The Happy Arab News Service

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Trophy vs Iron Fist


Nov. 30, 2006
by Yaakov Katz

The IDF plans to purchase and install Trophy active protection anti-missile systems on its Merkava tanks by the end of 2007, a high-ranking military officer said Wednesday.

The decision to purchase the systems was made following the war in Lebanon, during which the Armored Crops sustained heavy losses from Hizbullah anti-tank missile squads which damaged 40 Merkava tanks and killed over 30 tank crew members.

Developed by the Rafael Armament Development Authority, the Trophy system creates a hemispheric protected zone around armored vehicles such as the Merkava tank, which operated prominently in Lebanon during the month-long war this past summer. The system is designed to detect and track a threat and counter it with a launched projectile that intercepts the anti-tank missile.

The IDF has asked the Treasury for a budget boost following the war in Lebanon amounting to NIS 10 billion. Part of the money, the high-ranking officer said, would be allocated to install active protection systems like the Trophy on IDF tanks.

While the Ground Forces Command led by Maj.-Gen. Benny Gantz has decided to procure the Trophy system, it has also asked other Israeli industries, including Israel Military Industries (IMI), to continue with its development of its own original tank missile defense system, called The Iron Fist.

Claimed to be capable of neutralizing all anti-tank threats, including kinetic shells fired by enemy tanks, the Iron Fist is in its final stages of testing according to IMI CEO Avi Felder and would be operational and ready for mass production by the end of 2007, only a few months behind Rafael's Trophy.

The Iron Fist consists of a radar and passive optical system that detect incoming threats and destroy them by using a combustible blast interceptor within a fraction of a second. Unlike the Trophy which fires off a large number of projectiles, the Iron Fist intercepts incoming threats by using a rocket the shape of a mortar that destroys the threat by using a blast effect which crushes its soft components or deflects the missile or kinetic rod in their flight.


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Wednesday, November 29, 2006



By Amos Harel

The American defense contractor Lockheed Martin Corporation has improved its Skyshield air defense system in ways that can offer a future answer to the threats posed by Qassam and Katyusha rockets.

Skyshield, a gun-based air defense system for low-flying aircraft and helicopters, uses bursting rounds that explode in proximity of the target, destroying it. The Israeli defense establishment has been interested in weapons systems of this type in an effort to counter the threat posed by rockets such as Katyushas used during the Lebanon war by Hezbollah against the Galilee, and the Qassams that are fired from the Gaza Strip against the western Negev.

Lockheed carried out improvements of Skyshield so it will be able to intercept rockets, mortars and artillery shells.

The rounds fired by the Skyshield's gun are made of tungsten, and have successfully penetrated and destroyed the warheads of several types of ballistic weapons, including Qassam and Katyusha rockets, during laboratory experiments. The rockets were not destroyed in flight, and therefore cannot be considered as having been intercepted, but at Lockheed there is optimism regarding the possibility that in the future, Skyshield will be able to offer a counter to these threats.

The estimated cost of the system is $15 million and delivery will be possible as early as the beginning of next year.


More Links:


The Jerusalem Post

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Rafael against Kassams

(Thanx, |3runo)


Nov. 28, 2006
Yaakov Katz

The defense establishment plans to make an official decision in the coming days to invest $300 million in an anti-Kassam and anti-Katyusha defense system under development by Rafael - Israel's Armament Development Authority, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

According to the plan, a combination of a laser and an anti-Kassam missile interceptor will be operational for deployment outside the Gaza Strip within a year and a half.

According to a high-ranking defense official involved in the decision-making process, despite heavy public and international pressure, a committee led by Defense Ministry Director-General Gabi Ashkenazi has decided not to invest in the Skyguard anti-missile laser system, developed and manufactured by US defense contractor Northrop Grumman.

Last week, representatives from the Israeli Air Force, the IDF Ground Forces and the Defense Ministry's Research and Development Authority (MAFAT) met to decide which branch of the military would receive the funding and be in charge of the new system. Despite fierce resistance by the Ground Forces Command, the IAF was given control of the project, including its development and integration into operational use.

"The IAF said that they need to be in control of everything that flies in the air," said one senior defense official who was present at the meeting. "The Ground Forces argued that if that is the case, then the IAF should also be responsible for shooting 155 mm artillery shells." The defense official pointed to the US Army's role in funding and developing the Skyguard anti-missile laser until two years ago. "This is an army issue since the troops on the ground are the ones who need the protection from the short-range rockets and mortars," the official said.

The scheme that the defense establishment plans to develop is based on two anti-missile systems under development by Rafael - one involving a solid laser that will have the ability to intercept Kassams in mid-air, in addition to a small and cheap anti-rocket missile with a kinetic warhead. According to defense officials, Northrop Grumman's system, which operates a chemical laser, is dangerous to the environment and can also malfunction in cloudy or rainy weather.

While the development of a short-range rocket defense system has picked up speed since the war in Lebanon, the Israeli defense establishment actually began expressing interest in such a system in the late nineties in conjunction with the US Army which was, at the time, funding the development of a chemical laser cannon - then called Nautilus and now called Skyguard.

According to Israeli defense officials, Israel was told that the development of the system would take two-three years and would cost $80 million. Now, eight years and $400 million ($100 million provided by Israel) later, the project is still incomplete.

The system also only covers an area of three kilometers according to Israeli defense officials, who said that the optimal system would have a range of at least 10 kilometers.

Northrop Grumman has claimed that Skyguard has been improved and that with a $150 million investment it could be operational within a year-and-a-half.

The Israeli MOD has, however, not been allowed to confirm the claims of improvements since the Pentagon has until now refused to allow Northrop Grumman to present the product to the Israeli defense establishment.

Earlier this week, the MOD refused to meet officials from Northrop Grumman claiming that until the company had new findings to present, there was no point in meeting.


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Jews Everywhere


Nov. 28, 2006
by David Byers

Sudan's President Field Marshal Omar Hassan Ahmed al-Bashir claimed Tuesday that reports in western newspapers of hundreds of thousands dead in his country's brutal civil war are all part of an Israeli-led worldwide conspiracy.

In a rambling video-link interview from Khartoum, in which he connected with journalists based in eight different countries, al-Bashir also claimed fatality levels in Darfur were "less than 9,000," instead of a figure of upwards of 400,000 quoted in much of the media, and accepted by the United Nations.

. . .

"You cannot at all rule out the Israeli role in any problem that any Arab country is facing because the security of Israel is based on weakening Arab states," he said.

"Israel would do everything through their media and their different mechanisms - you can't deny they have such influence in circles all over the world so they can do what they want."

Appearing to believe that western media are controlled by their governments, Field Marshal al-Bashir claimed that America and Britain had asked Sudan to recognize Israel and hinted negative coverage of the Darfur conflict could stop as a result.

"Since we took power, these messages have never stopped. They (America, Britain and Israel) would like to divert the Arabs from the central cause of the Arabs, which is Palestine.

"This is a camouflage for what is happening in Iraq, in Palestine, in Afghanistan."

Field Marshal al-Bashir also refused to call in outside help from the United Nations, claiming the organization is infiltrated by western agents from the US and Britain, and praised Saddam Hussein's regime for creating a country which contained "the best Arab citizens in terms of livelihood and stability."


( Firas and I are joking on 'The Thinking Lebanese' blog )

Firas said…

You know what, I knew it. I knew it was you guys behind all of this rubbish about Darfur.

Shame on you!

. . .

Nobody said…

Oh believe me ,Firas, it's nothing. Our worst miscalculation happened when we invented Islam and Arabs.

I am still struggling to comprehend how we became capable of inventing such a monstrosity.

Though my grandfather claimed that according to the grandpa of the grandpa of his grandpa it was absolutely necessary because the Persian Zoroastrians at that time refused to allow the Jews to build an oil pipeline across Iran. And building pipelines is part of our religion. There is no way we can give up on this.

So according to my grandpa Islam and Arabs have been invented to start new geopolitical dynamics in the region but eventually we ended up seating here under the siege by dozens of millions of Arabs. My grandpa always said that were the Jews less smart, the life could have been much easier for them.


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Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Democracy Comes to Bahrain . . . At Last

The New York Times

November 27, 2006

Shiite opposition candidates won 16 of the 17 seats they contested in Saturday’s parliamentary elections in Bahrain, the country’s election commission said Sunday.

The opposition now holds 40 percent of the elected Parliament’s 40 seats, with the 17th contested seat to be decided in a runoff on Dec. 2.

But leaders of the predominantly Shiite opposition party, the Wefaq National Islamic Society, said the gains, which were expected, might not translate into much political power. Government loyalists may retain control of much of the remainder of the lower house, depending on the outcome of the runoff. Furthermore, the upper house, which is appointed by King Hamad al-Khalifa, can overrule any act of the lower house. . .


The opposition in Bahrain won 40% of the seats in the lower house. Passed unnoticed because of the current mess in Iraq and Lebanon, this is another sign of the shifting balance of forces in the region. Though in practical terms this is mostly a symbolic victory for Bahrain's long sidelined Shiite community, it's an achievement that the authorities will find hard to reverse. And without a doubt the latest developments do little to allay fears of the Sunni minority ruling the country, as it is watching Iraq descending into a full blown Sunni Shia civil war.

Michael Young was writing recently:

Within the next decade, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, but also Jordan and Syria, are liable to face considerable instability unless they can reform and become more democratic. To regard the Arab state system as stable in its mediocrity is to misread the recent past. On even the most basic of political issues, namely leadership succession, secular republics have regressed by resorting to dynastic ploys. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has no obvious successor today, and is trying to maneuver so his son can take over from him. In Syria, Hafez Assad had no alternative when his eldest son, Basel, was killed except to pick son number two. The poverty of such choices will only discredit secular nationalist leaders more than they already are, making revolutions, especially Islamic ones, ever more likely.


