs” to Whichever Government is Better at Protecting Individual Rights

A female Hamas suicide bomber poses with the Qur'an before detonating herself and killing four Israelis.

A female Hamas suicide bomber poses with the Qur’an before detonating herself and killing four Israelis.

In the wake of each flare-up in the Palestinian/Israeli conflict, people inevitably argue over the same question: “Who owns the territory that currently comprises Israel: the Arab Palestinians, or the Jews?” Then long debates ensue about the history of the two different groups in the region, who was there first, which group was the aggressor, which group has rightful title, etc.

But the Objectivist answer to the question of which ethnic group has the right to the land is: Neither. Land cannot belong to ethnic groups, social classes, or other categories of people, in any sense.

In The Virtue of Selfishness, Ayn Rand wrote:

A group, as such, has no rights. A man can neither acquire new rights by joining a group nor lose the rights which he does possess. The principle of individual rights is the only moral base of all groups or associations.

The reason that rights are individual is that the human mind is individual, the process of thought is individual and human life is fundamentally individual. (For more on this, see: QuickPoint 1: Thinking is Individual.) Rights are the moral-political principles that protect individual human life and freedom of thought/action from the coercive depredations of other humans. (See Ayn Rand’s essays from The Virtue of Selfishness here: “Man’s Rights/The Nature of Government.”)

Land can only be owned by individuals, or by groups that are definite sets of individuals in a clear contractual arrangement, (such as a corporation.) Vague conglomerations of people have no singular identity and no collective mind, and thus cannot have rights to anything, as such.

Land can, however, “belong” to a governmental organization in a sense apart from literal ownership: A government can be regarded as having rightful jurisdiction over a territory. That is, a government can be the morally proper protector of those who own or otherwise use the land in a given geographic area.

The proper standard for evaluating a government morally is: how consistently does it strive to protect individual rights in all facets of its operation? The proper standard is not that the government is composed of the same ethnic group as the majority under its jurisdiction, nor that it best reflects whatever values most people in its jurisdiction happen to hold.

People, whether part of a government or not, do not have a “right” to violate the genuine rights others have as human beings, just because a majority of citizens happen to desire that rights violation. So there is no right to the “self-determination of peoples,” where the “self” is intended to mean some class or group, since such “self-determination” often involves the implementation of laws that violate the rights of individuals. For example, if the “self-determination” of Arab Muslims means that a code of Sharia is voted into law, under which adulterers are executed by stoning, and “blasphemers” are punished with jail terms, then such “self-determination” is an abomination that makes the government a rights violator and morally illegitimate.

So in the case of two governmental agencies competing for the same territory, the one with the rightful claim to governance is the one that is more consistent in the protection of individual rights.

Palestinians’ vs. Israelis’ Respect for Rights

In the case of Israel and the Palestinians, the relevant comparison is between what evidence shows would be the level of respect for rights by a Palestinian government, versus that of the Israeli government.

Now, the Israeli government is not a perfect respecter of individual rights by any means; it is a quasi-socialist country that initiates force to regulate the affairs of its citizens. (The military draft and the government ownership of the majority of land are especially offensive in this regard.) But compared to the government that the Palestinian Muslims would bring about, Israel is a champion of rights and freedom.

Arab Israeli citizens, most of whom are Muslim, have all the same rights as Jewish citizens. Their rights to freedom of speech and religious practice are equally protected. All citizens are entitled to a fair trial by an independent judiciary. All citizens have voting rights, and Arab Muslims can and do serve in the Knesset, (Israeli Parliament.) Women have rights equal to those of men, including property and civil rights. (See: here, here, here and here.) Homosexual activity is legal in Israel and same-sex marriages made in other countries are recognized there. The media in Israel are all privately owned and are generally left free from forcible interference. All citizens, including Arab Muslims, have equal rights to buy private land. (Unfortunately, a large proportion of Israeli land is considered publicly owned, and is merely rented out by the government.)

The (majority) Palestinian Muslims, on the other hand, would base their government on the Islamic code of Sharia. The code of Sharia treats women and non-Muslims as second-class citizens, denies people freedom of speech, and institutes draconian punishments for premarital sex, homosexual sex, and depicting or “disrespecting” the alleged prophet, Muhammad. Sharia is a code of religious law from the 7th Century that does not recognize the principle of individual rights, and, to the extent it is implemented by a government, that government won’t respect individual rights, either.

