Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Benny Morris, Former Historian


Benny Morris was one of the earliest and most important Israeli “new historians” whose scholarship and courageous truth-telling refuted a number of mythologies about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, among other things by demonstrating that the Palestinian refugee problem was deliberately created by the Zionists, who engaged in what we today call “ethnic cleansing.” Morris and others proved beyond reasonable doubt that in 1947-48 the Zionist military forces and political leadership drove a large part of the Palestinian population out of the lands under Zionist control, often by means of massacres and other acts of terrorism against the Arab civilian population.

“Transfer”-- the preferred Zionist euphemism for driving Palestinians from their homes, farmland, property, and villages—sometimes was motivated by revenge for resistance to the expanding Jewish control of Palestine, but more importantly it was deliberate state policy, designed to seize Palestinian land and property for distribution to the new wave of Jewish immigration from postwar Europe, and even more importantly, to ensure that Jews would be a large majority within the borders of what became Israel.

Today Benny Morris can no longer be regarded as a scholar and historian, but merely a propagandist, indeed a particularly shameful one, for he has traded on his former status and reputation as a fearless truth-teller in order to lend credibility to his ongoing series of disingenuous comments on current issues in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The latest example is a Morris essay in the September 29 issue of Haaretz, “No Love For Muslims, Unless They’re Palestinians.” Morris begins by discussing a metaphor for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as recently employed by Jeffrey Goldberg and Christopher Hitchens; it is worth quoting at some length:

“Hitchens approvingly cites (and expands) a metaphor coined (I think) by Jeffrey Goldberg, a correspondent for The Atlantic: A man (the Zionist Jew), to save himself, leaps from a burning building (anti-Semitic and Holocaust Europe) and lands on an innocent bystander (a Palestinian), crushing him. To which Hitchens adds - and the falling man lands on the Palestinian again and again (the conquest of the West Bank and Gaza, the suppression of the intifadas, the construction of settlements in the territories, etc).”

“But the metaphor is disingenuous, and it requires amplification to conform to the facts of history. In fact, as the leaping man nears the ground he offers the bystander a compromise - let's share the pavement, some for you, some for me. The bystander responds with a firm "no," and tries, again and again (1920, 1921, 1929, the Arab Revolt of 1936-39 and the 1947-48 War of Independence), to stab the falling man as he descends to the pavement. So the leaping man lands on the bystander, crushing him. Later, again and again, the leaping man, now firmly ensconced on the pavement, offers the crushed bystander a compromise ("autonomy" in 1978, a "two-state solution" in 2000 and in 2008), and again and again the bystander says "no."  The falling man may have somewhat wronged the bystander, but the bystander was never an innocent one; he was an active agent in and a party to his own demise.”

To begin, this is laughably bad writing, a consequence of Morris’ lame and increasingly absurd effort to make an extended argument within the confines of a forced metaphor. The far more important point, of course, is that Morris’s three main arguments in the essay are all bad ones. It is not that what he says is flatly false so much as that what he omits—and surely deliberately so, since he knows better—effectively makes the argument a dishonest one.

First, the “leaping man,” the Zionists, never truly offered the Palestinians a fair compromise before Israel was created, despite Morris’s argument, which refers to the several partition plans suggested in the 1930s and 1940s as the best practical compromise to solve the conflict between the Zionists and the overwhelming Palestinian majority, particularly the 1947 UN partition plan that formed the basis for the creation of Israel in 1948. The UN compromise partition plan was rejected by the Palestinians, but supposedly accepted by David Ben-Gurion and the Zionist leadership.

However, that is another part of the Israeli/Zionist mythology that has been decisively and repeatedly shown to be essentially false: the evidence is irrefutable that Ben-Gurion “accepted” the plan and sold it to his reluctant co-leadership, solely as a temporary tactic to allow the Zionists to gain a foothold, from which they would build a state and powerful military forces that could later expand and take over all of historical Palestine—the West Bank, all of Jerusalem, and even parts of Lebanon, Syria, and Transjordan.

Here, in Ben-Gurion’s own words, was his plan. In a 1937 letter to his son, he wrote: 

A partial Jewish state is not the end, but only the beginning. The establishment of such a Jewish State will serve as a means in our historical efforts to redeem the country in its entirety….We shall organize a modern defense force…and then I am certain that we will not be prevented from settling in other parts of the country, either by mutual agreement with our Arab neighbors or by some other means….We will expel the Arabs and take their places…with the force at our disposal.

And in early 1949 Ben-Gurion told his aides: “Before the founding of the state, on the eve of its creation, our main interest was self-defense….But now the issue at hand is conquest, not self-defense. As for setting the borders—it’s an open-ended matter. In the Bible as well as in history there are all kinds of definitions of the country’s borders, so there’s no real limit.”

In Morris’s second argument, he criticizes Christopher Hitchens for “seeming to accept the Palestinians’ definition of themselves as ‘natives’ struggling against an ‘imperialist foreign enemy.’” Actually, he strongly implies, it is the Jews who are the true natives of Palestine, not the Palestinians: “What of Jewish residence in the Land of Israel between the 1th century BCE and the late Byzantine period (5th and 6th centuries C.E? And what of Jewish residence and ‘nativeness’ in Palestine since 1882, nearly 130 years ago? If residence grants rights, surely Jewish residence counterbalances Arab residence in Palestine since 636 C.E.”

In effect, in an only slightly qualified manner, Morris is repeating the standard Zionist argument that Jewish rights in Palestine are greater than those of the Palestinians because the Jews were there first. It is emblematic of the poverty of thought on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict that this argument is not immediately recognized as simply preposterous, outside the realm of even minimal intellectual respectability.

What’s Right and What’s Wrong with the Zionist Argument?

In evaluating the case for Zionism, the first step must be to separate the original Zionist argument for the necessity of a Jewish state from the arguments that such a state must be in Palestine. When Jewish nationalism or the Zionist political movement emerged in Europe in the early 20th century, its core belief was that the Jewish people had both an overwhelming need for and a moral right to a nation-state of their own. In light of the often murderous persecution of the Jewish people throughout history, it is hard to imagine any other people who have had a more powerful case for possession of a state of their own.

Where that state should be located, however, was a very different matter. The terrible paradox of Zionism is that while the arguments for the right and need of the Jews to have a state of their own were so strong as to be nearly self-evident, most of the arguments for the right to create that state in Palestine were quite weak.

The founder of the Zionist political movement, Theodore Herzl, initially considered the question of where the Jewish state should be located as an open one, a practical issue rather than an ideological or religious one. Thus, for awhile the Zionists canvassed a number of possibilities. However, the search for alternatives to Palestine was quickly abandoned. The turning point—and the origin of the Palestinian-Israeli and the larger Arab-Israeli conflict—came at the Zionist Congress of 1903, which decisively rejected any effort to create the Jewish state in any place but Biblical Palestine.

From the 19th century to the present, Zionists have made a number of arguments for exclusive Jewish political rights in Palestine. The first is the religious or Biblical argument: God promised the Jews that Palestine would be theirs forever, following which they established a Jewish Kingdom throughout the land, ruling for centuries until they were conquered and later expelled from the land by the Roman Empire. That is not an impressive argument, in the first instance because religious arguments convince only those for whom religious arguments are convincing. In any case, Christianity and Islam have their own religious claims to Palestine.

Moreover, a growing number of Israeli archaeologists, anthropologists and Biblical scholars have concluded that the Zionist argument that purports to rest on the actual history of the land is tendentious and largely mythological, lacking serious historical evidence to support it. Still, for the sake of argument let us assume that those modern scholars who challenge the mythology—the stories of Abraham, Moses, the Exodus from Egypt, the Jewish conquest of Palestine, and the later expulsion of the Jews by Rome--are in error. Assume further that the historical evidence supports the Zionist argument that Jews lived primarily in the ancient land of Palestine for many centuries, over which they established political sovereignty, losing this Jewish homeland only because they were forcibly conquered. Would all these presumed facts establish a modern Jewish claim to the land of Palestine?

Hardly. In no other place in the world is it accepted—in law, moral reasoning, or in plain common sense--that an ancient claim to a land has precedence over two thousand years of a different reality: eight centuries of Christianity, followed by thirteen centuries of an overwhelming Islamic majority. Indeed, nowhere else in the world does it even occur to anyone to make such a manifestly absurd argument.

To elaborate, Palestine has been repeatedly conquered by outside invaders since ancient history: by Assyria, Babylon, Alexander the Great, the Roman empire, the Crusaders, the Arabs, the Ottoman Empire—indeed, if the Old Testament is to be the historical source, in the Biblical era by the Jews themselves! On each occasion, many or most of the previous inhabitants of the land were killed, driven into exile, or subjugated by new rulers, who then held sway for centuries. Who, then, are the “rightful” claimants?

Put differently, by what objective criteria are the claims of one set of victims—the Jews supposedly driven out by the Romans over two thousand years ago—privileged over all other such claims? If ancient victimization is the criterion, then the descendants of the Canaanites (for example, the Syrians!), who lived on the land until the Jews conquered them, must have priority over the descendants of the Jews. On the other hand, if recent victimization is the criterion, then all victims of conquest after the Roman expulsion have priority over the Jews.

There is scarcely any place in the world that has not at one time been conquered, subjugated and populated by previously external forces. Consequently, absent a religious basis (“the Promised Land”) accepted by everyone, including those of different nationalities and religions, the stopping of the clock as it marches backward in time to 20 centuries ago, neither earlier nor later, must be completely arbitrary and self-serving. Thus, a kind of common sense statute of limitations on land claims by right of previous inhabitance has evolved. Of course, there can be no precision in ascertaining the point at which the passage of time has nullified the moral or legal validity of previous land claims, and certainly there are hard cases.

The Zionist claim, however, is not one of them. While the metaphorical statute of limitations is vague, we can at least establish a morally plausible range:

*The passage of a few months or years is not enough to wipe out past rights. Thus, no unbiased observer challenged the moral right of the Bosnians, the Croatians, and the Kosovar Albanians to reverse Serbian ethnic cleansing in the former Yugoslavia—even though force was often necessary and it required the dispossession of Serbs who had recently taken over the abandoned homes and villages.

*The passage of some decades creates a complex problem. Thus, the question of whether the Palestinians have the right to return to their homes and villages in what is now Israel is one of the most vexing issues in the current Israeli-Palestinian conflict, not easily resolvable, either in practice or in moral principle—except by some kind of fair compromise.

*Two hundred years or so is too long. For example, while there is no doubt that in the 19th century Americans illegitimately and forcibly conquered much of what became the United States from the Native Americans and from Mexico, it does not follow that today’s Native Americans have even the theoretical moral right to reconquer the West, or that Mexico could legitimately drive out the Texans today.

This is not to deny that the Native Americans still have some persuasive legal and moral claims for some forms of restitution. After a century and a half, however, the use of force to assert previous territorial rights would be an entirely different matter. For example, there seems to be no doubt that a couple of centuries ago my home in Buffalo was once on land inhabited by the Seneca Indian Nation—but I don’t think that would give the modern Senecans the right to demand I return it to them, or to violently drive me out if I refuse.

*If this line is reasoning is persuasive, then a territorial claim based on previous inhabitance two thousand years ago is beneath serious consideration. To be sure, even after the Roman conquest there continued to be a substantial Jewish community in Palestine. However, over time most became Christians or Moslems as a result of the consecutive foreign conquests and occupation of Palestine, leaving only a small minority that preserved its Jewish identity.

As a result, by the end of the 19th century, prior to the beginning of the Zionist immigration, only some 15,000-30,000 Jews remained in Palestine, about 3-7% of the Arab population. Different studies have come to somewhat different estimates, but none remotely support Morris’s claim that “Jewish residence counterbalances Arab residence in Palestine since 636 C.E.” (emphasis added)

There is only one good argument for the Zionist claim to have a Jewish state in some part of the land of Palestine, but it is a sufficient one. Unlike the other arguments I have discussed, the fact of centuries of murderous Jewish persecution, culminating in the Holocaust, cannot be dismissed as irrelevant in legitimizing the creation of Israel. To be sure, the matter is complex: the conflict between the Jews and Palestinians long preceded Nazi Germany, and in any case the Palestinians were in no way responsible for the Holocaust or, for that matter, for the earlier history of murderous European anti-Semitism that produced Zionism. As the Palestinians always ask: Why should we be made to pay for evils we did not commit?

On the other hand, the Holocaust made the case for the creation of a Jewish state and a haven for the victims of anti-Semitism not only irrefutable but urgent. And by the late 1930s the die was cast; it was far too late to consider alternatives other than Palestine. In that context, the Palestinian plea of innocence lost much—though not all—of its force. The answer to the “why should we pay” question was this: it had become a tragic necessity, for the alternative, in terms of the human consequences, was worse.

In that case, could the Israeli-Palestinian conflict have been averted, or at least settled long ago? Perhaps it might have, if two things had been done by Israel at the time of its creation, or at least since. First, Israel should have jettisoned its untrue, infuriating, and irrelevant “narrative” and simply rested its case for the creation of a Jewish state in Palestine on historical necessity in general, the Holocaust in particular, and the absence of a practical alternative to the land of Palestine. And since 1948 the only argument necessary to the Zionist case is that Israel exists, new moral as well as factual realities have been created, and Israelis have the right to live.

At the same time, however, Israel should have publicly and repeatedly acknowledged that the creation of Israel had created a grave injustice to the Palestinian people, that the subsequent Israeli expulsion, occupation, and repression of the Palestinians had compounded the injustice and the pain it has long inflicted on the Palestinian people, and that as a result Israel would do everything in its economic and political power to remedy those injustices and alleviate the pain-- short of abandoning its state.

Even today, it is probably not too late for Israel to do this, and it may very well be the case that such an acknowledgement—accompanied by major Israeli economic assistance to the Palestinians—is the necessary psychological prerequisite if there is ever to be a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. But first the Israelis (and their allies in the American Jewish community) must go through a painful demythologizing process; sadly, they will get no help from Benny Morris, despite his earlier work.

Morris and the Two-State Solution.

Morris’s last argument is based on a serious distortion of the fistory of the two-state solution, especially in 2000 and in 2008. Morris simply reasserts the standard mythology: that in 2000 Ehud Barak offered Arafat a genuine two-state solution but that Arafat flatly rejected it, made no counteroffers, walked away from the negotiations, and began the violent intifada. No part of this mythology has survived serious examination. The issue is far too complex to be examined here, but it has been refuted in great detail by a number of scholars, journalists, and former policy makers—most of them Israeli. (For my own analysis, see here)

Here are the most salient points:

*Even as the negotiations were proceeding, Barak was continuing to expand the Jewish settlements in the West Bank, continuing the Israeli practice of creating “facts on the ground” that precluded their return to the Palestinians.

*No one knows for sure what Barak “offered” to Arafat in 2000, since he refused to put anything in writing and even refused to talk directly to Arafat at what was supposed to be a “summit” meeting at Camp David in July 2000. As for what Barak seemed to be hinting he might finally offer, at most it would have left the largest and most important Jewish settlements beyond Israel’s pre-1967 borders under Israeli sovereignty—not least because they had been deliberately placed there to ensure Israeli control over some of the best agricultural land and largest West Bank water aquifers.

*On the crucial issue of Jerusalem, Barak not only continued to insist on full Israeli sovereignty over the entire city, including over the Muslim mosques in the Old City, he actually hardened the Israeli position over Jerusalem by demanding for the first time that Jews be allowed to pray on the Temple Mount plateau, adjacent to the mosques. As many Israelis and others have noted, Barak’s position on Jerusalem alone doomed the negotiations to failure.

*On another crucial issue, the Palestinian refugee “right of return” to Israel, Barak was also completely uncompromising, later stating that no Israeli prime minister would ever accept “even one refugee on the basis of the right of return.”

*Barak continued to demand a demilitarized Palestinian state, Israeli control over Palestinian borders and air space, and even a long-term Israeli military presence and settlements deep within the projected Palestinian state, especially in the Jordan river valley and adjacent mountain tops.

In short, if the Palestinians had accepted Barak’s apparent proposals—assuming that in the end Barak would have formally offered them--they would have gained only a tiny, economically nonviable and water-starved Palestinian “state”—or perhaps, better said, Bantustans--divided into a number of noncontiguous parcels separated by Israeli armed forces, roads, and Jewish settlements, denied a capital in East Jerusalem or even sovereignty over the Muslim religious sites on the Temple Mount.

No wonder that Shlomo Ben-Ami, Barak’s foreign minister, later said that “Camp David was not a missed opportunity for the Palestinians, and if I were a Palestinian I would have rejected Camp David, as well,” and that Barak himself later boasted that he had given the Palestinians “not a thing.” And even then, the overall conclusion of investigations by European, U.S and even Israeli intelligence organizations is that Arafat did not make a policy decision to abandon negotiations and turn to violence; rather he was unable to contain the Palestinian intifada, which at least initially was a revolution from below.

What Happened in 2008?

Morris writes that the Palestinians again rejected a compromise two-state solution in 2008, supposedly offered by Israeli prime minister Ehud Olmert. The facts are murky, but there have been some indications of what happened. Olmert, who had a long history as a hardline rightist before his election, was prime minister from May 2006 until he was defeated for reelection by Benjamin Netanyahu in February 2009. Throughout his term in office he not only continued but stepped up the expansion of Jewish settlements in Jerusalem and the West Bank, and two months before his term expired he instituted the infamous Israeli attack on Gaza and resisted efforts by members of his own Cabinet to cut short the attack before even more Gazan civilians were slaughtered.

Still, it is true that in the last few months of his time in office—and when there was no longer any doubt that he was about to be decisively defeated by Netanyahu—Olmert made some surprisingly strong public statements about the need for a genuine and fair two-statement settlement with the Palestinians, perhaps including some form of shared Israeli-Palestinian sovereignty over the Old City and other sites within Jerusalem of religious importance to both Jews and Muslims.

There were some preliminary talks between Olmert and high-level Palestinian leaders on the basis of these promising Olmert statements, but there were no official Israeli proposals, no formal negotiations, no public documentary record, and in any case the process was quickly aborted when Olmert authorized the Israeli attack on Gaza and Benjamin Netanyahu became prime minister.

And because Morris knows all this, today he is nothing more than a propagandist for the indefensible, and a particularly dangerous one at that, precisely because before he betrayed his calling he had gained great credibility as a fearless teller of the truth. Put differently, while once Morris told truth to power—often described as the highest calling of intellectuals-- now he tells the lies that power wants to hear. So it is hardly surprising that Morris, once a pariah in his country, today is a thriving and celebrated defender of Israeli policies and a close adviser to top Israeli political leaders.


Steve Kowit said...

Jerome Slater's reasoning about the right to reclaim stolen land is murky. The ancient Hebrews stole, by their own testimony, the land of the Caananites and that of many other peoples, and they stole it--according to their own testimony--by genocide, being "commanded" by their god to murder the rightful inhabitants down to the last man, woman, child, sheep and goat. But even there, the Zionist claims, we now know, are based on ancient slf-serving myths. The Palestinian claim to Palestine on the other hand is an obvious one, and having been conquered in 1948 and 1967 (during our own lifetime), and having their land stolen piecemeal ever since, doesn't in any way compromise their right to have their stolen land --ALL their stolen land--back. Slater simply doesn't want to see Israel, the so-called Jewish homeland, completely revert to its former ownership. He's still attached to the idea that somehow, no matter the absence of logic and ethics, we Jews deserve to have our own land. Well, so do the Gypsies and the Kurds, but they can't have it whout stealing land from someone else. We Jews have no credible claim to so much as an inch of the stolen Palestinian hmeland.

Richard Witty said...

I think Jerome's logic is murky for a different reason.

I don't agree that Morris "proved" that the intention of the Zionists from day one was to drive the Palestinians from their land, in an intentional effort.

I think Morris brought to the world's attention a much more qualified new revelation, that there were some (more than a couple) instances of forced removals.

I've always felt that the institutionalization of the forced removals (in legislation in 49, 50, 51 prohibiting return, prohibiting access to courts, and annexing "abandoned" lands) was a more critical action.

I think that you bought into the inferrence of what Morris reported earlier, rather than just the written comments themselves.

Also, I think that your summary of Morris' assertions (I hope that he is saying this) as him declaring that the land is and always was "Jewish land", is also a misrepresentation of his comments.

My understanding is that the historical presence of Hebrews in Israel/Palestine/Judea/Samaria constructed two things, a driving sentimental attachment to the land, and a precedent for residence.

The actual need for formation of a state came after settlement. In response to fears that Jews sought to take over the land, aggressive organized and solitary militant actions against ostensibly civilian settlers threatened the Yishuv.

They concluded early, in the early 30's, that the Arab community would never accept a large or majority Jewish presence in then Palestine.

Like many states, Israel formed for protection.

The neo-orthodox claim that these are the Joshua-like times are a new thesis, definitely a sentimental driver to early Zionist thinking, but nowhere near the actual significance that you attribute to it.

I believe that Ben Gurion and others were sincere in their early overtures for a bi-national state, then overturnes to Arab parties to accept partition.

The important questions are what happens now?

Neither the two-state nor the single-state approaches have critical mass to be realized. Its like a six party democracy with the plurality take all.

Sharia Palestinian nationalist expansionists
Secular Palestinian nationalists (expansionist and "enough")
Neo-halacha Israeli nationalist expansionists
Secular Israeli nationalists (expansionist and "enough")
Civilist single state advocates

Who earns the super-majority sufficient to form a stable status.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Professor!

Gil Maguire said...

Israel claims that it has an historic right to Palestine, including the West Bank and East Jerusalem, based on the supposed eviction of Jews from Palestine by the Romans some 2000 years ago. While this narrative certainly has sentimental and emotional value for Jews, that argument has no legal standing under international law. To draw an analogy, my Irish forebears, faced with imminent starvation, were forced to leave Ireland in the early 1800s due to the potato famine. However, the fact that a natural disaster caused or forced my forebears’ migration does not mean that I now have a legal claim to Irish land or property held by my forebears or to Irish citizenship or even to a right to immigrate to Ireland. Likewise, my British forebears were forced to leave Britain some time in the 1700s because of religious persecution. Here again, even though my forebears were forced to leave Britain because of religious persecution, as the Jews were forced to leave Palestine by the Romans, this forced migration does not create a legal right for me to now claim property, citizenship or even immigration rights in Britain. Moreover, my claims based on forced migration go back only about 150 to 250 years. Israel is attempting to make ownership claims to the West Bank and East Jerusalem based on events that are 10 times more attenuated and remote in time, some 1700 or 1800 years earlier.
It seems to me that claims for repatriation after unlawful eviction, usually associated with some form of ethnic cleansing, have to be limited to those alive at the time of the eviction and still alive at the time of the proposed repatriation, including any immediate dependent children. Beyond that, the claims probably should be limited to restitutional damages for property and monetary loses plus costs of resettlement.
Since even the youngest Palestinians evicted by the Israelis in 1947 are now in their mid-60s, the number of necessary repatriations to Israel is probably a pretty modest number, certainly well less than 100,000. As the age of those allowed the "right of return" under this formula likely precludes procreation, there would be little or no future demographic effect on Israel's Jewish majority, which is a major concern for Israelis.
I believe the legal validity for Israel's claim to existance stems from the actions of two international bodies: First, from the creation of the British Mandate for Palestine by the League of Nations which effectively ratified the Balfour Declaration and granted the British full authority to deliniate and manage the mandate as it saw best. Second, from the successor to the League of Nations, the United Nations, which assumed control over the mandate when the British withdrew, and then created the 1947 UN Partition Plan for Palestine which was adopted by a 2/3 majority of the UN General Assembly.
The partition plan created both a Jewish State and an Arab State in Palestine, a fact Israelis and many Jews seem to forget. However, Israel considered the 1947 UN Partition Plan (UNR 181)such a vital foundational document that it is cited in its own declaration of independence as providing compelling, irrevocable authority for the establishment of a “Jewish State” in Palestine. Obviously, the UN Partition Plan also provided equally compelling, irrevocable authority for the establishment of the “Arab State” in the West Bank and East Jerusalem areas of Palestine allocated to it in the same resolution. Israel now prefers to ignore the creation and allocation of an Arab State in the resolution, and instead argues that the West Bank is “unallocated” and must be disposed of through negotiations between Palestinians and Israel. That argument finds no support under international law nor from any country, including the US.
I think UNR 181 provides valid, binding legal authority for Israel's existance as the Jewish State in Palestine, but also provides the same authority for an Arab State in the West Bank and East Jerusalem portions of Palestine.

Gil Maguire said...

I was annoyed by Benny Morris' attack on Christopher Hitchens, which, considering Mr. Hitchen's current illness, seemed untimely at best. However, I was very surprised and pleased to see Mr. Hitchens remains very active and in great form. His article in Slate yesterday, "Not So Hidden Influences: Is it so offensive to note the effectiveness of the Jewish lobby?" is a great read. He also provides a solid argument in defense of Rick Sanchez why his firing by CNN was an unfair overreaction, and suggests he, Jon Stewart, and others, should call for Mr. Sanchez' reinstatement.

