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Ayn Rand’s Thoughts on the Middle East and Israel

Ayn Rand’s Thoughts on the Middle East and Israel

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October 9, 2023

The brutality of the Hamas attack on Israel reminds us that the morality behind the Holocaust still infects our world. Hamas thugs targeted civilians who were killed by bombs or murdered face-to-face in cold blood. The killers displayed and desecrated the bodies of those murdered. Defenseless elders, children, and woman were taken hostage. A Holocaust survivor in a wheelchair was among the victims. 

We can turn to Ayn Rand for insights about why such an economically successful state as Israel with an open society is so hated by its neighbors.

  1. OST-WEST-KONFLIKT UND ISRAEL

In 1974, Ayn Rand was asked about American Middle East policy in the aftermath of the Arab-Israeli War of the previous year. That was the fourth war since the modern state of Israel was established in 1948. It was the fourth time that the little country had had to fight for its existence. There have been many attacks in the half-century since then, culminated in the current Hamas attack.

Rand sprach sich zwar nicht für die Entsendung amerikanischer Truppen in den Konflikt aus, aber sie argumentierte, dass Amerika "Israel so viel Hilfe wie möglich geben" sollte. Konkret erklärte sie, dass "die Hilfe, die Israel braucht, Technologie und militärische Waffen sind - und sie brauchen sie dringend. Warum sollten wir Israel helfen?" Sie erklärte, dass Israel zu dieser Zeit "nicht nur gegen die Araber, sondern auch gegen Sowjetrussland kämpfte, das den Arabern Rüstungsgüter schickt."

The Soviet Union, of course, has since collapsed, though Vladimir Putin, the former KGB thug now ruling Russia, continues the former regime’s policies of repression and war . But there was more to Rand’s argument, because she asked, “Why are the Arabs against Israel?”

  1. VORMODERNE VS. MODERNER ARABISCH-ISRAELISCHER KULTURKONFLIKT

"Die Araber sind eine der am wenigsten entwickelten Kulturen", argumentierte Rand. "Sie sind typischerweise Nomaden. Ihre Kultur ist primitiv, und sie nehmen Israel übel, weil es der einzige Stützpunkt der modernen Wissenschaft und Zivilisation auf ihrem Kontinent ist."

Natürlich waren die meisten Araber schon damals keine Nomaden. In der Tat waren Bagdad und Kairo vor einem Jahrtausend große städtische Zentren. Der springende Punkt war jedoch, dass die Araber in der Neuzeit eine vormoderne Kultur und Weltanschauung hatten, insbesondere im Vergleich zu den Juden, die aus Europa in das spätere Israel ausgewandert waren. Ein großer Teil dieser Juden war säkular eingestellt. Sie vertraten eine moderne, wissenschaftliche Weltanschauung. Sie befürworteten eine offene, tolerante Gesellschaft und demokratische Institutionen. Und obwohl die Gründer des modernen Staates Israel eine multiethnische Gesellschaft anstrebten, die die Freiheit von Juden und Arabern gleichermaßen garantierte, unabhängig von ihrer Religion, war der Kulturkonflikt zu tief.

A major problem that Rand appreciated was envy. No doubt many Arabs watched with envy as, starting in the late 1800s, Jews came to Palestine, purchased land—usually of the worst quality because that’s all the Arab landlords would sell to them— and through their hard work and exercise of reason they made the desert bloom and they founded the modern city of Tel Aviv. 

Rather than saying “We want to join your marvelous world,” most Arabs said, “We want to destroy you.”

  1. SIND ARABER WILD ODER ZIVILISIERT?

Fifty years ago, Rand used very strong language. She said that “When you have civilized men fighting savages, you support the civilized men, no matter who they are. Israel is a mixed economy inclined toward socialism. But when it comes to the power of the mind—the development of industry in that wasted desert continent—versus savages who don't want to use their minds, then if one cares about the future of civilization, don't wait for the government to do something. Give whatever you can. This is the first time I've contributed to a public cause: helping Israel in an emergency.”

Certainly, not all Arabs are savages. Indeed, in the five decades since Rand’s remarks, Egypt and Jordan have made peace with Israel. Egypt today is struggling to become a modernist country and is an opponent of Hamas. The Abraham Accords, brokered by the United States, saw the United Arab Emirates and Bahrain normalize relations with Israel. The Emirate city of Dubai has adopted much of the modernist goal of material progress by embracing science and technology, creating a large, modern city. But, of course, the rise of Islamists such as ISIS can only be described as savage. And Iran is the major funder and supplier of Hamas and of the Hezbollah savages who threaten Israel on its north border. And it seeks to produce a nuclear weapon for the sole purpose of eliminating Israel.

But Rand today would no doubt be especially proud of Israel’s progress in the decades since her passing in 1982. Israel abandoned much of its socialism. And the area around Tel Aviv is referred to as “Silicon Wadi,” Hebrew for “Silicon Valley,” because it is perhaps the global hub for creating advanced technology second only to the California hub after which it is named. It is a testament to the power of free minds that Rand understood separates civilized from savage.

Objectivism holds that human life is the foundation of all values. The words most on the lips of most Jews is “L’Chaim!,” “To life!” Osama Bin-Laden has said to the civilized world that “Our youth love death as you love life.” Indeed, most people of Gaza, represented by Hamas, see as the highest aspiration for their own children as martyrdom in the process of killing other children. They are literally death worshippers. The irreconcilable conflict in values couldn’t be clearer.

All individuals of good will, especially in Israel, long for a day that the current conflict in the Middle East will be only a dim, morally ugly memory. Israel will rightly do everything to destroy Hamas once and for all. But this welcome situation of Middle East peace will only come about with the spread of the Enlightenment ideals of reason, individualism, and liberty. These are not just ideals for Israelis, Europeans, or Americans but for all individuals, all countries, and for all times.

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Edward Hudgins
About the author:
Edward Hudgins

Edward Hudgins, former director of advocacy and senior scholar at The Atlas Society, is the founder of the Human Achievement Alliance and can be reached at ehudgins@humanachievementalliance.org.

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