Tuesday, February 9, 2010

The Triumphant Return of Sharmine Narwani

If there was a single Huffington Post blogger who would take the title of “most anti-Israel” it would have to be Sharmine Narwani. Or maybe MJ Rosenberg. Or Kevin Coval. Shoot, this decision is harder than I thought. I’ll have to get back to you on that.

Anyway, Ms. Narwani’s work on the HP is dedicated to either defaming Israel or telling her enemies’ “side of the story.” And her latest work, “Israel Coming Unhinged?” is not any different. In sum, she claims that Israel loves war, any war, against any foe. Why? Because they are crazy (or in her words “psychopathic”) or because they need an enemy to distract attention away from their failings. Not exactly the most academic of arguments, nor the most original. Regardless, click the link below to read more about Ms. Narwani’s work and my response to it.

Ms. Narwani starts with a claim that war is “looming,” though she won’t provide any more details or sources, but she considers it to be “clear” that Israel will take part in it. A fair enough assumption, but it does tell you a thing or two about where she is coming from. It is at this point that she makes her first major error,"
“Since the Jewish state's military attack on Lebanon in 2006, it has been itching for a "do-over." Why? Because for the first time in its history, Israel did not win a war. The month-long bombardment of Lebanon resulted in a stalemate -- an intolerable outcome by the standards of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF).”
Ms. Narwani references the Yom Kippur War later in her article, so she must be aware that it happened. But that seems to be the limits of her knowledge: The events of 1973 made a clear impression on Israeli society, and made them realize that the invincibility they thought they had gained in 1967 was an illusion. It even led to Golda Meir’s resignation. Although Israel did win the Golan Heights and circled Egypt’s Third Army, the decision of “who won” is still a matter of historical debate. Regardless, the armchair psychology of Ms. Narwani here is absurd. Israel went into both Lebanon and Gaza because they needed to protect their people, not because they refuse to accept anything less than victory. Why would Israel provoke a war if they thought they would have a repeat of Lebanon? The point: Ms. Narwani is using the psychologist’s fallacy, it makes sense that Israel would be motivated by a desire to restore their perfect record…but she has no proof that it is. 

Fortunately, in her next paragraph she switches to a realpolitik theory: That Israel’s deterrence is the “cornerstone” of their strategy. I’m not going to argue with the claim that Israel’s deterrence is important, Israeli politicians have been saying such things for years. Ms. Narwani concludes with the following statement, “Loss -- or even perceived loss -- is not an option.” And for once, we are at an agreement. But I don’t think Ms. Narwani quite understands why deterrence is so important to Israel.
Israel needs to be a deterrent because otherwise they could be facing attacks from multiple fronts. I will discuss this in a future blog post. Ms. Narwani, on the other hand, seems to think that Israel only needs to keep it’s deterrence because they are paranoid and their leaders don’t want to feel like girly men. If I were to say she isn’t seeing Israel’s point of view, somehow I don’t think that would be the most original of observations.

So Ms. Narwani continues with an accusation that Israel is threatening it’s neighbors (more on that later) because they refuse to look at their own failings and because they need a “diversion.” Of course, she fails to mention that Israel has been investing it’s conduct in Cast Lead for months now, and is currently undergoing a “crisis of democracy” over the New Israel Fund. Again, she seems to be looking at the actions of people hundreds of miles away from her and providing her own (notably anti-Israel) interpretation on their actions.
So then we get to the “meat” of her article, the claim that Israeli officials have made “inflammatory statements about conflict” in six different areas. Where she fails, though, is that no context is provided with any of her examples. Let’s go through them:

Syria: The best Ms. Narwani can provide here is a response by Lieberman after Syrian President Assad claimed what amounts to the same point Ms. Narwani is making with her article. Lieberman’s response was basically: “If you mess with us you’ll regret it!” Inflammatory? I suppose so. But it hardly constitutes evidence that Israel is provoking a war with Syria.

Gaza: Major General Yom Tov Samia said that war with Hamas is “inevitable,” and Ehud Barak told Hamas to “watch their step, and not to cry crocodile tears if they force [us] to take action.” Weak, Ms. Narwani, very weak. Another war might be inevitable, in some peoples’ opinions, but that doesn’t back up her thesis: That Israel is just waiting for another shot at Gaza.

Lebanon: Israel has definitely been threatening Hezbollah. But, as Ms. Narwani conveniently forgets, Hezbollah has been threatening Israel too. And they have been doing it for years, not just since they were elected. Let’s not forget that Hezbollah (which Narwani calls a “resistance group",” resistance to what?) is an organization that is considered to be illegal by UN Resolution 1559, as you can read in the first link above.

Iran: I don’t really need to provide examples of Iranian leaders making inflammatory statements and speeding up their nuclear program, do I? Israel is not motivated by paranoia here, though Ms. Narwani swears that Iran’s nuke program is just “civilian.” And she also ignores most of the world sanctioning Iran too, I see. Perhaps they are all victims of the Zionist conspiracy?

Turkey: The best example Ms. Narwani can find is an Israeli diplomat (Ayalon) humiliating a Turkish envoy. Definitely a dick move on his part, but he also apologized after the rest of the Israeli government demanded he do so. Things between Israel and Turkey have been rocky, definitely, but Israel was certainly not the one who began the latest diplomatic crisis, and they certainly aren’t threatening Turkey with violence.

