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Benny Morris: History by Subtraction

dylancatlow
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4/5/2016 8:53:39 PM
Posted: 8 months ago
Inspired by Norman Finkelstein's series

On page 49 of Righteous Victims Morris writes:

"For decades the Zionists tried to camouflage their real aspirations, for fear of angering the authorities and the Arabs. They were, however, certain of their aims and of the means needed to achieve them. Internal correspondence...leaves little room for doubt."

Morris then proceeds to give a sense of what these "aspirations" really were, citing leading Zionist figures of the day. If Morris did not intend to suggest that the views they expressed were representative of "The Zionists" to which he just referred, he would have made this clear. Yet nothing in the text gives us reason to believe that this is so. He writes that "The Zionists...were certain of their aims," cites quotations of Zionists explaining their aims, and moves on. The reader is lead to believe that the people he quotes speak for Zionists in general. Otherwise, what was the point of quoting them if not to mislead the reader?

"The Ultimate goal...is, in time, to take over the Land of Israel and to restore to the Jews the political independence they have been deprived of for these two thousand years"

"The thing we must do now is to become as strong as we can, to conquer the country, covertly, bit by bit...We will not set up committees so that the Arabs will know what we are after."

"...The goal is to revive our nation on its land...if only we succeed in increasing our numbers here until we are a majority...There are now only five hundred thousand Arabs, who are not very strong, and from whom we shall easily take away the country... "

Then, in 2008, nine years after the above statements were published, he claims in an interview that:

"There was no Zionist "plan" or blanket policy of evicting the Arab population, or of "ethnic cleansing"."

This statement is plainly at odds with the history he presents in Righteous Victims. Okay, maybe Morris changed his mind. People are allowed to do that. However, Morris denies that such a change ever took place. In 2012, he stated in an interview that:

"My historical views haven't changed at all, and my historical writing remains the same, for good or ill."

Assuming Morris is minimally sane, he must know that the views he's now espousing do, in fact, differ from those he espoused in the past, thus rendering his statement false. Either the man has drifted into senility and is unable to perceive the difference, or he is a liar. In neither case does Morris still qualify as a reliable historical source.
Emilrose
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4/5/2016 9:30:00 PM
Posted: 8 months ago
Some it could be explained by the fact that he has actually justified the actions committed in and *prior* to 1948 and essentially believes it was the only legitimate way to establish an Israeli state--though those two statements, when placed together, are evidently at odds with one another.
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dylancatlow
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4/5/2016 9:43:57 PM
Posted: 8 months ago
At 4/5/2016 9:30:00 PM, Emilrose wrote:
Some it could be explained by the fact that he has actually justified the actions committed in and *prior* to 1948 and essentially believes it was the only legitimate way to establish an Israeli state--though those two statements, when placed together, are evidently at odds with one another.

The fact that he thinks the Jews were justified in expelling the Palestinians does not explain why he denies that a "Zionist plan" was orchestrated to make it happen. He's basically setting himself up with two lines of defense: first, deny that the Zionists intended to uproot the native population; if that fails, claim that the Jews were justified in uprooting the native population. He can't have it both ways.
Emilrose
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4/5/2016 10:04:38 PM
Posted: 8 months ago
At 4/5/2016 9:43:57 PM, dylancatlow wrote:
At 4/5/2016 9:30:00 PM, Emilrose wrote:
Some it could be explained by the fact that he has actually justified the actions committed in and *prior* to 1948 and essentially believes it was the only legitimate way to establish an Israeli state--though those two statements, when placed together, are evidently at odds with one another.

The fact that he thinks the Jews were justified in expelling the Palestinians does not explain why he denies that a "Zionist plan" was orchestrated to make it happen. He's basically setting himself up with two lines of defense: first, deny that the Zionists intended to uproot the native population; if that fails, claim that the Jews were justified in uprooting the native population. He can't have it both ways.

Indeed he can't, but it seems to me that he's often applied different connotations to words and their application to the 1948 war. In terms of his political views, there's a certain flakiness in general. He's stated before that Ben Gurion should have been tougher with the Arabs and gone with a full-scale expulsion, but then believes in a two-state solution.
Commentator on a picture with David Cameron and a Cat: 'Amazing what you can achieve with photoshop these days. I'm sure that used to be a pig.'

Commentator on Hillary Clinton: 'If Clinton is now what passes for progressive, maybe this country deserves Trump.'

Commentator on British parliament: 'All that talent in one place, where is Ebola when you need it?'

John Kerry on words: 'These aren't just words, folks.'
dylancatlow
Posts: 12,245
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4/5/2016 10:19:57 PM
Posted: 8 months ago
At 4/5/2016 10:04:38 PM, Emilrose wrote:
At 4/5/2016 9:43:57 PM, dylancatlow wrote:
At 4/5/2016 9:30:00 PM, Emilrose wrote:
Some it could be explained by the fact that he has actually justified the actions committed in and *prior* to 1948 and essentially believes it was the only legitimate way to establish an Israeli state--though those two statements, when placed together, are evidently at odds with one another.

The fact that he thinks the Jews were justified in expelling the Palestinians does not explain why he denies that a "Zionist plan" was orchestrated to make it happen. He's basically setting himself up with two lines of defense: first, deny that the Zionists intended to uproot the native population; if that fails, claim that the Jews were justified in uprooting the native population. He can't have it both ways.

In terms of his political views, there's a certain flakiness in general. He's stated before that Ben Gurion should have been tougher with the Arabs and gone with a full-scale expulsion, but then believes in a two-state solution.

He actually explains why he changed positions in one of the interviews I quoted from:

"But my political views have changed. In the 1990s I was cautiously optimistic that the Palestinians were changing their tune and becoming agreeable to a two-state solution. [The late Palestinian leader Yasser] Arafat seemed to signal this with the Oslo process. Before the 1980s, they just talked about destroying Israel."