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Ayn Rand on Israel

Israel looms large in the Ayn Rand Institute mind. A recent Google search for “Israel” on their website listed 178 pages. [1]  Israel was not as important to Ayn Rand:  there is only one mention of Israel in all her written work. It occurs in “The Lessons of Vietnam,” The Ayn Rand Letter, dated August 26, 1974 but – the Letter being behind schedule – written in May 1975. The essay is reprinted in The Voice of Reason, published after her death.

At the time she wrote this essay the U.S. had just abandoned South Vietnam, which immediately fell to the North Vietnamese, who were backed by communist China. We will examine her mention of Israel in a moment, but since she will use the slippery term “isolationism” we first quote an earlier paragraph to make her reference clear:

“Observe the  double-standard  switch of the  anti-concept  of  ‘isolationism.’  The same intellectual groups ... who coined that anti-concept in World War II – and used it to denounce any patriotic opponent of America’s self-immolation – the same groups who screamed that it was our duty to save the world (when the enemy was Germany or Italy or fascism) are now rabid isolationists who denounce any U.S. concern with countries fighting for freedom, when the enemy is communism and Soviet Russia.”
Thus the Leftists, for such were all these “intellectual groups,” are inconsistent. They denounce the patriotic isolationists of WW II (Ayn Rand was one) and yet praise the new isolationists of the Cold War. In her next paragraph she castigates these new isolationists, and maintains that, contrary to them, the U.S. may properly aid another country if (to add a condition she makes elsewhere in the essay) such aid really is in the interests of America.

The next paragraph laments that this new isolationism plays on the American public’s legitimate anger over Vietnam, thus making the U.S. government afraid to get involved in foreign wars “not agreeable to Soviet Russia.”  Now comes the part concerning Israel:

“The first intended victim of the new isolationism will probably be Israel—if the ‘antiwar’ efforts of the new isolationists succeed. (Israel and Taiwan are the two countries that need and deserve U.S. help—not in the name of international altruism, but by reason of actual U.S. national interests in the Mediterranean and the Pacific.)”
The time she wrote the above, 1975, is important, because the context of her knowledge is important. And it turns out that that knowledge was incomplete and inaccurate. The above quote, as we shall show, is not Ayn Rand’s philosophy, it is an innocent misapplication of it.

Many times Ayn Rand praised isolationism in its old-fashioned, America First, sense. For example, in her essay “The Chickens Homecoming” (reprinted by her in The New Left)  she attacked

“the premises that we owe a duty to the rest of the world, that we are responsible for the welfare of any nation anywhere on earth, that isolationism is selfish, immoral and impractical in a ‘shrinking’ modern world, etc.”
Her attack is applicable not only to Europe and Vietnam but to any country.

Evidently – for we believe Ayn Rand was consistent – in 1975 she thought that foreign aid to Israel was in the interest of the U.S., that it was not an act of national self-sacrifice.

Specifically, judging from her answers to questions at talks she gave around this time, she supported Israel for two reasons. She believed that without U.S. support, Russia – which was supporting the Arabs – would control the Mediterranean and its oil. And she saw the fight between Israel and the Arabs as a fight between civilized men and savages.

Were these beliefs true? And if true, did they justify foreign aid to Israel?

Israel possessed no oil. Nor were the Arabs going to let Russia control Arab oil just because Russia gave them armaments. Later Russia could not even control Afghanistan by military force. The illusion that Russia could control the Mediterranean is a relic of Cold War thinking,  a relic of the time when everyone believed “the Russians are ten feet tall.”  Ayn Rand succumbed to this syndrome far less than most, but evidently not in this case.  (Russia’s aid was not always against Israel, by the way. During Israel’s formative years Russia backed Menachem Begin’s terrorist activities against Britain and the Arabs.) Furthermore, only a small fraction of the world’s oil resides in the Mediterranean. In sum, Mediterranean oil vis-à-vis Russia was not an important issue.

As for America’s interests, its government had, and has, no legitimate interest in the Mediterranean. If American oil companies wish to risk drilling in that region of the world, that interest is their own and, as far as the government is concerned, theirs alone. Here it is worth noting that America’s “energy crisis” is entirely due to government interference with American industry.

Was socialist Israel our ally against communist Russia? [2]  During the Cold War Israel packaged itself as a bulwark against communism, an enemy of our enemy, the Soviet Union. As it turned out, Israel was pulling the wool over our eyes. For examples of Israel’s treachery read about the Pollard Affair and other betrayals in This is Our Ally? on this website. Israel was against Russia only to the extent that Russia helped Arabia, otherwise Israel helped Russia if Russia helped Israel. Ayn Rand evidently believed Israel’s propaganda about it being our ally against Russia, not realizing the propaganda was lies.

She also evidently believed that Israel had a more civilized government than it did. When Ayn Rand spoke at the Ford Hall Forum she frequently got asked about Israel – whose supporters are anything if not vociferous – during the question and answer periods, which were open to any question. Her reply would go along the following lines: I support Israel; though Israel is a socialist country, in that region of the world Israel is the vanguard of civilization.

