The Palestinian Choice

by | Nov 6, 2023 | Middle East & Israel

There will be no peace in the Middle East unless secular freedom rather than theocratic despotism becomes the Palestinians’ guiding philosophy.
Hamas slogan for the obliteration of the state of Israel. Photo G. Malhotra/Unsplash

The toll of violence in the Middle East is a tragedy.

Much of the world is pressuring Israel once again to negotiate with Hamas as a means of ending the conflict. This is a hopeless quest. Negotiation pre-supposes that both parties share common moral values and compatible goals. But the two sides are not morally equivalent. Hamas is a ruthless authoritarian regime who has had hundreds of his own people tortured or killed. It is and always has been a terrorist organization. It has never sought peaceful co-existence with Israel but only its destruction.

The Palestinians are the initiators of the violence–an indiscriminate violence in which they do not care whom they kill, whether soldier, civilian or child. Israel, in contrast, is acting in self-defense, in retaliation for such terrorism. And its response is aimed at those responsible for the violence and at the facilities from which they operate. Any non-combatants killed in the process are not the targets of the retaliation; they are put as risk by  Hamas hiding among them and their blood is on the terrorists’ hands.[1]

The Palestinian government and its supporters are not seeking to gain their freedom–they are unequivocal enemies of freedom. They, along with the rest of the Arab world, reject the whole concept of rights on principle. Every Arab country is a monarchy, theocracy or military dictatorship. Freedom of speech, property rights, free elections, and the separation of church and state are almost non-existent. Speaking out against the rulers or against the Muslim religion leads to imprisonment or death. All attempts to start competing political parties are ruthlessly crushed.

Israel is the sole country in the Middle East that recognizes individual rights (albeit, like America, imperfectly). It is the only Mideast country in which people are free to voice their opinions. The non-violent, non-PLO-supporting Arab who lives in Israel enjoys far greater freedom than he would in an Arab nation. (I must add that the Israeli leadership today is starting to put their mainly enlightenment philosophy at risk by moving the country toward religious dogmatism. They are working with their own religious militants to reduce citizens’ rights. If this continues, it will be the end of a heroic, pro-reason nation.)

It is an utter perversion for the collectivized, tribalist Palestinians to claim that they are acting in defense of rights, when their aim is to obliterate rights–the rights of Israelis as well as of Arabs.

The fundamental goal of the Palestinian leadership is destruction. They want their terrorist attacks to lead to retaliation, so that more of their people will become terrorists, so that more killing takes place, and so on, in an endless cycle of violence, resulting in . . . death–death to as many people as possible. For example, the response of a father to the suicide-bombing act of his 23-year-old son, who killed three Israelis and injured 93 in downtown Netanyah, was: “I call upon all Palestinian youth to follow in his footsteps.”

The October 2023 Hamas invasion was deliberately designed to kill Israeli civilians rather than soldiers. Why would they do this? Because they knew they could not defeat the soldiers who could defend themselves. So, they decided to kill people who could not defend themselves, knowing full well that they could not win the war. This is just killing for the sake of killing. It represents nihilism not idealism.

Why such seething nihilism? The Jews brought Western knowledge and Western values to the Middle East. They turned much of the barren land into a modern, industrial civilization. They raised cities in areas where there had been only dirt; they developed irrigated farms where there had been only dry sand. (This is not to deny that there were also thriving outposts of civilization under the British rule as well; it is just that the Israelis took it to another level for all its citizens). Rights such as freedom of religion, freedom of speech and the press, universities, the study of science and technology, a multi-party system, and wealth creation through capitalism produced a thriving, civilized nation.

The advanced Israeli culture left the Islamic countries behind—and the Islamists knew it and became enraged. When a person sees that a different culture can produce a much better life–greater knowledge, greater mastery over nature, greater comfort and security, greater respect for the individual–than his own, he has two choices. He can adopt the new culture as a blessing, or he can seek to destroy it–and himself–because it stands as a reproach to his irrational form of existence.

The Palestinian rulers and their supporters have chosen the latter.

They are guilty of what Ayn Rand called “hatred of the good for being the good.” They hate the Israelis not because of their vices, but because of their virtues–their ability to better their lives by embracing reason, science, technology and individual rights. Israel (despite its own, growing crop of religious mystics) represents the triumph of secularism and freedom in the Middle East. Israel stands for the principle of … life.

The only way this conflict can be resolved, short of all-out war, is for a radical change in philosophy on the part of the Palestinians, starting with the choice of a new leader who wants Palestine to have a future. They need to choose individual rights and a free society as their core political principle. If they don’t, they will tragically get their death wish, and will bring about only further destruction.

The Palestinian choice should be to reject Hamas, which are the actual occupiers of Gaza (using it is a base to massacre innocent women and children in Israel with Gaza children used as human shields) from which they need to be liberated.


[1] It is an established practice by the Islamists to mix their soldiers with non-combatants including women, children, medical doctors, journalists, and others. This puts Israeli forces in a seemingly no-win situation. If the enemy soldiers were not hunted down and captured, killed, or disabled, the attackers were free to fight on and start the next war. If the Israelis did attack without being able to identify all the attackers in advance, they could be accused of war crimes or at least of horrible cruelty. This dilemma, however, is eliminated if the issue is formulated correctly. A free country has the absolute right to defend itself from foreign aggression; this includes the total defeat of the enemy and the destruction of all property used by the leaders. The leaders of aggressor nations are fully responsible for initiating force. This means that they are fully to blame for putting their own citizens at risk. Citizens who never supported their warmongering leaders, if they can be separated from the aggressors, should be allowed to leave, if possible, and should told to blame their own leaders who started the war for any suffering they have to endure. Any other policy, including setting the perpetrators free, would be unjust and would lead to endless warfare with the same enemy. The present Israeli strategy is morally and practically right.

Edwin A. Locke is Dean's Professor of Leadership and Motivation Emeritus at the R.H. Smith School of Business, University of Maryland. He is a Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science (APS), the American Psychological Association, the Society for Industrial & Organizational Behavior, and the Academy of Management. He is the recipient of the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award (Society for I/O Psychology), the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Academy of Management (OB Division), the J. M. Cattell Award (APS) and the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award from the Academy of Management. He, with Gary Latham, has spent over 50 years developing Goal Setting Theory, ranked No. 1 in importance among 73 management theories. He has published over 320 chapters, articles, reviews and notes, and has authored or edited 13 books including (w. Kenner) The Selfish Path to Romance, (w. Latham) New Directions in Goal Setting and Task Performance, and The Prime Movers: Traits of the Great Wealth Creators. He is internationally known for his research on motivation, job satisfaction, leadership, and other topics. His website is:

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

Related articles

Biden Ends the US-Israel Alliance at a Fortuitous Moment

Biden Ends the US-Israel Alliance at a Fortuitous Moment

The Biden administration’s decision to abandon Jerusalem and side with its enemies is a terrible development. But the fortuitous timing allows Israel and the American people to minimize the damage in the coming months, and, if Biden is denied a second term, over the next four years.

No spam. Unsubscribe anytime.

Pin It on Pinterest