Benny Morris` Second Thoughts About Israel: Three Quibbles And A Question

February 04, 2004

by Paul Gottfried:

For Zionists, Time To Choose

Attack Of The Pod Person I: Amnesty To Remake GOP

An interview in

 (January 5) with Benny Morris, dean of
Israel`s “new historians,” has unsettled the
Israeli and European Left.  Morris`s book

The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem

(1987) argued that in 1948 between 600 and 750 thousand
Palestinians were expelled from their homes, while
others were massacred, as part of an Israeli policy of
encouraging Arabs to leave. But now this controversial
historian has had second thoughts about these actions.

When asked by his interviewer Ari
Shavit whether Israel`s founder and first premier David
Ben Gurion was a transferist,” Morris replied:

course Ben Gurion was a transferist. He understood that
there could be no Jewish state with a large and hostile
Arab minority in its midst. There would be no such
state. It would not be able to exist.”

Moreover, Morris went on,

Gurion was right. If he had not done what he did, a
state would not come into being.” [
Survival of
the fittest
, By Ari Shavit,

January 09, 2004].

Insisting that he is a Zionist
rather than a post-Zionist, Morris declares that he does
not regret the expulsion of his declared enemies:
“When the choice is between

destroying or being destroyed
, it`s better to

What makes these remarks noteworthy
is that Morris has been a fixture of the Israeli Left
through most of his life. From his youth in an Israeli
socialist kibbutz, whither his parents had come from
England, through his refusal in 1988 as an Israeli
soldier to serve in the occupied West Bank, down to his
career in exposing Israeli ethnic cleansing, Morris has
enjoyed popularity among Israeli peaceniks while being
anathema to the Jewish nationalist Right.

His interview with Ha`aretz
and his publicized defense of Sharon`s

Security Wall,
intended to separate West Bank
Palestinians from Israelis, as being necessary for “a
wild animal that has to be locked up in one way or

altered his image

Morris continues to call himself a
leftwing Zionist. But he has begun to find support among
Likud supporters both here and in Israel. In the last
week, several pro-Israeli hardliners (including my
younger son) have recommended to me the interview in
. These acquaintances praise Morris for
understanding the geopolitical necessity for what
happened to the Palestinians in 1948.

His former critics now admire
Morris for letting it be known that “from my point of
view the need to establish this
[Jewish] state in
this place overcame the injustice that was done to the
Palestinians by uprooting them.”

And when asked whether he had any
“problem with that deed,” Morris answers that he
has none and points out:

“Even the great American
democracy could not have been created without the

annihilation of the Indians.
There are cases in
which the overall, final good justifies harsh and cruel
acts that are committed in the course of history.”

One can of course dismiss such
appeals to the “final good” as self-interested
pleading by the victor, who thinks it a good thing that
the other side should lose. But Morris`s assertions also
represent a moral improvement over other cases that have
been made for Israel. Morris confronts the historical
truth: lots and lots of Palestinians were deliberately
expelled as a vast ethnic cleansing that preceded the
creation of an Israeli state. Those expulsions and in
some cases organized terror were instruments by which a
transfer of population was effected, one that allowed a
Jewish polity and a Jewish country to come into being.

Although Morris does not trivialize
this cost, he also says that it was probably necessary
to insure the survival of what the founders of Israel
wanted and what he himself values as an Israeli patriot.
He makes this argument candidly while doing nothing to
distort the past.

Never does Morris reach for the
smears that Israel`s would-be defenders in the U.S. hurl
ritualistically at those insolent enough to notice what
Morris addresses in his scholarship. He treats the fate
of the Palestinians as collateral damage for a Jewish
state and underlines the fact that the fate of his group
would have likely been worse if the Palestinians had
come out on top.

I have three quibbles and a
question about Morris` new view.

Quibble One: Morris`s
identification of the Palestinians with militant Islam
is exaggerated. A significant minority of those expelled
in 1948 were Maronite Catholic, Syrian Orthodox, and
Copts. As late as 1948 there were 400 thousand
Palestinian Christians, a figure that has now plummeted
to about 60 thousand. The Palestinian affinity for
Islamicists has been relatively recent and has resulted
from the search for new violent allies in the war
against the Israelis.

Quibble Two: Morris`s
groping for parallels for Israeli ethnic cleansing is

American Indians
were not expelled but transferred
to other parts of the U.S. And anyway it is hard to see
how this process contributed to American constitutional
government. The Germans, whose booting-out of Eastern
Europe Morris elsewhere cites as a successful ethnic
cleansing, were the victims of reckless, indiscriminate
vengeance, as shown by historian Alfred de Zayas in a
detailed history of this atrocity. (See

Nemesis at Potsdam
London: Routledge, 1977.)

Quibble Three: it is
questionable whether the expulsion of the Palestinians
really solved Israel`s national problems. With millions
of hostile Palestinians, who themselves or whose parents
were expelled, now

massed one to two hundred miles away from Israel
Palestinian grievance continues to fester. I do not have
a solution that

both sides would accept.
But what was done in 1948
does not seem conclusive.

Morris may mean to say that
Israelis should treasure their present degree of
relative ethnic homogeneity that cost them so much to
achieve. Coexisting with an unfriendly ethnicity within
the same borders is something

no reasonable nation
would welcome—and something
that Israel`s founders decided to avoid.

My Question:  why should
Palestinians have

less of a moral right
to be in Israel than Hispanic
illegals to be in California or Texas? The Hispanics,
who contribute disproportionately to our

welfare costs

violent crimes,
were not even a pre-existing
population in the U.S. whom we displaced. Nor, in many
cases, were they invited here. They

crashed the gate.

If Israel is entitled pull out
every stop to

preserve its Jewish national character,
shouldn`t others be allowed to do the same to protect
their group identity?

Why should Frenchmen who want to
send their

Islamicist population
back to North Africa be
attacked as

Unlike the Israeli leaders that
Morris defends, these

French nationalists
do not call for ethnic
cleansing. They would be quite happy to be able to

future immigration.

And if Muslims are in fact as different
from Westerners, in a bad sense, as Morris argues, why

desire to live with them any more than

Morris`s countrymen?

As I have suggested in

other articles
on VDARE.COM, what is

good for Zionists
should also apply to

Paul Gottfried
is Professor of Humanities at
Elizabethtown College, PA. He is the author of

After Liberalism

Carl Schmitt: Politics and Theory
, and

Multiculturalism And The Politics of Guilt: Toward A
Secular Theocracy