The arrogance of advice-givers

Ethel C. Fenig
Barry Rubin, a serious, knowledgeable scholar of the Mideast who lives in Israel, has had it with those glib media analysts and other superficial critics, mostly abroad but some in Israel, who pompously know what's best for Israel and don't mind imparting their brilliant insights to the ignorant, simple Israelis "for their own good."

That these less than brilliant insights ignore basic facts about the situation and would, if followed, result in the death of many Israelis and ultimately, the destruction of Israel, is totally irrelevant to these empty airheads living far from the scene.

Writing in Rubin Reports (and reprinted in the New Republic), Rubin delivers a devastating take down of an article Jacob Weisberg wrote for Newsweek, "A Friend in Need: Barack gets tough on Bibi, Obama Must Pressure Bibi to Achieve Peace." Although Rubin's critique is aimed at Weisberg's article, Rubin's general principles are applicable to all the talking--and writing--heads.

Introducing his analysis with this basic observation,

One remarkable thing about watching the Middle East is how what's celebrated as brilliant in Europe or America is errant nonsense.

Rubin then proves it, using Weisberg's article as a starting point.
Let me quickly add that while I don't know Weisberg personally, I'm confident in saying he has no serious training in the Middle East, speaks neither Arabic nor Hebrew, spends little time researching the region, and has no real qualification for making the judgments he does. Here's the theme: Israelis are so stupid about their country, situation, and region on the life-and-death issues which they have been dealing with for decades that they must be saved in spite of themselves by people who have no knowledge or experience on any of these things. No other country in the world is so frequently told this kind of thing which I hear all the time from Europeans, too.

Having a grounding about the situation one is commenting on, in this instance knowing the language(s) and culture(s) plus doing some basic research is something I learned as a junior in high school for my first term paper. As chief executive and editor in chief of the Slate Group, which publishes the online site, Slate, Weisberg doesn't meet the standards required of a 16 year old.

Is it so hard to comprehend that our views and behavior are based on years of experience and study? That we know best how to save ourselves and have been doing a far better job of it, against tremendous odds and unhelpful kibbitzers, than many others? That heeding their prescriptions would be disastrous, in fact have already proven so? After all, the tragic history of the last 20 years has largely resulted from listening to the same advice he gives now. (snip)

Weisberg's article follows this pattern. The United States, he says (and these are main elements in the rhetoric among supporters of the Obama administration and several European governments) must show Israel "tough love," lean "harder on Jews and the Arabs to get serious about a deal," and stop "fostering Israeli illusions that there [is] an alternative to trading land for peace."

All three of these arguments are based on false premises.

Rubin then demolishes the premises ending with a forlorn plea

Let's have a little humility and readiness to listen, please, from those who would play with the lives of other people.

And that's about as likely to happen as Arabs allowing the Israelis to live in peace.


Barry Rubin, a serious, knowledgeable scholar of the Mideast who lives in Israel, has had it with those glib media analysts and other superficial critics, mostly abroad but some in Israel, who pompously know what's best for Israel and don't mind imparting their brilliant insights to the ignorant, simple Israelis "for their own good."

That these less than brilliant insights ignore basic facts about the situation and would, if followed, result in the death of many Israelis and ultimately, the destruction of Israel, is totally irrelevant to these empty airheads living far from the scene.

Writing in Rubin Reports (and reprinted in the New Republic), Rubin delivers a devastating take down of an article Jacob Weisberg wrote for Newsweek, "A Friend in Need: Barack gets tough on Bibi, Obama Must Pressure Bibi to Achieve Peace." Although Rubin's critique is aimed at Weisberg's article, Rubin's general principles are applicable to all the talking--and writing--heads.

Introducing his analysis with this basic observation,

One remarkable thing about watching the Middle East is how what's celebrated as brilliant in Europe or America is errant nonsense.

Rubin then proves it, using Weisberg's article as a starting point.
Let me quickly add that while I don't know Weisberg personally, I'm confident in saying he has no serious training in the Middle East, speaks neither Arabic nor Hebrew, spends little time researching the region, and has no real qualification for making the judgments he does. Here's the theme: Israelis are so stupid about their country, situation, and region on the life-and-death issues which they have been dealing with for decades that they must be saved in spite of themselves by people who have no knowledge or experience on any of these things. No other country in the world is so frequently told this kind of thing which I hear all the time from Europeans, too.

Having a grounding about the situation one is commenting on, in this instance knowing the language(s) and culture(s) plus doing some basic research is something I learned as a junior in high school for my first term paper. As chief executive and editor in chief of the Slate Group, which publishes the online site, Slate, Weisberg doesn't meet the standards required of a 16 year old.

Is it so hard to comprehend that our views and behavior are based on years of experience and study? That we know best how to save ourselves and have been doing a far better job of it, against tremendous odds and unhelpful kibbitzers, than many others? That heeding their prescriptions would be disastrous, in fact have already proven so? After all, the tragic history of the last 20 years has largely resulted from listening to the same advice he gives now. (snip)

Weisberg's article follows this pattern. The United States, he says (and these are main elements in the rhetoric among supporters of the Obama administration and several European governments) must show Israel "tough love," lean "harder on Jews and the Arabs to get serious about a deal," and stop "fostering Israeli illusions that there [is] an alternative to trading land for peace."

All three of these arguments are based on false premises.

Rubin then demolishes the premises ending with a forlorn plea

Let's have a little humility and readiness to listen, please, from those who would play with the lives of other people.

And that's about as likely to happen as Arabs allowing the Israelis to live in peace.