Thursday, February 21, 2008


If people are going to quote Benny Morris, they'd at least better get it right. (Once again, via Jeff Weintraub, who himself offers a tip of the hat to Tom Carew.)
In defiance of the will of the international community, as embodied in the UN General Assembly Resolution of November 29th, 1947 (No. 181), they launched hostilities against the Jewish community in Palestine in the hope of aborting the emergence of the Jewish state and perhaps destroying that community. But they lost; and one of the results was the displacement of 700,000 of them from their homes.
Not being an historian myself, I'm reluctant to criticize Morris on specific grounds, though I do have questions about what he says. But I have no problem criticizing those who would quote him in dishonest ways. While he did play a major role in revising the common historiography of the creation of the state of Israel, too many people take his work for far more than it is. I have seen people site him, exaggerating that "there were no Arab radio broadcasts urging the Arabs to flee en masse" by not acknowledging that:
on the local level, in dozens of localities around Palestine, Arab leaders advised or ordered the evacuation of women and children or whole communities, as occurred in Haifa in late April, 1948. And Haifa's Jewish mayor, Shabtai Levy, did, on April 22nd, plead with them to stay, to no avail.
The point here is not to deny the suffering of the Palestinians, but to avoid demonizing Israelis (or, actually, "Zionists"). People who misquote Morris often argue that all Palestinians' actions are forgiven in the context of the "Zionist" original sin of establishing Israel. Such an argument, though, assumes the "Zionists" were responsible for everything that happened, but they were not the only people capable of acting. Not only were the Palestinians capable of action (and not just animalistic, reflexive reaction), but the "Zionists" did not have absolute control over how history happened.

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