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Benny Morris wipes the floor with Mearsheimer and Walt

You folks will of course remember my recent posts about Mearsheimer and Walt and their new paper on The Lobby, the one that has a faint odor of antisemitism to it (oh crap, there I did it again, suggest their paper remind one of age-old conspiracy theories against Jews – I apologize to all of you rolling your eyes and if it makes you feel better I will promise you that your eyes will eventually roll back into their original position). Of course, the paper has now become fodder for the mainstream, not just for a few Israel-bashing scholars like Juan Cole. No, you see the paper’s thesis and information are now casually inserted into op-eds and news reports. After all, the paper comes with a U of Chicago and a Harvard pedigree.

Their paper, however, is shoddy. The research is poorly done, does not include primary sources at all, contains numerous errors of fact and omission, entirely neglects and omits data and relevant information that may undermine its premises and presents a thesis which strikes one as absurd when considered with any logic. GUYS, WHERE IS SAUDI ARABIA IN ALL OF THIS? WHERE IS THE ENERGY LOBBY? WHERE ARE THE NON-JEWS? Nevertheless, this paper is a god-send to Jew and Israel bashers of all stripes and will never, ever leave the political landscape again. In fact, the true danger of this paper is that its accusations are so broad, so deep and so cutting, with the focus being on American Jews and Israel, that one can only hope that the future will be a healthy and rosy one for America because it seems the scapegoating for current problems has begun, has now gone into the mainstream and not just the fringes…and guess who has become target #1?

Those of us who are following as this paper blooms into the new Theory of Why Jews Have Made America Fall Into Deep Doo Doo, however, haven’t failed to notice the articles that are beginning to appear trying to address the accusations of these two scholars. A recent one that I think is worthwhile reading is by prominent Israeli historian, Benny Morris, in the New Republic.

Now, admittedly, Benny Morris is not my favorite historian for a number of reasons, not the least of which he outlines in this essay in noting that pro-Arabs and anti-Israelis and their ilk continue to liberally quote his work to make their cases against Israel. He believes that Walt and Mearsheimer are guilty of the same, but also wants to take them to task for their shoddy history of the Israel-Arab conflict. As he points out, they are amateurs about that which they write, and their selective use of sources is either intentionally disingenuous and/or so flawed that is has caused their analysis of the conflict’s history to fail entirely. This is relevant not in small part because their analysis of this history is part of what leads them to redefine Israel’s history, morality and the circumstances leading to US support of Israel and Israel’s supporters’ arguments on behalf of the special relationship that should exist with the United States. It is also relevant because they rely upon Benny Morris’s work to make some of their claims.

Morris does not tackle their thesis about “The Lobby.” Instead, he focuses on the history that relates to his work. Watching him destroy their scholarship is rewarding and educational. His essay speaks volumes about their the weakness of their work. However, don’t expect them to learn from this or back down either, in their recent letter to the London Review of Books they attempt to address some of their critics’ remarks but can’t even bring themselves to acknowledge their clear error in claiming that Israeli citizenship is acquired through blood kinship.

Some choice quotes from Morris’s essay which I strongly recommend you read because it contains a condensed history lesson:

But what these distinguished professors have produced is otherwise depressing to anyone who values intellectual integrity.

and

Like many pro-Arab propagandists at work today, Mearsheimer and Walt often cite my own books, sometimes quoting directly from them, in apparent corroboration of their arguments. Yet their work is a travesty of the history that I have studied and written for the past two decades. Their work is riddled with shoddiness and defiled by mendacity. Were “The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy” an actual person, I would have to say that he did not have a single honest bone in his body.