Anonymous said...

@Gil Maguire

181 would have formed a valid basis for an Arab state (and an international Jerusalem, not a split Jerusalem), if the Arabs hadn't rejected it.

If you reject a deal, the deal is no longer on the table. The Arabs decided to bet on their ability to win by "right of conquest" and they lost. When you gamble and lose, you pay up. Otherwise, any aggressor has no reason not to attack. Why not try to kill the Israelis? If you win, the Israelis die and you get their share of the land. If you lose, you demand your share of the land back as though you hadn't tried to kill them.

They lost some land in 1948, they decided to try their luck again in 1967. They lost then too. "The people we were going to exterminate beat us and took our land and won't give it back". Boo freakin' hoo.

The Palestinian leaders have never even hinted that limiting the "right of return" to the actual refugees is acceptable to them. They insist on the right of every refugee, every descendant, every spouse of a descendant, etc. to return to Israel and take back the actual land their ancestors lived on. They demand the right of 5-10 million "refugees" to evict millions of Israelis from their houses, businesses, schools, farms, etc. It is such an insane demand that naive Westerners who support the Palestinians often refuse to believe that that is what they demand, but it is.

That's why peace talks are a waste of time.

Harlan said...

Steve, Prof. Slater's logic is not murky. Equity does not require a Jewish state, but Jewish children born and raised in Mandate Palestine or in the occupied territories are entitled to a nationality and to leave and re-enter their own country of origin like everyone else.

Richard, Ben Gurion's biographer wrote that Ahdut Ha'avodah (Unity of Labor) was established in 1919 as a successor to Poalei Zion. Its founding Charter called for a Jewish Socialist Republic in all of Palestine, and demanded "the transfer of Palestine's land, water, and natural resources to the people of Israel as their eternal possession." See Ben Gurion and the Palestinian Arabs, Shabtai Teveth, page 99. Teveth also said that economic, social, and geographical partition (de facto apartheid) were inherent in Ben Gurion's conception of Zionism. See pages 10, 12, 43-44, and 179-184 of Ben-Gurion and the Palestinian Arabs. Teveth cited the Ben Gurion's letter to his son Amoz that Prof. Slater quoted above.

Benny Morris said that both Chaim Weizmann and David Ben Gurion saw partition as a stepping stone to further expansion and the eventual takeover of the whole of Palestine. He also cited Ben Gurion's letter. See "Righteous victims: a history of the Zionist-Arab conflict, 1881-1999", by Benny Morris, Knopf, 1999, ISBN: 0679421203, page 138. In the interview with Ari Shavit, "Survival of the fittest", Morris unsuccessfully attempted to provide a moral justification for ethnic cleansing.

Historian David Tal says "the Jews initial acceptance of the Partition resolution was not mere rhetoric; the strategic planning of the war against the Palestinians was based upon it." See War in Palestine, 1948: strategy and diplomacy, David Tal, Routledge, 2004, ISBN: 071465275X, page 471.

Ben Ami wrote that "The endorsement of partition along the lines of Resolution 181 by Ben-Gurion was essentially a tactical move. "Does anybody really think that the original meaning of the Balfour Declaration and the Mandate, and indeed, that of the millenarian yearning of the Jewish people, was not that of establishing a Jewish state in the whole of Eretz-Israel?" he had asked rhetorically in a speech to the People's Council on 22 May 1947. His acceptance of the principle of partition, he explained a week later, was an attempt to gain time until the Jews were strong enough to fight the Arab majority." He pledged to Mapai's Central Committee that the borders of Jewish independence as defined by Resolution 181 were by no means final. It was then that Yigal Allon said ...'the borders of partition cannot be for us the final borders ... the partition plan is a compromise plan that is unjust to the Jews. ... We are entitled to decide our borders according to our defence needs.'" See Scars of war, wounds of peace: the Israeli-Arab tragedy, By Shlomo Ben-Ami, Oxford University Press, USA, 2006, ISBN: 019518158, page 34.

Gil Maguire said...

Your reliance on contract law principles is misplaced. There was no "offer" from Israel that the Arabs rejected; instead there was a legal edict, passed with a 2/3 majority, from an international governing body that the land would be partitioned into 2 states, one Arab, one Jewish. It's the equivalent of a court order splitting a farm between two family members. If one violently resists the order, and attacks the other family member, he may go to jail and have to pay fines, and damages to the other, but he still owns title to the land awarded him by the state.
Israel did not gain title to the rest of Palestine because of Arab resistance to a deeply flawed and unfair partition. I suspect you too would have fought the plan if you were Arab as Jews comprised only 33 percent of the population, and inhabited only 6 percent of the land in Mandate Palestine yet were given 57 percent of the land. Arabs, who comprised 67 percent and inhabited 94 percent of the land received only 43 percent of Palestine land.The Arabs attempted to appeal the partition to an international court but were not allowed to appeal even though the court said it had jurisdiction.
Your memory of 1967 is also flawed. Israel started the war, using Egyption blustering and troop movements as a pretext, knowing it would easily win and could then conquer a lot more Arab land. The CIA predicted an Israeli victory in one week. They were wrong--it took only 6 days for Israel to conquer most of Egypt, the rest of Palestine and a good portion of Syria. It wasn't even close and no one, even the Arabs, thought it would be.
As to refugees, no doubt the Arabs would prefer to recoup all their lands and property and be able to repatriate all those evicted plus their descendents. The reality is that won't likely happen even though they have far stronger a claim for full repatriation than the Jewish claim based on eviction by the Romans some 2000 years ago. Full repatriation of Nakba survivors would at least allow those actual victims of that ethnic cleansing to receive justice in their lifetimes without posing a demographic existential threat feared by Israelis.
Finally, prior negotiations, in 2001 at Taba, and recently under Olmert, discussed solutions to the refugee "right of return" problem along the lines I've suggested. Both the Geneva and Arab Initiatives provide fair and reasonable solutions, based on the pre 1967 Green Line, for Arabs and Israelis that take into account Israeli security concerns. The Palestinians have been willing to accept such a solution since the 2001 Taba talks, which, incidentally, would give them less than half of the land allocated to them under UNR 181, the 1947 UN Partition of Palestine.
Sharon, and subsequent Israeli governments, have rejected such a solution and now have colonized and control 43 percent of the West Bank and East Jerusalem with about 10 percent or 500,000 Israeli Jews, which is the equivalent of the U.S. moving 33 million Mormans into settlement colonies in Canada. Peace is available, Anonymous, once Israel and its lapdog proxy, the U.S., are ready for it.
Next time leave your real name or a clever moniker so we'll know which Anonymous we are talking to.

Jerome Slater said...

Mr. Maguire:

It was a pleasure to read your sophisticated and perceptive commentary, as well as the Irish analogy, which I had not thought of. And to learn of your own blog, and of your father, the Irish Moses.

I also appreciate your using your real name, and applaud your admonition to Anonymous to come out of the closet.

I notice that other bloggers are beginning to require names to be signed. I don't want to go that far, at least as of now, but I do want to encourage commentators, in the name of real discourse, to identify themselves. Or, at the least, to adopt a "clever moniker, so we'll know which Anonymous we are talking to."

David Samel said...

Jerry, your analysis is always well worth reading, and there is much I agree with. Benny Morris’s contribution to the new wave of Israeli historians remains invaluable, notwithstanding his dramatic political shift to the lunatic right over the past decade. His recent cartoonish efforts cannot erase his earlier scholarship on the 1948 era, from which he has only modestly budged to accommodate his new outlook. You also offer a masterful take-down of the historical justification for Jewish supremacy in Palestine; as you demonstrate, the history itself is questionable, but even if fully credited, the argument is “simply preposterous, outside the realm of even minimal intellectual respectability,” and “beneath serious consideration.”

You offer a very interesting analysis of the “metaphorical statute of limitations” regarding return of displaced populations. I can only add my belief that Israeli leaders agree with you, and they have been very successfully stringing along the status quo for decades, knowing that each passing year makes the crimes of 1948 and 1967 just a little more distant and a little more immune to rectification. In 25 years, there will be virtually no Palestinians left who personally remember the Naqba.

