Ben Gurion U
Tel Aviv U
U of Haifa
Israeli Academic Extremism
Israeli Academic Extremists outside
Anti-Israel Petitions Signed by Israeli
How to Complain
Israeli Academic Extremism
Benny Morris' radical
retreat helps expose where New Historians disseminate "propaganda or
even falsehood" instead of history
As noted, Morris speaks openly about his failed
expectations regarding the Palestinians' aims in the Arab-Israeli
conflict. Probably, in addition to his learning process on the roots
of the conflict, he could not ignore the fact that there are
virtually no "new historians" on the Arab or the Palestinian side
who could inquire into how the religious factor was so detrimental
in perpetuating the conflict and how radical Islam was instrumental
in inciting against the acceptance of a Jewish state. Hence, he ends
his study on 1948 with a clear "J'accuse" against those historians
who fail to understand the Arab rejection of the Jewish state and
disregard clear facts and statements of religious hatred.
In his more recent books and articles, Morris
has become the leading and most effective voice in exposing how the
remaining New Historians cling to their unfounded and false
messages. Morris's journey and his radical retreat from his earlier
publications constitute an unusual testament to the thin line
separating history from propaganda or even falsehood. When the
recording of events is motivated by a determination to create a
postmodern political narrative, it may end up escaping from history
AVI BEKER: EXPOSING HOW POST-ZIONISTS
By Avi Beker
Published in: JCPA Post-Holocaust and Anti
-Semitism No. 100, 1 August 2010 / 21 Av 5770 July 2007
- The Israeli New Historians have heavily
influenced academic teaching about the Arab-Israeli conflict on
campuses throughout the world.
- The New Historians disregarded and omitted
the two most critical features of the 1948 Arab-Israeli war: the
religious-jihadi nature of the Arab campaign and Arab rejection of
the UN partition resolution.
- The narrative built by the New Historians
changed the parameters of political negotiations: a peace
agreement between the Palestinians and Israel is not meant to
correct the 1967 "occupation" and create a framework for a
territories-for-peace exchange but to atone for the alleged
atrocities of the Nakba (Palestinian catastrophe) of 1948.
- The sharp reversal of his positions by Benny
Morris, regarded by many as the dean of the New Historians, must
be viewed as a full exposure of the fictitious structure and
distorted facts of what was an orchestrated, antihistorical,
"Historians have tended to ignore or dismiss, as so much hot
air, the jihadi rhetoric and flourishes that accompanied the
two-stage assault on the Yishuv and the constant references in the
prevailing Arab discourse to that earlier bout of Islamic battle for
the Holy Land, against the Crusaders. This is a mistake. The 1948
War, from the Arabs' perspective, was a war of religion as much as,
if not more than, a nationalist war over territory. Put another way,
the territory was sacred: its violation by infidels was sufficient
grounds for launching a holy war and its conquest or reconquest, a
divinely ordained necessity."
Benny Morris, 1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War
What happens when historians ignore or dismiss central components
of history? In the above statement, Benny Morris provides a very
unusual glimpse at the major historians' omission of what was the
central feature of the Arab war against Israel in 1947-1948:
uncompromising jihad against the Jews. The Arabs never concealed
that this was a religious war and they were on record in taking
responsibility for it. The Arab Higher Committee representative
Jamal Husseini told the UN Security Council on 16 April 1948: "The
representative of the Jewish Agency told us yesterday that they were
not the attackers, that the Arabs had begun the fighting. We did not
deny this. We told the whole world that we were going to fight."
Husseini was quoted in the New York Times explaining that
the Arabs "would never allow a Jewish State to be established in one
inch of Palestine," and he issued a clear warning that attempts "to
impose any solution contrary to the Arabs' birthright will only lead
to trouble and bloodshed and probably to a third World War."
Behind such deadly threats that were delivered to the whole world
was the ongoing use in the Arab world of religious incitement
against the Jews in public broadcasts and in mosques. Prominent in
this regard were the mufti of Jerusalem and main leader of the Arabs
in Palestine, Haj Amin al-Husseini, and the religious scholars of
Al-Azhar University in Cairo, the highest religious authority for
Sunni Islam, which issued an official call for a "worldwide jihad"
immediately after the UN resolution on the partition plan had passed
in November 1947. Religion was central to the war effort as
demonstrated by the rector of Al-Azhar University, Muhammad Mamun
Shinawi, who told the Egyptian expeditionary force as it crossed the
border in Rafah on 15 May 1948 on its way to fight the newborn state
of Israel: "The hour of Jihad has struck.... This is the hour in
which...Allah promised paradise."
These two critical and central features of the 1948 Israeli War
of Independence - the religious-jihadi nature of the campaign and
Arab responsibility for launching the war in rejection of the
partition resolution - are very often disregarded or deliberately
ignored in the vast amount of literature on the war.
