The three myths that distort every discussion of Israel (JERUSALEM POST OP-ED) By BARRY RUBIN 04/16/12)
JERUSALEM POST Articles-Index-Top
Whatever side you are, or aren’t, on, and whether you never think
about these issues or are an impassioned activist, there are three
fundamental issues about Israel, its enemies, and the Middle East
that tie the narrative into knots.
Each of these ideas, of course, has a strong basis in fact. Yet no
matter how counter-intuitive you find the following points
questioning the conventional wisdom, they are nonetheless accurate.
You can’t understand events without grasping them.
1. Israel’s existence is jeopardized.
There is no question that Israel’s existence is challenged or
threatened by various forces, but what’s essential is that these
forces cannot succeed. Every day, after 65 years of failure, they are
further from that goal. Israel becomes stronger on all levels. The
economic and strategic gaps are getting wider, not narrower, for
reasons much related to points two and three below.
What is important is the country’s internal social and strategic
strength, not what’s written about it in the Western media or said on
Western campuses, for example.
Arab armies have repeatedly been defeated; terrorists repeatedly
This should not lead to complacency – a mistake most clearly seen in
the 1973 war and to some extent in 2006 – but to calm confidence.
This does exist in Israel but not so much in sectors of the Diaspora
Jewish communities, which themselves face higher threats to their
existence either physically or due to assimilation, the attraction of
leftist political ideology, and loss of direction.
Despite the sound and fury, much of the criticism and threats remain
toothless. For instance, while the UN, European countries and the
European Union have wasted a lot of their time spouting nonsense
about Israel, it has amounted to little in material terms. The same
is true of others.
Another key concept is that the extent of anti-Israel obsession in
the public sphere is misleading.
Dozens of countries, causes and groups are vilified all the time, yet
of them all none compares to Israel and its supporters in their
ability to respond. It is the strength of the resistance that often
increases the apparent volume of controversy.
Finally, the use of the Israel issue to fuel hysteria by
dictatorships, radical Arab nationalists and Islamists actually
undermines the Arabic-speaking world, making it weaker and thus,
ironically, less able to combat Israel.
Iran’s drive for deliverable nuclear weapons – which it doesn’t yet
have – is worthy of discussion but this threat is quite manageable by
Israel, both through offensive and defensive measures as well as
given the fact that Iran’s eagerness to nuke Israel and commit
suicide has been greatly exaggerated.
2. The concerted international campaign by various groups in the West
against Israel damages it and helps the Palestinians.
Again, this should be obviously true but it is quite the opposite. To
date, despite all the noise, Israeli interests – including
businesses – have suffered little damage. On the contrary, the
attacks encourage support, including increased buying of Israeli
products and energetic loyalty by Israel’s supporters abroad.
But all of these endless demonstrations, teach-ins, books, articles,
documentaries, boycott, disinvestment and sanction labors do
absolutely zero to help the Palestinians.
On one level, they do nothing politically to advance their cause in a
real sense. On another level, they contribute nothing to their
Moreover, by convincing the Palestinian leadership that they can
eliminate Israel completely, that Western support is swinging toward
them, and that they don’t need to change their own policies or
strategies, all of this behavior leads them charging down a dead-end
street. The end result is the battering of their heads against a
Imagine – as the activists in these movements have never done once! –
that all of this energy went into buying Palestinian products,
donating to improve Palestinian schools and hospitals, resettling
refugees and providing them with productive jobs and housing. That
would be truly pro-Palestinian. And even if the intention was to use
this progress as a base for destroying Israel some day it would be
more effective than what they are doing now.
Of course, since most of the Palestinian leadership in the West Bank
and Gaza Strip has been engaged in stealing aid money and funneling
it into their private bank accounts, admittedly these activists don’t
have a very good role model to follow. And since the leadership’s
goal is to keep its people poor and living in refugee camps in order
to use them as revolutionary fodder and an object of sympathy these
activists don’t have much incentive to do real good.
3. Israel is the main cause of instability in the Middle East.
On one level, of course, the Arab-Israeli conflict has been a basis
for instability that has often been exaggerated. People ignorant of
all the other issues in the region have only heard of that one
Beyond that, though, consider what would be different if Israel
Implicitly, this is thought by most Arabs and Muslims to be the basis
for a united utopian society stretching from Morocco through
Afghanistan. But that’s precisely the point. What kind of society
would that be? Who – what leader, country and ideology, would lead
it? Who gets to be the caliph? In other words, if Israel didn’t
exist, the level of internal conflict and bloodshed would be even
higher. There would be nothing – including the territorial separation
that Israel provides – to stop these leaders, movements, countries
and ideologies from being at each other’s throats. Tremendous wars
between countries would spill oceans of blood. Decades-long Sunni-
Shia conflicts would engulf the lands. Endless internal strife would
bring civil wars that would dwarf what we’ve seen in Lebanon, Syria
Even with Israel, instability of this kind is bad enough, though it
is far less noticed than it would be otherwise. The same applies, by
the way, to the Arab-Israeli conflict, whose end – which will not
come anytime soon – would have the same effect.
One final point: because much of the thought and political action on
the Middle East is in the wrong direction, running against the
realities, the main effect is to confuse those watching and engaging
in them. Yet, disregarding all of this noise, what actually exists
marches forward. Or to use an Arab proverb, the dogs bark; the
caravan moves on. (© 1995-2011, The Jerusalem Post 04/16/12)
Return to Top
MATERIAL REPRODUCED FOR EDUCATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY