Right of Reply / I Do Not Support Expulsion

My accusers forgot to mention just one thing - my participation in Jesus' crucifixion; all the rest - racism, rape, murder, genocide - can be found aplenty. Prof. Benny Morris responds to his critics.

Benny Morris
Benny Morris

A few days after the publication of the interview with me ("Survival of the fittest," Haaretz Magazine, January 9), an angry Israeli-Arab student came to my office at Ben-Gurion University. He suggested that the Holocaust never happened (he cited what he called "an important and world-renowned Egyptian historian"), and claimed that the Twin Towers in New York were destroyed at the order of the CIA or the Mossad, and that Israeli soldiers and pilots in the territories are deliberately targeting and murdering innocent civilians. I mention this so that we all understand the kind of world we in the Middle East are living in.

The war being waged against us since September 2000 is three-dimensional: On one level, which is the one highlighted by Palestinian spokespersons, a struggle is being waged for liberation from Israeli occupation in the West Bank and Gaza Strip; on the second level, the Palestinians - according to spokesmen for Hamas, Islamic Jihad and Fatah militants - are waging a war to eradicate the Zionist state and to restore their "rights" over all of Palestine; on the third level, the Palestinians' struggle is part of the global struggle being waged by jihadist Islam against the "Western Satan," with Israel being a vulnerable extension of Western culture in our region.

For jihadist Islam, Israel represents the embodiment of all the values it abhors - democracy and freedom, openness, tolerance and pluralism, individualism and secularism, criticality (including the value of expressing self-criticism, which is absent from their culture), women's rights, liberalism and progress, sexual freedom - while the proponents of jihad aspire to return to the days in which the sword of Islam ruled from India to the Atlantic Ocean and minorities quaked under its shadow. These jihadists - and the societies that support them and dispatch them - who rejoice in the streets whenever a building is brought crashing down upon hundreds or thousands of occupants or a bus is reduced to a smoldering hulk, deserve the name "barbarians." It's unfortunate that many in the West and in the extreme Israeli left prefer to ignore the second and third dimensions and to view the Palestinian struggle solely through the prism of the first dimension, resistance to occupation.

A central accusation in the letters to Haaretz Magazine ("The judgment of history," January 16) concerned the issue of "ethnic cleansing." I will repeat my words, which apparently did not register (perhaps because of the misleading title on the cover): I do not support the expulsion of Arabs from the territories or from the State of Israel! Such an expulsion would be immoral, and is also unrealistic. What I said was, that if in the future, these communities were to launch massive violence against the State of Israel in combination with a broad assault on Israel by its neighbors, and endanger its survival, expulsions would certainly be in the cards. As for Israeli Arabs, my comments may be seen to represent a minatory road sign pointing in two possible directions: They could, as a whole, choose the path of loyalty to the Jewish state and integration within it as equal citizens, and thus enjoy quiet, prosperous lives; or they could choose the path of disloyalty to the state and of active and violent support for those who seek its demise. The latter path - with which many Israeli Arabs identified in October 2000 and with which many in its leadership seem to identify today, in one convoluted way or another - will help lead to either the destruction of the Jewish state or to their being uprooted.

A general comment on the matter of ethnic cleansing: I am aware that "ethnic cleansing" is not politically correct and is morally problematic. But, what can we do - the history of the 20th century is replete with instances of ethnic cleansing that occurred under catastrophic circumstances and were ultimately beneficial for humanity, including for the expulsees themselves. Was not the expulsion of the Sudeten Germans (after World War II) - who contributed to the destruction of the Czechoslovak Republic - justified? And didn't it contribute, in the end, to their happiness, and certainly to the happiness of the Czech people? In the final analysis, didn't the ethnic cleansing perpetrated by the Turks against their Greek minority and by the Greeks against their Turkish minority after World War I contribute to the welfare and happiness of the two peoples, and to the peace that has prevailed between the two nations ever since?

One more thing: Among the biggest religio-ethnic cleansers in human history, in the distant past and in our time, has been the Arab Islamic nation. Mohammed and his men cleansed the Arabian Peninsula of its Jewish tribes, in part through the mass slaughter of the men and the enslavement and forced conversion of the young women. (According to the Koran, in one day, Mohammed's men massacred 800-900 men of the Bani Qureiza tribe - a larger number than all the Arab victims of Jewish massacres through the whole of the 1948 war.) In the ensuing centuries, the Muslim empires and the Arab states, with the help of the pogrom and the law, uprooted from their midst or forcibly converted most of their Christian communities and ethnically cleansed themselves of their Jewish communities. Has a single word of criticism about any of this history ever been voiced by MK Mohammed Barakeh and Dr. Haggai Ram and their friends? (And, by the way, every Jewish community that was conquered by the Arab armies in the course of the 1948 war, including the Jewish Quarter in the Old City, was ethnically cleansed and every site was completely leveled.)

