David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s Segregationist Founder

‘The danger we face is that the great majority of those children whose parents did not receive an education for generations will descend to the level of Arab children,” Israel’s first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, declared at a July 1962 meeting. He was speaking with the head of a teachers federation on the question of whether to segregate “Mizrahi” children, whose parents came from Muslim countries, from “Ashkenazi” children in school.

Continue reading

Israelis rattled by search for truth about the Nakba: First “truth commission” in Israel

The first-ever “truth commission” in Israel, to be held on Wednesday, will feature confessions from veteran Israeli fighters of the 1948 war who are expected to admit to perpetrating war crimes as hundreds of thousands of Palestinians were expelled from their homes.

Continue reading

Survival of the Fittest?

Survival of the Fittest?

An Interview with Benny Morris


Ha’aretz, 16 January 2004

Note: Benny Morris is the dean of Israeli ‘new historians’, who have done so much to create a critical vision of Zionism–its expulsion and continuing oppression of the Palestinians, its pressing need for moral and political atonement. His 1987 book, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, chronicled the Zionist murders, terrorism, and ethnic cleansing that drove 600,000-750,000 Palestinians from their homes in 1948, thus refuting the myth that they fled under the orders of Arab leaders. A second edition of this book is due out this month, chronicling even more massacres, and a previously unsuspected number of rapes and murders of Palestinian women. Thus Morris continues to provide crucial documentation for Palestinians fighting the heritage of Al-Nakba, "The Catastrophe."


But in an astonishing recent Ha’aretz interview, after summarizing his new research, Morris proceeds to argue for the necessity of ethnic cleansing in 1948. He faults David Ben-Gurion for failing to expel all Arab Israelis, and hints that it may be necessary to finish the job in the future. Though he calls himself a left-wing Zionist, he invokes and praises the fascist Vladimir Jabotinsky in calling for an "iron wall" solution to the current crisis. Referring to Sharon’s Security Wall, he says, "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." He calls the conflict between Israelis and Arabs a struggle between civilization and barbarism, and suggests an analogy frequently drawn by Palestinians, though from the other side of the Winchester: "Even the great American democracy could not have been created without the annihilation of the Indians."


That’s nice and clear. Now one can find fault with the analogy, as did one outraged reader of Ha’aretz, who suggested that the annihilation of the Indians was the prototype for American imperialism, not the precondition for American democracy. But such arguments are almost beside the point. Morris’s chilling candor effectively removes him from the realm of rational argument, and hauls Sharon’s fascist vision of a Greater Israel out into the light of day. There’s no point in saying, "You’re talking about ethnic cleansing!" for Morris says bluntly, "There are circumstances in history that justify ethnic cleansing." There’s no point in saying, "You’re denying Palestinian suffering!" for after chronicling that suffering in scrupulous detail, he observes brightly, "You can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs. You have to dirty your hands." There’s no point in saying, "This is racist!" for Morris has abandoned humanist ethical universalism, invoking the pied-noir Camus to do so: "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."

When momma makes it into a political analogy, somebody’s about to bleed: never get between a colon and his motherland, particularly if his motherland used to be your motherland. Here, Morris leaves Enlightenment universalism for a volkische ethics of blood and bone that has haunted world history from Herder to Milosevic. But another French-Algerian, Jules Roy, answered Camus (and Benny Morris): "It is not a matter of choosing one’s mother over justice. It is a matter of loving justice as much as one’s mother."


Jim Holstun


Jim Holstun is professor of English at University at Buffalo. His most recent book, Ehud’s Dagger: Class Struggle in the English Revolution (Verso,
2000) won the prestigious Tamara Deutscher Memorial Prize in 2001.


Continue reading