Ms. Narwani concludes with citing Gideon Levy (explains a lot) and makes the same accusations anti-Zionists always do: Israel exploits the Holocaust, Israel is too paranoid, Israel is trying to deflect attention, etc. It’s nothing we haven’t heard before, and it’s still just as weak. Ms. Narwani’s latest anti-Israel screed is more lovingly detailed than usual, but it’s still built on a weak foundation: It’s all just her own opinion. There is no actual facts backing up that Israel is becoming “unhinged” and will fight anyone for no reason at all. If she could provide some, she would have.


  1. See below - a different take on Narwani's piece by a Rabbi in Canada:

    By Rabbi Dow Marmur

    JERUSALEM–Patrick Martin, the Middle East correspondent of the Globe and Mail (www.theglobeandmail.com), published on February 5 an article with the ominous title, “Is this Israel’s calm before the storm?” Pointing to the relative tranquility of the first year of the Netanyahu government, Martin cites observers who recall other calm periods before wars, notably the 1973 Yom Kippur War and the 1987 Palestinian intifada. He refers to reliable analysts who say that something similar may happen soon again.

    The February 7 edition of the Huffington Post (www.huffingtonpost.com) has a long essay by Sharmine Narwani, political analyst and senior associate of St. Anthony’s College, Oxford. She writes in a similar vein, suggesting that as the 2006 Lebanon War was the first not to yield total victory to Israel, its political leaders are “itching for a ‘do-over’.” As “the cornerstone of Israel’s military strategy is deterrence… loss – or even perceived loss – is not an option.” It doesn’t sound quite right, but she may have a point.

    Referring to recent pronouncements by Israeli politicians, Narwani concludes that “instead of self-examination, Israel’s conflicted, and increasingly right-wing political body unleashed a belligerent tone – angry, defiant, threatening, unfocused like a petulant and wounded child.” (I believe that the child is called Yvette, not Israel: see below.)

    In addition to the ongoing issue of peace negotiations with the Palestinians, Narwani lists five other areas of immediate concern to Israel about which “in recent weeks, Israeli officials have made inflammatory statements about conflicts.”

    Syria: Foreign minister Avigdor “Yvette” Lieberman’s speech in which he threatened Assad himself and his family.

    Gaza: The warnings in the wake of the Goldstone report and its aftermath that if Hamas, the rulers of Gaza, won’t watch their steps, Israel may attack again.

    Lebanon: Similar warnings have been issued to the corresponding terrorist organization on Israel’s northern border (Hezbollah) that its actions that involve stockpiling of arms in Lebanon are endangering its population.

    Iran: The risk of war, perhaps as concerted preemptive action backed by the United States and European countries, is the most obvious and greatest danger.

    Turkey: To quote Narwani again, “things have gone from bad to worse since, culminating a month ago in the now-infamous Ayalon row when the Israeli deputy foreign minister publicly and deliberately humiliated Turkey’s ambassador in front of cameras.” Ayalon may have once known better, but he has become Yvette’s poodle.

    Perhaps journalists are more in the know than ordinary citizens who read newspapers, watch TV and talk to friends. Speaking as one such a citizen it strikes me that it has more to do with ineptitude than with policy. Prime Minister Netanyahu’s first year in office may seem successful to him and to his entourage, but from where I sit, I’m not persuaded. He’s more anxious to keep his coalition together than the country safe.

    In an effort to stay in power at all costs he seems to be indecisive. Even if Mrs. Netanyahu isn’t the one who sets the agenda, as some have suggested, Yvette probably does. Many of the troubles listed above are due to the latter’s kindergarten-style foreign policy. The fact that he’s shunned in most countries doesn’t seem to bother him (he’s just gone to Azerbaijan to solve the Iranian problem….), but it should bother the rest of us.

    As part of my prayers for peace I hope for his speedy dismissal and/or indictment.


    Rabbi Marmur is spiritual leader emeritus of Holy Blossom Temple in Toronto. He divides his year between Canada and Israel

    Permalink 1 Comment

  2. Narwani is an unhinged and belligerent mental pygmy with a singularly neurotic obsession-- Israeli Jews.

  3. She seems to strike fear into your hearts. She does not use weapons of death that you revel in using against clusters of tightly packed civilians... No, she Ms. Narwani uses something far more effective and devastating: She tells the truth and your fear and hate bubbles up because deep within yourselves, you know that she is right. Shalom!

  4. Her name seems Persian to me ... I think a person's origins can help in shaping some understanding (of course not total) of what position they might take ..

    As for fear in our hearts. I am not a Jew. I am not an Israeli. I do not condone Israel's practices in the Middle East and I am for a free and independent Palestine. But Ms. Narwani whitewashes Iran and Hezbollah, painting them to be saviors of the Middle East when they are actually destabilizing the Middle East.

    Hezbollah is a terrorist organization that disguises itself as a political entity. Talk to the non-Shia, non-Muslim Lebanese and see what they tell you about Hezbollah.

    As for Iran, it has fomented sectarian warfare in Iraq, Yemen AND Lebanon. It has NEVER wavered from La3nat Allah Khoemini's vision of spreading HIS version of Islamic revolution.

    Hezbollah's first act of resistance? Blowing up the Iraqi embassy in Beirut in 1981. It's second act of resistance? Ethnically cleansing Palestinians from Iraq ... after spending seven years in make-shift camps along the Jordanian and Syrian borders Canada and the US are taking them in.

    So much for Iranian support of the Palestinian people.

  5. where did she use the word 'psychopathic' in her article?