Tag Archives: benny morris

Avi Shlaim goes to St James’s Church to slam Israel’s creation and anti-Semitism “allegations”.

Rt Rev Michael Langrish appealing for money for Palestinians in northern Israel's

Rt Rev Michael Langrish appealing for money for Palestinians in northern Israel’s “refugee camps”.

Historian Avi Shlaim was invited to speak on Balfour and Palestine: From Balfour to May on Tuesday night at St James’s Church in central London.

St James’s is a church hostile to Israel and no expense is spared. In 2013 St James’s dedicated its entire Christmas to demonising Israel’s security wall at a cost of £30,000.

St James’s knows how to harness extremists’ hatred for Israel and on the way out on Tuesday The Rev Lucy Winkett was beaming with pride at seeing 300 people in her church. One can only imagine the usual turnout on Sunday mornings.

Su McClellan, of Embrace the Middle East (see below), set the dire tone for the evening when she described Shlaim’s family as simply having “left Iraq for Israel for various reasons”.

Those “various reasons” might have included the Farhud massacre visited on Baghdad’s Jewish community in 1941 which was followed up with continued oppression and confiscation of property by the Iraqi government. Shlaim’s father lost everything it seems. None of this was mentioned.

Farhud and Hamas were the main words totally absent from Shlaim’s talk. He blamed the lack of peace between Israel and the Palestinians solely on Israel. He claimed “settlements only are continuing the conflict.”

Shlaim seems proud to be a part of the British establishment. Throughout the evening he repeated that he married the great-grand-daughter of David Lloyd George and said that although “his wife was proud of her great-grand-father she was ashamed of the role he played in Palestine”. Palestine, he said, had been “wiped off the map”.

Lloyd George was Britain’s PM at the time of the Balfour Declaration which promised a national home to the Jewish people “in Palestine”. Shlaim ascribed the Declaration to Lloyd George’s “anti-semitic view that the Jews were uniquely influential.”

Meanwhile, Shlaim repeated Christian metaphors to appeal to his audience. He condemned Winston Churchill as a “dog in a manger” for overly praising Jews during the 1936 Peel Commission and he criticised the “old historians who stick to Israel’s beginning as one of immaculate conception”.

Quite incredibly Shlaim then praised Ilan Pappe as his inspiration. Pappe has been described by Benny Morris as “one of the world’s sloppiest historians”. Pappe has also been caught on film agreeing propaganda may be more important than facts.

Shlaim then claimed the Balfour Declaration meant Palestine had been “twice promised”, having already been promised by the British to the leader of the Arab world, via an exchange of letters, in return for Arabs fighting the Muslim Ottomans during World War One.

Shlaim continued that the “intrusion of a foreign entity in the shape of the Zionist movement showed a total disregard (by the British) for the indigenous population”.

He concluded by praising the Palestine Solidarity Campaign (PSC dedicates itself to the demonisation and eradication of Israel) and saying that only recognition of a Palestinian state as a UN member can “save Israel from itself”.

During the Q&A Shlaim defended the Labour Party against “alleged anti-semitism within the Labour Party” and praised Jeremy Corbyn (warning: this kicks off a bit):

Shlaim should watch the film Whitewashed: Anti Semitism in the Labour Party.

At the end Rt Rev Michael Langrish gave a fundraising appeal for the church’s Embrace the Middle East charity to raise money for the Palestinians (this despite the Palestinian Authority having paid out $1bn to Palestinian terrorists over the last four years).

Last year the appeal was for Gaza. This year it was for Palestinians in the “occupied West Bank” and….Israel.

According to Langrish “In Israel, many Palestinian girls living in the northern city of Acre, families who lost their homes in that 1948 war, live in a cramped neighbourhood that resembles a refugee camp in all but name…Many of them have been abused in various ways. They battle mental illness. They face pressure to drop out of school and marry young.”

Here he is:

If only St James’s Church gave such thought and money to those really struggling in Britain or, dare one suggest, Syria.

Israel considering annexing settlements if Palestinians proceed with UN member-state bid.

