It was fascinating to see Israel’s premier “New Historian” on the “Democracy Now” program, Friday, May 16. Prof. Morris held his own surprisingly well, even though host Amy Goodman did all she could to stack the odds against him. (For background on Benny Morris, see this posting on David Remnick’s New Yorker article.)
On the previous day’s program, the English-Palestinian author and physician, Dr. Ghada Karmi, had the run of most of the hour, with no other viewpoint and only the accompaniment of a nationalistic Palestinian “hip hop” group. Dr. Karmi is a very sympathetic individual, a child refugee of Israel’s victory of 1948. But hers is totally a narrative of Palestinian victimhood – nothing of the Palestinian effort to destroy the Jewish community rather than go along with the UN partition plan of 1947. She also maddeningly speaks of “Zionism” as postulating an exclusively Jewish state, something that even Zeev Jabotinsky, the patron saint of “Revisionist” (right-wing) Zionism, did not advocate. There was no acknowledgment, perhaps even no awareness, that the Arab war against the Jews was not an attempt to establish a shared Arab-Jewish state – au contraire.
The next day, “Democracy Now” set the stage for Benny Morris with the first third of the broadcast given over to an anti-Zionist Israeli, Tikva Honig-Parnass, a woman who was a Hagana veteran in 1948 – again with no rebuttal offered to her opinion. Then came Morris sandwiched between two anti-Zionist figures, one Saree Makdisi, a writer and professor at UCLA and the other Norman Finkelstein. Finkelstein interrupted and filibustered Morris in his highly insulting way, but Morris shut him up when he indicated that Finkelstein’s writings are largely based upon Morris’s research.
Makdisi presented himself as a man of reason, but his one-state view, identical to that of Dr. Karmi, is pie in the sky. Forcing two long-warring peoples together into one polity is like throwing two hungry rats into a single sack. Naked power, not fairness, will triumph.
Makdisi also morally undermined his position when he railed against the fact that the UN partition plan would have made 400,000 or more Arabs “a minority in their own country.” They would have been a very large minority next door to a 100 percent or very nearly 100 percent Arab-Palestinian state. That the Jews were a minority everywhere else, generally to their detriment – subject to recurring acts of discrimination, persecution, expulsion or massacre – meant nothing to him. So for the Jews to be a minority, even a vulnerable oppressed minority, was fine; for Arabs to be a minority in one little corner of the Arab world was intolerable.
From this program with Morris, I now better understand Morris’s incendiary view expressed in an interview in Haaretz a couple of years ago in which he said that, in retrospect, Ben-Gurion should have completed the ethnic cleansing campaign in 1948 to the Jordan River. Morris was hypothesizing that this would have brought an end to the ethnic conflict in the same terrible but effective way that the expulsion of ethnic Greeks from Turkey and Turks from Greece did in the 1920s.
One could also see a parallel in the massive exchange of populations between Pakistan and India in 1947, but to my mind, in the same way that the Indian-Pakistani conflict was not ended in 1947, the Arab-Israeli conflict would not have ended with a more total expulsion of Arabs from what became Israel and eventually the occupied territories as well. Nevertheless, Morris repeated on “Democracy Now,” as he had stated in that interview in Haaretz, that he did not support such an expulsion, on either moral or practical grounds, as a solution today.