We differ on our analysis of “what’s right” about Zionism. You give rather short shrift to the “self-evident” need for a Jewish State, based upon centuries of persecution. I think the issue requires more analysis than that. There world has always been an intensely bloody place, and I’m not sure that Jewish victimhood outstrips all others’. Of course, today’s sensibilities insist that all enlightened states grant complete religious freedom and equality for all minorities, and Jewish populations all over the globe are entitled to no less. But the very idea of a Jewish State would seem to preclude that kind of equality that we in the U.S. take for granted. Certainly Israel has never come close to providing equality for its Palestinian civilians, who will be mired in some sort of second-class citizenship as long as they live in a Jewish State, even in the unlikely event of significant liberalization.

To me, the original sins of Zionism, which you aptly describe in the opening paragraphs of your essay, render the entire enterprise immoral from the start. The Zionists said to the indigenous population of Palestine, “We want your homes, your land, your communities for our state.” No external events could camouflage the audacity and unfairness of this territorial claim.

The mass murder of Jews in Europe provided no retrospective justification for the obvious injustice of Zionism. It was the Nazis who committed genocide, and the Palestinians played no role in this catastrophe, notwithstanding the idiotic claims of people like Dershowitz and Oren to the contrary. The people of Palestine were no more obligated to yield to the claims of a foreign people than were the people of Madagascar or Iceland. The lack of escape routes surely contributed to the number of deaths, but countries much better suited to absorb large numbers of immigrants, like the U.S., became quite stingy. For instance, my father and his family were forced to temporarily settle in Cuba before they finally were admitted here, and his cousins spent 10 years in Shanghai before finally making it to the U.S. in 1949. The Palestinians, whose very way of life had been targeted for decades by Zionists, cannot be blamed for failing to shoulder any of the responsibility for saving Jews, when the U.S. and other nations were so much more culpable.

To be cont'd

David Samel said...

Comment cont'd

Your analysis of how the Zionists of the 1930's and 1940's could have softened the blow of the necessity of a Jewish State in Palestine strikes me as unreasonable fantasy. These were the same people who had been trying for decades to supplant the Palestinians in their own lands for illegitimate reasons. It would have been preposterous for them to argue in the pre-War years that events in Europe had given new justification for their cause, and they were truly sorry about all of the inconvenience that would be suffered by the Palestinians as a result of this exigent situation. No one tries to create a state while apologizing; the construction of founding myths of glory is an indispensable part of the enterprise.

I’m with you again when you say it is not too late for Israel to acknowledge what really happened. Just as the U.S. has done so, at least partially, with respect to Native Americans, it is an essential step in reconciliation between the two peoples. But again, we disagree on one-state versus two-state.

As for the various compromises “offered” to the Palestinians, all of them involved unacceptable dispossession of various large numbers of Palestinians from their property. Whether I demand all of the money in your wallet, or just 10 or 20 dollars, your answer would be the same: “no.” The only reason the two-state solution is now deemed agreeable to large segments of the Palestinian population is that they have lived in such misery - a foreign military dictatorship - for so long, that any relief, even unjust relief, would be welcome. I think that even if the two-state solution were realized, there would be continuing moral pressures on Israel to grant full equality to its non-Jewish population. While Israel obviously has an enormous capacity to resist such pressures, it is not unlimited, and I foresee the Jewish State eventually being compelled to yield to the flow of history.

Finally, you deal expertly with the events of 2000 and 2008, as well as Morris’s ideologically-based lies. I can only add a personal anecdote. In 2004, I heard Barak interviewed by Sean Hannity on the radio. Hannity asked Barak why he had offered the Palestinians a state at all in 2000 - wasn’t that a reward for terrorism? Barak replied that he had made an offer he knew would be refused, because it contained some unacceptable elements. The offer was made for show only. I wish I knew where to find a recording or transcript of this exchange, but I distinctly recall Barak’s “honesty” to be quite surprising and significant.

hnorr said...

>by the late 1930s ... it was far too late to consider alternatives
>other than Palestine....The answer to the “why should we pay”
>question was this: it had become a tragic necessity, for the
>alternative, in terms of the human consequences, was worse.

But there _was_ an alternative, even then: allowing the Jewish refugees from Nazism to enter the US, UK, and other Western countries. There's ample evidence that most of the refugees would have preferred this option to going to Palestine. The only reason it wasn't possible was that the Americans, Brits, etc., refused to allow it. But that means, in effect, that you're saying the Palestinians have to accept the loss of most if not all of the land that had been theirs for millennia to the Jews because we in the West refused to share our vastly larger lands with these same people (even though they were supposedly our partners in "Judeo-Christian civilization").

Can anyone expect the Palestinians to take such an argument seriously?

Jerome Slater said...

Two problems with your argument, Mr. Norr. One is that even if the West had let the Jews in, that would not have solved the problem that the Jews needed a state of their own as a place of refuge from murderous persecution, which had repeated occurred for centuries--and right in the West, which meant that Western countries could not be counted on to solve the snti-Semitism problem, forever.

Second, in any case the West wouldn't let Jewish refugees in. So, in practice (as opposed to ideally) in fact there was no alternative to Palestine. The fact remains that from the 1930s onward every serious proposal on how to solve the moral dilemma (the Jews desperately need a state of their own, but anywhere you put it would create an injustice for those already living there) decided that some kind of compromise was unavoidable, which undeniably meant the Palestinians will be forced to pay a price. The problem, then, was to minimize the price they would have to pay, which the Zionists and later Israel certainly did not do.

No, I don't expect the Palestinians to be convinced by this argument, and certainly not in 1947-48. But by itself that doesn't mean that the partition plan was morally unjust. Or, if you prefer, it was the least unjust practical plan that might actually have been implemented. That's precisely why, at least in my judgment, there was a moral dilemma--by definition you can't solve a dilemma, you can only seek the best possible middle course.

Jerome Slater said...

Let me add another very important point, relevant to the question of why the Palestinians had to pay for the history of western anti-Semitism. The UN partition plan did not envisage, let alone require, that the Palestinians left within the state allocated to the Jews would have to be physically displaced, let alone driven from, their homes, villages, lands, etc. If partition had worked as it was supposed to, the Palestinians would simply have lost the right to political sovereignty in all of Palestine, as opposed only to what was supposed to have become a Palestinian state in the remainder of Palestine that was not allocated to the Jews.

Still, that's a price--but a far lesser one than what the Zionists and later Israel exacted. Remember, my argument is that Israel should done everything it could to minimize the price, rather than in fact doing damned near everything it could to maximize the price.

So,why did ethnic cleansing take place, when it was not required by partition. First, the Zionists did not accept partition in fact, only disingenuously. Second, the Palestinians didn't accept the partition either, so the ensuing violence gave the Zionists opportunity for the ethnic cleansing. Would they have done so, even if there had been no Palestinians resistance and Arab state attack in 1948? I don't know. Even if they had sought to ensure a Jewish majority in the Jewish state created by the UN, perhaps its methods of doing so would have been far less draconic. After all, it is a fact that some Arab areas and villages were NOT attacked, among them those that did not engage in violent resistance to the partition plan.

hnorr said...

Jerome Slater: Two problems with your argument, Mr. Norr. One is that even if the West had let the Jews in, that would not have solved the problem that the Jews needed a state of their own as a place of refuge

Plenty of almost empty space, already safely stolen from the native Americans, in Texas, Nevada, etc.

More seriously, I wonder how many of the Jews would have cared about statehood if they'd been allowed into the U.S.

Jerome Slater: Second, in any case the West wouldn't let Jewish refugees in. So, in practice (as opposed to ideally) in fact there was no alternative to Palestine.

At this point, it seems to me, your argument descends into pure tautology: there was no alternative because we didn't allow the alternatives. True enough, historically, but what does it prove?

Jerome Slater said...

First, a great many Jews would have cared about statehood even if they'd been allowed into the U.S., and in any case you are wholly ignoring the argument that historically Jews have not been permanently safe, even in states in which large numbers have not only been admitted, but in which for centuries they thrived. That's the whole point of Zionism, which you continue to ignore.

Second, there is no tautology. The Jews of Europe did not have the option to come to the U.S., period, but after the UN partition they did have the alternative of going to Palestine. You are confusing a theoretical alternative that didn't exist in practice, with a practical alternative that did exist. Your implicit argument that the U.S. SHOULD have been an alternative is correct, but completely irrelevant.

Jim Donnellan said...

RE: "After all, it is a fact that some Arab areas and villages were NOT attacked, among them those that did not engage in violent resistance to the partition plan."

How do you account for Deir Yassin?

