Israeli historian Benny Morris is famous for being part of the “New Historians” of Israel that exposed a great deal of Zionist myths about the founding of the state of Israel, including the falsehood that leaders of surrounding Arab states told Palestinians to leave their homes, and that they listened. The truth, of course, is that there was a deliberate policy of expulsion carried about by Jewish forces, and that many Palestinians fled and became refugees because they were fearful for their lives.
Morris obviously has had a huge impact on the discourse on Israel/Palestine. But he’s also an ardent Zionist who routinely expresses racist attitudes towards Arabs and Palestinians. In a piece he wrote for Tablet magazine, where he interviews Israeli President Shimon Peres, he asks Peres:
Perhaps ending the 1948 war with this demographic was a mistake?
Peres: No, moral considerations took priority over demographic considerations. Ben-Gurion knew that every war and conflict takes place twice—once on the battlefield and then in the history books. He didn’t want things to be written in the history books that were in dissonance with the foundations of Judaism. He really believed that without a moral priority there is no existence for the Jewish people. To expel he saw as contrary to his moral values.
Morris’ question reveals a lot: he obviously doesn’t consider Palestinians as human beings. Referring to them as “this demographic” is deeply dehumanizing, and he also seems to be suggesting that Israel should have just expelled all of the Palestinians in the 1948 war.
This is not a new revelation, however. Morris is on record as saying that he is quite alright with ethnically cleansing Palestinians, and that it was a mistake to not “finish the job” in 1948.
This is from an interview published in Ha’aretz, via Counterpunch(Morris’ answers are bolded by me):
They perpetrated ethnic cleansing.
“There are circumstances in history that justify ethnic cleansing. I know that this term is completely negative in the discourse of the 21st century, but when the choice is between ethnic cleansing and genocide – the annihilation ofyour people – I prefer ethnic cleansing.”
And that was the situation in 1948?
“That was the situation. That is what Zionism faced. A Jewish state would not have come into being without the uprooting of 700,000 Palestinians. Therefore it was necessary to uproot them. There was no choice but to expel that population. It was necessary to cleanse the hinterland and cleanse the border areas and cleanse the main roads. It was necessary to cleanse the villages from which our convoys and our settlements were fired on.”
The term `to cleanse’ is terrible.
“I know it doesn’t sound nice but that’s the term they used at the time. I adopted it from all the 1948 documents in which I am immersed.”
What you are saying is hard to listen to and hard to digest. You sound hard-hearted.
“I feel sympathy for the Palestinian people, which truly underwent a hard tragedy. I feel sympathy for the refugees themselves. But if the desire to establish a Jewish state here is legitimate, there was no other choice. It was impossible to leave a large fifth column in the country. From the moment the Yishuv [pre-1948 Jewish community in Palestine] was attacked by the Palestinians and afterward by the Arab states, there was no choice but to expel the Palestinian population. To uproot it in the course of war.”