No Nation Has a “Right to Exist” – Not Even Israel

One of the lines we hear over and over from defenders of Israel is that Israel has a right to exist. That’s bullshit. No nation has a right to exist. People have rights, at least according to the premises on which the United States was founded; nations do not.

Take a close look at the Declaration of Independence. Actually read it. If you understand what it says, and agree with it, then you know that individual human beings have inalienable rights, including the right to dissolve old nations and institute new ones.

Here’s the essence of that idea: “… to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, –That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

Just the past century has seen plentiful instances of nations that have broken up and nations that been created by dissolving two old nations to fuse the territries into one.

The USSR was created in 1922, annexed a number of territories, and dissloved in 1991, ressurecting a number of small nations that had formally dissappeared for decades. As anyone following the news knows, the process of annexing and adjusting borders is still going on today. The czar’s Russia had no right to exist. The USSR had no right to exist. The new Russia has no right to exist, and neither does Ukraine. It’s all up to the consent of the governed, and their ability to shape a government that suits their needs.

Czechoslovakia was created as part of the remains of the Austro-Hungarian Empire (which had no right to exist). It was conquered by Germany in 1939 and vanished off the map. Then it was reconstituted at the end of WW II, then broken into two independent nations, the Czech Republic and Slovakia, in 1992. Czechoslovakia did exist, for two recent periods of history, but it apparently had no right to exist permanently. Neither do the successor states have any such right, though they do exist now.

Yugoslavia is another remnant of the Austro-Hungarian Empire that has a history somewhat like Czechoslovakia, but more convoluted. Today, the territory of the former Yugoslavia is the site of six nations created since 1992.

I certainly remember a time when there was a North Vietnam and a South Vietnam. I spent a year in South Vietnam as part of the US Army’s 7/15 Artillery. Neither of these nations had a right to exist. Today, there is only the nation of Vietnam.

Germany had no right to exist. East Germany and West Germany were separate nations for decades, with the peculiar arrangement of 3/4 of Berlin (West Germany) being inside East Germany. If I had not lived in Highland Park, Michigan (which is entirely surrounded by the city of Detroit) and visited Hamtramck, Michigan (another city entirely surrounded by Detroit), I might have thought it to be more peculiar. At any rate, both these Germanies are gone, replaced once again with a Germany, which still has no right to exist other than the consent of the people living there.

The Austro-Hungarian Empire is not the only Empire that has passed, and we do not have to go back to the Roman Empire to find another example. We can stick to the last century and still see numerous Empires that no longer exist. The Ottoman Empire, the Japanese Empire (Greater East Asian Co-Prosperity Sphere), and the German Empire (Thousand-Year Reich) are all gone, though their rulers all imagined these states had a right to exist.

The American Empire still exists, after it survived its own Civil War in the 19th Century. The government of the Confederate States of America asserted its right to exist for four years, but was not able to prevail.

To return to the beginning: Israel does not have a right to exist. The people living in Israel, Jews, Muslims, Christians, atheist and others, do have a right to life. Israel does not have a right to exist, aside from the consent of the governed. The governed includes the inhabitants of the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, two territories where the government of Israel asserts its power.

When the supporters of Israel’s current government assert “Israel’s right to exist,” they are going against the founding philosophy of the United States. It does not matter that some of them are currently the President of the United States, or Senators, or Representatives. There may be “practical” reasons of great power politics for the United States to support Israel; or perhaps we should identify these reasons as venal, short-sighted and corrupt.

Either way, the whole idea of Israel having a right to exist is nonsense. When those governed by Israel do not consent, they have the right to alter or abolish that government, and the alterations could include abolishing the existence of Israel, either by breaking it apart or merging it with surrounding states or any combination of both – “in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

At least, if we stick with the spirit and the letter of the founding documents of the United States, that’s how we should think of the issue in this country. Supporters of the current Israeli government follow some different set of principles.


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