Jerome Slater said...

Yes, you're right--even some villages that did not attack the Zionists were attacked, or in the case of Deir Yassin, deliberately massacred. I don't remember the literature on Deir Yassin, but I think the basic point is that the perpetrators wanted to precipitate Arab flight, which is exactly what happened.

On the other hand, many other Arab villages were not destroyed and even some Arab urban population centers, as in Haifa and Jaffa, were not attacked.

I simply don't know enough to be offer any explanation for the uneven pattern. But I don't wish to be misunderstood: there is no doubt that widespread ethnic cleansing occurred, sometimes even by outright massacres, as in Deir Yassin.

Gil Maguire said...

Interesting discussion. A couple of points:

1. About 50 percent of the Arab population west of what would become the Green Line was ethnically cleansed in 1948. I suspect the reason it was limited was fear of condemnation, retribution and sanctions if they had attempted a total cleansing. Instead, a very powerful (and false) public opinion-aimed narrative was created to justify the partial cleansing as Arab self-created. I don't think Arab resistance or lack of had anything to do with why some Arabs were spared and some were not.

2. I agree with Jerome that the Jews desperately needed a place to escape to, even before the 1930s. The pogroms and Dreyfus were the handwriting on the wall. The sin of Zionism, expressed from Herzl and all that followed, was that Palestine was to be exclusively for the Jews and the Arabs would have to be removed. That was not the intent of the Brits in Balfour, nor of the League of Nations nor of the UN. That was a Zionist idea and policy that directly resulted in the chaos and violence that followed the initial aliyahs; the Arab riots in the 1920s and 30s, etc. Some of the original British mandate administrators, including a General Samuel who was a Jew, were very critical of the arrogant attitude of the Jews and their mistreatment of the Arabs.
I may be naive, but I think it might have been a lot different if the Jews had entered Palestine with the idea of accommodating and including the Arabs in the society they were trying to create. Who knows?

Jerome Slater said...

Regarding Gil Maguire's first point: My impression is that there was a connection, although obviously not always, between
Arab resistance and the ethnic cleansing. I don't know the literature well enough, so I might be wrong. However, my impression is that it is unlikely that there was a centralized and consistent policy to "transfer" 50% of the Arab population, but not all of it, so as to avoid international condemnation. I believe that local circumstances and perhaps the character of the local Zionist commanders often explained the differences between how Arab populations were treated.

Again, I claim no expertise on this issue, and I would be grateful if readers can recommend books or articles that specifically examine it.

I believe Gil's second point may be a little overstated. Of course no one anticipated, let alone condoned, the brutal ethnic cleansing of the Zionists. However, some contemporary studies of the problem in the 1930s did speak of the probable necessity of "an exchange of populations" between what would become the Jewish and Arab parts of Palestine. I don't know whether this was envisaged to be purely voluntary.

There is no getting around the dilemma: if the Palestinian population of Israel was to be--or become--quite large, there would be a tension between the need of the Jews to have a state of their own and to admit as many Jews who want to come there--into the indefinite future--and full democracy and equality for the Palestinians.

Please understand me: I am NOT saying that this tension should be resolved in favor of a preserving a Jewish state at the expense of full democracy for the Palestinians, but merely pointing out that there is in fact a tension between two principles, each of them justifiable.

At least, this was certainly the case in the 1930s and 1940s, when the need for a state controlled by Jews was more obvious. Undoubtedly it's a much harder question today. Even so, those who call for a one-state solution in which the Palestinians are likely to become a majority should recognize and openly acknowledge that they are saying that the Zionist imperative is no longer convincing, and that they are quite confident that never again will there be the need for a refuge in which Jews control their own destiny, two thousand years of past history to the contrary notwithstanding.

Jim Donnellan said...

Re: Gil Maguire
"I may be naive, but I think it might have been a lot different if the Jews had entered Palestine with the idea of accommodating and including the Arabs in the society they were trying to create. Who knows?"

Consider the perspective of Nahum Goldman:

The Original Sin
“… if we had invested in the Arab problem a 10th of the energy, the passion, the ingenuity, resourcefulness which we developed in order to gain the support of Britain, France, the US and Weimar Germany, our destiny in the development of Israel may have been quite different.
… we were not ready for compromises;
we did not regard it as a major problem
we did not make sufficient efforts to get, if not the full of agreement of the Arabs, at least their acquiescence to a Jewish state, which I think would have been possible.
This was the original sin.”

Jim Donnellan said...

Some thoughts: Part I
There is a rule – I made it up – called the Doorstep Rule, which says quite simply that “my rights end at your doorstep, yours end at mine.” It is a rule intended to promote respectful dialogue across great difference; it stops short of imposition and it honors differences that often we do not understand or even like.
When that rule is violated, it must be addressed constructively and with all due speed. It is so fundamental that no amount of obfuscation will hide its unseen presence in virtually every interaction. Silence like a cancer grows.
The operative principle of Zionism is that over time this transgression = this violation of the Palestinian spirit - will cease to have its emotional power. New generations will forget what happened way back when.
This is probably true. But the transgression did not end in 1948; it has continued unabated to the present day with no end in sight.
Palestinian resistance, instead of diminishing, has gotten stronger. It has won in the court of world opinion and amongst those visionaries for whom the Zionist enterprise cannot be justified; it has carried the day intellectually and morally.
The house that Zionism built is caving in on itself. Gaza – the perfect moral catastrophe (per Slater) – was an indication of a mental breakdown. Israel is not only losing amongst its youth who more and more frequently are challenging their “military obligation” and speaking out about the reality on the ground (Breaking the Silence), but it is also losing the youth in the heartland of its strongest political and fiscal ally (per Peter Beinart).

Jim Donnellan said...

Part II

Many are coming to realize that Israel not only does not want peace now, but that it never has wanted it. Jabotinsky advocated a strategy; Ben-Gurion implemented it (without crediting or acknowledging the source) behind an iron wall of official silence (no cabinet order can be found in writing that mandated ethnic cleansing in 1948 – per Benny Morris).
What we do know is that 700,000 + Palestinians magically got up and left their homes one day, often with the ovens still warm and the food still on the table.
The grand design has always been there, necessitated by the very idea of a democratic state that would mirror the needs of a particular sect. Tragically it was created out of perceived and real necessity due to the wrongs perpetrated against the innocent. To turn around and do something similar to others reflects a fundamental human flaw – one that none of us is immune to – and we now see it played out again before our very eyes.
I have little patience for the Michael Oren’s of this world, who know better but for some unknown reason refuse to listen to the voice of their inner conscience. That he has no difficulty finding a receptive audience perhaps speaks loudly to all of us about what we will do when fear and deep hurt contaminate our ability to do the right thing.
Jews have often led the way in speaking for and championing the rights of the needy, the maligned and the grievously wronged. The dilemma that is Israel/Zionism flows not just from the circumstances of a particular group; it strikes to the heart of what it means to be human and it identifies the challenge that we all must face as we confront the dilemmas life presents. In listening to Yahuda Shaul (Breaking the Silence) speak of the situations he faced as a soldier in the IDF, I could see how logic would dictate a morally repugnant action. While I am appalled at what I hear from the representatives of AIPAC and from Israel’s leaders, I remain confused – just as I am by some of Benny Morris’s utterances – about the thought process behind them. What worldview produces such statements and what can I learn from that so that I will be less likely to do the same.
Israel presents an opportunity for us all. If we can figure out why it behaves the way it does, why its citizens could applaud the use of white phosphorous on innocent children, maybe we can move this human race forward. It’s not about dirt; it’s about what it means to be human. We are all equally afflicted.
Tomorrow will be better as blogs like this one become more commonplace and facilitate an interaction that enlightens rather than demeans. I am grateful for the opportunity to listen and learn from you all.

Jim Donnellan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Nice post up until the fake Ben Gurion quote. I stopped reading after that though.

The original said "We must not expel the Arabs and take their place".

Find within page for "not expel"

Research it yourself if you don't believe me.

Frankly, your willingness to use a false quote tells me that either you don't care enough about the truth to research your sources, or you are deliberately providing false quotes. Whether you are a sloppy writer or a dishonest one, there isn't much point in reading your work.

As for the poster who said "there was no offer". In international affairs, there is no police force. No unbiased court. No legislature making laws. If the Arabs had won, they would have exterminated the Jews and the International Community would have done nothing to stop them. The Arabs had the choice of going along with the plan or gambling on their ability to win a war. They gambled and lost and are now whining that they should get their land back because "gambling is illegal". Well, you should have thought of that before you lost, not tried to welch on the bet afterward.