and

Mearsheimer and Walt are implicitly arguing that the Zionist movement never really wanted or accepted a compromise–at the very least, that the Jewish national movement was no different from the Palestinian national movement, which always demanded a one-state solution and rejected a compromise based on partition. Now, it is true that Zionism sought the establishment of a Jewish state in Palestine, not a bi-national state in which Jews would enjoy minority status in yet another Muslim-Arab land or in which there would be temporary Jewish-Muslim parity–which, as everybody understood, given the high Arab birth rate, would quickly be transformed into a state with an Arab majority and a Jewish minority. But the acceptance or non-acceptance of partition is another matter. Mearsheimer and Walt imply that down to (and maybe even beyond) 1948, the Zionist leadership rejected the partition of Palestine. This is simply false, no matter what misleading quotations they cull from eminent Israeli historians.

and

The Palestinian story was different. The Palestinian national movement, from its inception up to 2000, from Haj Amin al Husseini to Yasser Arafat, backed by the Arab world, rejected a two-state solution. There was no great debate. The Palestinian leadership rejected the 1937 and 1947 partition plans (and the Begin-Sadat “autonomy plan” of 1978, which would have led to a two-state solution), and insisted that the Jews had no right to even an inch of Palestine. And the Palestinian government of today, led by the popularly elected Hamas, continues to espouse this uncompromising, anti-partitionist one-state position. All of this is completely ignored in Mearsheimer and Walt’s “history.”

and

And, indeed, in 1947-1948 the Palestinian Arabs, supported by the surrounding Arab world, rebelled against the U.N. partition resolution and unleashed a bloody civil war, which was followed by a pan-Arab invasion. The war resulted in a large, partial transfer of population. The chaos that all had foreseen if Palestine were partitioned without an orderly population transfer in fact enveloped the country. But this is emphatically not to say, as Mearsheimer and Walt do, that the Zionists’ occasional ruminations about transfer were translated in 1947-1948 into a overall plan and policy–unleashed, as they put it, when the “opportunity came,” as if what occurred in 1948 was a general and premeditated expulsion.

and

Indeed, down to the end of March 1948, after four months of the Palestinian Arab assault on the Yishuv, backed by the Arab League, Zionist policy was geared to the establishment of a Jewish state with a large Arab minority. Haganah policy throughout these months was to remain on the defensive, to avoid hitting civilians, and generally to refrain from spreading the conflagration to parts of Palestine still untouched by warfare. Indeed, on March 24, 1948, Yisrael Galili, the head of the Haganah National Command, the political leadership of the organization, issued a secret blanket directive to all brigades and units to abide by long-standing official Zionist policy toward the Arab communities in the territory of the emergent Jewish state–to secure “the full rights, needs, and freedom of the Arabs in the Hebrew state without discrimination” and to strive for “co-existence with freedom and respect,” as he put it. And this was not a document devised for Western or U.N. eyes, with a propagandistic purpose; it was a secret, blanket, internal operational directive, in Hebrew.

and

From Mearsheimer and Walt, you would never suspect that the creation of the Palestinian refugee problem in 1948 occurred against the backdrop, and as the result, of a war–a war that for the Jews was a matter of survival, and which those same Palestinians and their Arab brothers had launched. To omit this historical background is bad history–and stark dishonesty.

and

In their introduction, Mearsheimer and Walt tell their readers that “the facts recounted here are not in serious dispute among scholars…. The evidence on which they rest is not controversial.” This is ludicrous. I would offer their readers a contrary proposition: that the “facts” presented by Mearsheimer and Walt suggest a fundamental ignorance of the history with which they deal, and that the “evidence” they deploy is so tendentious as to be evidence only of an acute bias. That is what will be not in serious dispute among scholars.

Read it folks, and read Dershowitz’s paper as well. It is incredible that Walt and Mearsheimer put this out there and regardless of their current claims that they support Israel and had no intentions of writing anything antisemitic, if it walks like a Duke, talks like a Duke and sounds like a Duke, chances are that it’s gonna share some key ideas with a Duke.

2 Comments

  1. Tom Morrissey

    5/10/2006 at 9:24 am

  2. themiddle

    5/11/2006 at 12:24 pm

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