What happened in 1948? This is the core of the debate. Basically
the revisionist New Historians sought to challenge what they termed
Israel's official historical canon. They rejected the collective
memory of Zionism and the state of Israel, particularly the memory
regarding the state's establishment. By claiming to have discovered
new archival evidence - which in most cases was not new at all - and
while ignoring the historical context of the war, this group of
Israeli historians turned the saga of Israel's birth upside down so
as to prove that Israel was born in a sin of conspiracies, ethnic
cleansing, and massacres.
This essay, in focusing on the return of Benny Morris to the fold
of mainstream Israeli historians, will review the impact of the New
Historians on Middle East studies in academia, on the peace process,
and on Israel's general image. Morris in his new incarnation
provides the best ammunition in the intellectual struggle against
the anti-Zionist historians disguised as revisionist historians, who
claim to possess "new" documents that show the "true" history. Ethan
Bronner in the New York Time s explains the role historians
play in political debates:
History does not get written or read in a vacuum. The new
historians had an agenda - promoting the peace process then
beginning. And many Israelis, eager to put an end to their
century-old conflict, were willing to be told that their successful
nation building had come at a high cost to the Palestinians. They
were adjusting their collective narrative to make room for
coexistence with onetime enemies.
Did the New Historians write history or, rather, attempt to
promote a political agenda? Was it motivated by a wish that
admitting responsibility for supposed past wrongdoings would be
reciprocated by the other side? Morris's case proves how shifting
political perspectives can lead to revolutionary changes in
historical analysis and conclusions.
The impact of the New Historians who revised and interpreted anew
the history of the Arab-Israeli conflict cannot be exaggerated.
Their amendment of what they termed the "official" Zionist version
of history, mixed with postmodernist assumptions (such as that there
is no one version of history), was not confined to intellectual
debates in academia. Dismissed at the beginning as a fringe
phenomenon, this revision of history became within less than a
decade the mainstream reading and learning in universities around
Benny Morris, who is considered the dean of the New Historians and
coined the term, has provided since 1988 the intellectual
infrastructure for this revamped history. Morris's selective use of
documents and disregard of Arab hatred, anti-Semitism, and
rejectionism toward the idea of a Jewish state have become a
goldmine for anti-Zionist literature.
The group also denied what they called the Israeli myth of "the
few against the many" regarding the 1948 War, and for some (such as
Ilan Pappé) these post-Zionist views were replaced by a
In addition to Morris and Pappé, two or three others are considered
part of the founding group of the New Historians. Simha Flapan, who
was the first (1987) to engage in "demythologizing" the story of
Israel's founding, was included in the list retrospectively after
his death. Avi Shlaim emphasized what he viewed as the
conspiratorial nature of Israel's collaboration with Britain and
Jordan against the Palestinians.
Another writer, Tom Segev, who arrived to this group as a
post-Zionist, postmodern journalist, wrote about the Yishuv's (prestate
Israel) attitudes toward the Holocaust and about Israeli society
during the 1967 Six Day War, and latter added his own interpretation
of the British Mandate in Palestine. In Segev's book it is hard to
find the role of the Jews in British policy calculations in
Palestine, and it is the Arabs who drove the British out.
The books written by these revisionist historians were published
by prestigious publishing houses. They immediately affected the
textbooks of Middle East studies syllabuses and reoriented the
direction of new research projects and policy ideas on the peace
process. The leading opinion-making publications in the United
States, the dailies, weeklies, and foreign policy journals, devoted
extensive reviews and discussions to what were perceived as
groundbreaking works. Typically, even the more objective academics
who did not accept all of the New Historians' premises found it
necessary to present the conflict in terms of two competing views of
history, admitting that "the very concept of objectivity has in
recent decades been subjected to relentless attack."
The buzzword in studying the conflict was therefore "narrative,"
which was supposed to replace the "nonobjective" record of history.
Instead of discussing the broad context of the Arab-Israeli
conflict, which is central to the history of each of its particular
wars, the popular approach started to isolate it as an
Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The new books focused on alleged
myths, on distorted collective memories, explaining that both sides
were sanctifying hatred and resentment by "building legitimacy
 Narrative - defined by the dictionary as "a story or
account of events, experiences or the like, whether true or
fictitious" - replaced the search for truth in historical research.
Some argue that regardless of validity, a narrative is important
because it is part of a collective memory, the belief-set of a
group. However, as Morris would realize about two decades later,
such fictitious narratives can be very dangerous when they have only
one purpose: to deny responsibility for past hatred and to
perpetuate it for generations to come.
In Israel, the transformation of history into narratives was
reflected in the state-run TV miniseries Tekuma (Revival).
Broadcast in 1998, marking the fiftieth anniversary of the state, it
adopted many of the New Historians' findings. A year later these
postmodern theories were given legitimacy by the Ministry of
Education itself in its revised high school textbook (A World of
Changes: History for Ninth Grade ), part of a new curriculum
aimed at teaching history from an expressly "universal" (as opposed
to "nationalist") perspective.