DICKERSON3870 said...

RE: "Thus, a kind of common sense statute of limitations on land claims by right of previous inhabitance has evolved." - Slater
FROM WIKIPEDIA: ADVERSE POSSESSION - (excerpt) Adverse possession is a process by which premises can change ownership. It is a common law concept concerning the title to real property (land and the fixed structures built upon it). By adverse possession, title to another's real property can be acquired without compensation, by holding the property in a manner that conflicts with the true owner's rights for a specified period. For example, "squatter's rights" are a specific form of adverse possession.
The circumstances in which adverse possession arises determine the type of title acquired by the disseisor (the one who obtains the title from the original owner), which may be fee simple title, mineral rights, or another interest in real property. Adverse possession's origins are based both in statutory actions and in common law precepts, so the details concerning adverse possession actions vary by jurisdiction. The required period of uninterrupted possession is governed by the statute of limitations. Other elements of adverse possession are judicial constructs.
At common law where entitlement to possession of land was in dispute (originally only in what were known as real actions) the person claiming a right to possession could not allege that the land had come into their possession in the past (in older terminology that they had been "put into seisin") at a time before the reign of Henry I.[1] There was thus a cut off date going back into the past before which the law would not be interested. There was no requirement for a defendant to show any form of adverse possession.
As time went on, the date was moved by statute first to the reign of Henry II[2] and then to the reign of Richard I.[3] No further changes were made of this kind.
By the reign of Henry VIII the fact that there had been no changes to the cutoff date had become very inconvenient and a new approach was taken whereby the person claiming possession had to show possession of the land a certain number of years (60, 50 or 30 depending on the kind of claim made) before the date of the claim.[4] Later statutes have shortened the limitation period in most common law jurisdictions...
SOURCE - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adverse_possession

Jerome Slater said...

I can see why this commentator would want to remain anonymous, given his reasoning.

I checked the link he cites, to the effect that Ben-Gurion was actually OPPOSED to forcible "transfer." It refers to a French website with a long discussion of the Israeli archives, describing a controversy over whether the BG quote was falsified, with the original one supposedly having the "not" in it.

So there is a "controversy." Actually, it was none other than Benny Morris--in his earlier guise as a serious historian--who first published the BG quote, without the "not." Naturally, anyone with an interest in denying the obvious could claim that BG was actually opposed to transfer, but that would require ignoring the mountains of evidence to the contrary, and even ignoring the plain meaning of the entire quote.

So I'll repeat it:

“A partial Jewish state is not the end, but only the beginning. The establishment of such a Jewish State will serve as a means in our historical efforts to redeem the country in its entirety….We shall organize a modern defense force…and then I am certain that we will not be prevented from settling in other parts of the country, either by mutual agreement with our Arab neighbors or by some other means….We will expel the Arabs and take their places…with the force at our disposal.”

Does anyone really believe that this quote, in its entirety,constituted an argument by BG NOT to expel the Arabs?

Or consider again the other quote: "Before the founding of the state, on the eve of its creation, our main interest was self-defense….But now the issue at hand is conquest, not self-defense. As for setting the borders—it’s an open-ended matter. In the Bible as well as in history there are all kinds of definitions of the country’s borders, so there’s no real limit.”
Or maybe anonymous wishes to claim that what BG really said was that the issue at hand was NOT conquest.

In short, there is no real controversy at all. The plain fact that the Zionists were contemplating "transferring" the Palestinians out of the land that would become the state of Israel is not controversial with anyone who is familiar with, not one quote, not several quotes, but the overwhelming evidence. And, of course, part of the evidence is that forcible "transfer" is precisely what the Zionist forces did in 1947-48, under Ben Gurion's leadership.

Jim Donnellan said...

More fuel for the fire:

Ben-Gurion to Nahum Goldmann:

“Why should the Arabs make peace? If I was an Arab leader I would never make terms with Israel. That is natural: we have taken their country.

Sure God promised it to us, but what does that matter to them? Our God is not theirs. We come from Israel, it’s true, but two thousand years ago, and what is that to them? There has been anti-Semitism, the Nazis, Hitler, Auschwitz, but was that their [the Arab’s] fault? They only see one thing: we have come here and stolen their country. Why should they accept that? They may perhaps forget in one or two generations’ time, but for the moment there is no chance.”

(Nahum Goldmann, The Jewish Paradox: A Personal Memoir of Historic Encounters that Shaped the drama of Modern Jewry, Grosset & Dunlap, 1978, p. 99)

Stewart Mills said...

On General Assembly Resolution 181.

It is often ignored that
1. A General Assembly Resolution is not legally enforceable but is soft law. It is the Security Council which provides binding law.

2. Four months after the GA partition plan the UN Security Council in March 1948 effectively rejected the partition plan and reconvened the UN General Assembly (for a special assembly) to discuss placing British mandate Palestine under UN Trusteeship.

See the response of the Jewish Agency representative

Rabbi Silver (Jewish Agency for Palestine): (p. 168)

"The proposal of the United States Government to suspend all efforts to implement the partition plan approved by the United Nations General Assembly last November, under the leadership of the United States, and to establish a temporary trusteeship for Palestine, is a shocking reversal of its position…We are at an utter loss to understand the reason for this amazing reversal…We can only assume from the statement of the United States delegation that the reason for scrapping a decision of the United Nations General Assembly, overwhelmingly approved by its members, was the threat on the part of some Member States to alter that decision by violence…It should be clear to everyone that the establishment of a trusteeship by the United Nations in Palestine will not automatically ensure peace in that country, and that force will have to be used to maintain that arrangement, just as it would have been necessary to carry out the partition decision of the United Nations (p. 169)."

In closing - Thanks again Jerome for a fine response to Benny Morris' piece.

Sydney, Australia

Jim Donnellan said...

Is this saying, then, that the General Assembly resolution was never ratified by the Security Council and therefore was not binding? And the US led the effort to make it so?

Can someone elaborate on what this means?

Stewart Mills said...

It is correct to say the Security Council in March 1948 never approved the UN General Assembly Partition Plan of November 1947. As you see below the majority decision was to put it back to a special session of the General Assembly to consider a temporary trusteeship. As you can see below the USSR was not happy about this and the change in US position related to ulterior ends. The politics of Israel-Palestine from 1948-1970s very much revolves around Soviet-US political realities.

The US position was twisted because Truman on the one hand had a secret meeting with Weizmann that said sought to assure US support for a Jewish state; whereas the State Department led my Marshall favoured trusteeship.



Mr Gromyko (Union of Soviet Socialist Republics):

…The United States representatives used all their influence in order to achieve adoption of their plan….The United States has changed its attitude towards its decision adopted with its active participation. Not only has it refused to support this decision, but it has raised the question of its revocation and introduced entirely new proposals to that effect. (p. 249)

…Now it has become apparent that all these arguments were aimed at preparing the ground to bury the partition plan and to justify the United States proposal on Palestine. (p. 250)

…that full responsibility for blocking the decision on the partition of Palestine falls on the United States…(p. 251)

It is not to difficult to understand what these new proposal mean, and what their authors are driving at. First of all it is necessary to note that these proposals are considered, not without reason as an attempt, under the pretext of maintaining order in Palestine, to convert that country into a military-strategic base for the United States and the United Kingdom. (p. 252)

Richard Witty said...

"I simply don't know enough to be offer any explanation for the uneven pattern. But I don't wish to be misunderstood: there is no doubt that widespread ethnic cleansing occurred, sometimes even by outright massacres, as in Deir Yassin. "

Morris and others' explanation for the pattern was military significance predominately. The majority of forced expulsions occurred within a few key arteries between critical centers.

The expulsions from Jaffa were an exception, though among those, a higher percentage were described as voluntary assuming that they could return after the war subsided.

Again, my understanding of the critical event that firmed the denial of return was in 50 and 51 when legislation was passed prohibiting return to argue in court, prohibiting return for residence, then annexing "abandoned" properties.

And, even that was understandable given the degree of "minor" guerilla actions performed by snipers and assailants primarily on civilians by those that imagined that Israel was a temporary phenomena.

Not necessarily good judgement. Its very hard to know how they get to mutual acceptance, a functional if not legal prerequisite for repatriation, from active war.

Stewart Mills said...

