Benny Morris fends off allegations of “racism” at LSE.

Benny Morris taking a question at LSE.

Benny Morris taking a question at LSE.

Israeli revisionist historian Benny Morris gave a talk at the London School of Economics on Tuesday night and was labeled a “racist”, “theologian” and a “social darwinist” by some anti-Zionists in the audience and others protesting his presence outside.

His talk was called Reconsidering the 1948 Arab-Israeli War.

The “theologian” accusation (see second video clip below) is absurd on two counts.

First, as Morris suggested, if anyone has a problem with his thesis all they need do is look at the footnotes in his book 1948 and then go and check the documents referred to and if they disagree with his interpration of the documents then they can challenge him.

Second, Morris questions the narrative, that many  Zionists hold dear, that the Palestinians simply left during the 1948 war on the orders of the surrounding Arab countries with a view to returning once the Jews had been defeated.

He cited incidences of transfer of Palestinians and massacres of Palestinians by Jewish/Israeli militias during the 1948 war, although, he said, whether any of this happened as a matter of “policy” is another matter; no governmental documentation was ever discovered that indicated such orders, and it is likely that such decisions were made independently by generals on the ground during individual battles (incidentally, it was the British that introduced the idea of transfer in the 1937 Peel Commission report)

He said that during the 1948 war 800/900 Palestinians were massacred by Jewish/Israeli militias, while 200/300 Jews were massacred by Arab militias; the disparity was because Jewish/Israeli militias conquered some 400 Palestinian towns and villages, whereas the Arabs conquered only a dozen Jewish settlements.

He said that as wars go 1948 was not, in the scheme of things, as bloody as many try to make it out to be when considering that, for example, 8,000-9,000 Muslim men and boys were killed at Srebrenica in the space of just two days during the Bosnian war.

He also said that the 1948 war created two refugee problems; a Palestinian one and a Jewish one. 700,000 Palestinians were displaced as were some 600,000 to 700,00 Jews who were intimidated and harassed and forced to leave their Arab countries; for example, in 1956 Jews were literally expelled from Egypt.

The difference is that the expelled Jews were aborbed into other countries, while the Palestinians were not. 700, 000 Jews and 150,000 Palestinians remained in Israel in 1949 and even today, after Israel has absorbed 3,000,000 Jewish immigrants, the ratio of Jews to Arabs remains the same in Israel, indicating the high birthrates of Arabs living in Israel.

On the war itself Morris said it was fought in two phases; the civil war from 29th November 1947, when the UN partitioned British Mandate Palestine, until 14th May 1948, when Israel declared independence. The first shots of the civil war were fired by Palestinian guerillas who ambushed a bus and killed seven Jews near Tel Aviv.

The second phase was from 14th May 1948, when Israel declared independence and the surrounding Arab armies invaded, until the ceasefire in 1949. Israel won the war possibly due to their purchase of airplanes after they declared independence. Until that time the Jews had no planes. The Israelis still had far fewer planes than the combined Arab armies, but were able to fly far more missions and had better trained pilots.

Morris also suggested that, in additon to the 1948 war being one about territory, it was regarded by the Arab side as a Holy Jihad. Many Imams declared a pan-Muslim Jihad and called for the mobilisation of Muslims to fight the Jewish state.

This was hotly disputed by some in the audience who asked for proof. Morris said he wasn’t an expert, as it would involve going through every Arab newspaper between 1947 and 1949, but this is his view based on what he has read and it is an issue that only occupies four pages in his book.

But, and this seemed to be the crux of the matter, all of the Arab archives remain closed. If they were opened it would shed light on this issue.

One woman in the audience claimed that, if anything, it was the Zionists who were waging a Holy Jihad due to their nature of wanting a Jewish state. Another woman suggested that proof that the Jews were fighting a holy war was their desire to reclaim Jerusalem.

Morris refuted both claims (see video clips below) by answering that most Israeli Jews in 1948 were either atheist or agnostic and that ben Gurion had decided against the mention of “God” in Israel’s Declaration of Independence as he thought it would alienate many Jews; in 1948 Israel was totally dominated by socialist thinking.

As for Jerusalem he said that the Jews simply saw it as an issue of reclaiming their old capital city, as opposed to a religious requirement.

He did say, though, that he believed that Jerusalem should become internationalised, as was originally foreseen by the UN. He is also against the settlements.

