Friday, August 11, 2017

Did Benny Morris Change His Views on Alleged Zionist Ethnic Cleansing Plan? - by Shlomi Ben-Meir

...Perhaps his detractors attack him precisely because he is a renowned historian who doesn’t hesitate to "correct a mistake" even if the correction is in favor of the Israeli side; who doesn’t wholeheartedly adopt the Palestinian narrative; and who dares to express views that deviate from what is customary in the radical left.

Shlomi Ben-Meir..
Camera Media Analysis..
09 August '17..

Benny Morris and Daniel Blatman are at it again. The two Israeli historians engaged in another round of intellectual blows regarding the origins of the Palestinian refugee problem.

The previous round took place in Haaretz last year. In a series of articles, the two professors presented their views on the exodus of hundreds of thousands of Arabs from what became the borders of the state of Israel during its war of independence in 1947 to 1949. The Palestinian "Nakba" (Arabic for catastrophe) is one of the main issues in the conflict until this day. Was it a result of a deliberate and systematic policy of ethnic cleansing, to empty Mandate Palestine of its Arab inhabitants (as per the argument of Prof. Blatman)? Or perhaps the Zionist Yishuv had no premeditated plan nor policy to drive out the Arabs, and most left the country without being forcefully evicted (as Prof. Morris argued)?

The debate resumed last weekend, again in Haaretz, with Blatman's piece ("For the Nakba, There's No Need of an 'Expulsion Policy"') criticizing Morris' review ("Israel Had No 'Expulsion Policy' Against the Palestinians in 1948") of Adel Manna's book Nakba and Survival. Morris wrote that during 1948 there was no policy of ethnic cleansing, and the vast majority of the Arabs who left their homes were not expelled. Blatman countered that Morris' current claims contradict the views he held in the past, and the findings of his earlier historical research.

Blatman's claim that today's Benny Morris contradicts and denies the positions that he himself expressed as a historian years ago is a common, albeit false, argument. In fact, while Morris changed his mind on several issues, he has for decades consistently argued that Israel's pre-state leadership did not advance or follow a policy of ethnic cleansing. Morris' argument from the beginning was that the majority of Arabs left the country as a result of a complex range of factors, and not because they were expelled.

The consistency of Benny Morris' views as a historian is an issue with implications far beyond a narrow academic debate. Many observers consider Morris to be one of the most, if not the most, knowledgeable expert on the 1948 war. His conclusion on the question as to whether or not there was a grand Zionist plan to ethnically cleanse Palestine of Arabs carries great weight. On the other hand, if he indeed changed his view for unclear reasons, and if his present claims contradict the findings of his own earlier work, serious questions regarding his credibility arise.

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