Benny Morris is indeed an objectionable writer when he presents a case for Zionist ethnic cleansing of Palestinian communities from their own lands: ‘there are circumstances in history that justify ethnic cleansing … even the great American democracy could not have been created without the annihilation of the Indians.’
Lurking within his overall logic must lie some bridge to the Nazi belief that the Third Reich could not have been created and sustained for the projected 1000 years without the annihilation of the Jews. Power driven ideologies make for strange bedfellows.
Such an outlook begs the question: if he is not a racist then who is? Morris himself provides the answer:
I think the West today resembles the Roman Empire of the fourth, fifth and sixth centuries: The barbarians are attacking it and they may also destroy it … the Arab world as it is today is barbarian … A society that aims to kill you forces you to destroy it. When the choice is between destroying or being destroyed, it's better to destroy.
Even were none of this true, Morris had elsewhere done enough to enrage those Palestinians who had not already arrived at a firm view of Yasser Arafats’ mendacity, by labelling the then Palestinian leader an inveterate liar. Still, he benefits from the right to offend being necessarily stronger from a democratic perspective than the right not to be offended. Moreover, at the heel of the hunt, it is much harder to argue that Arafat was a pretty straight sort of guy.
This, however, has done little to protect Morris from the effects of his abrasive manner and outspoken commentary, both of which have made him enemies in many quarters. Seems that a dislike of people pursuing the sense of Voltairean satisfaction that comes with speaking their mind makes for strange bedfellows also. Arab and Israeli alike have found common cause in disliking Benny Morris, albeit for different reasons.
The historian Avi Shlaim, while mindful of his trail blazing creation of a new historiography which usurped the traditionalist Zionist one by exploding national myths and slaughtering sacred cows, all the same concluded that the U-turns Morris had performed had led to a situation where ‘instead of evidence we are treated to a rambling and self-pitying monologue, seething with contempt and hatred for the Arabs in general and the Palestinians in particular.’
A historian whose findings have made many Israelis uncomfortable, his views have brought him into conflict with powerful lobbies inside Israel and for long enough he ploughed a lonely furrow, unable, in spite of his academic ability, to find a professorial post in Israeli universities. When he eventually struck gold and was accepted on the teaching staff at Ben-Gurion University, Ben-Gurion's son campaigned for his dismissal. Although he managed to retain his post some of his professional colleagues at the university ostracised him.
The crime of Benny Morris in this instance has been what some term revisionism. More appropriately, he has done what any serious historian should do. He rolled up his sleeves and took to the archives with a little archaeological scraping and probing, to emerge with material which leaves a nail on the seat of those who contend that Israeli history is wholesome. In his 1987 book, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, he detailed the violence, murder and rapes perpetrated against Palestinians in 1948 which drove up to three quarters of a million of them from their homes and land. He poured copious amounts of intellectual scorn on the idea that Palestinians left their homeland voluntarily.
In a revised edition of this work he has used material from the Israeli Defence Force archive which shows ‘that there were far more Israeli acts of massacre than I had previously thought. To my surprise, there were also many cases of rape.’
When asked by Counterpunch to outline the war crime of rape inflicted on Palestinian women he responded:
In Acre four soldiers raped a girl and murdered her and her father. In Jaffa, soldiers of the Kiryati Brigade raped one girl and tried to rape several more. At Hunin, which is in the Galilee, two girls were raped and then murdered. There were one or two cases of rape at Tantura, south of Haifa. There was one case of rape at Qula, in the center of the country. At the village of Abu Shusha, near Kibbutz Gezer in the Ramle area, there were four female prisoners, one of whom was raped a number of times. And there were other cases. Usually more than one soldier was involved. Usually there were one or two Palestinian girls. In a large proportion of the cases the event ended with murder … They are just the tip of the iceberg.
Barely three years after the Holocaust, it was evident then that not all war criminals faced the wrath of Nuremburg.
Was that Benny Morris or Eoghan Harris?ReplyDelete