Archive for May 15th, 2009

Benny Morris has a new book out where he examines the rise of the one-state solution in the discourse around the Israel-Palestine conflict. I review it here.

The review has much of what i would want to say about Morris. But I think it’s important to emphasize two things.

One is that Morris is clearly racist in his approach. While he’s certainly willing to be critical, even cynical about Israeli leaders, he seems to approach every statement by an Arab leader as being a lie until proven otherwise.

The second, however, is that despite this serious problem, Morris’ work has been groundbreaking and, though inconsistent, very important. This current book was foreshadowed at the end of his previous one, 1948: A History of the First Arab-Israeli War. That book, which spiralled downward at the end, was perhaps Morris’ best and is widely seen as the best book yet written on the 1947-49 war (a view i tend to agree with).

Morris is, in many ways, the antithesis of Ilan Pappe. The latter embraces the futility of objectivity and writes

Benny Morris

Benny Morris

unabashedly from a particular point of view. The former strives to be objective and, while he often falls short like the rest of us, he often does overcome his own baises and produce important work that doesn’t necessarily support his own personal views.

That’s why it’s important to recognize the two Benny Morrises. One is a very poor polemicist whose racism often seeps through. The other is an excellent researcher who is often successful at getting beyond his own biases and prejudices and whose work merits the most serious attention.

Benny Morris is an enigma, but you can’t deal with one side of him without the other. His work should not be dismissed because of his views, but his work should also not give credence to his more base views. And, it should also be noted, that being an excellent historian doesn’t necessarily mean one is a good political analyst.

More in my review, published here.

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In his recent speech at the annual conference of the American-Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC), Vice President Joe Biden reiterated President Barack Obama’s call for a freeze of Israeli settlements and the dismantling of “illegal outposts” set up by Israeli settlers in the West Bank.

Joe Biden speaks to AIPAC

Joe Biden speaks to AIPAC

There are many issues that need to be resolved between Israel and the Palestinians. But settlements, an issue which has too long been on the diplomatic back-burner, are the root cause of most of the human rights problems in the West Bank.

From expropriation of Palestinian land, to severe restrictions on Palestinian movement, from the settler pogroms in Palestinian towns to putting more Israelis at greater risk of violence, the settlements make lives more miserable and hope more remote every day. And they throw Israel’s respect for the rule of law into question as well.

With Biden’s speech at so central a DC event as the AIPAC conference, it is clear that the issue of settlements is now as central in the diplomatic arena as it has been for years on the ground. This is good news but resolving the settlement question will not be easy. (more…)

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