In other words, the gray of Israel is white compared to the surrounding near-black of Arabia. [2a]  There is something to be said for that kind of argument, but of course it fails when the gray gets dark enough. Did Ayn Rand know how dark Israel really was? The year she wrote her essay, 1975, was long before Israeli torture came to light in the 1993 New York Times exposé, over ten years after her death. 1975 was long before Israel’s massacre of Beirut in 1982, the year of her death. [3]

Ayn Rand thought that Israel was America’s ally. Did she know how treacherous Israel really was? 1975 was long before the exposure of the Pollard Affair in 1985, three years after her death. Not to mention the USS Liberty attack (though it occurred in 1967 it was not made public until 1980), and many other acts by Israel against America. [4]  And long before the publication of such exposés as Victor Ostrovsky’s By Way of Deception (1990) and Ari Ben-Menashe’s Profits of War (1992).

It is far more probable that Ayn Rand was ignorant of Israel’s brutality and deceit than that she thought Israel’s brutality and deceit were comparatively unimportant.

Still, she must be held partly responsible for her ignorance. With some effort even in 1975 one could break through the cloud of propaganda thrown out by Israel and its worshippers. Her mistake was surrounding herself with people like Leonard Peikoff, and – very likely – relying on their research, or lack of it. [5]

Even if Israel were truly civilized and our ally, it would not justify forcing American citizens to pay for Israel’s support. Ayn Rand did not have John Galt say:

“I swear – by my life and my love of it – that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine ... uh ... except in the case of Israel.”
Israel is no exception, and one would like to think Ayn Rand did not make it one. She was mistaken about the nature of Israel and sincerely believed that helping the Israeli government was in our interest. A mistake preserved in amber which ARI’s supporters bring forth at every opportunity. [6]

If you know the facts and apply Ayn Rand’s principles consistently you will oppose foreign aid to Israel, not to mention to all other Third World countries. And certainly oppose getting involved in their wars. Early in the same essay containing the reference to Israel, Ayn Rand writes:

“It [the Vietnam War] was a shameful war ... shameful because it was a war which the U.S. had no selfish reason to fight, because it served no national interest, because we had nothing to gain from it, because the lives and the heroism of thousands of American soldiers (and billions of American wealth) were sacrificed ...”
Today one could say exactly the same about the U.S. wars in the Middle East, which are really Israel’s wars.

What about private philanthropy, is it proper for individuals or private groups to aid Israel? If Israel really were the bastion of freedom and the ally that the so-called Ayn Rand Institute makes it out to be, then private philanthropy would be unobjectionable, even praiseworthy. But considering the history of Israel’s treatment of the U.S., giving to Israel is a traitorous act. [7]

How do Israel-worshippers reply to all this? Guilt by association figures prominently. They argue:  “Horrid group ‘X’ brings up the Pollard Affair and so on, therefore you belong to ‘X’.  This argument is as valid as:  “A thief said 2 + 2 = 4 and so do you, therefore you are a thief.”  Or:  “Thomas Szasz criticizes the psychiatric profession, therefore Thomas Szasz is a Scientologist.”

Supremely stupid, yes, but that doesn’t stop them.



1  The following two selections are representative:

“... we need no crisis to know who our best friend is, and always has been, in the Middle East. Our best friend is Israel, and we should begin by vowing to support that friend as loyally as she has supported us.”  – Robert Tracinski in  “We Are All Israelis Now”  (Sept. 18, 2001).

“Israel is our only true ally in the Mideast, and supporting it is the only moral thing for the United States to do.”  – Yaron Brook in the press release for his lecture  “The Moral Case for Supporting Israel”  (February 18, 2005).

For more examples see This is Our Ally? on this website.

By contrast, searches for TSA and “Transportation Security Administration” both came up with zero pages.

2  Two waves of murders swept away Czarist Russia:  the Socialist Revolutionaries and the Bolsheviks. The first wave made the second possible. Zionist leaders in proto-Israel included people from the first wave, such as Moshe Novomesky, Pinchas Rutenberg, and Manya Schochat.

David Ben-Gurion (1886-1973) was the chief architect of Israel and its first Prime Minister.  The following is from “Zionism, Socialism and United States Support for the Jewish Colonization of Palestine in the 1920s” by Lawrence Davidson, Arab Studies Quarterly, Summer 1996:

For Ben Gurion it was Palestine’s destiny to be developed as a socialist Jewish state. (12)  Here the model was the early Soviet state.  ‘We are following a new path,’  Ben Gurion explained in 1921,  ‘which contradicts developments in the whole world except Russia.’ (13)  This led him to pay homage to the Soviet Union for  ‘her great spiritual influence on our movement and our work in Palestine.’ (14)  In these years Ben Gurion came to idolize Lenin and he even adopted the dress of the Soviet leaders – a quasi military uniform of rough wool. (15)
12  David M. Edelman, The Story of Ben Gurion.
13  Yonathan Shapiro, The Formative Years of the Israeli Labour Party.
14  Shabtai Teveth, Ben Gurion. See also Edelman, ibid.
15  Michael Bar-Zohar, Ben Gurion.
www.questia.com/library/1G1-19129728/zionism-socialism-and-united-states-support-for-the

2a  We would except Lebanon, founded by non-Muslims and considerably Westernized.

