Global Ethics Corner: Interests or Values: The West and Israel

Dec 3, 2010

Western support of Israel demonstrates a clash of interests and values. Israel is a key U.S. ally, yet its policies towards Gaza and the West Bank are repeatedly marked with human rights violations. Can there be a middle ground in foreign policy where interests and values meet?

The clash of interests and values in foreign policy is pervasive in the modern world.

Machiavelli, in the 1500s, cynically but practically advised Princes to put interest first, that the end justifies the means. For centuries, this was the de facto rationale underlying the global state system.

Today, value based ideas like democracy, humanitarian intervention, and universal human rights have become core elements of foreign policy. Values are expected to matter.

This clash is clear in the western support for Israel.

Israel is considered a key ally in Middle East and an integral part of western security. For the U.S., Israel is an essential strategic partner especially in the global "war on terror" and in the efforts to deter Iranian nuclear ambitions. Shared values and culture, too, make Israel important to the West. Hence, Israel receives western aid and political support.

At the same time, Israeli actions in Gaza are uniformly criticized by the international community, and the ongoing blockade is condemned by the United Nations. Israeli settlements in the West Bank are a stumbling block to peace, and violate individual human rights.

For some, this is hypocrisy. The U.S. praises human rights and wages wars to promote these rights globally. Similarly, the EU claims to be a union of values, upholding democracy and human rights. Yet Chomsky argues that they turn an opaque eye to Israel's criminal acts in Gaza.

What do you think? Must interests and values clash? How do you resolve the differences or negotiate the chasm? Can there be a middle ground?By Omer ZarpliFor more information see:Gideon Levy. Punishment of Gaza. Verso, 2010 Noam Chomsky, "Exterminate all the Brutes": Gaza 2009

Photo Credits in order of Appearance Pete Souza Anonymous André-Pierre du Plessis U.S. Army Trevor Stone Takver W123 U.S. State Department Pere Ubu Pete Souza Claudia Veieira Frank Eßers Jon Rogers Cloud2013 Amir Farshad Ebrahimi Takver

You may also like

MAR 23, 2022 Podcast

Tech, AI, & Global Norms

How do tech, AI, and global norms intersect to generate political, legal, and ethical dilemmas? In this event, Carnegie New Leader Josephine Jackson leads a ...

"Tribute in Light" commemorative art installation, September 11, 2020. CREDIT: <a href="https://flickr.com/photos/wasabi_bob/50342448667/">Wasabi Bob</a> <a href="https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/">(CC)</a>.

SEP 9, 2021 Podcast

Twenty Years Since 9/11: Grey Wars, American Values, & the Future of National Security

In the 20 years since the 9/11 attacks, national security decisions have tested the values of American democracy. This panel, hosted by Carnegie Council President Joel Rosenthal, ...

President Trump delivers remarks on Jan. 8, 2020 at the White House. <a href=https://www.flickr.com/photos/whitehouse/49351700228/>Official White House Photo by Joyce N. Boghosian/Public Domain</a>.

JAN 6, 2020 Article

Soleimani and the Democratic Primary Electorate

In the aftermath of the U.S. drone strike on the commander of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, General Qassem Soleimani, senior fellow Nikolas Gvosdev ...