by Avi Beker
2nd part of 3
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
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  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 diplomatic processes."
A new description? The exact opposite, in fact. His two most recent books, 1948 and
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
On the day that
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
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
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
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
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
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
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 state.
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
Dr. Avi Beker teaches in the MA program on diplomacy at
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