Current Palestinian government does not respect the rights of the media to freedom of speech. So reporters in the Palestinian Territories who report things unfavorable to the public image of Hamas or the anti-Israel “intifada,” are subject to intimidation, fines, jailing and banning. As reported on

The media are not free in the West Bank and Gaza. Under a 1995 press law, journalists may be fined and jailed, and newspapers closed, for publishing “secret information” on PA security forces or news that might harm national unity or incite violence. Several small media outlets are routinely pressured to provide favorable coverage of the PA, Fatah, or Hamas. Journalists who criticize the PA or the dominant factions face arbitrary arrests, threats, and physical abuse. Hamas has banned all journalists not accredited by its Information Ministry and closed down Gaza outlets that were not affiliated with it, while both the Fatah-led PA and Israeli forces have shut down Hamas-affiliated radio stations in the West Bank.

The majority of Palestinians in the Palestinian territories have shown their willingness to embrace Islamic totalitarianism, the wanton killing of Jews, and Sharia, again and again. Many supported Yasser Arafat, who was a former member of the Islamic Brotherhood, a terrorist and guerrilla fighter against Israel. In 1980, he said:

Peace for us means the destruction of Israel. We are preparing for an all-out war, a war which will last for generations… We shall not rest until the day when we return to our home, and until we destroy Israel.

In 1996, three years after the signing of the Oslo Accords, he said:

We plan to eliminate the State of Israel and establish a Palestinian state. We will make life unbearable for Jews by psychological warfare and population explosion. Jews will not want to live among Arabs. I have no use for Jews. They are and remain Jews. We now need all the help we can get from you [Arab states] in our battle for a united Palestine under Arab rule.

Again in 1996, he said:

We will not bend or fail until the blood of every last Jew from the youngest child to the oldest elder is spilt to redeem our land!


True to his religiously inspired mission of the domination of the entire Middle East by Islamic Arabs, Arafat rejected an offer at the 2000 Camp David Summit that would have established a Palestinian state, while leaving Israel intact and Jerusalem shared between the Palestinian state and Israel. (See: Yasser Arafat, section called “Other peace agreements”)

Meanwhile, the terrorist wing of Arafat’s Fatah party, the al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigades, conducted a long series of indiscriminate suicide bombings against Israelis.

Those Palestinian “refugees” that did not support Arafat, typically supported groups that were even more openly Islamic totalitarian, and that more consistently proclaimed their dedication to the destruction of Israel. The most prominent of these groups is Hamas: A terrorist group that fires rockets at Israel from Palestinian hospitals, stores rockets in UN schools, and openly crusades for an Islamic state in all of Palestine.

The founding Charter of Hamas includes the following:

Article One: The Islamic Resistance Movement: The Movement’s program is Islam. From it, it draws its ideas, ways of thinking and understanding of the universe, life and man. It resorts to it for judgment in all its conduct, and it is inspired by it for guidance of its steps.

Article Two: The Islamic Resistance Movement is one of the wings of Muslim Brotherhood in Palestine. Muslim Brotherhood Movement is a universal organization which constitutes the largest Islamic movement in modern times. It is characterized by its deep understanding, accurate comprehension and its complete embrace of all Islamic concepts of all aspects of life, culture, creed, politics, economics, education, society, justice and judgment, the spreading of Islam, education, art, information, science of the occult and conversion to Islam.

Article Eleven: The Islamic Resistance Movement believes that the land of Palestine is an Islamic Waqf consecrated for future Muslim generations until Judgment Day. It, or any part of it, should not be squandered: it, or any part of it, should not be given up. Neither a single Arab country nor all Arab countries, neither any king or president, nor all the kings and presidents, neither any organization nor all of them, be they Palestinian or Arab, possess the right to do that. Palestine is an Islamic Waqf land consecrated for Muslim generations until Judgment Day. This being so, who could claim to have the right to represent Muslim generations till Judgment Day?

This is the law governing the land of Palestine in the Islamic Sharia (law) and the same goes for any land the Muslims have conquered by force, because during the times of (Islamic) conquests, the Muslims consecrated these lands to Muslim generations till the Day of Judgment. … Any procedure in contradiction to Islamic Sharia, where Palestine is concerned, is null and void.

[The rest of the charter is here: Hamas Covenant at Yale Law Library.]

A Hamas leader, Mahmoud Al-Zahhar, recently reiterated much of this in an interview:

Mahmoud Al-Zahhar: We in Gaza conducted a plan of resistance in order to drive the occupation out. The plan was accomplished, and not a single settler or soldier remains on the Palestinian land in Gaza. Our plan is to continue this approach. Today, we have completed the liberation of Gaza, and your plan does not… At this moment in time, we say to you, first of all: We want Palestine in its entirety – so there will not be any misunderstandings. If our generation is unable to achieve this, the next one will, and we are raising our children on this. Palestine means Palestine in its entirety, and Israel cannot exist in our midst.