It is a hard to avoid impression that the region is inching ever closer to the point after which the breakdown of the present political systems and national borders will be inevitable. While the unsustainable political systems are coming under the increasing pressure of the progressively more restless Arab street, it is the huge tensions of unresolved ethnic/religious conflicts and grievances that are the most likely candidate to trigger the regionwide collapse of order. As time passes by these tensions are bound to grow more pronounced and violent, all the more so given how little the current borders and distribution of political power reflect the ethnic reality on the ground. Whether they are secular liberals or Muslim brothers, opposition leaders across the region should know that rocking the boat too hard is risky because of too many sharks lurking below.

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Monday, November 27, 2006

Yankees, Go Home


Nov. 26, 2006
by Yaakov Katz

Northrop Grumman, the US defense contractor that makes the Skyguard anti-missile laser system, was refused meetings with senior Defense Ministry officials this week, The Jerusalem Post has learned.

Skyguard, also known as Nautilus, is a laser cannon capable of intercepting short-range projectiles such as Kassam rockets. It was developed by the US Army in conjunction with the IDF. Israel, which invested $100 million in the project over the past decade, has suspended its participation following a similar decision by the US Army.

After the recent war in Lebanon, Defense Minister Amir Peretz appointed ministry Director-General Maj.-Gen. (res.) Gabi Ashkenazi to head a committee to choose an anti-missile defense system for purchase. According to ministry officials, the panel plans to issue its recommendation in the coming weeks.

Last week, Northrop Grumman asked to meet with officials from the Defense Ministry's Research and Development Authority about the suspended Skyguard project this week. One system has already been tested at the US Army's White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico and according to Northrop Grumman, it could be deployed in Israel within six months.

According to Israeli defense officials, Northrop Grumman asked for a meeting but did not plan to present any new findings. Northrop Grumman is waiting for Pentagon approval to present improvements made to the product to the Israeli defense establishment.

The main issue concerns the system's range. Israel was last told that the system only covers a three-kilometer area, meaning dozens of systems at a cost of billions of dollars would be needed to protect the entire northern border. The Defense Ministry is waiting to see if the company was successful in increasing the system's range to 10 km.

"There is no point meeting with them if they have nothing new to show us," said one defense official. "We told them that when they have something new to tell us we are ready to listen."

Northrop Grumman was unavailable for comment.


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Sunday, November 26, 2006

Middle Eastern Haiku

My enemy is my enemy
My enemy's enemy is my enemy
I have no friends

(by unknown Israeli)

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Friday, November 24, 2006

Another Nasrallah, Another Hezbollah

AFP (Baghdad)

An aide to radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has accused US troops of aligning themselves with Sunni Arab rebels to attack Iraq's majority community.

"It is clear that there is a collaboration between US forces and Baathists. There is evidence of that," said Sahib al-Amiri Saturday, secretary general of the Martyrs of Allah, a Shiite religious body linked to Sadr's movement.

On Friday the Sadr group threatened to withdraw from the ruling national unity government if Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki goes ahead with his meeting with US President George W. Bush in Jordan next week.

But with Bush confirming that the meeting will take place, officials in the movement declined to confirm on Saturday if they would pull out of the government.

"Securing Baghdad and gaining control of the violent situation will be a priority agenda item when President Bush meets with Prime Minister Maliki in just a few days," White House spokesperson Scott Stanzel said on Friday.

Commenting on a helicopter strike by US forces in Baghdad's Shiite stronghold of Sadr City on Friday, Amiri said that the coalition forces were also linked with "the Al-Qaeda". (!!! LOL NB)

On Friday a US helicopter fired at alleged Shiite militiamen of Sadr's Mahdi Army as they launched mortar attacks from Sadr City.

Amiri also cited a Friday raid on Sadr's office in the flashpoint city of Baquba, northeast of Baghdad, as yet another example of a joint operation by US forces and Sunni insurgents.

"The US forces raided the Sadr office and detained its employees. Before it withdrew it allowed Baathists and takfiris (Sunni extremists) to enter and set fire to the office and steal office property," he said.

On Friday a police officer from Baquba confirmed the US raid on Sadr's office in which five guards were detained and said that a few hours later, insurgents bombed the office and set it alight.

Amiri also said that ambulances carrying the wounded from Thursday's bombings in Baghdad's Sadr City were "ambushed by terrorists while US forces just stood by watching".

The Sadr movement is known for its strong anti-US sentiment and regularly accuses US forces of targeting it, especially in Sadr City, in night-time raids.



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When Hell breaks loose

The number of Shiites victims of yesterday's car bomb attacks in Sadr city has reached two hundred. In Bagdad Shiite gunmen burned alive six Sunnies after dousing them with kerosene. The Iraqi soldiers from a nearby army post watched the spectacle and did not intervene. It may be Now or Never for Iraq. The last chance to put it right.

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Bagdad Autumn

A mega-attack in Bagdad. Clashes everywhere. This may be the beginning of an all-out civil war.

Associated Press

Nov 23, 2006

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) -- Sunni Muslim insurgents blew up five car bombs and fired mortars into Baghdad's largest Shiite district Thursday, killing at least 161 people and wounding 257 in a dramatic attack that sent the U.S. ambassador racing to meet with Iraqi leaders in an effort to contain the growing sectarian war.

Shiite mortar teams quickly retaliated, firing 10 shells at Sunni Islam's most important shrine in Baghdad, badly damaging the Abu Hanifa mosque and killing one person. Eight more rounds slammed down near the offices of the Association of Muslim Scholars, the top Sunni Muslim organization in Iraq, setting nearby houses on fire. . .


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Thursday, November 23, 2006

Beirut Autumn


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It's Never Too Late to Have a Happy Childhood (Bedouin Version)


Nov. 22, 2006
by Rebecca Anna Stoil

A member of the Alasam Beduin tribe was killed and three were wounded - two seriously, one moderately - after a brawl erupted into a shoot out on Wednesday evening on the Dimona-Beersheba Highway near the Beduin town of Arouar.

The dead man and the wounded were all in their 20s.

The incident began as a fight among kids but soon deteriorated into a fatal firefight.

Police officers were on the scene, trying to reestablish order.

Police estimated that the attack was criminally motivated.


After reading this I began wondering about what these cute Beduin kids will fight each other with when they grow adults? Kassams and Katyushas maybe?


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Clear Message

Daily Star (Lebanon)

November 23, 2006
By Nada Bakri

. . .

Among those paying their respects in Bikfaya were March 14 Forces figures, former premiers Salim Hoss and Rashid Solh and a parliamentary delegation from the Amal Movement.

Gemayel said neither Hizbullah nor President Emile Lahoud had called or sent representatives to pay their respects.

Free Patriotic Movement leader MP Michel Aoun, an ally of Hizbullah, said in a separate interview that Gemayel's family told him "circumstances were not appropriate for his visit."

However, Aoun urged his supporters to participate in Gemayel's funeral, which is expected to be followed by a massive demonstration organized by the March 14 Forces.

A Hizbullah spokesperson said the party had issued a statement condemning the assassination, adding "paying condolences is a normal duty and it will take place if not today, tomorrow. Timing is a small detail." . . .


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One More to Go

Naharnet (Lebanon)

Beirut, 22 Nov 06

. . .

Down to just 17 ministers from its original complement of 24 after the killing and earlier resignations, it would take the departure, or killing, of just one more cabinet member for it to lose the statutory quorum of two-thirds plus one required by the constitution.

The assassination "constitutes a crisis for a government which counts on the number of ministers still alive in order to guarantee the constitutional quorum to press ahead with the procedures for the (proposed) international tribunal" to try Hariri's murder, An-Nahar said. . . --> Source


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Wednesday, November 22, 2006

The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine - III

I think these posts, though dealing with different subjects, somehow touch on the same issues: intelectual honesty and taking responsibility vs self justification, the idiotism of politically correct vs common sense, the idealism and wishful thinking vs practicality and the art of possible.

Rio Comes to Gaza

Talking to Neighbors is a Waste of Time

The Show Must Go On

The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine

The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine - II

'Nobody' Goes to Hollywood Beit Lehem

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Monday, November 20, 2006

The Threat from Within

'Israel: The Threat from Within': An Exchange
By Benny Morris, Reply by Henry Siegman

In response to Israel: The Threat from Within* (February 26, 2004)

To the Editors:

Henry Siegman ["Israel: The Threat from Within," NYR, February 26] simply, completely, does not understand the Middle East. How else explain his take on Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmad Yassin who, he said, had just offered to "postpone...'military' operations in return for an Israeli withdrawal to its pre-1967 borders." Siegman hailed this "change in [Hamas] policy," even citing abstruse points of Jewish theology in support.

To say that Siegman is bamboozling his readers is the mother of all understatements. For decades, with commendable forthrightness and consistency, the leaders of Hamas and the Islamic Jihad have defined their goal as the destruction of Israel and its replacement with an Islamic Arab polity. (Palestinian Authority head Yasser Arafat has the same goal in mind and says as much either in code (publicly) or openly (when he believes he is not being taped).) The whole Arab world, with the Palestinians in the vanguard, continues to insist on Israel's illegitimacy and to hope for its disappearance. The dispatch of droves of suicide bombers into Israeli cities, by the fundamentalist organizations and Arafat's own "secular" Fatah, is merely the concrete manifestation, in microcosm, of this outlook.

What Yassin actually said (vide interview in Al Usbu'a, Cairo, January 19, 2004) was that his organization would suspend its attacks if Israel "ended the occupation...and [agreed] to the return of the Palestinian refugees to the homes from which they were expelled in the 1948 war and [agreed to] the establishment of a Palestinian state in the territories captured in 1967."

There are several problems here. Surprisingly, even Siegman noticed one of them: Yassin had not promised an indefinite truce; he could, after graciously accepting the territories from Israel, renew at will the assault on Israel. He had not promised "peace."