Israel is considering annexing the West Bank settlement blocs if the Palestinians carry through with their threat of asking the United Nations to formally declare a Palestinian state.

According to Jonny Daniels, Chief of Staff to the Deputy Speaker of the Knesset Danny Dannon, such a move would bolster the security of the settlements and give them the same legal status as east Jerusalem, making it more difficult for the settlement blocs to form part of a future peace accord. The idea is gaining momentum in Congress with members of the House of Representatives starting to push for a motion supporting the decision.

Regarding the settlements Dannon, himself, has previously stated that Israel has “a full right to this land”.

Meanwhile, on 20th September Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas still looks set to ask the United Nations to pass a resolution declaring Palestine the 194th member of the United Nations. It will be along the 4th June 1967 boundaries, which would have the effect of leaving the settlement blocs inside a new state.

The United States is certain to block a Palestinian state being legally declared by using its veto on the Security Council, but the resolution should be passed easily in the General Assembly instead. Britain is still to declare its voting intentions.

Professor Manuel Hassassian, the Palestinian Ambassador to London, said that a non-binding General Assembly resolution upgrading Palestine’s current observer status to that of non-member state would significantly raise the stature of the Palestinians in the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court:

“Our position will be bolstered. We won’t need Qatar or Lebanon to represent us anymore. We will be able to pursue war criminals ourselves, which will put more pressure on Israel,” he said.

Hassassian says that Israel gave the Palestinians no option but to go down the UN route:

“There has been no peace process with the current Israeli government, although we always hoped for a breakthrough. Israel has continued embarking on its settlement activities, and this has aborted the prospects for a two-state solution. None of this has encouraged the Palestinians or the international community and has proved that Israel is not serious in wanting peace. Our going to the UN will be a wake-up call for America and Israel,” he continued.

Jonny Daniels refutes this accusation:

“Even when Ehud Barak offered Arafat everything he asked for in 2000 the Palestinians rejected it. If the Palestinians were serious they would have recognised Israel as a Jewish state by now. By going to the UN they are breaking the Oslo Peace Accords, which state that no side can take a unilateral decision. My friends in Judea and Samaria are now in greater danger,” he responded.

He said that because the Palestinians lacked democracy Israel does not know whether it is Fatah or Hamas making the decisions, but he was still optimistic that the Palestinians could one day recognise Israel as a Jewish state:

“The Middle East is a very volatile area. Who could have predicted that the Egyptians would have ousted Mubarak like they did? Things can change very quickly, but until then we must look after ourselves,” he said.

Daniels views the proposed UN vote as another attempt by the Palestinians to delegitimise Israel, something that will add to the anti-Israel atmosphere at Durban III at the UN in New York on 22nd September.

Some commentators and politicians are predicting a return to violence after the UN vote, with the Arab Spring adding a potentially volatile ingredient.

Professor Charles Tripp, of the London Middle East Institute, said:

“Palestinian expectations may be raised, at least on the West Bank, making the likelihood of demonstrations and clashes even stronger. There have been reports that the IDF have been preparing for such an eventuality, including, it seems, training settlers in ‘crowd control’. This will exacerbate things even further.”

“The Israeli government has also hinted at various ‘symbolic’ reprisals like further building and settlement projects and other moves designed to infuriate the Palestinians.”

Professor Yaacov Bar-Siman-Tov, of the Department of International Relations at the Hebrew University, thinks Abbas might organise mass protests similar to those on the recent Naksa and Nakba days when hundreds of Lebanese and Syrian citizens were bussed to Israel’s border leading to clashes with the IDF.

“The Arab Spring could have a big influence. After the overthrow of Mubarak and others people are starting to understand its effectiveness. If the demonstrations can be contained then all well and good, but if protesters get into the settlements then violence could escalate rapidly if there are clashes with the IDF,” he said.

Professor Benny Morris, of the Middle East department at Ben-Gurion University, believes such violence “may spiral into a third Intifada” and thinks terrorism likely. More ominously, Emanuele Ottolenghi, senior fellow at the Foundation for Defence of Democracies, thinks it could lead to all out war against Israel:

“A UN resolution recognising Palestine as a state on paper will not give Palestinians a state in reality. It will instead spark a fire in the region that could quickly burn out of control, very much like happened in late September 2000 with the Second Intifada.”