 This trend even entered the Israel Defense Forces (IDF),
which through its history division cosponsored a book that cast
serious doubt on previous images of the War of Independence.
Replacing the Historical Canon
The basic arguments of the New Historians can be summarized as
five challenges to the official Zionist canon of the history of
- The official version said that Britain tried
to prevent the establishment of a Jewish state; the New Historians
claimed that it tried to prevent the establishment of a
Palestinian state. Shlaim and Pappé describe in their books a
conspiracy between Britain and the Jews at the expense of the
Palestinians, and Shlaim extends this to a conspiracy between
Zionism and King Abdullah of Transjordan to prevent the
establishment of a Palestinian state. In another stretch of
imagination, a Palestinian professor (a former negotiator for the
Palestine Liberation Organization) argues that the target of the
Arab armies was not the Jews but rather the expulsion of the Arabs
in Palestine before taking it over.
- The official version said - so claimed the
revisionists - that the Palestinians fled their homes of their own
the New Historians said that the refugees were chased out or
expelled?. Here Morris's contribution was central though he
himself was later quoted out of context. This aspect was pivotal
for the moral and political campaign to delegitimize Israel.
- The official version said that the balance
of power favored the Arabs; the New Historians said that Israel
had the advantage both in manpower and in arms, and denied what
they regarded as the myth of a heroic liberation war of the few
against the many.
- While denigrating and inciting against
Israel, the New Historians also came to the rescue of the Arab
image and revised or denied the official Israeli claim that the
Arabs had a coordinated plan to destroy Israel. The New Historians
said that the Arabs were divided or denied their death threats
- All these four questions lead to the ongoing
debate among historians: did the Yishuv in 1947 joyously embrace
partition? Who is responsible for the lack of peace? Is it Israeli
intransigence or the Arab unwillingness to accept a Jewish state?
Some historians (including Flapan and Shlaim) have claimed that
the Arabs wanted peace but the Zionists have been wily in
maneuvering Arab leaders (such as al-Husseini, Gamal Abdel Nasser,
or Yasser Arafat) into the rejectionist camp.
Impact on the Peace Process
The revisionist historians did not just end up conquering the
syllabuses and the instruction in academia; they also took over the
arena of Middle East diplomacy and politics. The New Historians had
a major impact on the peace process and in shaping the positions
taken by the Palestinians, the Israelis, and the Americans. While
negotiating for the Oslo agreements in 1992-1993, the then Israeli
deputy foreign minister Yossi Beilin was reading Morris's book on
the Palestinian refugees; later Beilin said the book was a must for
Subsequently, during meetings of joint Palestinian-Israeli groups to
promote the peace process, the refugee issue became the focal point
in attempting to create "agreed mutual perception" of the parties'
grievances and to assume responsibility for past wrongdoings.
The revisionists and their guilt-filled narrative loomed over the
Israeli negotiators at Camp David hosted by President Bill Clinton
in July 2000 and, a few months later, at the Taba talks in the
Sinai. The Palestinian negotiators at both forums referred to the
work of the New Historians, especially Benny Morris, in trying "to
establish Israel's share of responsibility for the plight of the
Israeli negotiators Beilin and Gilad Sher quoted from Morris's book,
and Daniel Levy, Beilin's assistant, has described how important it
was for the Israeli team to change the historical narrative so as to
reach an agreement with the Palestinians on their "right of return."
Another participant at Camp David was the then Israeli foreign
minister Shlomo Ben-Ami, himself a historian who admitted that the
New Historians had "definitely helped in consolidating the
Palestinians' conviction as to the validity of their own narrative"
and that the "Israeli peacemakers also came to the negotiating table
with perspectives that were shaped by recent research...powerful
arguments on the 1948 war...[which] became part of the intellectual
baggage of many of us, whether we admitted it or not."
In sum, the narrative built by the New Historians changed the
parameters of political negotiations: a peace agreement was not
meant to correct the 1967 "occupation" and create a framework for a
territories-for-peace exchange, but to atone for the alleged
atrocities of the Nakba (Palestinian catastrophe) of 1948. It became
apparent to all that the main obstacle to peace was the problem of
the refugees' "right of return" to all parts of Israel.