Secondly, Yassin had said nothing new. He had merely reiterated his agreement to a hudna (a temporary truce)—and this is sanctioned in Muslim theology (which is the theology Siegman should have been studying). It is all in the Koran. In 628, the Prophet Muhammad agreed to a year-long hudna, hudnat Hudeibiya, which he used to reorganize his forces and then, unilaterally, to break the truce and utterly destroy his erstwhile partners in nonbelligerency. This is exactly what Yassin is proposing vis-à-vis Israel, nothing more. (Arafat, incidentally, in a sermon in a mosque in Johannesburg back in 1994 had said the same thing about the Oslo accords—from his perspective, they were just another hudnat Hudeibiya.)

Lastly, Yassin had linked the suspension of hostilities to Israel's acceptance of a mass refugee return. And as every (Palestinian) child knows (though perhaps not Siegman), a return of the refugees—almost four million are on the UN rolls—would instantly lead to anarchy and the destruction of the Jewish state, which is why the Palestinians, from Arafat and Yassin down, continue to insist on it, and why both Barak and Clinton rejected it back in the negotiations of 2000.

In his article, Siegman repeatedly "cited" things I had said—with a consistency of distortion that is truly mind-boggling. Just to give one key example: I most emphatically never stated anywhere that "the dismantling of Palestinian society...and the expulsion of 700,000 Palestinians [were] a deliberate and planned operation intended to 'cleanse'...those parts of Palestine assigned to the Jews." Quite the opposite. Had Siegman bothered to read my books, he would have discovered that mainstream (Haganah–JewishAgency) Zionist policy, until the end of March 1948—meaning during the first four months of the war—was to protect the Arab minority in the Jewish areas and to try to maintain peaceful coexistence. Intentions changed only in April, when the Yishuv was with its back to the wall, losing the battle for the roads and facing potentially politicidal and genocidal pan-Arab invasion. And even then, no systematic policy of expulsion was ever adopted or implemented (hence Israel's one-million-strong Arab minority today). The Arabs have only themselves to blame for the (unexpected) results of the war that they launched with the aim of "ethnically cleansing" Palestine of the Jews. (Contemporary Arab apologists, always full of righteous indignation, conveniently forget this.)

And I did maintain, though the Ha'aretz interviewer Ari Shavit (unfairly) did not quote me in full, that had the 1948 war ended, in a demographic sense, more decisively, with either the Jews thrown into the sea or the Palestinians thrown completely into Transjordan, there establishing a state of their own (with all of Palestine west of the Jordan becoming Jewish), the Middle East would have enjoyed a far happier, quieter future, without much of the death and suffering we have witnessed since 1948. It is the demographically indecisive outcome of 1948, with the two populations still intermixed (and further intermixed by Israeli conquest and settlement of the territories since 1967), that has been one of the sources of continuing conflict. (This may not please liberal ears, but there have been cases in history of expulsions that, in the long term, have benefited both the expelling and expelled peoples (the mutual Greek and Turkish population "transfers" of the early 1920s being cases in point.)

I emphatically do not, as Siegman implies, support transfer (though I can foresee circumstances, in which Israel, attacked by the Arabs and (again) in existential, genocidal peril, might resort to similar actions). In present circumstances, transfer would be immoral and is in any case impractical. And I do not justify under any circumstances, murder, massacres, and rapes, as Siegman claims by (again) interweaving real quotes with his own syllogisms.

Benny Morris


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Kiss goodbye to a liberal Middle East

A sort of 'be careful with what you are wishing for' article. Actually it's too late now. . .

Daily Star (Lebanon)

November 16, 2006
By Michael Young

Amid the joy surrounding the defeat of the Republicans in last week's midterm congressional elections, I might be forgiven this dissenting observation: With George W. Bush so roundly beaten, don't expect much American interest, in the foreseeable future and probably beyond that, for liberalism in the Middle East. We're returning to the days when the United States put its regional hopes mainly in leaders who were reliable thugs.

That's not to suggest that Bush was particularly consistent in his democratic preaching, or that he formulated his message in the most convincing of ways in Iraq. However, the historic mistake of Arab liberals was to stand elbow to elbow with the despots oppressing them in condemning the American democratic project for the region, instead of exploiting it. --> Continue Reading Rather than drawing on the Americans' presence in their midst for their own benefit, far too many of liberals fell back on a restricting cliche that the US was practicing a new form of imperialism. Perhaps it was, but early on it became painfully clear that that imperialism was as soft and malleable as a warm slug; that if the Americans could bend before the frail figure of Ayatollah Ali Sistani, they would probably listen to, even assist, those like the Lebanese who had decided to rid themselves of previously unassailable oppressors.

There was considerable hypocrisy in the Arab liberal reaction to Bush's wars. For decades, an unwavering lament of the liberals was that the US had abandoned democrats in favor of autocrats. That was true, particularly during the Cold War, when administrations pushing for greater openness on the part of their Arab allies were reminded by the latter that pushing too hard might induce them to lean toward the Soviet Union. In an era of superpower competition, the "realist" paradigm accepted such blackmail: It was better for the US to deal with states primarily on the basis of interests as opposed to values, even if values were never abandoned in Washington's public rhetoric.

That's where we are heading again today. American realists are making their comeback, most recently through Robert Gates at the Defense Department. However, Gates is part of a larger confederacy of old government hands rebounding thanks to the chaos in Iraq: "We told you so" is their leitmotif, and while many of these individuals can blend in an occasional value with their estimates of interests, their expectations remain decidedly low when it comes to the Middle East.

Prepare for more of what a realist paragon, Brent Scowcroft, national security adviser to President George H.W. Bush, told The New York Observer in summer 2004. "It's not that I don't believe Iraq is capable of democracy. But the notion that within every human being beats this primeval instinct for democracy has not ever been demonstrated to me."

In that phrase lies much contempt and a fundamental justification for tying America's wagon to Arab dictators. That is perhaps why Scowcroft, his colleague James Baker, who now co-chairs the Iraq Study Group, and their boss, the elder President Bush, never expressed noticeable remorse for two of their more callous decisions in the Middle East. One was their irresponsible encouragement of Iraqis to revolt against Saddam Hussein's regime in early 1991, after its army's defeat in the Gulf War. Bush's unwillingness to follow up on that invitation with American assistance led to a savage Baathist counterattack that killed tens of thousands of Shiites. And, prior to that, in October 1990, the Bush administration effectively ceded Lebanon to Syria so that President Hafez Assad would agree to join the international coalition convening to oust Iraqi forces from Kuwait.

There are two problems with a return to realism past. The first is that 9/11, whichever way you cut it, was a by-product of that approach. Because militant Islam thrives in repressive Arab societies, because America can only appear more hateful to peoples who see it bolstering their absolute rulers, nothing prevents another terrorist attack against the US. That is the fatal flaw in the realists' approach. For them 9/11 was a glitch in the international order, albeit a substantial one, an event that should have merely brought retaliatory police action designed to re-establish an equilibrium. Realists were incapable of gauging the importance of ideas, of understanding that militant Islam is perilously eschatological in its ambitions. In their fixation on power, realists never see beyond the dry instruments increasing or lessening power.

The second problem is that America's traditional Arab allies, those many prominent realists continue to serve in sundry ways, particularly Egypt and Saudi Arabia, are fast being marginalized by the region's non-Arab peripheral states - Iran, Turkey and Israel. Within the next decade, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, but also Jordan and Syria, are liable to face considerable instability unless they can reform and become more democratic. To regard the Arab state system as stable in its mediocrity is to misread the recent past. On even the most basic of political issues, namely leadership succession, secular republics have regressed by resorting to dynastic ploys. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak has no obvious successor today, and is trying to maneuver so his son can take over from him. In Syria, Hafez Assad had no alternative when his eldest son, Basel, was killed except to pick son number two. The poverty of such choices will only discredit secular nationalist leaders more than they already are, making revolutions, especially Islamic ones, ever more likely.

But American realists can't see that either, because in their deference to the natural order of states, to sovereignty, they cannot bring themselves to deplore what's happening inside states. That's why it's ironical that Arab liberals should now applaud the onset of a realist American foreign policy toward the Arab world. After all, the liberals always argued that unless the West preoccupied itself with the domestic evils of Arab regimes, they would be vulnerable to the policemen and intelligence agents tormenting them. They can now rest assured: The "neo-imperial" US has increasingly less of an intention to defend their cause, and with realists back in the forefront, ample philosophical justification not to do so. --> Source

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Sunday, November 19, 2006

The Ethnic Cleansing of Palestine - II

I was posting here starting from the comment #45 or something ....

Here is the interview to Haaretz by Israeli historian Benny Morris that served as a basis for the debate (flame war?). Whatever one may think about Morris' ideas it is hard not to be impressed by his outspokeness and intelectual honesty.

An Interview with Benny Morris (Ha'aretz)

January 16, 2004
By Ari Shavit

Benny Morris says he was always a Zionist. People were mistaken when they labeled him a post-Zionist, when they thought that his historical study on the birth of the Palestinian refugee problem was intended to undercut the Zionist enterprise. Nonsense, Morris says, that's completely unfounded. Some readers simply misread the book. They didn't read it with the same detachment, the same moral neutrality, with which it was written. So they came to the mistaken conclusion that when Morris describes the cruelest deeds that the Zionist movement perpetrated in 1948 he is actually being condemnatory, that when he describes the large-scale expulsion operations he is being denunciatory. They did not conceive that the great documenter of the sins of Zionism in fact identifies with those sins. That he thinks some of them, at least, were unavoidable. --> Continue Reading

Two years ago, different voices began to be heard. The historian who was considered a radical leftist suddenly maintained that Israel had no one to talk to. The researcher who was accused of being an Israel hater (and was boycotted by the Israeli academic establishment) began to publish articles in favor of Israel in the British paper The Guardian.

