Thursday 16 June 2011

Benny Hill vs. Benny Morris

The London School of Economics hosted Benny Morris on a talk about the 1948 war on Tuesday night. The lecture Morris gave didn't contain anything new that he hasn't already written down. Yet, the people in the audience seemed to confuse giving a lecture with an actual book with footnotes. And it now appears, people present just don't seem to be listening. In a blogpost about the event on 'London BDS,' they make several claims about what Benny Morris said - a lot of which is just untrue. For those who wish to fact-check, the full lecture is now available on LSE's youtube page; 

London BDS states:
Morris claims that the war of 1948 was not only about land and national rights, but ‘the Arab’ side was also driven by an Islamic Jihad. He cited a few sources for this conclusion – it was not clear how authoritative or genuine the sources are, but that does not matter to Morris. 
Nope. Morris said that some elements in the Arab side thought of the 1948 war as a Holy War. In saying so, he cited three examples: declarations from Al-Zahr University, the Muslim Brotherhood and members of the Arab Higher Committe. In essence what Morris is saying is that there were some elements which thought of it as a Holy War; and he was honest about not overstating this -- more than once: 
"I've scratched the surface.. I've thrown it out. It something that exists there and is a reality but how deep a reality, how wide a reality has to be more thoroughly investigated.. What I'm saying is that you'll find what they [Al Zahr Univerity] what they passed on the 2nd of December elsewhere in the Arab world as well including among the leadership. Its true we are not talking about democracies.. so you don't really know what the masses were thinking but to the extent what one knows what was going in the higher echelons many people took what was happening in 47-47 as a Holy War"
"From the Arab side, it was seen as a jihad by some leaders and some of the people.. It is something which has to be investigated.. to fully comprehend how deep was it"
 London BDS:
Extraordinary though, is his view about the Zionist movement at the time; Morris said later in an answer to a question from the audience that Zionists in the 1948 war were almost atheists and not mainly motivated by religion.
Morris was faced with several questions about the religious dimension of the Jewish side in the '48 war, with one audience member suggesting that there was some kind of 'Jewish Jihad.' In this context, he is absolutely right to say that this is "nonsense." The Zionist movement was a nationalist, predominantly secular, socialist movement. Morris was right when he said that "[they] had thoroughly rejected God.. one finds nothing basically, of a Jihadi element in the Jewish side; it was a secular movement driven by secular concerns..."

London BDS:
Morris then went on to speculate that in 1948 Arabs had genocidal intentions towards the Jews. No evidence was provided by Morris to support his speculation.
Nope. He was very clear that there was no evidence and speculation was dismissed:
On the Arab side... the Jews interpreted what the Palestinians Arabs were doing as an effort to destroy their community and perhaps genocidally to destroy them... But this is not documented, and is not well documented at all in terms of the Arab leadership in Palestine. They very rarely used genocidal terms, I've gone through the material.. They don't talk genocidally, they do talk politicidally.. [On Arab states] were their states genocidal? We don't know that either because there were no genocidal or verifiable genocidal statements... Nobody said that."
London BDS:
Morris claims there was no official policy to force out Arabs in 1948. He thinks the hundreds of thousands of Arabs refugees just happened – through fear. He does not mention or discuss at any time evidence from other historians that the forced expulsion of Palestinians in 1947 and 1948 was part of a calculated plan.
Because there was no official policy; there were intentional expulsions, expulsion orders but no official uniform policies. Its obvious to tell that the person writing this is not paying attention to the nuance of Morris' record on the Palestinian refugee problem. There were several factors; and this 'fear' caused by the war itself, the Jewish attacks on neighbouring villages, the direct, intentional expulsions. True, propagandists like Ilan Pappe claim there was a policy but this is just simply not true. Plan D was never implemented as a formal leadership decision (and why Arabs remain in Israel). 

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