Friday, April 22, 2011

The Churning of Chernus

On Monday, April 18, 2011, Ira Chernus posted this piece at Salon (and also at Huffingtion Post - and Lefties complain they are restricted in getting their message across), entitled:

With this message:

It's time to debunk the idea that the Jewish state's existence is under constant threat

If there's any debunking to be done, I fear that Chernus is the object of the exercise.  Chernus is a Professor of Religious Studies at the University of Colorado at Boulder and he blogs. He proclaims he studies issues of war and peace and U.S. foreign policy from the perspective of a historian of religions.

To give you an idea of his thinking, here's an abstract from a 2009 article, Order and Disorder in the Definition of Peace:-

Both social science and American cultural discourse have traditionally defined peace in terms of predictable order. It is important to analyze this definition carefully to develop a persuasive critique of it. Cultures that value order above all else actually end up focusing on and increasing their sense of disorder for a variety of reasons discussed here. Defining peace solely in terms of order exacerbates this process, increasing peacelessness as well as injustice in several ways. Chaos theoy and clinical psychology suggest an alternative view of peace as an interplay of order and disorder that transcends the opposition between them. Instances of peace researchers (J. Galtung) and peace movements representing this alterntive definition of peace are also discussed.

That is a bit disorderly.  What has order to do with it?  In our case (and more about that later), it is the disorder of the Arab side, making false assertions and demanding false rights that lie at the basis of the lack of peace, not to mention the disorderly thinking of academics and partisans like Chernus that complicate matters.
In another 2000 article on Jerusaalem, Chernus would have us believe that

Even today, there is no unanimous opinion among Jews about Jerusalem. In the U.S., polls consistently show that only about 60% of Jews insist on full Israeli sovereignty over the entire city. The number may be somewhat higher in Israel. But there, too, a substantial minority is willing to trade full sovereignty for peace.

"May be"? But there are polls, just in case you think Chernus is correct.  Here's one from 2007:

Most Israelis would oppose partitioning Jerusalem under a peace deal with the Palestinians, a poll found. According to Tuesday's survey in Yediot Achronot, 61 percent of Israelis would not agree to any compromise on the status of the capital within the framework of a peace accord. Twenty-one percent said they would accept a partition, while the rest -- 16 percent -- said ceding control of east Jerusalem should first be put to a referendum in Israel. Sixty-one percent of respondents said Israel should retain control of the Temple Mount, even if Arab neighborhoods of east Jerusalem are transferred to Palestinian control. Sixteen percent said there should be shared Israeli-Palestinian control over the Temple Mount, while 22 percent called for the disputed religious site to fall under international sovereignty. One percent had no response.

and Ariel Zellman, this year, quotes the results of another poll:

conducted by Pechter Middle East Polls for the Council of Foreign Relations and the Palestinian Center for Public Opinion, [that]showed that Arab residents of East Jerusalem may actually prefer to live under Israeli sovereignty rather than a Palestinian state. Conducted in the 19 Arab neighborhoods of “East Jerusalem,” it included a representative sample of 1039 people with a 3% margin of error. When asked if they preferred under a two-state solution to be citizens of a Palestinian state with all accordant rights or the citizens of Israel with all accordant rights, only 30% chose Palestinians citizenship. 35% chose Israeli citizenship while 35% either refused to answer or did not know. Asked about the preferences of “most people in your neighborhood,” 31% estimated a preference for Palestinian citizenship, 39% for Israeli citizenship, and 30% declined to answer or had no response.

When asked if they would move into Israel should their neighborhood become a part of a Palestinian state, 40% responded affirmatively, while only 27% said they would move to a Palestinian state if their neighborhood were to become Israeli. Among those who chose Israeli citizenship, they cited freedom of movement in Israel, higher income and job opportunities, and Israeli health insurance as their reasons.

and already in 1980, the 60%+ support recorded by Harris was termed a "sizable majority".  Does Chernus allow facts to get in the way of his outlook?  But is there unanimity amongst Jews on any issue?

Given this introduction, you'd be excused to presume that Chernus' "religion" is a form of political ideology rooted in a leftwing near-anarchist radicalism.  His poor students.  His poor "God".

In his new piece noted above, in which he goes over material he has previously presented over the years, he relates to

Three Sacred Commandments for Americans who shape the public conversation on Israel

and they are:

1. For politicians...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...

2. 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.

3. 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. So your reporting must inevitably be slanted toward the perspective of the Jews you live among. And you must indicate in every report that Jewish Israeli life is dominated by anxiety about security.