Whereas citizen Morris turned out to be a not completely snow-white dove, historian Morris continued to work on the Hebrew translation of his massive work "Righteous Victims: A History of the Zionist-Arab Conflict, 1881-2001," which was written in the old, peace-pursuing style. And at the same time historian Morris completed the new version of his book on the refugee problem, which is going to strengthen the hands of those who abominate Israel. So that in the past two years citizen Morris and historian Morris worked as though there is no connection between them, as though one was trying to save what the other insists on eradicating.

Both books will appear in the coming month. The book on the history of the Zionist-Arab conflict will be published in Hebrew by Am Oved in Tel Aviv, while the Cambridge University Press will publish "The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited" (it originally appeared, under the CUP imprint, in 1987). That book describes in chilling detail the atrocities of the Nakba. Isn't Morris ever frightened at the present-day political implications of his historical study? Isn't he fearful that he has contributed to Israel becoming almost a pariah state? After a few moments of evasion, Morris admits that he is. Sometimes he really is frightened. Sometimes he asks himself what he has wrought.

He is short, plump, and very intense. The son of immigrants from England, he was born in Kibbutz Ein Hahoresh and was a member of the left-wing Hashomer Hatza'ir youth movement. In the past, he was a reporter for the Jerusalem Post and refused to do military service in the territories. He is now a professor of history at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev in Be'er Sheva. But sitting in his armchair in his Jerusalem apartment, he does not don the mantle of the cautious academic. Far from it: Morris spews out his words, rapidly and energetically, sometimes spilling over into English. He doesn't think twice before firing off the sharpest, most shocking statements, which are anything but politically correct. He describes horrific war crimes offhandedly, paints apocalyptic visions with a smile on his lips. He gives the observer the feeling that this agitated individual, who with his own hands opened the Zionist Pandora's box, is still having difficulty coping with what he found in it, still finding it hard to deal with the internal contradictions that are his lot and the lot of us all.

Rape, massacre, transfer

Benny Morris, in the month ahead the new version of your book on the birth of the Palestinian refugee problem is due to be published. Who will be less pleased with the book - the Israelis or the Palestinians?

"The revised book is a double-edged sword. It is based on many documents that were not available to me when I wrote the original book, most of them from the Israel Defense Forces Archives. What the new material shows is that there were far more Israeli acts of massacre than I had previously thought. To my surprise, there were also many cases of rape. In the months of April-May 1948, units of the Haganah [the pre-state defense force that was the precursor of the IDF] were given operational orders that stated explicitly that they were to uproot the villagers, expel them and destroy the villages themselves.

"At the same time, it turns out that there was a series of orders issued by the Arab Higher Committee and by the Palestinian intermediate levels to remove children, women and the elderly from the villages. So that on the one hand, the book reinforces the accusation against the Zionist side, but on the other hand it also proves that many of those who left the villages did so with the encouragement of the Palestinian leadership itself."

According to your new findings, how many cases of Israeli rape were there in 1948?

"About a dozen. In Acre four soldiers raped a girl and murdered her and her father. In Jaffa, soldiers of the Kiryati Brigade raped one girl and tried to rape several more. At Hunin, which is in the Galilee, two girls were raped and then murdered. There were one or two cases of rape at Tantura, south of Haifa. There was one case of rape at Qula, in the center of the country. At the village of Abu Shusha, near Kibbutz Gezer [in the Ramle area] there were four female prisoners, one of whom was raped a number of times. And there were other cases. Usually more than one soldier was involved. Usually there were one or two Palestinian girls. In a large proportion of the cases the event ended with murder. Because neither the victims nor the rapists liked to report these events, we have to assume that the dozen cases of rape that were reported, which I found, are not the whole story. They are just the tip of the iceberg."

According to your findings, how many acts of Israeli massacre were perpetrated in 1948?

"Twenty-four. In some cases four or five people were executed, in others the numbers were 70, 80, 100. There was also a great deal of arbitrary killing. Two old men are spotted walking in a field - they are shot. A woman is found in an abandoned village - she is shot. There are cases such as the village of Dawayima [in the Hebron region], in which a column entered the village with all guns blazing and killed anything that moved.

"The worst cases were Saliha (70-80 killed), Deir Yassin (100-110), Lod (250), Dawayima (hundreds) and perhaps Abu Shusha (70). There is no unequivocal proof of a large-scale massacre at Tantura, but war crimes were perpetrated there. At Jaffa there was a massacre about which nothing had been known until now. The same at Arab al Muwassi, in the north. About half of the acts of massacre were part of Operation Hiram [in the north, in October 1948]: at Safsaf, Saliha, Jish, Eilaboun, Arab al Muwasi, Deir al Asad, Majdal Krum, Sasa. In Operation Hiram there was a unusually high concentration of executions of people against a wall or next to a well in an orderly fashion.

"That can't be chance. It's a pattern. Apparently, various officers who took part in the operation understood that the expulsion order they received permitted them to do these deeds in order to encourage the population to take to the roads. The fact is that no one was punished for these acts of murder. Ben-Gurion silenced the matter. He covered up for the officers who did the massacres."

What you are telling me here, as though by the way, is that in Operation Hiram there was a comprehensive and explicit expulsion order. Is that right?

"Yes. One of the revelations in the book is that on October 31, 1948, the commander of the Northern Front, Moshe Carmel, issued an order in writing to his units to expedite the removal of the Arab population. Carmel took this action immediately after a visit by Ben-Gurion to the Northern Command in Nazareth. There is no doubt in my mind that this order originated with Ben-Gurion. Just as the expulsion order for the city of Lod, which was signed by Yitzhak Rabin, was issued immediately after Ben-Gurion visited the headquarters of Operation Dani [July 1948]."

Are you saying that Ben-Gurion was personally responsible for a deliberate and systematic policy of mass expulsion?

"From April 1948, Ben-Gurion is projecting a message of transfer. There is no explicit order of his in writing, there is no orderly comprehensive policy, but there is an atmosphere of [population] transfer. The transfer idea is in the air. The entire leadership understands that this is the idea. The officer corps understands what is required of them. Under Ben-Gurion, a consensus of transfer is created."

Ben-Gurion was a "transferist"?

"Of course. Ben-Gurion was a transferist. He understood that there could be no Jewish state with a large and hostile Arab minority in its midst. There would be no such state. It would not be able to exist."

I don't hear you condemning him.

"Ben-Gurion was right. If he had not done what he did, a state would not have come into being. That has to be clear. It is impossible to evade it. Without the uprooting of the Palestinians, a Jewish state would not have arisen here."

When ethnic cleansing is justified

Benny Morris, for decades you have been researching the dark side of Zionism. You are an expert on the atrocities of 1948. In the end, do you in effect justify all this? Are you an advocate of the transfer of 1948?

"There is no justification for acts of rape. There is no justification for acts of massacre. Those are war crimes. But in certain conditions, expulsion is not a war crime. I don't think that the expulsions of 1948 were war crimes. You can't make an omelet without breaking eggs. You have to dirty your hands."

We are talking about the killing of thousands of people, the destruction of an entire society.

"A society that aims to kill you forces you to destroy it. When the choice is between destroying or being destroyed, it's better to destroy."

There is something chilling about the quiet way in which you say that.

"If you expected me to burst into tears, I'm sorry to disappoint you. I will not do that."

So when the commanders of Operation Dani are standing there and observing the long and terrible column of the 50,000 people expelled from Lod walking eastward, you stand there with them? You justify them?

"I definitely understand them. I understand their motives. I don't think they felt any pangs of conscience, and in their place I wouldn't have felt pangs of conscience. Without that act, they would not have won the war and the state would not have come into being."

You do not condemn them morally?


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 of your 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.

"Remember another thing: the Arab people gained a large slice of the planet. Not thanks to its skills or its great virtues, but because it conquered and murdered and forced those it conquered to convert during many generations. But in the end the Arabs have 22 states. The Jewish people did not have even one state. There was no reason in the world why it should not have one state. Therefore, from my point of view, the need to establish this state in this place overcame the injustice that was done to the Palestinians by uprooting them."

And morally speaking, you have no problem with that deed?

"That is correct. Even the great American democracy could not have been created without the annihilation of the Indians. There are cases in which the overall, final good justifies harsh and cruel acts that are committed in the course of history."

And in our case it effectively justifies a population transfer.

"That's what emerges."

And you take that in stride? War crimes? Massacres? The burning fields and the devastated villages of the Nakba?

"You have to put things in proportion. These are small war crimes. All told, if we take all the massacres and all the executions of 1948, we come to about 800 who were killed. In comparison to the massacres that were perpetrated in Bosnia, that's peanuts. In comparison to the massacres the Russians perpetrated against the Germans at Stalingrad, that's chicken feed. When you take into account that there was a bloody civil war here and that we lost an entire 1 percent of the population, you find that we behaved very well."

The next transfer

You went through an interesting process. You went to research Ben-Gurion and the Zionist establishment critically, but in the end you actually identify with them. You are as tough in your words as they were in their deeds.

"You may be right. Because I investigated the conflict in depth, I was forced to cope with the in-depth questions that those people coped with. I understood the problematic character of the situation they faced and maybe I adopted part of their universe of concepts. But I do not identify with Ben-Gurion. I think he made a serious historical mistake in 1948. Even though he understood the demographic issue and the need to establish a Jewish state without a large Arab minority, he got cold feet during the war. In the end, he faltered."

I'm not sure I understand. Are you saying that Ben-Gurion erred in expelling too few Arabs?

"If he was already engaged in expulsion, maybe he should have done a complete job. I know that this stuns the Arabs and the liberals and the politically correct types. But my feeling is that this place would be quieter and know less suffering if the matter had been resolved once and for all. If Ben-Gurion had carried out a large expulsion and cleansed the whole country - the whole Land of Israel, as far as the Jordan River. It may yet turn out that this was his fatal mistake. If he had carried out a full expulsion - rather than a partial one - he would have stabilized the State of Israel for generations."

