Benny Morris responds to Walt/Mearsheimer

VERY long post warning.

More and more of the people that Walt and Mearsheimer quoted in their travesty of a thesis are condemning that thesis, and accusing W-M of misusing their work.

Like Benny Morris, on whom they relied heavily:

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.

He begins at the beginning, always the best place to start, and takes down W-M on their lie about Israeli military superiority via numbers:

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.

On the two-state solution:

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.

[…] 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.

[…] 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.”

On “transfer” and terrorism:

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.

On the palestinian refugee problem:

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.

On W-M’s numerical errors:

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.

Read it all.

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16 Responses to Benny Morris responds to Walt/Mearsheimer

  1. Pingback: In Context

  2. IB Bill says:

    Thank you for posting this. Have you read any Benny Morris? What would you recommend someone read of his regarding the conflict, if you were to pick one book?

  3. Karl says:

    The Nation has a story up. Mearsheimer admits he was influenced by the Marxist anti-national “New Historians” and that he was blinded by Leon Uris’ book “Exodus.”

    “Mearsheimer says he had been blinded by Uris’s novel.”

    One of his nutcase students says yes, he too was blinded by “Exodus.”

    What frauds. These academics sit around in a therapy session and said “Yes, Leon Uris in a novel deceived us?” What laughable marroons.

  4. Karl says:

    Here’s another hilarious quote from the Nation:

    “Meantime, out of fear of Dershowitz, or respect for him, the liberal/mainstream media have declined to look into the lobby’s powers, leaving it to two brave professors.”

    The Powerful Dershowitz stifles dissent. Who needs the Lobby? LOL.

  5. Jonathan says:

    Morris’ article pretty definitively proves how shoddy and dishonest the paper is–as if we needed more evidence. Frankly, I wish the whole W-M issue would go away. Its rubbish “scholarship” and, you know, David Duke and The Muslim Brotherhood really enjoy it. That should be enough to send it to bed forever…

    Unless, of course, you write for The Nation. If this rag does, in fact, represent the pinnacle of American Leftist thought, we really are in trouble. The magazine’s rife with bizarre conspiracy theories, countless typographical/layout errors and, let’s be honest, when Katha-effin’-Pollitt’s the best writer you’ve got on staff, the word “substandard” doesn’t even begin to cover it. To say that the editorial board is (very, very negatively) obssessed with Israel and “Zionists” is an understatement. Along with parading out the usual anti-Israel Jews (Kushner, Shatz, Klein, et al.,) The Nation gives such notable anti-semites as Gore Vidal and Alexander Cockburn space to vent their ugly spleen.

    Like this site’s webhostess, I still consider myself a liberal, but when I see what’s being passed off as “progressive” thought in The Nation, The New York Review of Books and other sources, I worry that liberalism is hurtling towards its demise. Only Dissent, TNR and sites like this give me any hope at all.

  6. Karl says:

    “Frankly, I wish the whole W-M issue would go away.”

    Sorry, it won’t. If it does it’s proof for the conspiratorialists of the power of the “Lobby” stifling “dissent.” (the uber-Jew Dershowitz (rhymes with Wolfowitz) playing a problematic role here in calling attention to the paper.)

    The paper confirms too many leftist and anti-semitic narratives to be ignored by the haters. All the themes of the Soviet Anti-Zionism campaign the Western Left holds as a badge of identity are validated. One interesting response is that the paper should work as a “starting point” for discussion about Israel. This is like advocating “Gone With The Wind” as the starting point of discussions about Blacks or the Confederacy. It’s a way of mainstreaming anti-Israel discourse on one’s own turf. It also confirms the conspiratorial position that Israel policy is heretofore not spoken about. Which is ridiculous.

    Another curiosity is the obsession with Dershowitz. In the defenses of M/W Jewish names are located and identified, rarely the non-Jewish names of critics. And Dershowitz the most. He’s a kind of Emmanuel Goldstein some parts of the left and right have chosen for their five minute hate sessions.

    Yet another curiosity is the defense of M/W by stifling dissent in the guise of promoting dissent. Similarly, the defense that M/W “facts” need be challenged, as if they aren’t and unrefuted they stand as proven.

    No, the paper validated too many anti-Semitic themes of the Left variety to be ignored. Societal norms inhibits expressions of racism and this paper intellectualizes for the racists a position of victimhood as an oppressed minority.

