Sunday, May 11, 2008

Benny Unhinged

Benny Morris' letter to The Irish Times, continued from my previous post:-

"There was no Zionist 'plan' or blanket policy of evicting the Arab population, or of 'ethnic cleansing'. Plan Dalet (Plan D), of March 10th, 1948... was the master plan of the Haganah - the Jewish military force that became the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) - to counter the expected pan-Arab assault on the emergent Jewish state. That's what it explicitly states and that's what it was. And the invasion of the armies of Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Iraq duly occured, on May 15th. It is true that Plan D gave the regional commanders carte blanche to occupy and garrison or expel and destroy the Arab villages along and behind the front lines and the anticipated Arab armies' invasion routes. And it is also true that mid-way in the 1948 war the Israeli leaders decided to bar the return of the 'refugees' (those 'refugees' who had just assaulted the Jewish community), viewing them as a potential 5th column and threat to the Jewish state's existence. I for one cannot fault their fears or logic."

No Zionist plan of eviction or ethnic cleansing? Yet Plan Dalet ("master plan of the Haganah") provided for the expulsion of Palestinian townsfolk and villagers. And they weren't allowed to return. So... if it looks like a duck, walks like a duck and quacks like a duck, then it probably... isn't a duck!?

The absurdity of Morris' words are obvious. What he is telling us here is that, because Zionist forces 'expected/anticipated' an Arab invasion, they were justified in emptying entire Palestinian towns and villages of their inhabitants and razing them, and had a master plan to do so, which wasn't really a plan of eviction or ethnic cleansing.

But Morris hasn't told the whole story in his letter:

First, Plan Dalet didn't just fall from nowhere into the Haganah's lap. It came from the top, from the Jewish community's leader, David Ben-Gurion:

"On 2 November, ie, almost a month before the UN General Assembly Resolution was adopted... the Executive of the Jewish Agency, Ben-Gurion, spelled out for the first time in the clearest possible terms that ethnic cleansing formed the alternative, or complementary, means of ensuring that the new state would be an exclusively Jewish one. The Palestinians inside the Jewish state, he told his audience, could become a 5th column, and if so 'they can either be mass arrested or expelled; it is better to expel them'... Plan Dalet was not created in a vacuum. It emerged as the ultimate scheme in response to the way events gradually unfolded on the ground, through a kind of ad-hoc policy that crystallized with time. But that response was always inexorably grounded in the Zionist ideology and the purely Jewish state that was its goal. Thus, the main objective was clear from the beginning - the de-Arabisation of Palestine - whereas the means to achieve this most effectively evolved in tandem with the actual military occupation of the Palestinian territories that were to become the new Jewish state of Israel. " (The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine, Ilan Pappe, p 49)

Second, Plan Dalet had little or nothing to do with any perceived/expected/anticipated Arab invasion. (And, it has to be said, if you go to some corner of the Arab world with the intention of making it as Jewish as England is English, and moving its inhabitants on, you're hardly in a position to blame the Arab states if they get riled on behalf of their fellow Arabs.) Here's the reality:

"Immediately upon the adoption of UN Resolution 181 the Arab leaders officially declared they would despatch troops to defend Palestine. And yet, not once between the end of November 1947 and May 1948 did Ben-Gurion... sense that [his] future state was in any danger, or that the list of military operations was so overwhelming that they would impinge on the proper expulsion of the Palestinians. In public, the leaders of the Jewish community portrayed doomsday scenarios and warned their audiences of an imminent 'second Holocaust'. In private, however, they never used this discourse. They were fully aware that the Arab war rhetoric was in no way matched by any serious preparations on the ground... they were well informed about the poor equipment of these armies and their lack of battlefield experience and... training... The Zionist leaders were confidant they had the upper hand militarily and could drive through most of their ambitious plans. And they were right." (Pappe, p 46)

"The Arab decision as to how much to intervene and assist was directly affected by developments on the ground [ie from December 1947- mid-May 1948]. And on the ground they watched - politicians with growing dismay, intellectuals and journalists with horror - the beginning of a depopulation process unfolding in front of their eyes... Few of them were in any doubt at that early stage, in the beginning of 1948, of the potential disaster awaiting the Palestinian people. But they procrastinated, and postponed, for as long as they could, the inevitable military intervention, and then were only too happy to terminate it sooner rather than later; they knew full well not only that the Palestinians were defeated, but also that their armies stood no chance against the superior forces. In fact, they sent troops into a war they had no chance of winning... Only when the Jewish forces intensified their actions and their true intentions became fully exposed did Arab governments design some sort of a coordinated reaction... and only at the end of April 1948 was it decided that they would send troops into Palestine. By then a quarter of a million Palestinians had already been expelled, 200 villages destroyed and scores of towns emptied." ( Pappe, pp 117-118)

Third, if it isn't already clear from my first point, the real reason for Plan Dalet and the ethnic cleansing of Palestine had more to do with realising the Zionist goal of a Jewish state, that is a state with as many Jews and as few non-Jews as possible, than with facing a potential Arab invasion. "In the territory of their future greater Jewish state there lived, in early December 1947, one million Palestinians... while the Jewish community itself was a minority of 600,000." (Pappe, p 49) Go figure, folks!

