Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Exposing How Post-Zionists Manipulate History Part II

by Avi Beker


2nd part of 3


Morris's Retreat

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 against Israel

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 diplomatic processes."[23]

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) Army.

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 Crusades."[24] 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 and blood."[25] Al-Husseini stated, "I declare a holy war, my Moslem brothers! Murder the Jews! Murder them all!"[26]

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."[27]

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.[28]

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.[29] At the same time, Khalidi refers to Morris's early book on the Palestinian refugees as a "groundbreaking" work that "shattered many myths."[30]

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 of God."[31] 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 Clement Attlee.[32] 

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."[33]

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."[34] 

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 state."[35] 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?"[36] 

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."[37] 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."[38]

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"[39] 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."[40] 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.[41]

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]."[42] 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."[43] 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."[44]


Dr. Avi Beker teaches in the MA program on diplomacy at Tel Aviv University.

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors.


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