I find it hard to believe what I am hearing.

"If the end of the story turns out to be a gloomy one for the Jews, it will be because Ben-Gurion did not complete the transfer in 1948. Because he left a large and volatile demographic reserve in the West Bank and Gaza and within Israel itself."

In his place, would you have expelled them all? All the Arabs in the country?

"But I am not a statesman. I do not put myself in his place. But as an historian, I assert that a mistake was made here. Yes. The non-completion of the transfer was a mistake."

And today? Do you advocate a transfer today?

"If you are asking me whether I support the transfer and expulsion of the Arabs from the West Bank, Gaza and perhaps even from Galilee and the Triangle, I say not at this moment. I am not willing to be a partner to that act. In the present circumstances it is neither moral nor realistic. The world would not allow it, the Arab world would not allow it, it would destroy the Jewish society from within. But I am ready to tell you that in other circumstances, apocalyptic ones, which are liable to be realized in five or ten years, I can see expulsions. If we find ourselves with atomic weapons around us, or if there is a general Arab attack on us and a situation of warfare on the front with Arabs in the rear shooting at convoys on their way to the front, acts of expulsion will be entirely reasonable. They may even be essential."

Including the expulsion of Israeli Arabs?

"The Israeli Arabs are a time bomb. Their slide into complete Palestinization has made them an emissary of the enemy that is among us. They are a potential fifth column. In both demographic and security terms they are liable to undermine the state. So that if Israel again finds itself in a situation of existential threat, as in 1948, it may be forced to act as it did then. If we are attacked by Egypt (after an Islamist revolution in Cairo) and by Syria, and chemical and biological missiles slam into our cities, and at the same time Israeli Palestinians attack us from behind, I can see an expulsion situation. It could happen. If the threat to Israel is existential, expulsion will be justified."

Cultural dementia

Besides being tough, you are also very gloomy. You weren't always like that, were you?

"My turning point began after 2000. I wasn't a great optimist even before that. True, I always voted Labor or Meretz or Sheli [a dovish party of the late 1970s], and in 1988 I refused to serve in the territories and was jailed for it, but I always doubted the intentions of the Palestinians. The events of Camp David and what followed in their wake turned the doubt into certainty. When the Palestinians rejected the proposal of [prime minister Ehud] Barak in July 2000 and the Clinton proposal in December 2000, I understood that they are unwilling to accept the two-state solution. They want it all. Lod and Acre and Jaffa."

If that's so, then the whole Oslo process was mistaken and there is a basic flaw in the entire worldview of the Israeli peace movement.

"Oslo had to be tried. But today it has to be clear that from the Palestinian point of view, Oslo was a deception. [Palestinian leader Yasser] Arafat did not change for the worse, Arafat simply defrauded us. He was never sincere in his readiness for compromise and conciliation."

Do you really believe Arafat wants to throw us into the sea?

"He wants to send us back to Europe, to the sea we came from. He truly sees us as a Crusader state and he thinks about the Crusader precedent and wishes us a Crusader end. I'm certain that Israeli intelligence has unequivocal information proving that in internal conversations Arafat talks seriously about the phased plan [which would eliminate Israel in stages]. But the problem is not just Arafat. The entire Palestinian national elite is prone to see us as Crusaders and is driven by the phased plan. That's why the Palestinians are not honestly ready to forgo the right of return. They are preserving it as an instrument with which they will destroy the Jewish state when the time comes. They can't tolerate the existence of a Jewish state - not in 80 percent of the country and not in 30 percent. From their point of view, the Palestinian state must cover the whole Land of Israel."

If so, the two-state solution is not viable; even if a peace treaty is signed, it will soon collapse.

"Ideologically, I support the two-state solution. It's the only alternative to the expulsion of the Jews or the expulsion of the Palestinians or total destruction. But in practice, in this generation, a settlement of that kind will not hold water. At least 30 to 40 percent of the Palestinian public and at least 30 to 40 percent of the heart of every Palestinian will not accept it. After a short break, terrorism will erupt again and the war will resume."

Your prognosis doesn't leave much room for hope, does it?

"It's hard for me, too. There is not going to be peace in the present generation. There will not be a solution. We are doomed to live by the sword. I'm already fairly old, but for my children that is especially bleak. I don't know if they will want to go on living in a place where there is no hope. Even if Israel is not destroyed, we won't see a good, normal life here in the decades ahead."

Aren't your harsh words an over-reaction to three hard years of terrorism?

"The bombing of the buses and restaurants really shook me. They made me understand the depth of the hatred for us. They made me understand that the Palestinian, Arab and Muslim hostility toward Jewish existence here is taking us to the brink of destruction. I don't see the suicide bombings as isolated acts. They express the deep will of the Palestinian people. That is what the majority of the Palestinians want. They want what happened to the bus to happen to all of us."

Yet we, too, bear responsibility for the violence and the hatred: the occupation, the roadblocks, the closures, maybe even the Nakba itself.

"You don't have to tell me that. I have researched Palestinian history. I understand the reasons for the hatred very well. The Palestinians are retaliating now not only for yesterday's closure but for the Nakba as well. But that is not a sufficient explanation. The peoples of Africa were oppressed by the European powers no less than the Palestinians were oppressed by us, but nevertheless I don't see African terrorism in London, Paris or Brussels. The Germans killed far more of us than we killed the Palestinians, but we aren't blowing up buses in Munich and Nuremberg. So there is something else here, something deeper, that has to do with Islam and Arab culture."

Are you trying to argue that Palestinian terrorism derives from some sort of deep cultural problem?

"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. A world that makes those who are not part of the camp of Islam fair game. Revenge is also important here. 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. If it obtains chemical or biological or atomic weapons, it will use them. If it is able, it will also commit genocide."

I want to insist on my point: A large part of the responsibility for the hatred of the Palestinians rests with us. After all, you yourself showed us that the Palestinians experienced a historical catastrophe.

"True. But when one has to deal with a serial killer, it's not so important to discover why he became a serial killer. What's important is to imprison the murderer or to execute him."

Explain the image: Who is the serial killer in the analogy?

"The barbarians who want to take our lives. The people the Palestinian society sends to carry out the terrorist attacks, and in some way the Palestinian society itself as well. 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."

What does that mean? What should we do tomorrow morning?

"We have to try to heal the Palestinians. Maybe over the years the establishment of a Palestinian state will help in the healing process. But in the meantime, until the medicine is found, they have to be contained so that they will not succeed in murdering us."

To fence them in? To place them under closure?

"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."

War of barbarians

Benny Morris, have you joined the right wing?

"No, no. I still think of myself as left-wing. I still support in principle two states for two peoples."

But you don't believe that this solution will last. You don't believe in peace.

"In my opinion, we will not have peace, no."

Then what is your solution?

"In this generation there is apparently no solution. To be vigilant, to defend the country as far as is possible."

The iron wall approach?

"Yes. An iron wall is a good image. An iron wall is the most reasonable policy for the coming generation. My colleague Avi Shlein described this well: What Jabotinsky proposed is what Ben-Gurion adopted. In the 1950s, there was a dispute between Ben-Gurion and Moshe Sharett. Ben-Gurion argued that the Arabs understand only force and that ultimate force is the one thing that will persuade them to accept our presence here. He was right. That's not to say that we don't need diplomacy. Both toward the West and for our own conscience, it's important that we strive for a political solution. But in the end, what will decide their readiness to accept us will be force alone. Only the recognition that they are not capable of defeating us."

For a left-winger, you sound very much like a right-winger, wouldn't you say?

"I'm trying to be realistic. I know it doesn't always sound politically correct, but I think that political correctness poisons history in any case. It impedes our ability to see the truth. And I also identify with Albert Camus. He was considered a left-winger and a person of high morals, but when he referred to the Algerian problem he placed his mother ahead of morality. Preserving my people is more important than universal moral concepts."

Are you a neo-conservative? Do you read the current historical reality in the terms of Samuel Huntington?

"I think there is a clash between civilizations here [as Huntington argues]. I think the West today resembles the Roman Empire of the fourth, fifth and sixth centuries: The barbarians are attacking it and they may also destroy it."

The Muslims are barbarians, then?

"I think the values I mentioned earlier are values of barbarians - the attitude toward democracy, freedom, openness; the attitude toward human life. In that sense they are barbarians. The Arab world as it is today is barbarian."

And in your view these new barbarians are truly threatening the Rome of our time?

"Yes. The West is stronger but it's not clear whether it knows how to repulse this wave of hatred. The phenomenon of the mass Muslim penetration into the West and their settlement there is creating a dangerous internal threat. A similar process took place in Rome. They let the barbarians in and they toppled the empire from within."

Is it really all that dramatic? Is the West truly in danger?

"Yes. I think that the war between the civilizations is the main characteristic of the 21st century. I think President Bush is wrong when he denies the very existence of that war. It's not only a matter of bin Laden. This is a struggle against a whole world that espouses different values. And we are on the front line. Exactly like the Crusaders, we are the vulnerable branch of Europe in this place."

The situation as you describe it is extremely harsh. You are not entirely convinced that we can survive here, are you?

"The possibility of annihilation exists."

Would you describe yourself as an apocalyptic person?

"The whole Zionist project is apocalyptic. It exists within hostile surroundings and in a certain sense its existence is unreasonable. It wasn't reasonable for it to succeed in 1881 and it wasn't reasonable for it to succeed in 1948 and it's not reasonable that it will succeed now. Nevertheless, it has come this far. In a certain way it is miraculous. I live the events of 1948, and 1948 projects itself on what could happen here. Yes, I think of Armageddon. It's possible. Within the next 20 years there could be an atomic war here."

If Zionism is so dangerous for the Jews and if Zionism makes the Arabs so wretched, maybe it's a mistake?

"No, Zionism was not a mistake. The desire to establish a Jewish state here was a legitimate one, a positive one. But given the character of Islam and given the character of the Arab nation, it was a mistake to think that it would be possible to establish a tranquil state here that lives in harmony with its surroundings."