So much for The Irish Times letter. But if you thought that Benny Morris was merely a historian ocassionally given to bending history for propaganda purposes, you'd be wrong. The man has another, darker side. In an extended interview with Haaretz journalist Ari Shavit on 9/1/04, the real Benny Morris emerges as a foaming mix of Vladimir Jabotinsky and Oriana Fallaci. Called Survival of the Fittest, the complete interview with additional commentary by Israeli philosopher Adi Ophir can be found at Take a look at this:

On Ben-Gurion & the goal of a Jewish state: Ben-Gurion was a "transferist" [the Israeli euphemism for someone who believes in expelling the Palestinians from Palestine en masse]. "He understood that there could be no Jewish state with a large and hostile Arab minority in its midst... If he had not done what he did, a [Jewish] state would not have come into being... Without the uprooting of the Palestinians, a Jewish state would not have arisen here." Sometimes people have to make way for an ideological fixation.

Ethnic cleansing is justified: "In certain conditions expulsion is not a war crime. I don't think the expulsions of 1948 were war crimes. You can't make an omelet without breaking eggs. You have to dirty your hands... There are circumstances in history that justify ethnic cleansing... when the choice is between ethnic cleansing and genocide, the annihilation of your people, I prefer ethnic cleansing." Note that the "annihilation" Morris is speaking about has nothing to do with any perceived Arab military threat to the Jewish community, but a Palestinian demographic threat to the viability of a Jewish state: "That is what Zionism faced [in 1948]. A Jewish state would not have come into being without the uprooting of 700,000 Palestinians. Therefore it was necessary to uproot them... I feel sympathy for the Palestinian people, which truly underwent a hard tragedy... But if the desire to establish a Jewish state here is legitimate, there was no other choice." IOW, contrary to his Irish Times letter, the Palestinians had to go, not because they "launched hostilities on the Jewish community in Palestine in the hope of destroying that community" or "to counter the expected pan-Arab assault on the emergent Jewish state," but because their very existence in Palestine, hostile or otherwise, conflicted with the concept of a Jewish state. He trots out the familiar Zionist trope, "The Arabs have 22 states. The Jewish people, did not have even one," and then states, "Even the great American democracy could not have been created without the annihilation of the Indians. There are cases in which the overall, final good justifies harsh and cruel acts that are committed in the course of history." And anyway, he says, the Palestinian Nakba was only a matter of "small war crimes." Only "about 800 were killed," and that's "peanuts/chicken feed" compared to other massacres.

Ben-Gurion was a wimp: Ben-Gurion "got cold feet during the war... he should have done a complete job... If Ben-Gurion had... cleansed the whole country - the whole Land of Israel, as far as the Jordan River... he would have stabilized the state of Israel for generations."

Transfer Now?: "In the present circumstances it is neither moral nor realistic [to transfer and expel the Arabs from the West Bank, Gaza, the Galilee and the Triangle]. The world would not allow it... But, in other circumstances, apocalyptic ones, which are liable to be realized in 5 or 10 years, I can see expulsions... The Israeli Arabs are a time bomb... They are a potential 5th column. In both demographic and security terms they are liable to undermine the state."

The Palestinian right of return: "The entire Palestinian national elite is prone to see us as Crusaders and is driven by the phased plan. That's why the Palestinians are not honestly ready to forgo the right of return. They are preserving it as an instrument with which they will destroy the Jewish state when the time comes."

Islam is the problem: "There is a deep problem in Islam. It's a world whose values are different. A world in which human life doesn't have the same value as it does in the West, in which freedom, democracy, openness and creativity are alien."

Dealing with barbarian Palestinian serial killers: Shavit suggests to Morris that "A large part of the responsibility for Palestinian hatred rests with us. After all, you yourself showed us that the Palestinians experienced a historical catastrophe." Morris responded, "True. But when one has to deal with a serial killer, it's not so important to discover why he became a serial killer. What's important is to imprison the murderer or to execute him... The barbarians who want to take our lives. The people the Palestinian society sends to carry out the terrorist attacks, and in some ways the Palestinian society itself as well... is a very sick society. It should be treated the way we treat individuals who are serial killers... Something like a cage has to be built for [the Palestinians]... There is a wild animal there that has to be locked up..."

The future?: "There is no solution... An iron wall is the most reasonable policy for the coming generation... Ben-Gurion argued that the Arabs understand only force... He was right. That's not to say we don't need diplomacy. Both toward the West and for our own conscience..." Note the admission, diplomacy is just to appease the West and salve our consciences.

On universal values: "Preserving my people is more important than universal moral concepts." The tribe comes first.

On the clash of civilizations: "I think there is a clash of civilizations here... I think the West today resembles the Roman Empire... The barbarians are attacking it and they may also destroy it... The Arab world as it is today is barbarian... The phenomenon of the mass Muslim penetration into the West... is creating a dangerous internal threat... Exactly like the Crusaders, we are the vulnerable branch of Europe in this place."

On Zionism: "The whole Zionist project is apocalyptic. It exists within hostile surroundings and in a certain sense its existence is unreasonable... It wasn't reasonable for it to succeed in 1948 and it's not reasonable that it will succeed now." Shavit asks him sensibly, "If Zionism is so dangerous for the Jews and makes the Arabs so wretched, maybe it's a mistake?" Morris responds, "No, Zionism was not a mistake. The desire to establish a Jewish state here was a legitimate one... But given the character of Islam and the Arab nation, it was a mistake to think that it would be possible to establish a tranquil state here that lives in harmony with its surroundings." I'm reminded here of Einstein's dictum: "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results." Benny's no Einstein.

Our suffering trumps yours: What we "suffered for 2,000 years" is "far more shocking than what happened in 1948 to a small part of the Arab nation that was then in Palestine."

I haven't quite finished with Benny Morris yet. Next post.

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