Morris was also asked to explain his comments in 2004, when he was quoted in Haaretz as saying that the Palestinians should be fenced in or have a cage built for them. He answered that at the time Palestinian suicide bombers were getting into Israel on a daily basis and his comments were aimed at the suicide bombers; if they couldn’t be stopped from entering Israel, then they should be fenced in or caged. He said that the questioner was taking his comments completely out of context.

On leaving the talk we were met with the same old faces of the small group of anti-Israel activists. They hadn’t been in the talk but had “Morris is a racist” stickers on their foreheads and were giving out leaflets headed “Is Benny Morris a Serious Historian or a Plain Old Racist?”

Video clips and photos:
The clips below are worth watching if you have time because Morris is very entertaining and sometimes the audience just won’t let him answer.

Protester with sticker cleverly stuck to her forehead.

Protester with sticker cleverly stuck to her forehead.

Can someone please explain this to me!!!

Can someone please explain this to me!!!

37 responses to “Benny Morris fends off allegations of “racism” at LSE.

  1. ‘Protester with sticker cleverly stuck to her forehead.’


  2. My admiration for Morris only increases with time. One doesn’t have to agree with all his views because, more importantly, he’s a reasonable man who’s open to a reasoned debate. His affability and unflappability in the face of the rude, presumptuous, and ironically anti-democratic sloganeers is a joy to behold. If only Morris could be ‘out there’ discussing these matters in more non-Jewish forums…

  3. “The Israelis still had far fewer planes than the combined Arab armies, but were able to fly far more missions and had better trained pilots.”
    You can see some of those pilots being trained here:!/photo.php?fbid=197792363568779&set=a.197789523569063.57418.142565139091502&type=1&theater

  4. for the iPod addicted here is the iTunes link to the lecture

    and thanks Richard for summarizing, it is more or less what he said in that Haaretz interview from 2004?

    I wish he’d also compare the figures of massacred before the war broke out.

    But, and this seemed to be the crux of the matter, all of the Arab archives remain closed.

    and that is my most yearned for sentence from any serious historian since in my book it proves that whatever they come up with as the Arab narrative is closely linked Arabian nights. Remember the pile of books once the Russian archives opened at least for some time?

    • sorry – I forgot – thank you Richard – and I mean it. It isn’t just for courtesy’s sake.

      if Morris advocates for that nutty Jerusalem idea (even Pat Condell has changed his mind on that one) and is against “settlements” which by consequence means he is the supporting judenrein-Arabia goal, why don’t those “antis” love him more?

      • Sharon Klaff

        I was the victim of an anonymous anti-Semitic letter sent to me by I think one of those “old soldiers” who fought in Palestinian Mandate for the British – there is a bunch of them still here in the UK supported by Robert Fisk – there periodical is call the Palestine Scrapbook in which they reminisce about their good old days in the Middle East. Anyway, this letter took the form of a cut and paste letter taken from various newspapers and journals to make accusations that are out of context and certainly riddled with Jew hate. One the quotes was about the “new historian” Benny Morris who they haled as their hero as even this “new historian” said that Jews were killers etc. So he used to be their hero, but I think he has had a change of heart – a stated one and he yet has to arrive at that stage when he acknowledges his error re Jerusalem. He might be funny now and handle his audience with aplomb, but he certainly planted seeds in the minds of Jew haters to use him as an example in the age old saying that “even a Jew says……”

  5. richardmillett

    Thanks, Silke. I think he also said he was even in favour of east Jerusalem becoming part of a Palestinian state, in which case how would the Jews get to worship at their Holy Sites? I guess they wouldn’t. The “antis” hate him because it is easier to totally reject and hate something than to spend a bit of time listening and trying to understand it. The main reason they hate him though is because he supports a Jewish state, however small.

    • ‘Thanks, Silke. I think he also said he was even in favour of east Jerusalem becoming part of a Palestinian state, in which case how would the Jews get to worship at their Holy Sites?’

      a) I think what he means by ‘East Jerusalem’ = Arab East Jerusalem

      b) he ‘semi-completely’ agrees the Old City should or could be internationalised.

      BTW, did you catch the Ben White question about an hour in?

      • richardmillett

        Ben was sitting behind me. I know that Benny didn’t answer it, but not by design, he just forgot to. What was the question again? Do you know?

      • At 49.03 Ben White asks a question/makes a point:

        “Thanks for drawing attention to the kind of rejectionism which is…you know…the heart of the conflict…I imagine [indistinct]…and I just want to give another example of how this continues…I recently read this online: “The Jews are busy killing people, and sharing power is alien to the Jewish mentality. It seems like these kinds of appalling sentiments keep on going.”