In the modern age, no one has been more racist and more intolerant of "the other" - Kurd, Jew, Sudanese Christian and animist, Maronite Christian, etc. - than the Arab states. The constitution of Jordan, one of the more moderate Islamic Arab states, even includes a clause prohibiting Jews from being Jordanian citizens. The Arabs' attempt to annihilate the Jewish Yishuv [pre-state community in Palestine] in 1948 compelled Israel to uproot them from the Jewish territory.

Mr. Barakeh: Enough of your hypocrisy. Only one side in the conflict in our region is under the threat of annihilation and that's the Jewish side, and you know it. So it was in 1948 (see, for example, the declaration by Azzam Pasha, Secretary of the Arab League, on the eve of the Pan-Arab invasion of Palestine, about how the anticipated slaughter of the Jews would rival the carnage wreaked by the Mongols during their 13th-century invasion of the Middle East), and so it could also be in the future. The deep hatred among the Arabs of Palestine and the proximate Muslim world for the Zionist enterprise constitutes an infrastructure for such a future genocide. There is no such hatred for anyone among the Jews or in me.

In our region, the side that has been engaging for generations now in the systematic dehumanization of the adversary is the Palestinian side against the Jews - see the Hamas charter and the official political manifests of Hamas and Islamic Jihad, who represent at least half of the Palestinians in the territories, which routinely refer to the Jews, in accordance with Islamic tradition, as "sons of monkeys and pigs," "killers of prophets" and as a "lowly people." Yes, I will stick to the definition "savage beasts" to describe suicide bombers who are prepared to massacre dozens or even thousands of civilians in buses and skyscrapers in cities in Israel and the West.

In 1988, I regarded the Palestinian rebellion ("the first intifada") as a legitimate struggle for liberation from occupation. And I believe that most of the Palestinian stone-throwers then saw their struggle that way. This is why I felt it was right to refuse to serve in the territories, and to sit in prison. (Incidentally, I do not recall seeing the names of my morally enlightened colleagues from Ben-Gurion University appearing on the list of refuseniks then, just as I did not come across them during my service in the Paratroop brigades.)

In 2000, the Palestinians, led by Yasser Arafat, began a war that combined the three dimensions I've mentioned and whose ultimate objective is the destruction of Israel (or, "flying the flag of Palestine over the walls of Jerusalem," as Arafat coyly puts it) - just as Saladin destroyed the Crusader Kingdom. In Arafat's eyes, we are the "new Crusaders." This is the main reason why Arafat, in the name of the Palestinian people and without argument on the part of his colleagues, rejected the Barak-Clinton peace proposals of December 2000, which included Israeli withdrawal from about 95 percent of the West Bank and from 100 percent of the Gaza Strip, the evacuation of most of the settlements, and the establishment of a Palestinian state with East Jerusalem as its capital. He rejected the proposals because he and his people want the entire country (their intransigence over the "right of return" is not a tactical matter).

And in so doing, Arafat remained consistent with the rejectionist heritage of his people, who in 1937 rejected the compromise proposed by the Peel Commission; in 1947-48, rejected the compromise proposed by the UN (the Partition Proposal); and in 1978, rejected the Egyptian-Israeli compromise (the Camp David Accords, in which the Palestinians were offered autonomy, which would in time have evolved into a Palestinian state).

Unfortunately, the destruction of Israel and the right of return of the refugees have become a key component of Palestinian identity, and as long as this component does not vanish, there is no possibility of an historic compromise. And without a compromise that is based on two states, in the end, only one state will remain here - either a Jewish one without a large Arab minority, or an Arab one with a Jewish minority that will continuously dwindle until it disappears, just as the Jewish communities disappeared from the Islamic world in the last century (after all, what Jew in his right mind would want to live as a minority in an Islamic state headed by the terrorist from the Muqata'a and the wheelchair-bound fanatic from Gaza?).

As for the near future, Israel must get out of most of the West Bank and from Gaza and East Jerusalem, with or without an agreement, and a fence will separate the two peoples (and if the Palestinians see it as prison, they are the ones responsible for its construction). As long as the Arabs' intentions toward us are murderous, there is no option but to complete the fence, but not along the planned route. The Israeli government is using a just enterprise to make unjust gains.

The compression of the seven hours of my interview with Ari Shavit into two pages did not do me justice, at least in terms of the tone. From a whole range of statements on different issues, the harshest ones were chosen, sometimes without nuances or qualifications. I admit, I slipped here and there - I do not support and did not support the extermination of the Indians, and I regret the use of the word "cage."

One last thing. I find it odd that the editors of Haaretz Magazine chose to accompany an article dealing with the tragedy of two peoples with photographs of a smiling Benny Morris. Contrary to the implication, I do not rejoice over bloodletting and expulsion. I also do not understand why the English edition of the magazine chose to entitle the interview, "Survival of the fittest." I did not use that expression and I abhor it.

In any event, I will be the first to rejoice if my judgments and predictions are proved wrong.