Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Ira Chernus and More "Myths" (Part 1)

Professor of freaking Religious Studies Ira Chernus is well on his way to becoming an elder of the anti-Israel blogger stable on the Huffington Post, which is no doubt why they hired him. For some reason he doesn't like talking about anything other than what he calls "myths," i.e. beliefs that people who aren't as well educated in religious studies as he is hold about Israel. His latest article is rather long, but most is worth talking about, so I'm breaking this into two different posts.

He begins by playing the victim, as most critics of Israel are prone to do. He claims that because of "the Lobby" (citing Mearsheimer) that everyone who talks about Israel has to obey what he calls "the Three Commandments." And of course they are so unreasonable:
"For politicians, especially at the federal level: As soon as you say the word “Israel,” you must also say the word “security” and promise that the United States will always, always, always be committed to Israel’s security.
"For TV talking heads and op-ed pundits: If you criticize any policies or actions of the Israeli government, you must immediately add that Israel does, of course, have very real and serious security needs that have to be addressed.
"For journalists covering the Israel-Palestine conflict for major American news outlets: You must live in Jewish Jerusalem or in Tel Aviv and take only occasional day trips into the Occupied Territories."
Oh boo hoo hoo. I'm sure his keyboard must be sopping from all the crocodile tears he was weeping when he wrote this. Of course, every side of this conflict believes that the media is biased against them, but let's start with the Huffington Post. For Pete's sake, it is Prof Chernus host and yet he pays no attention to the fact that it is heavily biased against Israel, both in the editorial stance and in the bloggers (of which he himself is included). And as for his first two "commandments," politicians contrasting criticism of Israel with understanding that they have security needs? They aren't saying that because of an all powerful lobby, they are saying that because it is a balanced statement. You know, the kind that politicians are supposed to make so that they seem impartial. But as usual, balance is not good enough for Prof Chernus. No sir.

So even though Prof Chernus thinks that the lobby controls everyone has a lot of influence, he does concede that they aren't all powerful:
"No matter how slick any lobby is, however, it can’t succeed without a substantial level of public support...Along with its other sources of power and influence, the right-wing Israel lobby needs a large majority of the U.S. public to believe in the myth of Israel’s insecurity as the God’s honest truth....In the United States, though, the myth of insecurity is the taken-for-granted lens through which the public views everything about the Israel-Palestine conflict. Like the air we breathe, it’s a view so pervasive that we hardly notice it."
I may not necessarily believe that Israel is as secure as Prof Chernus seems to think, but I am willing to give him a chance to back up his argument. Especially since this article comes at a particularly trying time for Israel, what with the Itamar massacre and the school bus shooting and the Jerusalem bombing and the latest rocket attacks. But okay, what have you got?

 Well he begins by referencing left wing Israelis who agree with him, and then complains bitterly about how strong American support is for Israel. Cry me a river. He then repeats himself with the insulting "air with breathe" talking point, before he finally gets down to business with his "three myths." Here is the first one:
"Myth Number 1: Israel’s existence is threatened by the ever-present possibility of military attack. In fact, there’s no chance that any of Israel’s neighbors will start a war to wipe out Israel. They know their history. Despite its size, ever since its war of independence in 1948, the Israeli military has been a better equipped, better trained, more effective, and in virtually every case a successful fighting force.  It clearly remains the strongest military power in the Middle East. [He then continues to provide further details about Israel's military strength.]
Yawn! Boring! And here I was hoping for something kind of original from our man in the mountain. Professor Chernus continues to make the same logic fallacy that every critic of Israel makes when he talks about military attacks on Israel: It has never been about conquering Israel through military force. It has, however, been about provoking Israel into a response and then playing the victim. Rockets from Gaza threaten over a million Israelis. And it doesn't matter how many submarines you have if bombs are going off every day on buses. This is what Israel is concerned about, and this is why they need weapons. Because a strong deterrence factor has been proven to make a difference when fighting terrorists.

Let us not forget also that the recent "Arab spring" has thrown everything up into the air. What happens if Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria all become like Iran and the current detente collapses? Even though Israel might be able to defeat them all in combat again, why the hell should they have to? Professor Chernus seems to think that if thousands of Israelis die in war, but the state doesn't collapse, then it somehow "doesn't count" or "doesn't matter." And that's absurd.

I'll continue later.

1 comment:

  1. Highest Military Spending in the Middle East as a % of GDP (really the world, only Eritrea is higher at 20%)

    1. Oman 11.40
    2. Qatar 10.00
    3. Saudi Arabia 10.00
    4. Iraq 8.60
    5. Jordan 8.60

    http://www.aneki.com/countries2.php?t=Highest_Military_Spending_in_the_Middle_East&table=fb230&places=2&unit=*&order=desc&dependency=independent&number=5&cntdn=n&r=-201-202-203-204-205-206-207-208-209-210-211-212-116-214-215-216-217-218-219-220&c=middle%20east&measures=Country--Military%20expenditures%20%28%20%%20of%20GDP%29&units=*--*&decimals=*--2*

    The threat isn’t Israel it’s Iran

    Look at the map

    http://www.visualeconomics.com/wp-content/uploads/2009/08/ve-military-spending2.jpg

    Ian

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