“The difference, this time, is twofold. First, Hamas rules Gaza and has an arsenal to terrorize Israeli civilians. It will seek to exploit the situation to trigger a war with Israel. Second, the region has dramatically changed since the Arab Spring toppled Mubarak, which means that, this time, Arab countries may be dragged in,” he said.

Manual Hassassian said that violence is not part of the strategy of the Palestinian leadership and that any demonstrations will remain non-violent. He addressed concerns in the Arab world that declaring a state without agreement with Israel could spell the end of the “right of return” for Palestinian refugees:

“After the vote we will not be giving up on a negotiated settlement. We will be continuing with the diplomatic onslaught to resolve permanent status issues like the right of return. Everything will still be on the negotiating table, but eventually there will be an independent Palestinian state,” Hassassian stated.

Dr. Jonathan Spyer, of the Interdisciplinary Center Herzliya, thinks the UN vote will not bring any significant change for the Palestinians:

“Israel was created because of facts on the ground, notably the ability of Israel to prevail against any force in the eastern Mediterranean wishing to prevent its birth. This is not the case with the West Bank Palestinian Authority. The only way to a successful re-partition of the land between the Jordan River and the Mediterranean Sea, if this is what the Ramallah leadership desires, is by way of negotiation. This will still be true after 20th September,” he said.

While Kadmina MK Yoel Hasson blames both Netanyahu and the Palestinians for the breakdown of negotiations and notes the potential for “violent incidents”, he doesn’t think that there will be any change on the ground regarding the settlements:

“I fear that the result of the Palestinian move will be isolation of Israel in the international community and it will definitely lead to greater pressure to evacuate the settlements. However, I have always believed that the settlements are not a real obstacle to peace. Israel proved twice, in the Sinai and Gaza, that it is willing to remove the settlements,” he said.

As a result of all this Israel could swing back left or go further right, but Hasson thinks it too early to gauge how events will affect Israel politically:

“No one knows yet whether Israelis will criticise the government or whether blame will be directed towards the Palestinian side,” he said.

But Professor Colin Shindler, of the European Association of Israel Studies, blames the Palestinians going to the UN on the “politics of stagnation in Israel” and believes that renewed isolation of Israel could lead it further to the right with Lieberman as a possible contender for the premiership:

“The Israeli government is a pantomime horse of the centre Right and the far Right – the former would like to negotiate, the latter does not. Therefore the lack of initiative prevents serious division within the government and ensures its survival. The Geneva Initiative, the Saudi Peace Plan and many other suggestions are dismissed. This leaves a vacuum which is being filled by the proposal to recognise a Palestinian state at the UN,” Shindler said.

Daniels dismisses the prospect of a Lieberman premiership pointing out that Yisrael Beitenu came a distant third at the last general election and neither does he think that Kadima will benefit from the Palestinian push at the UN:

“During the recent social protests in Israel Kadima was up in the polls and Likud down, but the polls have now swung back to the right. The right wing bloc is strong. People know that the right of Israeli politics is about security. The only real chance for peace is if there is change in the education systems of the Palestinian Authority and the Arab world generally where Israel is concerned”.

This piece appears on pages 4 and 5 of this week’s Jewish News.

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!!!

Fisk/Hari

It was a good old Independent doubly-whammy to nicely finish off International Israel Apartheid Week.

Robert Fisk

Last Friday (12 March) Johann Hari had a piece Palestinians should now declare their independence.

On Saturday (13 March) Fisk recommended books to help you understand the Middle East.

Fisk recommends and quotes from George Antonius’s The Arab Awakening:

“The cure for the eviction of Jews from Germany is not to be sought in the eviction of the Arabs from their homeland …”

Fisk sees this as “the first truly eloquent warning of what was to come”.

