A long farewell piece from Israeli historian Benny Morris with the backdrop of the Jewish High Holidays and the Obama administration defending its position on Israel. Context is so much; and here its odd to read Morris, a died in the wool old school Socialist of the traditional Zionist movement explain various nuances and opinions that move into some ambiguous territory and juxtapose themselves onto a country that bears little resemblance to 1948, at least by cultural and demographic measures. There’s a bit of racism here, but an earnest desire for peace and the reasons why it has proven so elusive are touched upon : that murky muddy glass area of religion and the Arab own sense of manifest destiny and exceptionalism running head first into forces that seem to place them within the grip of something they do not completely comprehend.
It was one thing for the American prophet and psychic Edgar Cayce to say that jews do not need a homeland because they have a spiritual space, and another reality to deal culturally with what was supposed to be the great liberator and emancipator in the European Enlightenment and to be perceived to be forced into a colonial adventure long after they hey-day of these military campaigns. Like the old expression: cut off a yid’s nose and they’ll still know its a yid. When Obama gives back Texas or Stephen Harper hands the keys of the House of Commons to the Hurons, we can begin to understand the conundrum that colonialism arouses and the questioning of violent resistance to it….
(see link at end)…Benny Morris:“The Palestinian national movement has remained unchanged, throughout the different periods of the struggle, whether under the leadership of Hajj Amin al-Husayni or his successor, Yasser Arafat,” says Morris with near-palpable disgust. “It did not even change during the years of the Oslo process. In the end, both sides of the Palestinian movement − the fundamentalists led by Hamas and the secular bloc led by Fatah − are interested in Muslim rule over all of Palestine, with no Jewish state and no partition.” …
… Morris, the preeminent Israeli historian writing about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, was born in Kibbutz Ein Hahoresh in 1948 to parents who were immigrants from England − “passionate Zionists,” as he describes them. His father was the first secretary of the Hashomer Hatzair movement in England, and later served as Israel’s ambassador to New Zealand.
“They came here just before the founding of the state,” says their son, at his home in Srigim Li On, in the Elah Valley. “After a brief time on Kibbutz Ein Hahoresh, my parents were part of a group that founded Kibbutz Yasur, which was built on the ruins of the village of Al-Birwa, the birthplace of Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish. That’s why I feel a certain connection with Darwish,” he notes casually and laughs. …
…The book contained harsh findings that stained the image of the 1948 Israeli soldier. Morris described incidents of rape and slaughter that occurred in the shadow of the War of Independence, including an incident in Acre in which four soldiers raped a woman and then killed her and her father. In another incident, a female captive in the village of Abu Shusha, near Gezer, was raped repeatedly. Morris described, in chilling detail, massacres that included the arbitrary killing of hundreds of innocents − old men walking in a field; a woman in an abandoned village − and orderly executions carried out against a wall or next to a well. “I felt then, while I was writing it, that this was a volatile subject,” he says. “I realized that I was going to publish a different depiction than the usual depiction, than the familiar Zionist narrative. I felt that this was something different that broke with convention. And, in fact, there was a lot of anger when the book was published. Some were saying quietly that it was too early to publish what I wrote, since it would blacken Israel’s image while it was still in a struggle with the Arab world. They said the kind of things I described could give ammunition to our enemies. Today I see that there is something to that. I understood it then, too, but at the time when I was writing, Israel seemed secure. In the 1980s, it appeared as if Israeli society could weather such historical criticism.” …Read More:http://www.haaretz.com/weekend/magazine/benny-morris-on-why-he-s-written-his-last-word-on-the-israel-arab-conflict.premium-1.465869 a
… But your work proved to be a double-edged sword for you. While it made you a star, all the doors were closed to you.
“I was treated like an enemy of the state. This image stuck. I was ostracized. I wasn’t invited to conferences and, of course, I wasn’t offered a university position. It was a tough time. I couldn’t support myself and my family. For six years I had no job, until − with the intervention of President Ezer Weizman − I was hired at Ben-Gurion University in 1997. I lived off loans from friends. I had no money. In 1991 I was fired by the Jerusalem Post, which was taken over by right-wing millionaires (including Conrad Black), who dismissed all the paper’s left-leaning veteran staff. I spent the years writing further histories, published by Oxford University Press and Am Oved. But I had no job.” Read More:http://www.haaretz.com/weekend/magazine/benorris-on-why-he-s-written-his-last-word-on-the-israel-arab-conflict.premium-1.465869
… You said that people were mistaken when they labeled you a post-Zionist, and you described Palestinian society as being like a “serial killer” whose people should be locked up “in a cage.” You called Arafat a “liar” and the Arabs “barbarians.”
“I may have gone a little overboard. I think that I wasn’t careful enough in choosing my words, although I still stand behind what I said. I said that the Palestinians should be put in a cage so they won’t be able to get here to place bombs in buses and restaurants. The word ‘cage’ did not go over well and perhaps it was the wrong word to use. Of course, I meant fenced off. As for the refugee situation, I still maintain that it was a requirement of the reality. Since the Palestinians tried and intended to destroy us, and their villages and towns served as bases in wartime, the winning side had to take over villages and expel populations. This situation was built into the nature of the war, even if people from the left have a hard time swallowing it. Massacres are always reprehensible, but the Jews behaved much better than other nations in similar circumstances.” ( ibid.)
… One of Morris’ most striking conclusions is that, regarding the past, there was no point at which the Israelis could have acted differently. “There are people who believe that we blew an opportunity here or there,” he says. “There is even a hint of this, perhaps, in my book ‘Border Wars,’ about the peace talks between Israel and its neighbors after ‘48. But a more thoughtful look back shows that no opportunity appears to have been missed. There simply was no readiness for peace on the other side. They didn’t want to accept us here. As long as the Jews wanted a state of their own, under their control, no acceptable accord could be reached with the Arabs. Not before ‘48 and certainly not afterward, when the Arab side was also prompted by vengefulness.”
Revenge is one of the explanations that Morris places on the table to explain the intransigence of the Palestinian national movement. “Aside from revenge, the Palestinians have absolute faith in the justice of their side, which derives in part from religious faith. What God commands, and what his interpreters on Earth say that God commands, is the definite truth. While the Jews are much more skeptical about this sort of interpretation, the Palestinians feel that justice is on their side and that God doesn’t want the Holy Land to be shared with another people. Read More:http://www.haaretz.com/weekend/magazine/benny-morris-on-why-he-s-written-his-last-word-on-the-israel-arab-conflict.premium-1.465869