Which leaves us, nevertheless, with two possibilities: either a cruel, tragic Zionism, or the forgoing of Zionism.

"Yes. That's so. You have pared it down, but that's correct."

Would you agree that this historical reality is intolerable, that there is something inhuman about it?

"Yes. But that's so for the Jewish people, not the Palestinians. A people that suffered for 2,000 years, that went through the Holocaust, arrives at its patrimony but is thrust into a renewed round of bloodshed, that is perhaps the road to annihilation. In terms of cosmic justice, that's terrible. It's far more shocking than what happened in 1948 to a small part of the Arab nation that was then in Palestine."

So what you are telling me is that you live the Palestinian Nakba of the past less than you live the possible Jewish Nakba of the future?

"Yes. Destruction could be the end of this process. It could be the end of the Zionist experiment. And that's what really depresses and scares me."

The title of the book you are now publishing in Hebrew is "Victims." In the end, then, your argument is that of the two victims of this conflict, we are the bigger one.

"Yes. Exactly. We are the greater victims in the course of history and we are also the greater potential victim. Even though we are oppressing the Palestinians, we are the weaker side here. We are a small minority in a large sea of hostile Arabs who want to eliminate us. So it's possible than when their desire is realized, everyone will understand what I am saying to you now. Everyone will understand we are the true victims. But by then it will be too late."

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Saturday, November 18, 2006

And Now For Some Facts

New Republic
Post date 04.28.06 | Issue date 05.08.06

And Now For Some Facts
by Benny Morris


John J. Mearsheimer and Stephen M. Walt's "The Israel Lobby and U.S. Foreign Policy" is a nasty piece of work. Some of what they assert regarding the terrorist tactics of certain Zionist groups during the 1930s, and the atrocities committed by Israeli troops in the War of 1948, and the harsh Israeli measures against the Palestinians during the second intifada, and certain activities of the pro-Israel lobby in the United States over the past decades--some of this is correct, and I realize as I write this sentence that it will henceforth be trotted out by the Mearsheimers and Walts of the world, as by their Arab admirers, while they omit the previous sentence and all that now follows. But what these distinguished professors have produced is otherwise depressing to anyone who values intellectual integrity.

Mearsheimer and Walt build their case mainly by means of omission: they tell certain facts while omitting others, sometimes more apt and crucial. And occasionally they distort facts and figures. The thesis of their study, which was supported by the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, is that America's support of Israel runs contrary to American national interests, and that it is not grounded in "a compelling moral case." To establish the latter contention, they deny that Israel is the weaker party in the Arab-Israeli conflict; and that it is a democracy; and that "Israel's conduct has been morally superior to [that of] its adversaries."

In order to highlight the authors' methodology and to give an accurate picture of their scholarship, I wish to focus on several historical points that they make to sustain their case. (I will leave it to others to show what should be perfectly obvious: that the pro-Israel lobby is not the conspiratorial tail that wags the American dog.) I must confess to a personal interest in the matter. 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.

--> Continue ReadingII.

I will begin with the question of the balance of forces between Israel and the Arab world--a political-military issue with moral overtones, because it begs the question of who in this conflict was, and remains, the underdog deserving of Western sympathy. Mearsheimer and Walt write that "Israel is often portrayed as weak and besieged, a Jewish David surrounded by a hostile Arab Goliath ... but the opposite image is closer to the truth." For some reason, weakness is commonly seen as entailing moral superiority, an illogical proposition.

I would recommend that they take a look at any atlas and yearbook for the key years of the conflict--1948, 1956, 1967, 1973. Even a child would notice that the Arab world, stretching from the Atlantic Ocean to the Persian Gulf, does actually "surround" Israel and is infinitely larger than the eight-thousand-square-mile Jewish state (which is the size of New Hampshire). He would notice also that the population of the confrontation states--Egypt, Jordan, Syria, and Iraq, who were often joined in their wars with Israel by expeditionary forces from Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Libya, and Yemen--has always been at least twenty times greater than Israel's; and in 1948 it was about fifty times greater. The material resources of the Arab world similarly have been (as they still are) infinitely larger than Israel's.

It is true that Israel's "organizational ability" has enabled it to concentrate and focus its resources where they count in wartime, on the successive battlefields, with far greater efficiency than the Arabs; and it is true that Israel's troops, and especially its officer corps, have always been of a far higher caliber than the Arabs' counterparts; and it is true that the motivation of Israel's troops--often with their backs to the wall--has generally been superior to that of their Arab foes. But this is still a far cry from implying, as Mearsheimer and Walt do, regarding the war in 1947-1949, that Israel won its wars because "the Zionists had larger, better-equipped" forces than the Arabs.

During the October (or Yom Kippur) War in 1973, the Egyptians mustered about one million men under arms, and their Syrian allies some 400,000, when they launched their surprise attacks across the Suez Canal and on the Golan Heights. The Israel Defense Forces (IDF) fielded 350,000 to 400,000 troops at most. The Israelis won that war because of superior "grit" and better quality of troops and organization, even though the wings of their better air force and tank corps were badly clipped by the Arabs' massive deployment of state-of-the-art missile shields.

As regards the war of 1948, the picture is more complex--but it is certainly not the picture painted by Mearsheimer and Walt of flat Israeli superiority. (I don't know about political science, but history--I mean good history--needs to account for complexity and nuance.) It is true that in the first part of the war, the "civil war" between the Jewish and Arab communities in Palestine (from late November 1947 until May 14, 1948, when the state of Israel came into being), the Jews enjoyed a gradually mobilized military superiority, owed primarily to better organization and only marginally to an advantage in some types of weaponry (mortars and possibly machine guns). But the Palestinians probably had an edge in light arms, the main armaments during the civil war. And they enjoyed the support of the 4,000-man Arab Liberation Army, consisting mainly of Syrian and Iraqi volunteers, which had field artillery, which the Yishuv--the Jewish community in Palestine--did not possess. Except in the last few weeks of the civil war, the Arabs probably had an overall edge in men-under-arms--say 15,000-30,000 to the Yishuv's 15,000-25,000; but they proved unable to bring the advantage to bear in the successive battlefields. The militiamen of Nablus and Hebron, where no fighting occurred, saw no reason to come to the aid of their embattled brothers in Jaffa and Haifa.

During the second and conventional phase of the war (mid-May 1948 to January 1949), which was fought between the invading armies of the Arab states--Egypt, Syria, Iraq, and Jordan (supplemented by Sudanese, Saudi, Yemeni, and Moroccan contingents)--and the newborn state of Israel, the Arab side began with an overwhelming, or what should have been an overwhelming, advantage in equipment and firepower. In the first fortnight of the invasion, the Arabs had more than seventy combat aircraft, Spitfires and Furies, and the Yishuv had none. (The Israelis assembled and sent into action their first four combat aircraft, Czech-built Messerschmidt 109s, on May 29, and lost two of them.) During the following months, the Arabs continued to enjoy an overwhelming advantage in combat aircraft. Until the end of June, certainly, the Arab invaders possessed a massive superiority in all other types of heavy weaponry: they deployed about two hundred standard armored fighting vehicles (Humbers, Daimlers, and Marmon Harringtons), many of them mounting two- and six-pounder cannon; dozens of tanks (Cruiser, Locust, Mark 6, and Renault); and dozens of artillery pieces. The Israelis had two tanks, one of them without a gun; and one, then two, batteries of light pre-World War I-vintage 65mm Mountain artillery; and makeshift armored cars, civilian trucks patched up with steel plates in Tel Aviv workshops.

During the following months, until the war's practical end in January 1949 (the war formally ended in a series of armistice agreements signed between February and July), the Arab edge in heavy weaponry gradually decreased, partly as a result of attrition and the failure to acquire spare parts and ammunition, and partly because of Israel's successful arms purchases in Czechoslovakia and the West. But at the end of hostilities the Arabs still had more fighter aircraft and tanks, and perhaps even artillery, than the Israelis--though they lacked the expertise to use them and, over time, progressively lacked the necessary spare parts and munitions to deploy them effectively. The Israelis managed to circumvent the international arms embargo that had been imposed on the Middle East; the Arabs tried to do so, but largely failed.

As for manpower, the picture of relative force remains somewhat murky. The reason for the incompleteness of our knowledge is simple. Israel's archives are open, and the figures for the Israeli side are clear and available; but the archives of all the Arab states, which are dictatorships, remain closed. Thus the figures about Arab military manpower at given stages of the war remain partial and tentative, based perforce mainly on IDF intelligence estimates. But according to the latest research, particularly the work of Amitzur Ilan and Yehoshua Ben-Aryeh and Asaf Agin, the invading Arab troops (in the third week of May 1948) numbered 22,000 to 28,000, bolstered by several thousand irregulars, while the Haganah, the mainstream Zionist militia, which became the IDF on June 1, 1948, fielded some 27,000 to 30,000 troops, with another 6,000 elderly Home Guardsmen, and some 2,000 to 3,000 IZL members. (The IZL was the Irgun Zva'i Leumi, or National Military Organization, a terrorist-militia group of the Zionist right.) But the invading Arab forces were all combat troops, teeth formations, who were backed, in terms of logistics, training, and so on, by at least a similar number of rear-echelon base camp troops; whereas the Haganah figure includes both combat troops (all told, about 16,000 to 17,000) and rear echelon units.

