Mises Wire

Statism Is the Cause of the Israel-Hamas War

The state is an organized crime racket. It appropriates wealth by coercion and regularly uses force in violation of the nonaggression principle. The state is a parasite that perpetuates itself at all costs and extends itself by any means possible. Regardless of its putative leaders, the state grows and increases its power at the expense of its hosts and others who fall victim to its predations.

As Hans-Hermann Hoppe poignantly wrote, states are “gangs of murderers, plunderers and thieves, surrounded by willing executioners, propagandists, sycophants, crooks, liars, clowns, charlatans, dupes and useful idiots—[the state is] an institution that dirties and taints everything it touches.”

One of the state’s dirty occupations is war. When undertaking war, the state uses expropriated wealth and human capital to defend its territory or extend its reach and influence. Clearing away the fog of statist preconceptions regarding war, Hoppe explains that war is gang warfare: “Gang wars, then, typically involving some territorial issues, are always wars conducted by rival gang leaders with other people’s money, machines and manpower (just think of taxation and compulsory conscription!).”

According to Hoppe, it follows from this recognition that the proper posture of antistatist libertarians toward war is neutrality. That is, we must equally oppose all state parties to war.

This understanding forms the basis of any worthwhile libertarian treatment of military conflict—whether the war between Russia and Ukraine (and the United States and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization) or the prospect of war between China and Taiwan (and the United States).

However, given that the war between Israel and Hamas represents a state versus a nonstate military gang, we must consider whether any significant differences obtain.

But first, we must acknowledge that as organized crime syndicates, states have no legitimate claim to territory. This is no less true in Israel than anywhere else. States acquire territory by plunder and confiscation, and by coercive taxation that is used to expand and maintain so-called state property. But states cannot legitimately own property; all state property is stolen property.

Therefore, any collectivist claims to land in what was previously called Palestine are illegitimate on their face. So was the earlier British claim over the region. Contrary to the received notion that states have natural rights, discrete pieces of property can be owned only by individuals and groups, but whole regions cannot be legitimately claimed by states.

In the case of the war between Israel and Hamas, we are not dealing with a conflict between two states as such. Rather, the conflict represents a war between a state and a nonstate region. Moreover, the nonstate region is putatively governed by a militant group opposed to the state. But it is a region over which the state exerts considerable control, including control over the ingress and egress of the population, and even over its access to food, water, and other essential goods and services.

The question is, then, What is the proper libertarian position in such a case as this? Is Hamas to be regarded as an equal partner in war, as a rival state gang on par with an opposing state, thus requiring our neutrality with reference to the conflict? After all, we are told that Hamas is a proxy for other states, especially Iran. Hamas has also received financial support from Qatar.

Or should Hamas be thought of as a dissident militia essentially residing within the purview of the state and carrying out retaliatory strikes on the state and its citizens? Hamas has violated the rights of others, but is Hamas otherwise simply an enemy of the state?

This view is complicated by the question of Palestinian statehood. Without adjudicating the post-nineteenth-century history of the region, it is enough to say that the prospect of statehood has essentially made the Palestinian cause a statist project.

Even though a “two-state solution” is likely impossible after the unprecedented attack on Israel and the vicious and extremely disproportionate response, it was never the means to any lasting peace in the first place. Statism is the cause of the conflict, and not the solution.

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