He didn’t recommend Benny Morris’ The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem but he mentioned it in passing:

“Benny Morris was the most prominent Israeli researcher to prove that it was indeed Israel’s intention to evict the Palestinians from their homes in their tens of thousands in 1948 – the fact that Morris has since gone completely batty by claiming the Israelis didn’t ethnically cleanse enough of them does not detract from his seminal work.”

But Morris did not prove any such intention!

Morris, for starters, quotes Ze’ev Jabotinsky, leader of a right-wing Zionist movement, who said in 1931: “We don’t want to evict even one Arab from the left or right banks of the Jordan. We want them to prosper economically and culturally.”

If anything it was the 1937 Peel Commission, which was under the auspices of the British government, that first recommended transfer of the Arab population out of areas earmarked for the Jewish population on partition.

Morris’ view is that there was no specific Zionist policy of transfer although there had been unofficial “transfer thinking” that preceded the war. But it was only once the Arabs rejected the 1947 UN partition resolution, civil war between the Palestinian Jews and Palestinian Arabs and then the full-scale Arab invasion of Israel ensued that “Jewish hearts hardened towards the Palestinian Arabs who were seen as mortal enemies, and should they be coopted into a Jewish state, a potential Fifth Column”.

To be fair to Fisk has lived in the heart of Beirut for 30 years and so he is highly biased out of necessity.

Johann Hari does not live in the heart of Beirut and so has no such excuse for his bias (or is it just ignorance?).

Johann Hari

Hari suggests the Palestinians should declare their own state forthwith to concentrate the minds of the West and he narrates his own version of the Arab/Israeli wars including, like Fisk, that of 1948:

“Until 1948, the Palestinians were living in their own homes, on their own land – until they were suddenly driven out in a war to make way for a new state for people fleeing a monstrous European genocide.”

Again there is no mention of the total Arab rejection of UN partition resolution 181, the consequent civil war started by the Palestinian Arabs against the Jews and the Arab invasion after Israel declared independence on 14 May 1948.

For Hari one side is evil while the other side is totally innocent. He continues this theme throughout the piece.

He quotes Golda Meirs’ “there are no Palestinians”. Well to Meir there were no Palestinians 40 years ago just like there were no Palestinians as such to the Jews that came to Palestine 100 years ago because they did not view the Arabs living there as a nation. But that doesn’t mean to say there is no Palestinian nation now. There is and one deserving of a country.

But it is a common anti-Israel tactic to take an ancient quote of an Israeli or Jewish leader and put it in today’s context to make the speaker look evil.

Hari also writes of “some heroic Israelis who argue back”, so painting the rest of Israel’s citizens as weak, ignorant and cowardly.

But Hari thinks he has found the answer to why there are so few “heroic Israelis”:

“It may be that surviving the most horrific atrocities doesn’t make you compassionate, but more often makes you hard, and paranoid. It may make you see the ghost of your murderer even in your victims: Adolf Hitler in a Gazan child.”

For Hari Jews are still so obsessed by the gas chambers that every one of us, apart from his “heroes”, has turned into our own self-contained irrational killing machine.

Not for Hari do Israelis fight back against thousands of deadly Kassam rockets fired by Hamas from Gaza towards Israel’s southern towns or against Katyushas hitting nothern Israel from Hezbollah bases in southern Lebanon.

And Hari thinks that Hamas, “the ugly fundamentalist group”, tacitly accepts a two-state solution but how ignorant can one be.

Accepting a Palestinian state in the West Bank and Gaza, as Hamas does, is not the same as accepting the existence of Israel.

But Hari has fallen for Hamas’ rhetoric hook, line and sinker.

Hari finishes off urging the Palestinians:

“They should declare independence. Then it is up to us – the watching billions – to pressure our governments to make it real, rather than a howl in the dark.”

Hari doesn’t understand that Palestinian society is in no state to declare independence. While building consruction is swiftly taking place in West Bank towns the hatred that persists between Hamas and Fatah will mean that civil war, bloodshed and revenge killings would not be far away.

Hari hasn’t thought the consequence of his logic through but, then again, for Israel’s haters the demonisation of Israel and Israelis far outweighs any concern they really have for the Palestinian people.