The person who laid the foundation for historical post-Zionism,
Benny Morris, is also the one who undermined it in bringing the most
serious challenge to its intellectual integrity. Morris still
appears unable to say "I was wrong" and express regret for helping
build the intellectual basis for the campaign against Israel and
Zionism. Instead of exposing his own distortions and fallacies, he
says he has found new documents in the Israeli archives that gave
him a new perspective on the conflict. Reading his new
interpretation of the same events makes it clear how the New
Historians - at best - wrote history out of context, completely
detached from the reality of its origins. In most cases they engaged
in a deliberate falsification and used the "grand lie" technique
Then suddenly, about twenty years later, Morris discovered that
the Arabs had declared a jihad against Zionism already back in the
1930s. He explains his new approach as stemming from the opening of
archives, including the IDF's archive, which was closed to
researchers previously. He also adds that "in the current book [1948
] I placed the refugee problem within the overall context of the War
of Independence," and with the help of recent studies, "I tried to
present a new and comprehensive description of the war, and
primarily of the connections between the military processes and the
A new description? The exact opposite, in fact. His two most recent
books, 1948 and One State, Two States, which were
released over the past two years, completely contradict his
arguments and the factual basis for his revolutionary historical
approach. Morris returns to what was so detested by the New
Historians, or as they put it: the canonical version of the official
Zionist narrative. His new books demolish all the premises and
conclusions of the New Historians. He feels no need to apologize for
presenting a sharp indictment of all of post-Zionism, claiming that
"historians tended to belittle the importance of the religious
rhetoric during the war" and the central role of "religious
motivation." This is exactly the omission committed by Morris in his
previous books. The dismissal of the threats of jihad was
intentional and critical for those who set out to write the "new"
narrative and to turn the Nakba into the Palestinian "Holocaust."
The jihad was apparent to all in the existing literature since
1948: threats of annihilation were heard from all Arab sides and
even from the dais of the United Nations in 1947 and 1948. As noted,
the mufti of Jerusalem, al-Husseini, repeated such threats over and
over again; and religious scholars in Cairo issued an official
manifesto calling for jihad two days after the partition resolution
was passed in November 1947. The translation of the religious decree
into military action was the invasion of the Arab armies, which were
called the Arab Liberation Army and the Jihad al-Mukades (Holy War)
On the day that Israel declared its independence, Arab League
secretary-general Abdul Rahman Azzam Pasha declared a holy war. He
said, "This will be a war of extermination and a momentous massacre
which will be spoken of like the Mongolian massacres and the
Azzam Pasha, who was the leading spokesperson of all Arab states,
had been similarly clear and violent in opposing the partition
resolution: "The partition line will be nothing but a line of fire
Al-Husseini stated, "I declare a holy war, my Moslem brothers!
Murder the Jews! Murder them all!"
Suddenly, and consistently, Morris renounces the post-Zionist
narrative in numerous articles, interviews, and lectures, and
presents his new position in scholarly books. Indeed, Morris informs
his readers that his previous books missed the historical context of
the 1948 War, which was a jihadi onslaught by the Muslim world
against the Jewish community in Palestine. From the start Morris was
little embarrassed, telling The Guardian in 2002: "The rumour
that I have undergone a brain transplant is (as far as I can
remember) unfounded - or at least premature. But my thinking about
the current Middle East crisis and its protagonists has in fact
radically changed during the past two years."]
In his own testimony, Morris explains that a new historical
awareness about Arab sources of rage, hatred, and anti-Semitism led
him to a new reading of the 1948 war. He is even able to document
the intellectual transplant surgery he was undergoing:
My turning point began after 2000. I wasn't a great optimist even
before that. True, I always voted Labor or Meretz or Sheli [a dovish
party of the late 1970s], and in 1988 I refused to serve in the
territories and was jailed for it, but I always doubted the
intentions of the Palestinians. The events of Camp David and what
followed in their wake turned the doubt into certainty. When the
Palestinians rejected the proposal of [Prime Minister Ehud] Barak in
July 2000 and the Clinton proposal in December 2000, I understood
that they are unwilling to accept the two-state solution. They want
it all. Lod and Acre and Jaffa.
Morris goes further in his interview and explains - as was
unknown in his previous books and is unheard of in politically
correct circles - that there is a "deep problem in Islam." It is a
world in which "life doesn't have the same value it does in the
West." The Arabs belong to a "tribal culture" in which "revenge"
plays a "central part" within a society so lacking in "moral
inhibitions" that "if it obtains chemical or biological or atomic
weapons, it will use them."
Rewriting the Revisionist History
The complete disregard of historical context can be detected in
the tables of contents and in the indexes of the New Historians'
books. Arab or Islamic anti-Semitism is nonexistent; if one reads
Ilan Pappé or Avi Shlaim on the conflict he may think that jihad was
invented on September 11, 2001.
The New Historians' omissions regarding al-Husseini's role in
fomenting hatred against the Jews are part of their great exercise
of rewriting history. There were plenty of records on the mufti from
the early stages of the conflict under the British Mandate. To
evaluate his role as the only recognized leader of the Palestinians
until after Israel's establishment, there was no need for new
archives to be opened. It is striking that an anti-Israeli
Palestinian American such as Rashid Khalidi presents more
self-criticism on the destructive role of the two most prominent
Palestinian leaders, al-Husseini and Arafat, and also devotes more
analysis to Arab anti-Semitism than do the Israeli New Historians.