Interviewer: But that was your past rhetoric. Today, you are talking about the 1967 borders…

Mahmoud Al-Zahhar: I swear by Allah, this is what is on our minds.

Interviewer: Today, you are talking about the 1967 borders.

Mahmoud Al-Zahhar: Fine, but this is a phase. This is just a phase.

Interviewer: When Abu Ammar [Arafat] used to talk about conducting struggle in phases and about give and take, you accused him of treason…

Mahmoud Al-Zahhar: No, we never accuse anyone of treason. We talk about security cooperation and leave the interpretation up to you. Let me explain to you the difference between Fatah and us on this issue. We talk about the liberation of the pre-1967 territories, but we do not recognize Israel on a single inch of our land. In other words, this land will remain ours, and when the balance of power changes, we will regain it. We will regain the land, even if we have to do so inch by inch.

So the difference between Fatah and us is clear. They sold out 78% of the Palestinian lands and consider them to be Israeli lands. They consider only 22% of the land to be Palestinian, and even that is subject to negotiation. Therefore, anyone who says that Hamas has accepted the 1967 borders… I would like to make something clear: We will establish a state on any piece of land, but without giving up on any piece of Palestinian land.

So the basic goal of Hamas is clear: an Islamic state, under rights-violating Sharia, covering the whole area they call Palestine, with Israel wiped out of existence.

After being elected to majority position in the Palestinian Legislative Council by the Palestinians in 2006, Hamas attempted to put Sharia into practice in the penal code of the Palestinian territories. In 2012, the Palestinian Authority arrested six people for eating in public during Ramadan, in accordance with a law based on Sharia that could be enforced against Muslims and non-Muslims, alike.

But it is not just Hamas leadership that want to destroy Israel and enact Sharia: Polls show that the majority of Palestinians want Sharia to be the official law of Palestinian land, and that large numbers of them approve of suicide bombings against civilians “in defense of Islam.” A 2010 poll showed that, of Palestinians ages 18-30, 73% want Sharia to be the whole or partial basis of legislation. (38.3% wanted Sharia to be the sole basis, while only 22.9% wanted only secular/civil laws.)

A 2013 Pew poll found that 89% of Palestinian Muslims favored Sharia becoming “the official law of the land.” The same poll found that 40% of Palestinian Muslims said that suicide bombing against civilians can be “often or sometimes justified in defense of Islam.” (Note that 80-85% of those in the West Bank, and 98-99% of those in the Gaza Strip, are Muslim.)

Beyond the desire for Arab, Islamic rule and Sharia law, what the above quotes make clear, is that both Fatah and Hamas consider land a collective, ethnic possession, rather than a private, individual possession. In this, they are no better than Israelis, and–in fact–worse, because they will not allow Jews anywhere on “Islamic land,” (the entire region) whereas Israel is quite willing to let Muslim Palestinians have “their own” territory and state in the area.

In the 1930s, Jews originally moved into British-controlled Palestine by buying land from the legally recognized owners at the time: mostly wealthy Syrian, Egyptian and Lebanese Arabs, who had been leasing some of it to poor Arab farmers. (Much of the land that Jews purchased was uncultivated.) The reaction of many Arab Muslims in the area was to fear that their group would be displaced by Jews. Thus, under the leadership of the Mufti of Jerusalem, Haj Amin el-Husseini, they rioted and went on strike in order to pressure the British colonial government to place restrictions on Jewish immigration. It worked, and restrictions were indeed put on Jewish immigration by the British. (1) Thus Jews, who had been doing nothing but voluntary transactions with Arabs, were forced to stop.

This early action by Arab Muslims fits neatly into the cultural pattern we see today: They consider the entire region to be their collective property as Muslims, and they will use violence to remove members of other ethnic/religious groups from it.


The contrast is striking: A modern, civilized country that generally protects freedom of speech, freedom of the press, freedom of religion, the equal freedom of women, Arabs and Muslims, and the civil rights of gays–versus a would-be country that violates freedom of speech and the media, violates freedom of religion, harbors anti-Semitic views, and that would institute Sharia law as the official law of the land.

Again, Israel is not perfect by any means in its respect for individual rights, but it has been improving and, compared to the government of the Palestinian “refugees,” Israel is a beacon of freedom and civilization in the Middle East.

This is why Israel is entitled to govern, not only all of its own official territory, but the entirety of the West Bank and Gaza Strip. Israel has a moral right to defend itself and to obliterate the Palestinian Authority, because it is the freer country. In doing so, it would pave the way for the individuals of the Palestinian Territories to live freer and more prosperous lives under the Israeli government.

