James Leroy Wilson's blog

Friday, August 19, 2005

Homesteaders or Welfare Queens?

Former Israeli Ilana Mercer makes good points:

Mawasi is a microcosm of Gaza, where, despite unstinting international aid, the gross domestic product per capita is $558 per person and 81 percent of the population lives below the poverty line. Apologists for lackluster Palestinian productivity blame Israel – the few thousand "settlers," especially. Socialists will do that. Their zero-sum economics dictate that one person's plenty is another's poverty. The very opposite is true. The benefits of the businesses created in the Harvest Belt (English for Gush Katif) – and the attendant jobs – redounded to all.

Still, when it comes to the plight of their plucky proteges, Palestinian supporters prefer Marxist theories. Marxism notwithstanding, an inanimate land mass doesn't produce abundance – human ingenuity does. People transform raw resources into usable and desirable goods – export-quality flowers and produce, in the case of Gush Katif. And voila: a demand for labor ensues. Once the Jews are evicted, the industries they created will wither – as will the demand for Arab labor.

Counterfeit capitalists were not the only silent witnesses to the unfolding injustice. Lockean homesteaders haven't exactly protested the confiscation of the "settlers'" property. That is, with the exception of WND's Joseph Farah: "These Jews took no one's land; Gush Katif land was all uninhabited, miles away from any deeded Arab property."

[They] ... developed an arid wasteland unused for decades and made the desert bloom ... And it provides some of the only decent-paying jobs to Arabs in Gaza besides the high-turnover positions of suicide bombers.

A contemporary property theorist named Murray Rothbard would have (or ought to have) concurred: "If any land has never been transformed, no one can legitimately claim its ownership ... Title to an unowned resource (such as land) comes properly only from the expenditure of labor to transform that resource into use," Rothbard wrote in "The Ethics of Liberty." The "settlers" transformed uninhabited land in spades. Mr. Sharon and the Palestinian plunderers are "criminal aggressors," having ousted them by force and taken what is theirs.

And handed it to Hamas.

For Gaza is Hamas territory. And Hamas is a rib from the Muslim Brotherhood's rib cage, a fraternity that has pledged to solve the Jewish problem, once and for all.

But Ran MaCohen writing from Israel says:

The entire Israeli police force is in and around Gaza. Except for a few units left over to break the bones of the peaceful anti-wall demonstrators in Bil'in, the Israeli forces are all in the South. The Masters of the State are struggling with the Masters of the Land, and we, common Israelis, have to live with rising criminality. Thank you, dear settlers.
There is a lot of antagonism toward the settlers; none of it reaches the media, except for rare scoops like the police officer unknowingly recorded telling his men to "f*ck these damned settlers" (he was dismissed immediately, of course).

Why hate the settlers? Look: last week the worst-ever Poverty Report was published, giving Israel a Western-world-record in child poverty: 33 percent of Israeli children now live in poverty, compared to 22 percent in the United States, 15 percent in Canada, 10 percent in Germany, and 4 percent in Sweden. On this background, take a close look at the pictures from the settlements: a great villa for every family, beautiful gardens, well-paved streets, luxurious community facilities. Nothing to compare with the slums of nearby Sderot, the poor, unemployment-struck town inside Israel, not even with the common apartment blocks of the Israeli middle class within the Green Line. In a rare interview, an elderly man from Sderot told Israeli television that if all the money hadn't gone to the settlements, it could have made his home town prosperous. Meanwhile, rows of slums in Sderot, often bombed by Palestinian homemade missiles, are offered for sale. Unlike the settlements, here there are no generous public facilities, no bulletproof windows, and definitely no compensation for those wishing to leave.

The settlers have been spoiled by the state to such an extent that the real question is not why they are resented, but how come they are not resented even more. The answer lies in the openness of the settlements' project: Israeli lower-middle-class families have the option to pack their belongings, leave their slums behind, and "uproot" themselves the other way around, to high-quality, highly subsidized housing within a generously supportive community in the Occupied Territories. In fact, many of them did so, especially to the bigger settlements next to the Green Line, like Maale Adumim. That's the power of Israel's colonization policy, but that's its Achilles heel as well: it's these settlers, motivated by economic benefits rather than by ultra-nationalist fanaticism, who now "betray" and readily return to Israel for very generous compensations. In fact, the real pain in the neck facing the evicting forces is not the Gaza settlers, most of whom have left, but thousands of young rabble from the West Bank who infiltrated Gaza, practically occupying the emptying settlements to resist the "uprooting" of the homes of others.

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