      • richardmillett

        He said that? I didn’t catch what he said or I’d have mentioned it!

      • It wasn’t really a question though, was it? Clearly White is imputing to Morris racism, since if what he said about Muslims and Islam were said about Jews, he would surely think it racist. But he could have phrased as a question. He also began by saying ‘Thanks for drawing attention to the rejectionism etc’, which may or may not have been sincere. White doesn’t often admit to Palestinian Arab rejectionism. In any case, that opening may have confused Morris. And it was quite indistinct.

        Why didn’t he just ask a straightforward question e.g.. ‘In 200x you said x about Muslims. If x were said about Jews, wouldn’t you consider it racist? How can you justify racism against Muslims?’ ?

        It was almost as though he didn’t actually want an answer. He was more interested in using the situation to make his own point by posing a (non) question.

      • richardmillett

        I read Ben’s simultaneous tweet and he said something along the lines of ha ha Morris didn’t answer my question.

      • What question?

      • richardmillett

        Well the question he thought he had just asked.

      • He didn’t ask a question, though. He made an ironic or satiric statement, satirising, or attempting to satirise/ironise Morris’ comments about Muslims. It wasn’t a clear question. Morris answered the question about ‘caged animals’ because it was a clear question. It’s almost as though White didn’t want an answer to his ‘question’: he just wanted to crow about how Morris didn’t answer his (non)-question.

    • Sharon Klaff

      See above – they used to love him, but they hate now him because he has changed his mind, he is a sort of a turncoat as they used to think he was in their camp.

      • walt kovacs

        morris has never really changed his mind

        his initial research was piss poor…based on the archives that were open to him

        when more archival material became available to him, he rewrote his thesis

      • when more archival material became available to him, he rewrote his thesis

        That’s what professional historians are supposed to do …

      • Sharon Klaff

        Professional historians are menat to analyse and think before they ink and not sensationalise so they can become famous. Indeed, professional anybobies are meant to think, reason and deduce before committing pen to paper. Those who do not, cause havoc in their wake. This is why the “New Historian” Benny Morris was so haled by Israel’s enemies and that is bad. Goldstone did the same thing and it is the first word that is rememebred not the retraction. Non thinking historians/lawyers/linguists/doctors etc are dangerous.

  6. If Benny Morris really want’s to be taken seriously at the LSE he should be quoting from that great historian Peter Kosminsky

  7. Clever little Millett ploy to refer to Morris as a ‘revisionsist’: actually he’s known as one of the ‘New Historians’.

    The “antis” hate him because it is easier to totally reject and hate something than to spend a bit of time listening and trying to understand it.

    Bull. The antis ‘hate’ him because of a few very well known racist antics, for example:

    “There is a deep problem in Islam. It’s a world whose values are different. A world in which human life doesn’t have the same value as it does in the West, in which freedom, democracy, openness and creativity are alien. He also says “Revenge plays a central part in the Arab tribal culture. Therefore, the people we are fighting and the society that sends them have no moral inhibitions.”

    “Something like a cage has to be built for them. I know that sounds terrible. It is really cruel. But there is no choice. There is a wild animal there that has to be locked up in one way or another.”

    “the barbarians [Palestinians] who want to take our lives. The people the Palestinian society sends to carry out the terrorist attacks… At the moment, that society is in the state of being a serial killer. It is a very sick society. It should be treated the way we treat individuals who are serial killers.”

    There’s more beside that.

    • That’s not racism, that’s honesty. Go and find out for yourself (mind your manners if you do).

  8. as to the values question – here is an interesting example how they differ

    and while you read it, please note that Egyptian Shaykh Abu-Ishaq al-Huwayni also claims that according to the Koran a victor is allowed to keep the spoils of war. I think it is highly discriminatory of the UN to disagree with this view.

    If fighting occurs, there is going to be a winner and a loser. If the army of the Muslims is victorious, it will take spoils

    • Maybe this sheikh is a racist too?

      • no the way I understand at least that part is that “we” are the racists because we do all that Geneva convention et al stuff instead of following the for this case highly superior teachings of the Koran.

        Caveat: In my understand land qualifies as “spoils” also.

  9. Wow the guy who shouts out “unfortunately” is such a fucking idiot, needs a slap. He’s just sat that looking for anything at all so he can twist it against Morris even though the “unfortunately” part was obvious irony.