At the same time, Khalidi refers to Morris's early book on the
Palestinian refugees as a "groundbreaking" work that "shattered many
Morris "B" (in 2008) reveals how the confluence of Islamic
anti-Semitism and jihad played a critical role at the early stages
of the conflict in Palestine. It was an integral part of the Arab
Revolt in 1936 and it was pursued repeatedly by outsiders such as
the speaker of the Iraqi parliament Sa'id al-Haj Thabit when he
visited Palestine in March 1936. Morris also notes the mufti's
active role in the Nazi jihadist propaganda to the Middle East and
in recruiting Bosnian Muslims to the Wehrmacht. The mufti, says
Morris, was "deeply anti-Semitic" and justified the Holocaust based
on the Jewish character with "their exaggerated conceit and
selfishness, rooted in their belief that they are the chosen people
Jihad was even part of the diplomatic exchanges sometime before the
1948 War. The Palestinians' main political organ at the time, the
Arab Higher Committee, used the term jihad as a formal threat and
ultimatum early in 1946 in a letter to British prime minister
In the last chapter of 1948, Morris is detailed and
persuasive on the critical role of religious hatred in 1947-1948. He
concludes: "The jihadi impulse underscored both popular and
governmental responses in the Arab world to the UN partition
resolution and was central to the mobilization of the 'street' and
the governments for the successive onslaughts [during the war.]...
The mosques, mullahs, and 'ulema all played a pivotal role in the
process." With these open and prevailing attitudes, the threat to
the Jews was very clear in the eyes of Arab observers. As one
Christian Lebanese quoted by Morris told the press: "The Jewish
State has no chance to survive now that the 'holy war' has been
declared. All the Jews will eventually be massacred."
With threats of jihad and extermination coming from all over and
with the rejection of the diplomatic track, coupled with the calls
to deploy all available military force, the Yishuv could only
prepare for the worst-case scenario. As many voices made doomsday
warnings, the leaders of the Yishuv had no need to engage in
theoretical war games. When the 'ulema of Al-Azhar University
proclaimed a "worldwide jihad in defense of Arab Palestine," British
foreign minister Ernest Bevin expressed his concern for "the safety
of thousands of Jews scattered in the Arab world" and in particular
the hundred thousand Jews of Baghdad who were at "risk of having
their throats cut."
Jihad was openly declared both in demonstrations in Damascus and
in diplomatic circles in the United Nations, where the head of the
Egyptian delegation said that "the lives of 1,000,000 Jews in Muslim
countries would be jeopardized by the establishment of a Jewish
In May 1948, U.S. secretary of state (and World War II hero) George
C. Marshall warned Israeli foreign-minister-to-be Moshe Sharett
against signing Israel's Declaration of Independence: "Believe me; I
am talking about things about which I know. You are sitting there in
the coastal plains of Palestine, while the Arabs hold the mountain
ridges. I know you have some arms and your Haganah, but the Arabs
have regular armies. They are well trained and they have heavy arms.
How can you hope to hold out?"
A comparison between Morris "A" and Morris "B" shows how the
historical context can become blurred and even distorted by using
selective facts that are inflated at the expense of the larger and
more critical forces of history. It may be true that at the end of
the war the newborn IDF emerged better organized, trained, and
motivated. Yet during the war itself, as Morris shows in his more
recent incarnation, there was a totally different assessment. The
majority in the interim Jewish government before statehood as well
as the Arabs, British, and Americans all thought the Arabs would
defeat the Jewish army in Palestine. It is true that with current
hindsight we can explain how the Arabs failed to organize adequately
and how the Palestinian Arabs failed to mobilize their own resources
because of "their well established traditions of disunity,
corruption, and organizational incompetence."
However, the war context was different: "In rough demographic and
geographical terms, without doubt, the Arabs were far, almost
infinitely, stronger than the Yishuv...and the disproportion in
terms of land mass and economic resources, or potential economic
resources, was, if anything, even greater."
The four armies that invaded Palestine on 15 May, even after
leaving behind large formations to protect their regimes, "were far
stronger than the Haganah formations"
in all kinds of equipment, having far more tanks, artillery, and
combat aircrafts (Israel lacked all of these initially). It is
natural that at this point, particularly after witnessing the Arab
mindset in the systematic destruction of all Jewish settlements by
Arab invading armies, the Yishuv's aim was simply "to survive."
In addition to a clear perception of military inferiority, based on
facts and calculations, it was obvious to the Yishuv leaders that
the international diplomatic environment was "consistently pro-Arab"
and that the British and the Americans were working together on
retracting the implementation of the UN vote to establish a Jewish
The New Historians' attempt to prove the British collusion with
the Jews against the Arabs is refuted by both the diplomatic and
military posture of the Mandatory power. To the contrary, the
British were helping in training and in supplying weapons to the
Arab Legion of Transjordan, which was the best-trained army in the
region, and they worked actively with the Americans to foil the
partition in Palestine. Their assessment of the military situation
was expressed by the Chief of the Imperial Staff: "In the long run
the Jews would not be able to cope...and would be thrown out of
Palestine unless they came to terms with [the Arabs]."