To show you the ridiculousness of the partition plan consider that Jaffa was included in the Arab state; despite it being geographically isolated from the rest of the proposed Arab state. If this had not occurred the proposed Jewish State would have had a majority of Palestinian Arabs than Jews.

You will note that Irgun and Haganah's key target of Jaffa (an operation led by Menachem Begin) fell 12 May was 2 days before the State of Israel was proclaimed. Haifa had already been taken on the 22 April (3 weeks before proclamation) and the Deir Yassin massacre had occurred on 9 April (5 weeks before proclamation). Acre was taken 3 days after the State of Israel was declared on the 17 May.

Israel's first attempt at recognition by the UN was refused in late 1948. It was and only recognised by the Security Council in 1949 on the condition that Israel abide by UN GA 194 (ie right of return). This promise was never followed through.

Jerome Slater said...


Thanks for your well-informed contributions. Could you spell out the implications of your argument a bit more? Does it bear on the question of whether Ben Gurion and other Zionist leaders fully intended, when Israel became militarily strong enough,to forcibly drive out those Palestinians who might refuse to leave voluntarily?

Stewart Mills said...

Thanks Jerome,

My main point was to counter the typical narrative we receive of 1948. That is "the United Nations voted in favour of a partition plan, but 'the Arabs rejected it. Israel declared its independence on 14 May and five Arab nations attacked attempting to drive Israel into the sea."

This narrative is deeply flawed because it fails to even remotely try to comprehend the plight of Palestinian Arabs; it fails to understand what a General Assembly Resolution means in international law; it fails to acknowledge the UN Security Council effectively rejected the plan 4 months later in favour of a UN trusteeship; it fails to acknowledge that Jewish forces had already taken Jaffa, Haifa and a number of key towns before Israel declared independence. And it fails to understand the Arab consciousness that yet again European people were very much continuing to carve up domains of influence in the Middle East. etc. etc.

Too many commentators are unaware of or gloss over these significant factors. It is too easy and convenient to lay all blame on the other (especially an 'Arab' and/or Muslim other), rather than seeking to dig below the surface and understand the why?

My concern is that for too long the Palestinian Arabs and Arab neighbours were blamed for the violence of 1948. My hope is that people will start to see it more from the Palestinian Arab point of view; a community that had demographically, linguistically, religiously held the greater presence in the region for over 1500 years; which in turn is connected to the Canaanites from four thousand years ago.

That is not to deny the continuous association of certain indigenous Jewish communities to the region(and their spiritual and cultural connection to the land) for as long a time. It is as you have suggested in your writing there are considerable quantitative differences (vastly in favour of Palestinian Arabs) up to the time of 1917 Balfour Declaration (an almost 9:1 ratio i.e 9 Arabs to 1 Jew); and post European immigration until 1948 (a 3:1 ratio i.e 3 Arabs to 1 Jew).

In terms of Ben-Gurion's perspective on expulsions that is not what I was seeking to address in my perspective. I do not know. But your writing on this subject has challenged me to continue to pursue this area too.

Thanks again for your response to Benny Morris' piece.

Jim Donnellan said...

re: Stewart Mills - " it fails to acknowledge the UN Security Council effectively rejected the plan 4 months later in favour of a UN trusteeship"

Is there a relationship between this plan for a UN trusteeship and the murder of Count Bernadotte by the Stern gang (a crime committed in broad daylight on the streets of Jerusalem and for which no one was ever punished or held accountable by the Israeli authorities.)

Jim Donnellan said...

Re: Ben-Gurion's role: Benny Morris famous interview in Haaretz with Ari Shavit, January 16, 2004

Ben Gurion’s involvement
Ari: What you are telling me here … is that in Operation Hiram there was a comprehensive and explicit expulsion order. Is that right?

Benny: "Yes. One of the revelations in the book is that on October 31, 1948, the commander of the Northern Front, Moshe Carmel, issued an order in writing to his units to expedite the removal of the Arab population.

Carmel took this action immediately after a visit by Ben-Gurion.

There is no doubt in my mind that this order originated with Ben-Gurion.

Ari: Are you saying that Ben-Gurion was personally responsible for a deliberate and systematic policy of mass expulsion?

Benny: "From April 1948, Ben-Gurion is projecting a message of transfer.
There is no explicit order of his in writing, there is no orderly comprehensive policy, but there is an atmosphere of [population] transfer.
The transfer idea is in the air. The entire leadership understands that this is the idea. The officer corps understands what is required of them. Under Ben-Gurion, a consensus of transfer is created."

Ari: Ben-Gurion was a "transferist"?

Benny: "Of course. Ben-Gurion was a transferist. He understood that there could be no Jewish state with a large and hostile Arab minority in its midst. There would be no such state. It would not be able to exist."

Ari: I don't hear you condemning him.

Benny: "Ben-Gurion was right.
If he had not done what he did, a state would not have come into being. That has to be clear. It is impossible to evade it. Without the uprooting of the Palestinians, a Jewish state would not have arisen here."

Ari: Benny Morris, for decades you have been researching the dark side of Zionism. You are an expert on the atrocities of 1948. In the end, do you in effect justify all this? Are you an advocate of the transfer of 1948?

Benny: "There is no justification for acts of rape. There is no justification for acts of massacre. Those are war crimes. But in certain conditions, expulsion is not a war crime. I don't think that the expulsions of 1948 were war crimes. You can't make an omelet without breaking eggs.“

Jim Donnellan said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jim Donnellan said...

re: Stewart Mills: This narrative is deeply flawed because it fails to even remotely try to comprehend the plight of Palestinian Arabs; it fails to understand what a General Assembly Resolution means in international law; it fails to acknowledge the UN Security Council effectively rejected the plan 4 months later in favour of a UN trusteeship; it fails to acknowledge that Jewish forces had already taken Jaffa, Haifa and a number of key towns before Israel declared independence. And it fails to understand the Arab consciousness that yet again European people were very much continuing to carve up domains of influence in the Middle East. etc. etc.

It is very hard to read this because it seems that at every turn a myth is exposed to the light of day and each time the deception explodes another misconception about Israeli innocence.

I still don't get it. How can the Michael Oren's, the Alan Dershowitz's and the AIPAC/American Jewish community faithful endure the hypocrisy of their perspection? And then there are the publishing giants like Mort Zuckerman who utter the same trite analysis of the conflict at every opportunity. Even George Will!

Stewart Mills said...

Jim Donnellan:

Thanks for reminding us of the Benny Morris and Ari Shavit interview. It is chilling.

In terms of Count Bernadotte - I would say there is no relationship between the assassination of Count Bernadotte and the proposal for a UN trusteeship. I believe the trusteeship proposal died after the US recognised Israel. It would appear Count Bernadotte's death was related to a fear within Lehi that the advantages that had been taken by Israeli forces would be lost by a premature agreement. But I am open to alternative interpretations.

It is bitterly ironic that a Jewish nationalist group, like Lehi, should kill Bernadotte a man who had helped rescue 100s of Danish Jews from the Nazis. And it still shocks me to think that Yitzhak Shamir, a later leader of Israel, approved the killing.

Anonymous said...

After myths are dispelled truth remains.

The truth does not support that Ben Gurion or Israel executed a complete forced expulsion, but instead a strategic forced expulsion.

Morris' thesis was that it was somewhere between necessary and desired. That the urge to form a state by ANYONE is not a necessity. It is something that is desired, chosen.

The motivation for that choice on the part of the Jewish community, to form a state rather than an bi-national entity, is more than understandable.

Its not as understandable to those in the west, to the young who only came of political age viewing Lebanon and Gaza. It is understandable to holocaust survivors and sympathizers. (My in-laws were Hungarian refugees in 1945-8 and migrated to Israel immediately after independance.)

The importance of the origination argument is important, as it is the basis for the reasoning that says that Israel is not a legitimate state, regardless of ratification by the UN for now 62 years.

In the name of democracy, those that speak of Israel as not legitimate, seek to disempower or physically remove (in the worst cases), CURRENT majority.

Democracy is ultimately created only by the consent of the governed.

To conclude that Israel is illegitamate is to impose a subsequent anti-democratic "solution".

67 borders is one thing. Single state is another.

Zionism remains in 67 borders. It does not in a single state.

Jim Donnellan said...

If you haven't seen it, check out the 60 Minutes segment tonight on the excavations in East Jerusalem. Then read the comments - or at least some of them.

Here is the URL:

This should take you to the actual video segment that appeared on 60 minutes tonight. The piece is titled: Jerusalem: The City of David?

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