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Would Locke Approve?

March 23, 2011

A 60 year-old woman was killed and 39 were injured in a terrorist attack in central Jerusalem this afternoon when a bomb exploded outside Egged bus number 74 at a station across from the Jerusalem Conference Center.  Police have stated that an explosive device inside a bag was left at the bus station which then exploded.  Witnesses were able to identify the man who left the bag and is now being searched for by Israeli police.  The police also stated that this has been the first terrorist attack of its kind in four years.

Hostility between Israelis and Palestinians is certainly nothing new.  Ever since the UN granted Israel its independence in 1948, the fighting between the two sides has never stopped, and wars and terrorist attacks have prevented the two sides from reaching a peace agreement.

Palestinian terrorists take action to fight against what they believe to be an “oppressive” Israeli government.  They believe that the Israeli government does not serve their best interest and does not provide them with proper rights.  Therefore, they wish to gain these freedoms by attacking Israeli society.

In Locke’s Second Treatise of Government, he states that the people have the right to dissolve their government if it ceases to function in the peoples’ best interest, often taking on a tyrannical rule.  Many Palestinians believe that the Israeli government is tyrannical and does not serve their best interest.  As a result, they feel they have a right to rebel.

The major question here is whether or not Locke would approve of terrorist attacks based on his views of dissolving government.  The first thing one would have to look at is whether or not the Israeli government truly is oppressive.  I can say from first-hand experience that this is certainly not true.  During a trip to Israel a couple of summers ago, I had the pleasure of discussing the Arab-Israeli conflict with Palestinian teenagers.  When I asked them if they had ever considered moving from Israel to an Arab country, where the rest of their family lived, they responded by saying that they enjoy more rights and freedoms in Israel than they would in any Arab country.  They said that their quality of life is simply much greater in Israel.

Evidence of this greater quality of life is everywhere in Israel.  Palestinians have the opportunity to become Israeli citizens and vote in Israeli elections.  In addition, all street and road signs are written in Arabic in addition to Hebrew to accommodate the Palestinians.  Most importantly, Muslims have full access to the Dome of the Rock and the Al-Aqsa mosque.

Maybe Locke would still think that the Israeli government is oppressive.  However, I don’t think that he would approve of attacks on innocent civilians in an attempt to dissolve the government since they are not part of government themselves.  Regardless of your opinion and belief, let’s hope that the two sides can attain peace in the near future.


Photo: Reuters

  1. Stephan Sakhai permalink
    March 23, 2011 4:39 PM

    Robby, i agree with your post completely. I dont think locke would approve of these terrorist attacks because of the complexity of the situation. Besides the fact that palestinian arabs have right and are not oppressed, they have representatives in the government, parliament, and the military.

    Obviously, this is an argument with no conclusive answer. This is because there is always going to be a group or minority that feels the government is not doing whats in their best interest. But, just because something isn’t working exactly how you want it too, that shouldn’t give you the right to do whatever you like to overthrow that government.

    Still, there are times which this would be necessary, and Locke would approve of an overthrowing. However, the current situation in Israel is definitely not one of them.

    Though to reiterate Robby’s last point, lets just hope the violence stops and peace ensues.

  2. Ad maiorem Dei gloriam permalink
    March 23, 2011 5:30 PM

    The Israeli Government is not one that has legitimacy in the eyes of the Palestinians. Hence, the question is, to what extent does the argument that Locke would support an uprising against a Government (that the Palestinians don’t see as legitimate) that suppresses all legal recourse for grievances, hold true in this case?

    Assuming that Locke’s argument on tacit consent is true, though it is most definitely the case that Locke’s conception of ‘tacit consent’ has evoked ire among philosophers who argues that being in a state doesn’t necessarily mean that one has surrendered his rights. Can the argument of ‘tacit consent’ in which resident aliens have to abide by state laws by virtue of their ‘being there’, hold in this case? After all, they were there, tilled the land, and, by no means, recognize the legitimacy of the Government.

  3. cfrankel permalink
    March 23, 2011 9:15 PM

    When looking at the Israeli government, I agree with you that it is by no means oppressive. That’s quite ironic how the Palestinian teenagers say that they would rather stay in Israel than move to an Arab country. I remember going to Israel as well and seeing the signs in both Arabic and Hebrew. This directly proves how the government is concerned with everyone living in their country, even though they are often criticized and attacked by arab speaking countries on a consistent basis. I also completely agree with you that Locke wouldn’t would approve of the attacks on the innocent people. But then again, who would? I think you should stick to your point that the Israeli government is not oppressive and not second guess yourself at the end of this post. Locke would absolutely not view the Israeli government as oppressive and therefore would not support the Palestinians in any way.

  4. timothyhall permalink
    March 23, 2011 9:26 PM

    Enjoyed your post. I think what separates this even further from the possibility of Lockean justification is the fact that this was a terrorist attack on other civilians. A bomb left in a bus station has nothing to do with the proper rebellion against tyrannical government about which Locke spoke. Whether or not Israeli government is oppressive toward Palestinians means nothing in this situation, because this was not an attack on Israeli government or the military forces that represent it, but on helpless, blameless civilians. Aggression such as this can be justified by no one–Locke would in no way approve.

  5. Micah Friedman permalink
    March 23, 2011 10:19 PM

    I agree with you wholeheartedly. The terrorist attacks are not in any form a rebellion. They are simply to put fear in the heart of the Israeli people, not necessarily the government. Even if the attacks were against the government, they would not be justified according to a Lockean argument. Locke believes that the main purpose of government is to protect the property and the natural rights of the people, which the Israeli government has done, for the most part. However, the Palestinians’ property in Israel has been encroached upon by the government. The government refuses to stop building settlements in the Gaza strip. So, although these attacks were not justified, Palestinians might be justified to rebel against the government, not other citizens.

  6. singshre permalink
    March 24, 2011 12:28 AM

    Robert, I completely agree with your interpretation of Locke disapproving of the terrorist attacks. Micah took the words right out of my mouth; however, I would like to elaborate on Locke’s position of community’s influence on property rights. He writes, “Every man, when he at first incorporates himself into any commonwealth, he, by his uniting himself thereunto, annexed also, and submits to the community, those possessions which he has, or shall acquire, that do not already belong to any other government” (319). By leaving the Arab government/community, these people are subject to let the Israel government govern their property rights. They cannot think that they will not have to follow Israel’s government policies because by entering this new community they are giving up their obligations to the Arab government. Thus, reiterating the point that the government should protect property rights, regardless of what kind of government an individual is subject to. Thus, the Israeli government is not being oppressive, just reinforcing Locke’s point that those individuals must choose to follow their laws as they join the Israeli community.

  7. Natalie Turner permalink
    March 25, 2011 10:51 PM

    In response to Micah’s statement about the Palestinians having a right to rebel based on the continuation of Israeli settlements being built, I disagree and would like to offer another reason why this is unjustified. What fails to be mentioned often times when discussing the Israeli-Arab conflict is the fact that the Palestinian government uses the money it is given for weapons, missiles, and bombs that are used against Israeli civilians. Rather than putting this money to good use, for example providing new infrastructure, improving education, improving overall conditions in the West Bank and Gaza Strip, etc, the Palestinian authorities use this money to supply their attacks on Israel. This, along with the terrorist attacks that have resurfaced in Israel, are completely unjustifiable.

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