On 16 May 1948, the British High Commissioner Sir Alan Cunningham
determined that the balance of forces "seems to have turned much in
favor of the Arabs."
Their representative in Amman, Alec Kirkbride, passed along a
message from Azzam Pasha: "It doesn't matter how many [Jews there
are]. We will sweep them into the sea."
In his most recent book, One State, Two States: Resolving the
Israel/Palestine Conflict, Benny Morris casts a dark cloud over
the prospects for Israeli-Palestinian peace. He asserts that the
primary reason there is no peace is "the stifling darkness,
intolerance, authoritarianism, and insularity of the Muslim world,"
a reality that makes any solution a dim prospect.
The problem with Morris is that these factors, as well as those
numerous statements on jihad and exterminating the Jews, were in the
public domain everywhere in the Middle East, the United Nations, and
the Western press and academic publications since 1947-1948. The
opening of archives that historians so solemnly flaunt as "new
sources" can sometimes add to the knowledge but not necessarily to
the historical context and awareness. New documents may provide some
previously unavailable details, but in most cases they cannot change
the direction of historical research. Worst of all, a selective use
of archives that ignores the historical context, ends up in
distortions and misleading accounts. It can only serve those like
Ilan Pappé, who does not attempt to disguise his anti-Zionist agenda
and defines the "new history" as a revolutionary movement whose goal
is to "reconsider the validity of the quest for a Jewish
nation-state in what used to be geographic Palestine."
In reply to readers in the Irish Times, Morris was
unequivocal on the refugee problem:
The displacement of the 700,000 Arabs who became "refugees" - and
I put the term in inverted commas, as two-thirds of them were
displaced from one part of Palestine to another and not from their
country (which is the usual definition of a refugee) - was not a
"racist crime"...but the result of a national conflict and a war,
with religious overtones, from the Muslim perspective, launched by
the Arabs themselves. There was no Zionist "plan" or blanket policy
of evicting the Arab population, or of "ethnic cleansing."
Morris went on to say that, given the deadly threats "and the
anticipated Arab armies' invasion routes...I for one cannot fault
[the Jews'] fears or logic."
The new Morris blames the Arabs for their misfortunes, denies the
existence of a Jewish strategy of expulsion or transfer, and, in
effect, defends the right of David Ben-Gurion to expel even more, in
light of the threats of jihad. Suddenly, in the concluding chapters
in both books, Morris brings the case of the Jews who were expelled
from Arab lands, showing that there was an exchange of refugees,
with approximately the same figures, as a result of the war. The
Arabs who declared the war, says Morris, are also responsible for
perpetuating the tragedy of the Palestinians in refugee camps,
unlike those Jewish refugees who were absorbed in Israel.
As noted, Morris speaks openly about his failed expectations
regarding the Palestinians' aims in the Arab-Israeli conflict.
Probably, in addition to his learning process on the roots of the
conflict, he could not ignore the fact that there are virtually no
"new historians" on the Arab or the Palestinian side who could
inquire into how the religious factor was so detrimental in
perpetuating the conflict and how radical Islam was instrumental in
inciting against the acceptance of a Jewish state. Hence, he ends
his study on 1948 with a clear "J'accuse" against those historians
who fail to understand the Arab rejection of the Jewish state and
disregard clear facts and statements of religious hatred.
In his more recent books and articles, Morris has become the
leading and most effective voice in exposing how the remaining New
Historians cling to their unfounded and false messages. Morris's
journey and his radical retreat from his earlier publications
constitute an unusual testament to the thin line separating history
from propaganda or even falsehood. When the recording of events is
motivated by a determination to create a postmodern political
narrative, it may end up escaping from history altogether.
* * *
Dr. Avi Beker teaches in the MA program on diplomacy at Tel
Aviv University, returning from two years as a visiting professor at
Georgetown University. He is the former secretary-general of the
World Jewish Congress and has published books and articles on
international politics and security and world Jewry.
How Post-Zionists Manipulate History
Benny Morris, 1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War
(New Haven: Yale University Press, 2008), 392.
 United Nations Security Council Official Records,
S/Agenda/58, 16 April 1948, 19.
 "Palestine Frees #3 in Exodus Crew," New York Times,
9 September 1947, 2; also Clifton Daniel, "Arabs Threaten Force if
Holy Land Is Split," New York Times, 7 September 1974, E4.
 Morris, 1948, 232.
 Ethan Bronner, "The New Historians," New York Times,
9 November 2003.
 It is easy to discern the New Historians' impact on academia
by checking syllabuses in North American and European universities
and seeing how prominent were the writings of Morris and the others.
On their impact, see Daniel Polisar, "Making History," Azure,
Spring 5760/2000; on the political implications in the universities,
see Manfred Gerstenfeld, Academics against Israel and the Jews
(Jerusalem: Jerusalem Center for Political Affairs, 2007).