3  The tragedy is that the U.S. government’s alliance with Israel is turning it to Israel’s ways.

4  Frequently in collusion with America’s own government, especially rogue elements within it. Again, see   This is Our Ally?  on this website.

5  It’s worth noting that Mr. Peikoff is listed in The Ayn Rand Letter as its contributing editor.  In 1962, fifteen years earlier when Mr. Peikoff had little or no influence on Ayn Rand, she wrote an entire essay denouncing foreign aid:  “The Pull Peddlers,”  published in The Objectivist Newsletter (reprinted in the The Voice of Reason). She denounces foreign aid comprehensively and in the strongest terms. Nowhere in the six pages does she say  “this does not apply to Israel”  though Israel is the country receiving the largest helping of U.S. foreign aid.  A few quotes from her essay:
“America’s foreign policy is so grotesquely irrational that most people believe there must be some sensible purpose behind it. The extent of the irrationality acts as its own protection:  like the technique of the ‘Big Lie,’ it makes people assume that so blatant an evil could not possibly be as evil as it appears to them and, therefore, that somebody must understand its meaning, even though they themselves do not.”
...
“... after two decades [now seven – AW] of global altruism, our foreign policy is achieving the exact opposite of its alleged goals:  it is wrecking our economy – it is reducing us internationally to the position of an impotent failure who has nothing but a series of compromises, retreats, defeats, and betrayals on his record – and, instead of bringing progress to the world, it is bringing the bloody chaos of tribal warfare and delivering one helpless nation after another into the power of communism.”
Today you could replace “communism” with “thugs.”  We must question the following:
“... the lobbyists in the pay of foreign interests [or, we would add, lobbyists having the same interests as the foreign interests – AW], the men who could not hope to get, in any other circumstances, the money they are getting now – are the real and only profiteers on the global sacrifice, as their ilk has always been at the close of every altruistic movement in history. ... it is only the men who are too small to start such movements and small enough to cash in at the end.”
However, a lobbyist receives but a small fraction of the money. Most of it goes to the government of the foreign country, which surely must be said to gain from the transaction. And the lobbyists, though as venal as their government, could be sincere in their support of it.

6  Judging from their activity in discussion groups. Curiously, no ARI writer seems to have quoted Ayn Rand’s single published reference to Israel.

7  Ayn Rand’s extemporaneous replies to questions are not part of the Ayn Rand corpus. Even a genius might say something in an unconsidered moment that is ill-advised or begs for elaboration. That said, and for what it is worth, at the Ford Hall Forum in 1977 she was asked (according to Robert Mayhew’s paraphrase): “Would you comment on the rights of the Palestinians to their homeland?” She began her reply by admitting (again Mr. Mayhew’s paraphrase):
“I don’t know the history of the Middle East well enough to know what started the trouble.”
The rest of her reply proves that point:
“Whatever rights the Palestinians may have had ... they have lost all rights to anything: not only to land, but to human intercourse. If they lost land, and in response resorted to terrorism – to the slaughter of innocent citizens – they deserve whatever any commandos anywhere can do to them ...”
Yet the very same could be said of the Israelis. Long before 1948 Israel’s founders instigated terrorist attacks against the British – letter bombs and parcel bombs to London politicians, bombing the King David Hotel in Jerusalem killing over 90 random Britains, the murder of Lord Moyne while visiting Cairo, and many other examples – terrorist attacks against the native Palestinians (mostly primitive farmers and merchants) – the Deir Yassin massacre, etc – and even the murder of a former benefactor because he opposed them intellectually: Count Bernadotte of Sweden while visiting Jerusalem.

Years after its founding Israel continued to engage in terrorism, designed to be blamed on Arabs. For example the Lavon Affair against Americans in Egypt. We have already mentioned the attack on the USS Liberty in the Mediterranean, in which the Israelis killed 34 American sailors.

Though the Palestine area before 1948 was not a modern country the residents did have fixed addresses, worked the land and traded agricultural produce. Primitive as it all was they were not savages or nomads. (Some other Arabs were, and are, well described as savages.) Presumably Ayn Rand’s answer was meant to be an instance of a generality, which could be applied mutatis mutandis to any country (and with the same caveat that it is not part of her corpus):
“Whatever rights Israel’s founders may have had they lost all rights to anything: not only to a country, but to human intercourse. If in trying to found a country they resorted to terrorism – to the slaughter of innocent citizens – they, and those who afterwards elected them to high office again and again, deserve whatever anyone anywhere can do to them.”