(1) Sources:

[Edited: 8-31-14]


Related Posts:

The Qur’an Promotes Violence Against Non-Muslims

Israel and the Palestinians: Of War, Civilization and “Refugees”

Ayn Rand’s Philosophy vs. Abortion Bans: Why a Fetus Doesn’t Have Rights

19th-Century Capitalism Didn’t Create Poverty, But Reduced It

The Nature of the Morality of Rational Egoism: Short Notes

Israel and the Palestinians: Of War, Civilization and “Refugees”

Here is a sampling of audio, video and articles about the history of the Israeli/Palestinian-Muslim conflict and the current war in Gaza between Hamas and Israel:

An audio interview with Dr. Efraim Karsh, professor of Middle East and Mediterranean Studies at King’s College London on “The Arab-Israel Conflict and the Palestinian Refugees”:

(The original ARI page for this interview is here: “The Arab-Israel Conflict and the Palestinian Refugees”)


A video interview with Elan Journo about the current (2014) Israel/Hamas war:


Written articles:

Hamas and The Left’s Pretense about the Deaths of Innocents in Gaza


Israel and the Front Line of Civilization


Israel Has a Moral Right To Its Life

QuickPoint 7: Good Teamwork Is Self-Interested

Kobe Bryant of the Lakers passing the ball.

There’s no “I” in “team.”

So goes the common saying that encapsulates the common idea that good teamwork is selfless. But, punchy as the saying is, (and as correct as its literal meaning is) the idea that good teamwork is selfless is entirely wrong.

When a sport is team-based, it is, by its nature and rules, a cooperative activity. A proper motivation for any individual to become a player of that sport is to enjoy playing as a member of a team and to contribute to the success of the team. To enjoy the team sport, each individual should enjoy putting his skills at the service of the team’s success. The player’s personal interests should be aligned with those of the team.

It is not a selfless sacrifice for Kobe Bryant or LeBron James to refrain from showboating and hogging the basketball, when doing so would be detrimental to their team’s chances of winning. Their personal interests are best served by playing good basketball and winning games.

Ask a football player, who lost the SuperBowl for his team by showboating with the ball, whether what he did was good for him. The answer should be clear enough without having to ask.

Let us rid ourselves of the confusion that sees so many social values, such as teamwork, friendship and love as inherently selfless; while also equating “self-interest,” “egoism” and “selfishness” with shortsightedness, foolishness, childishness, materialism, and the harm of others. Let us clearly recognize that one’s own self-interest–one’s happiness–is not bought at the expense of the interests of other people.

I highly recommend the non-fiction works of Ayn Rand, such as The Virtue of Selfishness and Philosophy: Who Needs It, along with her novels, such as The Fountainhead and Atlas Shrugged.


Related Posts:

QuickPoint 6: Psychological Egoism is False — Not Everyone is Selfish

Atlas Shrugged, Altruism and Egoism

Why a Proper Ethics is Not a Set of Social Rules, But a Complete Way of Life

Values Are Relational But Not Subjective

QuickPoint 1: Thinking is Individual

A Critique of Kant on the Noumenal World / Phenomenal World Distinction (“Thing-in-Itself” vs “Appearance”)

Portrait of Immanuel Kant. The German philosopher and writer of the Critique of Pure Reason, whose philosophy is under discussion.

Immanuel Kant

Another reddit user with an interest in Ayn Rand and Objectivism, /u/Abstract_Atheist, posted a “Quick and Easy Refutation of the Noumenal Realm” on reddit. (The “noumenal realm” is commonly described to be Immanuel Kant’s term for the universe “as it is in itself,” apart from human perception. According to Kant, the human apparatus of perception renders the “things-in-themselves” as “appearances,” or roughly synonymously, as “phenomena.”)

Abstract_Atheist’s supposed refutation was to say that, for example, the noumenal realm is either yellow or non-yellow. If it is yellow, then one of our concepts applies to it, (“yellow.”) If it is not yellow, then one of our concepts still applies to it, (“non-yellow.”) In either case, a human concept applies to it, thus (supposedly) negating the noumenal realm’s defining status as outside human cognition.

I, however, do not consider this a good refutation for a reason I outline below. In this, I loosely agree with a comment made by another user (/u/drunkentune.)

My own refutation of Kant’s distinction between “appearance” and “thing-in-itself,” along with my defense of it against /u/wokeupabug, is the subject of my comments below. (I am Sword_of_Apollo):


/u/drunkentune has a point. Non-axiomatic concepts are contextual and can’t generally be said to divide all of existence between themselves and their antitheses. I make this point in my discussion of fairness and justice.