  10. There’s a Jewish Russian folktale about a Hassidic young man with a beard and sideburns who was also child brilliant at mathematics. The czar heard of the unusual fellow and said, “I have to meet this special man.”

    The lad was flattered by the invitation and decided to honor the king by shaving off his beard and sideburns and dressing in regular Russian clothes. He arrived at the palace and was shown in to see the Czar. The king was angry and told the now clean-shaven Christian looking man to leave. “I’ve seen plenty of mathematicians who look like that!” he shouted, “I wanted to see the real thing.”

    There is something tragic about my brothers who appear to bend over backwards to adopt positions way outside of Israeli mainstream in order to find favor, only to discover that nothing they might offer is enough for he who wants Israel off the map. Not only does the enemy show no predilection for an Israeli Left-winger, but they often seem to prefer the “real thing”

    To be clear, I’m not saying that this is a reason to abandon one’s convictions or change your opinion if you believe that creating a Palestinian State is truly in Israel’s best interests. However, if your reason for supporting such a position is that you think it will change other people’s attitudes to Israel or make opponents more receptive, forget it. Not only will they still call you every absurd name under the sun, but like the czar, they may actually prefer the “real thing”.

  11. This was great, thank you. I agree that Morris was amazingly unflappable in the face of the intolerant fools in the audience. They simply cannot countenance another point of view.

  12. By the way, I have posted on my own blog on another interesting Middle East event at the LSE:

    This event focused on Turkey, but there was not a demonstrator in sight. One can rarely attend an Israel-themed event without encountering anti-Israel demonstrators; one can, however, attend Turkey-themed event without encountering anti-Turkey demonstrators, despite the many questions that can be raised about Turkey and its Kurdish community (

    I would not have minded if there had been pro-Kurdish demonstrators outside the LSE the other night. I would suggest that their absence, in contrast to the scenes that Richard describes outside Professor Morris’ lecture, is testament to the atmosphere of hysteria that often surrounds Israel/Palestine, compared to the more reasoned atmosphere that often surrounds other issues.

  13. OT but only kind of

    currently this study is making the rounds through German media. The interviews are from 2008 but publication happened apparently only now. There is a bit of noise about it but nobody links to the original, it took some time to find it. Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung belongs the Social Democrats.

    Why do I link it here? Well according to all the media noise it proves that the UK contrary to what the impression is I get from blogs is doing a lot better than the “continent” except apparently the Netherlands. Which, if it were true or still true, would make me really really happy.

    Maybe somebody versed in reading and interpreting such stuff can throw some light?

    The analysis is based on survey data collected in telephone interviews of a rep- resentative sample of 1,000 persons aged 16 and above per country conducted in autumn 2008 in the scope of the Group-based Enmity in Europe study. The countries involved were France, Germany, Great Britain,1 Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland, and Portugal. The countries were selected to reflect the different geographical regions of the EU, taking old and new member states into account. The number of countries included was restricted by the avail- able funding.

    Click to access 07908-20110311.pdf

  14. Thanks Richard. I really wanted to get to this lecture but wasn’t able. Curious how much interruption and talking over Morris there was. As others have said, they really don’t want to listen if it is contrary to their views.

    I also concur with Daniel Marks, in that what is the point in trying to find common purpose with people who only want 100% and will not engage in honest negotiation?

    • But cityca, Daniel Marks always wants us to talk nicely to the genocidal maniacs. Makes him feel all big and moral, don’t you know. It’s sane people like me and Roger who say that it’s pointless.

  15. Gretchen rants on the other thread:

    “the occupation and all Israeli practices under its guise ARE illegal under international law”

    In your deranged fantasy world, you slimy creature. Or can you quote an actual law that says so? No, didn’t think you could.

    Just crawl back under your stone.

  16. Hi Gretchen,

    Cheer up mate. On the 19-21 of every month uncanny things happen to our Leah and she comes up with the strangest mixed metaphors and utterances:

    “Morons who swallow the BBC’s lies get on my tits”. (Leah | May 20, 2011)

    Note the “swallow” and Leah’s (doubtlessly divine) mammaries all blended together in a single near Shakespearian turn of phrase.

    Yup, who can fathom the wonders of our Leah’s bodily cycles? Some have intimated that it might be “involuntary celibacy” – your guess is as good as mine.

    Either way, don’t hang around waiting for any kind of reasoned response, until the 22-23 it will be angry name calling. On the positive side, by the 25th she’ll be gone.

    I’d very much like to try to address your concerns about our alleged illegalities in Judea and Samaria, but let’s wait a few days till things quiet down.