In mid-October, the balance stood at 79,000-95,000 to 47,000-53,000 in favor of the Israelis, who vastly expanded their recruitment. But again, the figure for the Arabs represents the numbers engaged in Palestine, not the full roll call of the relevant Arab armies, with their rear echelons. (All these figures relate to ground forces; the air and naval forces of the two sides, which were negligible in terms of manpower and importance, are omitted.) It is perhaps worth adding that in 1948 Israel suffered just over 6,000 dead, one-third of them civilians, out of a total population of 650,000 to 700,000--or one killed and two seriously wounded out of every hundred in the population--in the course of a year-long war that was launched, in two stages, by the Palestinian Arabs (in November-December 1947) and by the Arab states (in May 1948) after they had rejected the United Nations Partition Resolution of November 29, 1947. (Had America suffered a similar proportion of casualties in the Vietnam War, there would have been more than two million dead and four million wounded.) Arab losses in 1948 are uncertain. It is usually estimated that about 8,000 Palestinians died, and that the Arab armies' fatalities were about half that number.

So yes, Israel won each of its wars against the Arab states. But no, this was not because it had greater manpower or more equipment; it usually had less of each. The wars were decided by the failure of the significantly stronger and more populous Arab world to mobilize its resources or concentrate its forces where they counted, or to provide them with adequate leadership.


This brings us to Israel's recent conflict with the Palestinians, on a lower level of intensity but still ongoing, and to its treatment by Mearsheimer and Walt. Without a doubt, the ratio of Israeli power to Palestinian power in 2000-2005, the years of the second intifada, was at least 100:1 in Israel's favor, in terms of raw conventional military strength. (This, without taking into account Israel's non-conventional military capabilities.) This intifada, this war, was launched by the Palestinians, who enjoyed the propaganda benefit of underdog status. The photograph of the disheveled stone-throwing or Kalashnikov-brandishing fighter facing down the Merkava Mark-III main battle tank became a representative image of this conflict. But it was a misleading representation. For the fearsome Merkava tanks almost never used their firepower against the Palestinians, much as the IAF F-16s and Apache attack helicopters usually (but not always) attacked empty Palestinian public buildings or individual terrorists in cars. The Hamas and Fatah fighters operated from behind a shield of Palestinian civilians and from crowded urban refugee camps and neighborhoods, and so Israel fought with both hands tied behind its back. Its actual firepower--its tanks, aircraft, and cannon--was never unleashed.

This accounts for the relatively low number of Arab deaths (four thousand in five years of warfare), and the relatively low proportion of Arab to Jewish deaths (3.5:1), as compared with the actual calculus of Israeli versus Arab military strength (100:1) and the relative proportion of armed to unarmed Arab casualties (about 2:1). Most of the Arabs killed in the intifada, despite the fact that it was mostly fought in heavily populated Arab areas, were armed fighters, not civilians. And the ratio of armed to unarmed Arab casualties has steadily risen in recent years as the IDF has perfected its modus operandi and become more careful. The famous battle of the Jenin refugee camp in spring 2002 is an illuminating example. Arab lies and gullible journalism about an indiscriminate slaughter notwithstanding (Human Rights Watch and other non-partisan bodies subsequently upheld the Israeli version), only fifty-three Jeninites died, all but five or six of them armed combatants. Israel lost twenty-three infantrymen in the battle. Had Israel dealt with that Fatah-Hamas bastion as, say, the Russians dealt with Grozny--from afar, with massive ground and aerial bombardments--no Israeli lives would have been lost, and Jenin would no longer be standing.

Throughout the second intifada, Israeli policy was to avoid, so far as possible, harm to non-combatants, and the IDF generally took great operational care to avoid civilian casualties. Some "collateral damage" did occur, given the nature of the battlefield. Some Israeli soldiers were trigger-happy and exceeded orders. But generally the targeted killing of terrorists--who see themselves, quite correctly, as soldiers in a war, and hence are legitimate targets for attack--resulted in few civilian casualties. (The Israeli air and artillery attacks in Gaza earlier this month offer a characteristic example: of eighteen Arabs killed, fifteen or sixteen, by Palestinian admission, were combatants.)

On the other hand, during the second intifada Arab attacks on Israelis claimed twice as many civilians' lives as soldiers' lives. (Mearsheimer and Walt bury this fact in a footnote, without explanation.) This was a result of deliberation and intention, not accident. Throughout the intifada, Hamas, Fatah, and Islamic Jihad primarily targeted "soft" civilian targets (buses, restaurants, shopping malls, and last week a Tel Aviv falafel kiosk), preferring them to "hard" military targets, which were more difficult and more dangerous. The Palestinian objective was to sow terror in Israel's rear areas. The difference in strategy, and all that this implies in terms of moral orientation, was stark. The Palestinian aim was to kill as many civilians as possible; and the Palestinian masses rejoiced in the streets of Gaza and Ramallah every time a suicide bomber successfully blew up a bus or a shopping mall or a café in Israel. And this, historically speaking, was merely a refinement of the Palestinian tactics of terror used against the Yishuv since the 1920s (and not, as Arab propagandists would have it, only after 1967).

The IDF's aim, by contrast, was to kill guerrillas/terrorists and their commanders, such as Sheik Ahmed Yassin. Mearsheimer and Walt misleadingly call him the "spiritual" head of Hamas. One might, with equal accuracy, call Hitler the "spiritual" head of the Nazi Party. Neither actually murdered anyone with his bare hands. But their differences notwithstanding, both were the organizational and operational directors of their respective movements, as well as the movements' "spiritual" leaders.


In their survey of the conflict's history, Mearsheimer and Walt write that "the mainstream Zionist leadership was not interested in establishing a bi-national state or accepting a permanent partition of Palestine ... To achieve this goal [of turning all of Palestine into a sovereign Jewish state], the Zionists had to expel large numbers of Arabs from the territory that would eventually become Israel. There was simply no other way to accomplish their objective. ... This opportunity came in 1947-1948, when Jewish forces drove up to 700,000 Palestinians into exile. ... The fact that the creation of Israel entailed a moral crime against the Palestinian people was well understood by Israel's leaders." Let us examine these assertions one by one.

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.

Until 1936-1937, certainly, the Zionist mainstream sought to establish a Jewish state over all of Palestine. But something began to change fundamentally during the Arab Revolt of 1936-1939, which was conducted against the background of resurgent anti-Semitism in Europe and the threat of genocide. In July 1937, the British royal commission headed by Lord Peel recommended the partition of Palestine, with the Jews to establish their own state on some 20 percent of the land and the bulk of the remainder to fall under Arab sovereignty (ultimately to be conjoined to the Emirate of Transjordan, ruled by the Emir Abdullah). The commission also recommended the transfer--by agreement or "voluntarily," and if necessary by force--of all or most of the Arabs from the area destined for Jewish statehood. The Zionist right, the Revisionist movement, rejected the proposals. But mainstream Zionism, representing 80 to 90 percent of the movement, was thrown into ferocious debate; and, shepherded by David Ben-Gurion and Chaim Weizmann, the Zionist leadership ended up formally accepting the principle of partition, if not the actual award of 20 percent of the land. The movement resolved that the Peel proposals were a basis for further negotiation.

It is true that Ben-Gurion harbored a hope, in 1937, that such a partition would be but a "first step," to be followed by eventual Zionist expansion throughout Palestine. But the years that followed sobered Zionism and changed the movement's thinking. The movement's formal acceptance of the principle of partition was gradually digested and incorporated into the mentality of the Zionist mainstream, which understood that the Jewish people needed an immediate safe haven from European savagery, and that the movement would have to take what history was offering and could gain no more. The Jewish nationalist leaders called this "pragmatism."

By November 1947, the Zionists' reconciliation to a partial realization of their dreams was complete (except on the fringes of the movement), and Zionism's mainstream, led by Ben-Gurion and Weizmann, once and for all internalized the necessity of partition and accepted the U.N. partition resolution. The 1948 war was fought by Israel with a partitionist outlook, and it ended in partition (with the West Bank and East Jerusalem under Jordanian rule and the Gaza Strip controlled by Egypt), despite Israel's military superiority at its conclusion. During the following two decades, down to June 1967, there was a general acceptance by the Israeli mainstream of the fact, and the permanence, of partition.

As is well known, the Israeli victory and conquests of 1967 re-awakened the controversy about partition and for a time empowered the "Greater Israel" anti-partitionists, until their decline and fall, which began with Yitzhak Rabin's election to the premiership in 1992. Partition--or a two-state solution--remained the goal of all Rabin's successors: Shimon Peres, Ehud Barak, and most notably Ariel Sharon and Ehud Olmert (though not Benjamin Netanyahu), and also of the bulk of the Israeli public. But Mearsheimer and Walt do not venture into this significant field.

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 now to the issue of transfer and expulsion. It is true, as Mearsheimer and Walt observe, quoting me, that "the idea of transfer is as old as modern Zionism and has accompanied its evolution and praxis during the past century." But once again the matter is complicated, and the problem of who said and did what, and where, and when, and why, is all-important. This complexity has proved too great for Mearsheimer and Walt to handle.

Zionist leaders, from Herzl through Ben-Gurion and Weizmann, between 1881 and the mid-1940s, occasionally expressed support for the "transfer" of Arabs, or of "the Arabs," out of the territory of the future Jewish state. But three salient facts must be recalled. First, the Zionist leadership throughout never adopted the idea as part of the movement's political platform; nor did it ever figure in the platforms of any of the major Zionist parties. Second, the Zionist leaders generally said, and believed, that a Jewish majority would be achieved in Palestine, or in whatever part of it became a Jewish state, by means of massive Jewish immigration, and that this immigration would also materially benefit the Arab population (which it generally did during the Mandate). Third, the awful idea of transfer was resurrected and pressed by Zionist leaders at particular historical junctures, at moments of acute crisis, in response to Arab waves of violence that seemed to vitiate the possibility of Arab-Jewish co-existence in a single state, and in response to waves of European anti-Semitic violence that, from the Zionist viewpoint, necessitated the achievement of a safe haven for Europe's oppressed and threatened Jews. Such a haven required space in which to settle the Jewish masses and an environment free of murderous Arabs: this, indeed, was the logic behind the Peel Commission's transfer recommendation.