 Benny Morris, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee
Problem, 1947-1949 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1987).
This book makes some references to the Arab rejection of a Jewish
state but without analysis or an attempt to incorporate it into the
historical context. There are also some references to the Arab
intention to exploit the Palestinian refugees' tragedy as a
political weapon against Israel but they are hinted only in a
footnote. The first footnote in chapter 3 mentions Haj Amin al-Husseini's
refusal in March 1949 of the refugees returning to their homes.
Moreover, Morris's early books lack a discussion or even reference
to what is central in his 2008 book on the 1948 war: Arab hatred,
Islamic anti-Semitism, the "jihad impulse," and so on.
Israeli historians such as Anita Shapira and Shabtai Teveth attacked
Morris, but the most detailed and consistent critique was by Efraim
Karsh who very seriously charged Morris with five counts of
distortion: "misrepresents documents, resorts to partial quotes,
withholds evidence, makes false assertions, and rewrites original
documents." See Efraim Karsh, "Benny Morris and the Reign of Error,"
Middle East Quarterly March 1999, www.meforum.org/466/benny-morris-and-the-reign-of-error.
For his attack on the New Historians in general, see Efraim Karsh,
Fabricating Israeli History: The "New Historians" (London:
Frank Cass, 1997).
 Avi Shlaim speaks of three founders, Morris, Pappé, and
himself, but some add others to the group. See Avi Shlaim, "When
Historians Matter," Prospect, 29 June 2008.
Morris, unlike Pappé who is a self-proclaimed post-Zionist and even
anti-Zionist, forcefully resisted any attachment of "post-" to his
name or work. He insisted that he was a Zionist and that his work
had no political purpose whatsoever.
 Simha Flapan, The Birth of Israel: Myths and Realities
(New York: Pantheon Books, 1987); Ilan Pappé, TheMaking of the
Arab-Israeli Conflict, 1947-1951 (London: Tauris, 1992), and his
anti-Zionist manifesto, Britain and the Arab-Israeli Conflict,
1947-51 (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 1988); Avi Shlaim,
Collusion across the Jordan: King Abdullah, the Zionist Movement,
and the Partition of Palestine (New York: Columbia University
Press, 1988), and later his Iron Wall: Israel and the Arab World
(London: Allen Lane/Penguin Press, 2000).
These Israeli historians were joined by numerous other historians
who helped consolidate, on the same fictitious claims, the
revisionist, anti-Israeli case and went as far as denying Israel's
moral right to exist. For a typical publication, see Michael Prior,
Zionism and the State of Israel: A Moral Inquiry (London and
New York: Routledge, 1999). The book is described as "exposing the
inherent racist and apartheid nature of Zionism" or as "the best
demolition job on the moral legitimation of Israel that I have
seen." See David McDowall, Middle East International, cited
in Living Stones Magazine, Spring 2000, 3.
 ] Tom Segev, One Palestine, Complete: Jews and Arabs
under the British Mandate (New York: Henry Holt, 2001). British
support for the Jews, according to Segev, stemmed from their
mistaken, anti-Semitic belief in the Jews' inordinate global power.
 Alan Dowty, Israel/Palestine, 2nd ed.
(Malden, MA: Polity, 2008), ix.
 Robert I. Rotberg, ed., Israeli and Palestinian
Narratives of Conflict (Bloomington: Indiana University Press,
2006), introduction. The book assembles different perspectives by
Zionists and anti-Zionists and the bias becomes clear, as can be
seen in this quotation from a review on the cover: "[The book's]
main contribution is to see the tension as historically produced and
contingent, revealing the dynamic interplay between narratives of
hegemony and resistance," Human Rights and Human Welfare.
Here narratives are interchangeable with history and the use of the
term hegemony has only one meaning in this postmodern vocabulary:
the Israeli occupation. See also how veteran scholars of the
conflict regard this presentation of narratives as the best way to
study the history of the Middle East and the Palestinian struggle;
Gordon Fellman, review of Robert I. Rotberg, ed., Israeli and
Palestinian Narratives of Conflict, in Society 45 (2008):
 The most radical of these texts was A World of Changes:
History for Ninth Grade, edited by Danny Ya'akobi and published
by the ministry's own Curriculum Division.
For more on the New Historians and post-Zionism, see Meyrav Wurmser,
"Can Israel Survive Post-Zionism?" Middle East Quarterly,
 It was called The Struggle for Israel's Security,
and the daily Yediot Aharonot described it as "shattering a
number of the most splendid myths on which we were raised," 4 August
 This list is based, with this author's additions and
clarifications, on two accounts: Benny Morris, 1948 and After:
Israel and the Palestinians (New York: Oxford University Press,
Miron Rapaport, interview with Avi Shlaim, "No Peaceful Solution,"
Haaretz, 11 August 2005, www.editriceilponte.org/_files/HaaretzInterviewEnglish.pdf.