I think the real quick and easy refutation of the “noumenal realm” is a statement of the axioms:

1. Existence exists.

2. An existent is itself.

3. Consciousness perceives existence.

This last axiom directly eliminates any distinction between a “noumenal” and “phenomenal” realm. I discussed this with /u/ReallyNicole in a thread, here.

Also, as a side-note, have you listened to or read Understanding Objectivism and/or Objectivism Through Induction?

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What Squeegee Bandits Can Teach Us About the Welfare State (Voices for Reason)

Don Watkins makes an excellent and concise point about consent and moral responsibility in this blog post at Voices for Reason:

What Squeegee Bandits Can Teach Us About the Welfare State


Here’s a bonus video: “Is Inequality Fair?” by Yaron Brook of the Ayn Rand Institute:



Related Posts:

America Before The Entitlement State

19th-Century Capitalism Didn’t Create Poverty, But Reduced It

How to Show That Taxation is Robbery

On Fairness and Justice: Their Meanings, Scopes, and How They Are Not the Same

The Nature of the Morality of Rational Egoism: Short Notes

A Dialogue on Metaethics, Moral Realism and Platonism from an Objectivist Perspective

Plato points upward in Raphael's fresco, "The School of Athens." Plato was a Platonic "moral realist." He believed that a "Form of The Good" resided in extra-mental reality.

Plato in The School of Athens

What is the basis for an objective morality in under 1000 words? Where does mainstream Moral Realism go wrong? What error did Plato make that has negatively affected philosophers’ ethical assumptions even into the 21st Century? What is the meaning of modern, moral “error theory?”

If you are interested in any of these questions, I think you’ll want to see the answers given in the dialogue contained in this post.

First, a bit of context: I posted this article on the philosophy section of reddit: Answering Sam Harris’s “Moral Landscape Challenge”. The first comment below is responding to and quoting that posted article. I respond to that comment, and another poster responds to me, starting the dialogue. I am “Sword_of_Apollo” in this dialogue:


Some of these facts may be apparent, animals certainly seem to prefer warm, comfy shelter and food to the cold, and starvation, but others seem to be fairly dramatic assertions, that would be much more convincing with argumentation.

For instance

“The basic problem with all variants of utilitarianism, including Harris’s, is that there is no reason to act for the well-being of other conscious creatures, apart from how doing so redounds on one’s own well-being.”

This is a bold assertion. I don’t see this as being obvious in the slightest. Indeed, I’d say there’s no reason to only value my own well-being, when I have every reason to believe that I’m the same sort of being as other humans*. If my well-being is important, then why shouldn’t their’s be as well?

*also, don’t animals deserve moral consideration, at least to some degree? I mean, you don’t have to be vegan or whatever, but kicking a puppy doesn’t really seem morally neutral.

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Ontology and The Problem of Universals: An Objectivist Comments

shiny_red_applesAyn Rand is sometimes accused of misunderstanding the “Problem of Universals,” that philosophers such as Plato, Aristotle, Boethius and William of Ockham have dealt with for millennia.

The Problem of Universals consists of the question: To what do people refer when we use terms that can be applied to different particular things? For example the term “man” is applied not just to one entity, but to many entities that are each called a “man.” Another example is “spherical.” Many different things can be said to be “spherical.” An answer to the Problem of Universals will explain how this use of single terms for multiple different objects works.

In Introduction to Objectivist Epistemology, (ITOE) Rand claims to have solved the ancient Problem of Universals. She describes in detail the process by which man forms generally applicable concepts from his perceptions of particulars in reality. Critics sometimes charge that Rand is giving us an epistemological theory when a solution to the Problem of Universals calls for an ontological theory. (Ontology, properly conceived, is the branch of metaphysics that deals with the most fundamental classification of existents; it is the study of “what there is,” metaphysically.)

But considering the Problem of Universals purely ontological, and thus considering Rand’s theory of concept formation irrelevant to it, improperly privileges variants of “Realism” (about universals) by treating the rejection of such abstract objects as sufficient to define a single theory (variously referred to as “Nominalism” or “Anti-Realism.”) The rejection of universals in external reality does not specify a positive theory of what universals are and how they are related to external reality. Much more explanation is required to do this, as evidenced by the various subcategories of Nominalism/Anti-Realism. In ITOE, Ayn Rand presents an alternative theory on the level of the variants of Anti-Realism in the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy. (i.e. Predicate Nominalism, Resemblance Nominalism, Trope Nominalism and Conceptualism.)

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