This is a skewed view, or a straw-man technique.  But Chernus goes 'better'.  His piece is long and so I will select of few excerpt and intersperse with my comments:
...U.S. opinion-shapers have obeyed the Three Commandments scrupulously for decades [not really.  Israel has been subjected to political and media bias from before the state's establishment.  In fact, given the Iranian threat, the 90 year old Arab terror campaign and a half-dozen wars, why wouldn't anyone think of Israel within the frame of security?]...the right-wing "pro-Israel" (more accurately, "pro-Israeli-government") lobby...certainly is a skillful, well-oiled machine. It uses every trick in the PR book to promote the myth of Israel as a brave little nation constantly forced to fight for its life against enemies all around who are eager to destroy it, a Jewish David withstanding the Arab Goliath [no tricks are needed.  In 1947, Arabs began declaring their intentions of a war of extermination. and they continued to seek the fulfillment of that goal for over six decades.  The slaughter of five family members in their beds last month was simply because they were Jews - "In the questioning, they said that their motive was simply to kill Jews and Israelis"].

...Israel still maintains a decisive edge over any of its neighbors ["any" but not all together or any multiple coalition or, and here's the crucial element, if Iran goes nuclear, while, say, Egypt stops exporting gas to Israel, which is 40% of what the country uses].

...Israel spends far more on its military than any of the neighbors it claims to fear, largely because it gets more military aid from the U.S. than any other Mideast nation -- $3 billion a year is the official figure...[pssst, the annual US aid to Egypt is $1.3 billon]...

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) [but that figure does not include the many dozens of attempted attacks that have failed due to Israel's sense of insecurity which causes it to be vigilant and ever on the alert - see his myth #1 above].  As a result, the insecurity myth has come to focus on rockets -- the real ones launched from Gaza and the imaginary ones that supposedly could be launched from a future Palestinian state in the West Bank [no, not imaginary as there have already been attempts in 2006 to fire from Samaria as well as a laboratory found in Shchem.  Cernus is either ignorant or a liar]...

... The Palestinians, of course, have access to none of the high-tech Israeli guidance systems. Their weaponry tends to be crude and often homemade. They shoot their rockets, most of them unguided, and let them fall where they may (which means the vast majority harm no one) [so, to be fair, Israel has to either dumbdown its tactical advantage or permit the local Arabs to improve their weaponery??? what would serve Chernus' idea of 'peace' better???].

...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 [well, since Cernus believes in the importance of evidence, the constant and non-stop terror campaign by local Arabs against Jews since the first pogrom of April 1920 to May 1921, to August 1929 to April 1936 through May 1939 and until the fedayeen and the PLO and the Hamas and the Islamic Jihad and the Hezbollah has no relevance?] .

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 [no, I, for one, do not think that the establishment of Israel justifies any violence against it, against its citizens or against any Jew].
...Myth Number 3: Israel's existence is threatened by worldwide efforts to delegitimize the Jewish state...There are shreds of truth in it. There have always been people who saw the Jewish state, imposed on indigenous Palestinians, as illegitimate...and that the specter of becoming a "pariah state" does pose a danger...Survival? No. After all, being a pariah state doesn't have to be existence threatening, as North Korea and Burma have proved [note how he agrees that Israel is a "pariah state".  how does one make peace with a pariah state?  is Chernus being a bit prejudicial is his logic in order to convince his readers of his outlook rather than dealing with the truth?].

...what if the American public knew the facts that Obama acknowledged? What if every solemn reference to Israel's "security needs" were greeted not with nodding heads, but with the eye-rolling skepticism it deserves? What if Israel's endless excesses and excuses -- its claims that the occupation of the West Bank and the economic strangulation of Gaza are necessary "for the sake of security" -- were regularly scoffed at by most Americans?  It's hard to imagine the Obama administration, or any American administration, keeping up a pro-Israel tilt in the face of such public scorn [which is exactly the object of Chernus' exercise - to convince his readers to be not only skeptical but that Israel's claims are unworthy of belief by relying on falsehoods, halftruths and faulty logic of induction.  his is rabble-raiser, not an academic]...

If you think Chernus has adhewred to a rigorous academic standard in what he published you can contact his place of employment and congratulate them for paying him a salary to influence BA and MA students at the university. And if your view of his logic and presentation is more negative, you still can contact his department, here:

Department of Religious Studies
292 UCB, Eaton Humanities 240
University of Colorado
Boulder, CO 80309-0292
Telephone: (303) 492-8041
Fax: (303) 735-2080

and the current department chair is Greg Johnson, at

His students should, at the very least, be warned of his invidious conduct.

Maybe even let the local Hillel know.  The local Jewish community.


And read Israel Matzav.

And EOZ.

1 comment:

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