    One could write a paper saying, “we shouldn’t support Israel because it raises the price of oil” and so, but M/W didn’t do that, did not make a Realist analysis. They took the Left-wing anti-zionist position by reiterating its narratives and concerns and make moral judgments about “Israel” from its beginning.

    As for Right-wing antisemitism the left responses to criticism of Mearsheimer adopt some collective guilt themes in there argumentation.

  7. Joel says:

    Walt has not even tried to defend his opinion in open debate but chooses to give interviews to the odious British “journalist” Robert Fisk and other sympathetic foreigners. Few people on this earth have had their name turned into a verb but try looking up on Google the term “fisking”.

  8. Michael Lonie says:

    Blinded by Leon Uris’ novel? Maybe they ought to think a bit harder about it. The novel ends with the Danish girl, now an Israeli, murdered by Arab terrorists, when she had survived the Nazis because Christian Danes hid her from the killers for five years. The anguished response of the Sabra Ari is: Why won’t they let us live?

    Fifty five years after the fictinal event and the Muslims still won’t let the Israelis live, still attack them, still send terrorists to kill them. So Walt, Mearshiemer, and all the lefties who hate the “Zionists” and paleoconservatives of the Pitchfork Pat type, ask yourselves why do the Muslims need to commit genocide, and who will be next? What part of Never Again do you not understand?

  9. Li'l Mamzer says:

    So Walt, Mearshiemer, and all the lefties who hate the “Zionists” and paleoconservatives of the Pitchfork Pat type, ask yourselves why do the Muslims need to commit genocide, and who will be next? What part of Never Again do you not understand?

    Walt, Mearsheimer et. al. understand. By publishing their paper, they have cast their lot. There’s no mystery about it or them, and nothing really to discuss with them, is there?

  10. Angie says:

    A prominent university professor admits his view on a prominent matter of foreign policy was dictated by a novel? Please, he is pulling your leg and perpetrating a hoax. The Nation journalist must be in on it unless he is a mental midget or blinded by hate.

  11. Li'l Mamzer says:

    mental midget

    possibly so

    blinded by hate

    definitely so

  12. Pingback: | Israel vs The Global Jihad » Haveil Havalim #67

  13. Meryl –

    I saw Morris speak at NYU a year ago.

    Look, it doesn’t even matter. The facts and quibbling aren’t even important and Walt and Mearsheimer know this, in my opinion as well as Judt… as well as the sniveling weasel of self-importnace, Juan Obi One Kanobe……..

    There are people in Academia that want to thrash Israel and AIPAC.
    There are people in Academia that may not want to hate on Israel/AIPAC but think AIPAC has a lot of influence either way.
    There are people that don’t have an opinion either way but due to the hype will check it out.

    We hate Cole… he’s disgusting… he’s petty… he’s a liar… he’s a baby…. he’s classless…. he’s conspiratorial…. he has a 1 track mind to push the line on hating Israel, Zionists etc…… and guess what…….. HE IS GETTING THE JOB AT YALE.

    You want to go after who needs to be gotten after…. Give these guys a visit. some of his Jewish supporters.

    Josh Marshal Talking Points
    Richard Silverstein (Tikun Olam Blog)

    Even Daily Kos is sick of Cole and put up 2 posts that were critical and embarrassing for Kommisar Cole.



    Wait I thought this was supposed to be an indictment of AIPAC and the Jewish Federation?

    What the F does whether or not Israel was an underdog in 48 or 67 have to do with that?

    What the F does Irgun terrorism in the 1930’s have to do with this?

    What the F does whether or not the Israelis rejected Partition in 1948 have to do with a 2 state solution today or the Israeli lobby influence 60 years Later?


    I mean if they’re haters the least they could do is try and be intelligent and subtle?


  15. Alex Bensky says:

    “What part of Never Again do you not understand?”

    Given situations like Darfur, I’d hesitate to say “Never again.” What we can say is, “Never again–but if again, this time not just us.”

  16. lemmy says:

    I think the whole point is not to say anything rigorously in the academic historical sense. It is the guaranteed and quick route to a spot on the talking cicuit as per Churchill etc.

    Say something outrageous, (westerners are all Nazis will do) get them squawking, you are a star.

    This is becoming a tired game these days.

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