There is something known as a horizontal conflict of interest, applicable within all areas of life. There is only so much land, so many desirable jobs, so many potential partners, so much that consumers are willing to spend; we live in a world with limited resources. I think it is important to realize when you’re in this situation so you understand the objectives of your opponent and are able to defeat them, but also so you’re able to respect them.
By nature, no one has the moral high ground in a horizontal conflict of interest. No one is “supposed” to win. So how do you succeed?
- Popular Support
- Financial Resources
If you have a sufficient amount of all of these, or an abundance of some of them, you have a shot at overthrowing a person or entity competing for the same resources as you. If you don’t, but you decide to take up that battle anyway, you risk engaging in a suicide mission. Example: you decide to run for a political position, against an incumbent. You are competing with them for a resource in limited supply (that position), and should therefore expect their willingness to relentlessly defend it, at the expense of your reputation, or more.
This raises the question of when ethics should be introduced into a horizontal conflict of interest. Are there boundaries that both sides are bound by? Or are both sides entitled to engage in any tactics that will maximize their chances of success? Perhaps in most scenarios, parties in a conflict are willing to abide by certain unspoken ethical standards, until/unless they believe the other side has already violated those standards, at which point, all bets are off.
I believe this concept of horizontal conflict of interest applies to the war between Israel and Palestine. Both desire residence within and control of the same land, whether for reasons religious, sentimental, or imperialistic. Excluding the religious and prophetic aspects of the argument for the sake of simplicity, since both Judaism and Islam claim rights to the land, and focusing only on the geopolitical question, I don’t believe Israelis or Palestinians have an inherent right to occupy Israel. Why? Because these are two separate groups of people, with their own religious motivations and ideologies, and their own geopolitical desires, which happen to clash over the same limited resource: land. Who is to say that one is entitled to that land, and the other is not?
Power, as is always the answer. Again, whoever has the most of the following is the likely successor in any war or conflict:
- Popular Support
- Financial Resources
Hamas, the governing authority of Palestine, is supported by almost every surrounding Arab Nation, funded by Iran, committed to the death, and as proven by their attack on Israel and their manipulation of world opinion, incredibly strategic. Israel on the other hand is currently supported by almost every western nation in the world, is funded by the United States, is motivated by the fear of extinction, and has the most technologically advanced military in the middle east.
Both sides have an extensive amount of dedication and strategy, and Israel vastly outranks Hamas in financial and military resources. But as everyone already knows, this isn’t a question of who runs out of rockets first. It’s a question of who can garner world sympathy. Israel enjoys the power it holds in the Middle East largely because of support from Western European and North American countries. Hamas has orchestrated a plan of turning as much of that support away from Israel as possible, leaving it stranded and vulnerable. Even if Israel succeeds in temporarily eliminating Hamas, the ultimate question of whether Hamas’s objective to eliminate Israel from the region is successful will depend on Hamas’s ability to undermine Israel’s popular support.
Who do I think has the “right” to win? Who is “entitled” to reside in what’s currently Israel? No one. If they can’t agree, then the only deciding factor of who should be there is whoever can destroy the other. This is the nature of power. Except for the lesser standard of ethics used by Hamas when attacking Israel, this conflict is in many ways equitable to America’s war for independence against Britain. I think whoever can pull off a victory is worthy of it; that’s the only objective standard.
That said, who do I support?
And for the following reasons:
1) The United States, the country in which I reside and I am a citizen of, is a strong ally to Israel. Hamas knows this, and acted against them regardless. In my opinion, any attack so egregious on a strong Ally of the United States is essentially an attack on the US itself. Is this to suggest that America should become involved in the war without direct provocation? Not necessarily; we have our own national interests, and war is counterproductive to many of them.
But if you’re walking down an alley with a friend, and someone comes around the corner and stabs them, you have a couple options: listen to your instinct of self preservation and run, or attempt to stop the attacker before your friend is killed. If your friend is adequately fending for themself, perhaps your involvement isn’t necessary, and I believe that’s where we’re at now. But I don’t think anyone would argue that complete abandonment of allies after they’re attacked is anything relating to good foreign policy.
2) The same proponents of Islam that support Hamas and the annihilation of Israel also call for “resistance” against America specifically. Something which any American should find concerning, given how they defined that word in the context of Israel. Iran’s supreme leader, and self-proclaimed leader of the Islamic revolution, @khamenei_ir, said this in a statement he made in 2021, posted on his own website:
“Today, our nations… must stand firm and “resist” the aggression, interference and wickedness of western powers… This is a resistance in the face of the interference and evil of America and other transgressing countries…”
WWII was never fought on home soil for America. Why? Because we proactively took out the threats abroad, before it had any opportunity to come here. There is truth to the notion that the best defense is a good offense. Even before Pearl Harbor was attacked, the United States gave unwavering support to the allied forces in Europe because it recognized that Hitler’s ambition was not to conquer Europe; it was to conquer the world. In the same way, the United States needs to provide unwavering support to Israel as its most powerful and formidable line of defense in the middle east. When leaders of countries, and of religions held by sizable portions of entire eastern continents, espouse “resisting” against the entire western culture of democracy, even explicitly referencing America, this is something that needs to be proactively kept in check. To allow countries the privilege of complete self-government and independence, whether Palestine or Iran, or any other country, who explicitly wishes to dismantle western society via terrorism and war, is incredibly naive and even self suicidal.
What is the extent to which America should interfere with governments in the middle east in order to keep their military capabilities and radical intentions in check? It’s a difficult question, since I believe many inhabitants of those countries simply wish to live peacefully and do not aspire to the same radical beliefs held by many of their countries’ leaders. But to do nothing at all, and to allow them to run over our allies, would not only be disloyal to those we pledge to allegiance to, but also immensely counterintuitive to our own self-interests, that being the prevention of eventual foreign attacks on America itself.
3) I grew up in a family and culture with Christian, and by extension, Jewish values being the most prominent influence. Had I grown up a Muslim, my alliances would quite possibly be different. Obviously, this last reason is quite a subjective reason for my support of Israel. Is it to suggest a moral superiority of Christianity over Islam? While I tend to lean in support of one over the other, no. Again, it comes back to that horizontal conflict of interest.
Another disagreement on this topic exists regarding Israel’s extent of retaliation against Palestine/Gaza for the actions of their government, Hamas, and whether or not their subsequent actions of airstrikes and ground invasions are ethical. To put this into perspective, imagine the United States military conducting an attack on China, killing thousands of their civilians, then proceeding to retreat their military, conceal American military targets, and quickly send American soldiers back home to their families. Would such a move result in the Chinese government simply refraining from retaliation, under some moral code of ensuring the protection of American civilians? No. They would likely launch missiles at every major city in our country, and rightfully so. Citizens are not separated from the actions of their government. There are natural, unpleasant consequences on a population when those representing them kill, in a celebratory fashion, thousands of citizens of a neighboring country. I do not believe that Israel is under any moral obligation to prioritize the welfare of the citizens of a country they are at war at, over their interest in eradicating a clear threat to their national security, that threat being the government of Hamas.