Letter to the editor
Regarding “End of the Road,” September 21
There’s nothing new in the nationalist right-wing views expressed by historian Benny Morris. They already gained renown 12 years ago as part of the “There’s no partner” smear campaign waged by Ehud Barak against Yasser Arafat in his attempt to justify the failure of the negotiations with the Palestinians. Moreover, Morris’ pronouncements are familiar to the public from the official Israeli propaganda in its various guises, particularly from the Netanyahu and Lieberman era.
What’s new is the presentation of these positions as the result of historical research, yet nowhere in the interview is Morris asked to cite supporting evidence for his “insights.” The interviewer exempts him not only from the burden of proof, but also from the burden of confronting and debating the scholarly (and diplomatic) literature, the vast majority of which supports and corroborates conclusions that are the opposite of his.
And so a central platform was given over to disseminating a dangerous and unjustified version of the evolution of the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. The main potential for harm from this conception is to the young generation and those who will cast their first vote in the upcoming election.
The members of this generation, who studied from geography textbooks in which the Green Line was long ago erased, who heard in social studies lessons more and more about the “Land of Israel” and less, if anything, about the State of Israel; who went on “heritage trips” to the heart of occupied Palestinian Hebron and who “served” (what a use of the word) there as soldiers and commanders − these people are starting their adult lives without knowing the slightest thing about the political reality into which they were born some 20 years ago.
Even if they’ve heard of the Oslo Accords, it’s unlikely that anyone of this generation knows that the mutual recognition between the PLO and the Israeli government from September 1993 was achieved five whole years after the PLO unilaterally declared its recognition of Israel and its support for the two-state solution, and nearly 20 years after this organization first adopted a diplomatic plan that included a readiness to establish a state in the West Bank and Gaza.
Nor do they know that during these 20 years – years of profound change within the Palestinian national movement – Israel’s hand was not outstretched toward peace but remained clenched in persistent refusal: refusal to recognize the Palestinian national movement and its institutions, refusal to recognize the Palestinians’ right to self-definition, and of course, refusal to negotiate with their chosen representatives.
The more moderate this movement’s leadership became, the more willingness it showed to reach a diplomatic accord, the more support it gained among the Palestinian diaspora, the more entrenched Israel became in its refusal and in its grip on the occupied territories. Until the Rabin government came along and had the audacity to turn its back on a generation of Israeli refusal and to embark on a new path. Of course, this generation learned in school about the Rabin assassination, but they were never given the tools to connect his murder to the fanatic opposition of the Israeli right to the move that Rabin had begun to lead: withdrawal from the occupied territories and partition of the land into two states.
Forced ignorance, continued exposure to nationalist brainwashing, and, above all, growing up in contemporary Israel – which pours all its energy and resources into preventing the establishment of a Palestinian state and the elimination of any chance for an accord – is thus turning these young people, the children of the early Oslo years, into natural customers for Morris’ damaging merchandise.
Fervent devotion to the notion that the Palestinians are to blame for the continuation of the Israeli occupation will enable this generation to live for many more years to come, unperturbed about controlling another people and about the theft of its lands.