Friday, November 13, 2009

Benny Morris: 'there were two refugee problems'

Professor Benny Morris has reinvented himself. The new Benny Morris is not the old doyen of historical post-Zionism he once was, Avi Beker argued in Haaretz recently: and as part of his newfound appreciation of the Arab jihad against Israel, Morris's latest writings reflect that the 1948 war created two refugee problems - the Jewish and the Arab.

"The person who laid the foundation for historical post-Zionism, Benny Morris, is also the one who undermined it and brought about its demise with his own hands. Morris founded the New Historians' school and created the infrastructure for post-Zionist ideology that took over a substantial part of academic writing on the Israeli-Arab conflict. But he gradually refuted the essence of his arguments and in effect closed the book on the entire revisionist writing that tried to present a "different" Zionist history.

Part 2 of a Med Israel For Fred lecture Morris gave on Jewish refugees in June 2009 (Part 1 here)

"His two most recent books, "1948" which will soon be published in Hebrew and was released last year in English, and "One State, Two States," which was released this year, completely contradict his arguments and the factual basis for his revolutionary historical approach.

"More than anyone else, Morris provided the historical sources for the argument that the State of Israel was born as a result of a conspiracy to carry out the ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians. (..)

"Then suddenly, 20 years later, Morris discovered that the Arabs had declared a jihad against Zionism already back in 1948. He explains his new approach as stemming from the opening of archives, including the Israel Defense Forces' archive, which were closed to researchers until now. He also adds that "in the current book, I placed the refugee problem within the overall context of the War of Independence," and with the help of recent studies, "I tried to present a new and comprehensive description of the war, and primarily of the connections between the military processes and the diplomatic processes."

"A new description"? The exact opposite, in fact. Morris returns to what was so detested by the New Historians, or as they put it: to the canonical version of the official Zionist narrative.

"He feels no need to apologize for presenting a sharp indictment of all of post-Zionism, claiming that "historians tended to belittle the importance of the religious rhetoric during the war," and the central role of "religious motivation."

"The dismissal of the threats of jihad was intentional and critical for the rewriting in order to turn the nakba into a "holocaust", but the jihad was apparent to all: threats of annihilation were heard from all sides and even from the dais of the UN in 1947 and 1948.

"The mufti of Jerusalem, Hajj Amin Al-Husseini repeated it over and over again; and religious scholars in Cairo issued an official manifesto calling for jihad two days after the resolution on the partition plan was passed on November 1947.

"The translation of the religious order into military action was the invasion of the Arab armies, which were called the Arab Liberation Army and the Jihad al-Mukades (Holy War) Army.

"The new writings also question attempts to debunk "the few against the many myth" that present the IDF in 1948 as the most organized and strongest army in the Middle East, while overlooking the assessments of everyone: the majority in the interim Jewish government prior to the establishment of the state, the Arabs, the British and the Americans, who all thought the Arabs would defeat the Jewish army in Palestine.

"Finally, Morris returns to one of the most important arguments in the historical context and clarifies that the 1948 war created two refugee problems: Jews and Arabs.

"The Jewish refugees, originally from Arab countries, explains Morris, are a clear product of the war, after pogroms and persecutions (including threats of destruction) on the part of the Arab regimes.

"As for the responsibility of the Jewish side, Morris makes a correction: Many of the Arab refugees left of their own accord and the others were not expelled but "moved to flee" amidst the chaos of the war and the threats of jihad, and in effect he defends the right of David Ben-Gurion to expel even more given the threats of jihad.

"The new Morris is even less apologetic than the Zionist historians and stresses the difference is, of course, that Israel absorbed the Jewish refugees and the problem disappeared, whereas the Arab countries did not absorb the Palestinian refugees and the problem has not been resolved to this day."

Read article in full


Eliyahu m'Tsiyon said...

an interesting presentation of the history by Benny Morris, but he mentions only about 600,000 Jews in Arab lands in 1948, whereas I think the number was close to one million.

bataween said...

Yes, some of Morris's figures are not quite accurate