Moreover, during the 1930s and 1940s, the espoused policy of the leader of the Palestinian Arab national movement, the Muslim cleric Haj Amin al Husseini, was frankly expulsionist about the Yishuv. He repeatedly stated that he was willing, in his future Palestinian state, to accommodate as citizens only those Jews who had been residents or citizens of Palestine up to 1917--say, 60,000 to 80,000 in all. When asked in 1937 by the Peel Commission what he intended to do with the 80 percent of the Jews who had been born in or come to Palestine after that date, he responded that time will tell. The commissioners understood him to mean that they were destined for expulsion or worse.

In other words, the surge in thinking about transfer in the late 1930s among mainstream Zionist leaders was in part a response to the expulsionist mentality of the Palestinians, which was reinforced by ongoing Arab violence and terrorism. The violence resulted in Britain's severely curtailing immigration to Palestine, thus assuring that many Jews who otherwise might have been saved were left stranded in Europe (and consigned to death), while at the same time foreclosing the traditional Zionist option and aim of achieving a Jewish majority in Palestine through immigration. Mearsheimer and Walt rightly take to task the anti-Arab terrorism of the Irgun in those years; but they omit to mention that the Irgun unleashed its bloody operations in response to Arab terrorism, and that in any case it represented only the fringe right wing of the Zionist movement, of which the mainstream--unlike the Palestinian Arab national movement--consistently rejected and condemned terrorism.

During the early 1940s, against the backdrop of the Holocaust and official British deliberations about a postwar solution to the Palestine problem based on partition, all understood (as had the Peel Commission) that any partition not accompanied by a transfer of Arabs out of the territory of the Jewish-state-to-be would be unstable or pointless, as the large Arab minority, if left in place, would be disloyal and rebellious, and would inevitably enjoy the support of the surrounding Arab world. Such a settlement would solve nothing. British officials and Arab heads of state (who, of course, feared to state these views in public) shared this view. That is why the British Labour Party Executive in 1944 supported partition accompanied by transfer, and that is why Jordan's Emir Abdullah and Iraq's prime minister Nuri Said, among other Arab statesmen, supported such a population transfer if Palestine was to be partitioned.

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.

The Zionist leadership accepted the partition plan, which provided for a Jewish state in 55 percent of Palestine with 550,000 Jews and between 400,000 and 500,000 Arabs. The Jewish Agency called on the Arabs to desist from violence, and promised a life of beneficial co-existence. In private, Zionist officials began planning agricultural and regional development that took into account the large Arab minority and its continued citizenship in the new Jewish state. 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.

It was only at the start of April, with its back to the wall (much of the Yishuv, in particular Jewish Jerusalem, was being strangled by Arab ambushes along the roads) and facing the prospect of pan-Arab invasion six weeks hence, that the Haganah changed its strategy and went over to the offensive, and began uprooting Palestinian communities, unsystematically and without a general policy. Needless to say, the invasion by the combined armies of the Arab states on May 15 only hardened Yishuv hearts toward the Palestinians who had summoned the invaders, whose declared purpose--as Azzam Pasha, the secretary-general of the Arab League, put it--was to re-enact a Mongol-like massacre, or, as others said, to drive the Jews into the sea. And yet Israel never adopted a general policy of expulsion (or incarceration--as did the United States in its internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II, without being under direct existential threat), which accounts for the fact that 160,000 Arabs remained in Israel and became citizens in 1949. They accounted for more than 15 percent of the country's population.

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. It is quite true, and quite understandable, that the Israeli government during the war decided to bar a return of the refugees to their homes--to bar the return of those who, before becoming refugees, had attempted to destroy the Jewish state and whose continued loyalty to the Jewish state, if they were readmitted, would have been more than questionable. There was nothing "innocent," as Mearsheimer and Walt put it, about the Palestinians and their behavior before their eviction-evacuation in 1947-1948 (as there was nothing innocent about Haj Amin al Husseini's work for the Nazis in Berlin from 1941 to 1945, broadcasting anti-Allied propaganda and recruiting Muslim troops for the Wehrmacht). And what befell the Palestinians was not "a moral crime," whatever that might mean; it was something the Palestinians brought down upon themselves, with their own decisions and actions, their own historical agency. But they like to deny their historical agency, and many "sympathetic" outsiders like to abet them in this illusion, which is significantly responsible for their continued statelessness.


One last historical point, about contemporary history. Mearsheimer and Walt recycle the canard that Israel and the United States offered the Palestinians nothing of worth, nothing that they should have accepted, in the negotiations in 2000. They write that Barak's peace proposals at Camp David offered the Palestinians "a disarmed and dismembered set of 'Bantustans' under de facto Israeli control." But according to the most reliable witnesses and participants in the talks--and the Palestinian side, for good reason, has never produced a detailed description of the negotiations at Camp David, a day-by-day account of who offered what and when--by the end of the Camp David negotiation in the summer of 2000 Barak had offered the Palestinians a state comprising 90 to 91 percent of the West Bank, 100 percent of the Gaza Strip, and functional control of parts of East Jerusalem. A bridge or tunnel would have connected the West Bank and Gaza. Was this really not a reasonable basis for Palestinian sovereignty? But Arafat said no and walked out, and the Palestinians launched the second intifada.

And unlike what readers might infer from Mearsheimer and Walt, this was not the end of that year's diplomatic process. In December, President Clinton--with Barak's approval--improved the deal, offering the Palestinians 94 to 96 percent of the West Bank (with territorial compensation elsewhere for the 4 to 6 percent lost), 100 percent of the Gaza Strip, sovereignty over East Jerusalem including at least half of the Old City, sovereignty over the surface of the disputed Temple Mount, and massive help to rehabilitate the refugees. Again the Palestinians said no, and continued shooting. The Israeli Cabinet, with a heavy heart, endorsed the Clinton parameters. The Americans and the Israelis, contrary to Mearsheimer and Walt, most certainly offered the Palestinians "a viable state of their own." It was precisely such a state that the Palestinians, in their stupidity, turned down.

Accurate descriptions and maps of the Israeli offer in July and the Israeli-endorsed Clinton parameters of December--as well as the Palestinians' spurious map of what was offered them--may be found in Dennis Ross's The Missing Peace. Ross was the chief American Middle East negotiator. (Mearsheimer and Walt rely on a map contained in The New Intifada, edited by Roane Carey; but Ross, unlike Carey, was party to and knew in great detail what went on, and was privy to all the documentation.) In his autobiography, Clinton backs to the hilt Ross's version of what was said and offered (as does Shlomo Ben-Ami, who was the Israeli foreign minister at the time, in his recent book Scars of War, Wounds of Peace: The Israeli-Arab Tragedy, which elsewhere is highly critical of Israel). All three state clearly that Arafat said no. Mearsheimer and Walt, amateur students of the subject with a political ax to grind, transform this no into a yes.

I say amateur students because there are outrageously incorrect historical assertions in Mearsheimer and Walt's work, often buried in the footnotes. For instance, footnote 10 states: "It is also worth noting that the British favored the Zionists over the Palestinians during the period of the British Mandate (1919-1948)." But during the Mandate, both Arabs and Jews were "Palestinians"; and the Mandate began de facto in 1917-1918, when the British conquered Palestine, in two stages, from the Turks; or in 1920, when the civilian administration was installed and the San Remo conference endorsed the Mandate ("1919" is in any case a meaningless date in this regard). And most importantly, the British government clearly "favored" Zionism in the years between 1917 and 1936 (though many of its officers and officials in Palestine, including some of the high commissioners, did not); but it certainly did not in the years between 1938 and 1948. In 1939, Whitehall published a White Paper that portended and backed the establishment in Palestine of an Arab-majority state (Husseini rejected that, too); and in 1947 the British abstained when the U.N. General Assembly authorized partition and Jewish statehood; and in 1947-1948 the British provided the Egyptian and Iraqi armies with arms and advice, and in 1948 they provided money, arms, and leadership to the Jordanian Army, the Arab Legion, as it battled the Jewish state under the command of a British officer, John Glubb. The British can hardly be described in 1939-1948 as pro-Zionist, though Ben-Gurion's traditional depiction of them in 1948 as orchestrating the pan-Arab assault on Israel was also wide of the mark.

Consider some other examples. On page 6, Mearsheimer and Walt assert that Jonathan Pollard, a Jewish-American naval intelligence analyst in the 1980s, provided Israel with classified American material, "which Israel reportedly passed onto the Soviet Union to gain more exit visas for Soviet Jewry." To the best of my knowledge, this is a lie. On page 9, Mearsheimer and Walt write that "citizenship [of Israel] is based on the principle of blood kinship." This is an outrageous assertion, with the worst possible echoes. The truth is that since the state's inception, 15 to 20 percent of Israel's citizens have been Muslim and Christian Arabs. In 1948-1949, citizenship was granted to all persons living in the country, regardless of race or religion, and it is granted by law after five years of residency and the satisfaction of various qualifications (as in all western democracies) to applicants today regardless of race or religion--though it is true that Jewish immigrants can and do receive citizenship upon arrival in Israel, and it is also true that Israel is a Jewish state, as France is (and, I hope, will remain) a French state and Britain is a British state. On page 12, Mearsheimer and Walt write, referring to my book Israel's Border Wars, 1949-1956, that Israel's retaliatory strikes in the early 1950s "were actually part of a broader effort to expand Israel's borders." This is incorrect--and had they used my book honestly, they could not have reached such a conclusion. On page 10, they observe that "The Arabs ... had been in continuous possession of [Palestine] for 1300 years," which is incorrect, and that there were "only about 15,000 Jews in Palestine" in 1882, which is also incorrect. (Typically, Mearsheimer and Walt cite as their authority Justin McCarthy's The Population of Palestine, without noting that he also assumed the existence of additional thousands of Jews in Palestine who were not Ottoman citizens.) And so on.

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.

Benny Morris , a professor Middle East history at Ben-Gurion University, is the author, most recently, of The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited (Cambridge University Press).

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