 Yezid Sayigh, Armed Struggle and the Search for State:
The Palestinian National Movement 1949-1993 (Oxford and
Washington, DC: Clarendon Press/Institute for Palestinian Studies,
 This allegation is unfounded. First, there is no such a
thing as an official Israeli history of the war. Second, many
Israeli officials and historians draw attention to instances of
expulsion as part and parcel of an eighteen-month war that was
fought within cities and villages and in areas controlling the roads
to Jewish cities and settlements under siege.
 ] Naomi Alon, interview with Benny Morris, 17 October 2008,
 Gershon Baskin and Zakaria al Qaq, Creating a Culture of
Peace ( Jerusalem: Israel-Palestine Center for Research and
Information, 1999), http://www.ipcri.org/.
 Shlaim, "When Historians Matter."
 Michal Ben-Josef Hirsch, "From Taboo to the Negotiable: The
Israeli New Historians and the Changing Representation of the
Palestinian Refugee Problem," Perspectives on Politics, June
 ] Shlaim, "When Historians Matter." In another instance, a
review of Ben-Ami's book in The Guardian says that the book
incorporates "revisionist" assumptions that until recently most
Israelis flatly rejected: that contrary to the old David versus
Goliath image, the balance of forces and of motivation in the 1948
war favored them; that the occupation of the West Bank and Gaza
since 1967 was anything but liberal; that Israeli attitudes have
always been as important a part of this sorry story as Arab
See Ian Black, "Not David but Samson," review of Shomo Ben-Ami,
Scars of War, Wounds of Peace: The Israeli-Arab Tragedy, in
The Guardian, 11 February 2006.
 Benny Morris, "BeChazara LeTashach" (Returning to 1948),
Haaretz literary magazine, 16 September 2009. [Hebrew]
 Howard M. Sachar, A History of Israel (New York:
Knopf, 1979), 333.
 Ahron Bregman and Jihan El-Tahri, Israel and the Arabs
(New York: TV Books, 1998), 28.
 Sachar, History of Israel, 333.
 Benny Morris, "Peace? No Chance," The Guardian, 21
 Ari Shavit, interview with Benny Morris, "Survival of the
Fittest?" Haaretz, 16 January 2004.
 Rashid Khalidi, The Iron Cage: The Story of the
Palestinian Struggle for Statehood (Boston: Beacon Press, 2006).
See the references in the index to anti-Semitism and to al-Husseini,
where Khalidi explains why he failed as a leader and was discredited
because of his alliance with the Nazis (62, 114, 127). See also
Khalidi's criticism of Arafat (158-164).
 Ibid., xxxvii.
 ] Morris, 1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War,
16, 21. The omissions by the New Historians on the mufti's role in
fomenting hatred against the Jews are part of their endeavor of
rewriting history. There are endless records on the mufti from the
early stages of the conflict under the British Mandate. There was no
need for new archives to be opened to write accurately about him.
Much has long been written on him as the symbol of Arab anti-Semitic
obstruction of peace. Two more recent books substantiate the
previous knowledge with the use of new documents: David G. Dalin and
John F. Rothmann, Icon of Evil: Hitler's Mufti and the Rise of
Radical Islam (New York: Random House, 2008); Jeffrey Herf,
Nazi Propaganda for the Arab World (New Haven: Yale University
 Morris, 1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War,
 Ibid., 395.
 Ibid., 65.
 Ibid., 70.
 ] Larry Collins and Dominique Lapierre, O Jerusalem!
(New York: Pan Books, 1972), 315. This source, a leading bestseller,
is just one illustration among many others that Morris did not have
to wait for the twenty-first century's opening of archives to grasp
the seriousness of the jihad threats and to understand the context
of the deterioration of the military balance against the Jews.
 Morris, 1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War
 Ibid., 398.
 Ibid., 401.
 Ibid., 397.
 Ibid., 403. Again, all these facts of history were well
recorded in numerous sources right after 1948. See the sources on
the British and American anti-Israeli diplomacy at the United
Nations in Avi Beker, The United Nations and Israel: From
Recognition to Reprehension Lexington, MA: Lexington Books,
1988), ch. 3. A more recent book highlights the consistent efforts
by the British and the U.S. State Department to obstruct and retract
the partition resolution at the United Nations in early 1948; Allis
Radosh and Roland Radosh, A Safe Haven: Harry S. Truman and the
Founding of Israel (New York: HarperCollins, 2009), ch. 10.
 Morris, 1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War
 Ibid., 112.
 Ibid., 187.
 Benny Morris, One State, Two States: Resolving the
Israel/Palestine Conflict (New Haven: Yale University Press,
 Ilan Pappé, "Post-Zionist Critique on Israel and the
Palestinians, Part II: The Media," Journal of Palestine Studies
26, 3 (1997): 37-43.
 Benny Morris, letter to the Irish Times, 21 February
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