Thursday, April 21, 2011

Ira Chernus and More "Myths" (Part 2)

If you haven't read the first part of my criticism of Professor of Religious Studies Ira Chernus' latest attempt at mythbusting on the Huffington Post, please check it out now because we are about to get to the second. What I like to call "One Great Strawman."
"Myth Number 2: The personal safety of every Jewish Israeli is threatened daily by the possibility of violent attack. In fact, according to Israeli government statistics, since the beginning of 2009 only one Israeli civilian (and two non-Israelis) have been killed by politically motivated attacks inside the green line (Israel’s pre-1967 border).  Israelis who live inside that line go about their daily lives virtually free from such worry."
Now, I'd like you to take a quick look at the exact wording of his "myth number two," mostly because of how his attempt to refute it completely falls on its face. He says that the safety of every Israeli is threatened by attacks. I don't know why he felt it necessary to throw in "Jewish" there, but maybe that's a discussion for another time.  See, we can talk about whether all of us here in Israel are threatened or not, but the point is that Prof Chernus attempts to refute this by skewing numbers: He doesn't count Israelis who are wounded or traumatized by terror attacks, he doesn't count attacks on settlers, and he doesn't count terror attacks that would have succeeded but were stopped by security forces. In other words, when he attempts to prove that Israelis aren't threatened, he only proves that the attacks are not very effective. Not that the threat isn't real. To some, that might be a difference without substance but the recent attacks within Israel matter more to me than Prof Chernus' number crunching.

But what about the rockets, you might ask? After all, a million Israelis live within rocket range and have to run to bomb shelters often. Don't worry, Professor Chernus has an answer to that too. I am not going to quote them all but I will summarize. Feel free to fact check me in the article if you don't believe it. I would, because it's pretty unbelievable. He says in response to both rockets from Gaza and the possibility of rockets from the West Bank that:

-They only come in response to Israel breaking cease fires.
-That they are homemade and therefore harmless.
-That they are unguided and therefore harmless.
-That most of them don't land in populated areas.
-That Israel has strong weapons too!

Obviously, all of these arguments are pretty weak sauce. The point of the rockets is not to kill people, as anyone who has been halfway paying attention to this conflict ought to know. They are to traumatize and terrorize the people who live within range of them. Killing people and destroying their homes is only a side benefit. But like all Palestinian apologists, Professor Chernus attempts to write them off as "harmless" because Israel has worked so hard to protect their people. But just because Israel is well prepared for the threat, doesn't mean the threat isn't there. Professor Chernus clearly wants us to think that either there is no threat, or that if there is a threat, it's because Israel deserves it. I have a feeling that that last part is closer to the truth.

He does give the settler killings one paragraph, which I feel obligated to mention:
"Jewish civilians do run some risk when they live in the West Bank settlements. In the most recent horrific incident, a Jewish family of five was slaughtered at the Itamar settlement.  In response, Israeli Vice Premier Moshe Yaalon showed clearly how the deaths of individual settlers are woven into the myth of Israel’s “existential insecurity.”  “This murder,” he declared, “reminds everyone that the struggle and conflict is not about Israel’s borders or about independence of a repressed nation but a struggle for our existence.”"
Ya'alon is right. People don't stab infants in the throat because they are upset about property. They do it because they think those infants aren't human beings like they are and therefore have it coming. And cannot help but wonder if Prof Chernus thinks the Palestinian murderers are justified in defending their land, even if some innocents get killed along the way. The idea that he can take the mass murder of an Israeli family and proclaim that threats to Israel is a "myth" is simply mind boggling. An idea so stupid only an academic could come up with it. Ready for more strawmen? Emphasis mine:
"The logic of the myth goes back to the premise of the earliest Zionists: All gentiles are implacably and eternally anti-semitic. By this logic, any attack on one Jew, no matter how random, becomes evidence that all Jews are permanently threatened with extinction.
"Most Zionists have been unable to see that once they founded a state committed to regional military superiority, they were bound to be on the receiving as well as the giving end of acts of war. It is the absence of peace far more than the presence of anti-semitism that renders Israelis who live near Gaza or in the West Bank insecure."
Obviously, the "all gentiles hate Jews" strawman is not worth discussing, but I find that "acts of war" write-off to be profoundly disturbing. The settlers were not soldiers and they didn't pose a threat to anyone. Killing them cannot possibly be considered an act of war to anyone with any kind of morality or a conscience, and I find it very disturbing that it is considered acceptable that in a mainstream newspaper (ha!) like the Huffington Post to defend the murder of Jews in this way. Prof Chernus also seems to think that should the Arab states declare war on Israel yet again, it would be Israel's fault because "Zionism" rendered it inevitable. 

I'll pick this up again tomorrow, with the latest and greatest "myth" to be "busted."

No comments:

Post a Comment

Hey guys we've started to employ a slight comment policy. We used to have completely open comments but then people abused it. So our comment policy is such: No obvious trolling or spamming. And be warned: unlike the Huffington Post we actually enforce our comment policy.