Benny Morris is one of Israel’s revisionist “new historians” whose scholarship has been devoted to undermining Israel’s traditional founding narrative. Efraim Karsh has effectively debunked Morris’s scholarship in Fabricating History and in articles including, most recently, “Benny Morris’s reign of error, revisited.” In the New Republic, Anita Shapira characterized Morris’s work as “an anti-narrative of Zionism.”
Morris continues to stand by, if not exactly to defend, his scholarship, but his thinking seems to have evolved. Karsh summarized Morris’s response to Karsh’s book in “The unbearable lightness of my critics.” In Karsh’s 2002 essay, he describes an apparent evolution in Morris’s thinking about the Israeli-Arab, or Israeli-Palestinian, conflict. Morris’s 2006 New Republic essay responding to Mearsheimer and Walt tends to support Karsh’s description in the tenor of Morris’s thought: “And now for some facts.”
The shift in Morris’s thinking is also apparent in Morris’s powerful Israel Insider essay on the Iranian existential threat to Israel: “The second Holocaust is looming.” Here are one paragraph that articulates an observation we have made here previously (here, for example):
As with the first, the second Holocaust will have been preceded by decades of preparation of hearts and minds, by Iranian and Arab leaders, Western intellectuals and media outlets. Different messages have gone out to different audiences — but all have (objectively) served the same goal, the demonization of Israel. Muslims the world over have been taught: ‘The Zionists\the Jews are the embodiment of evil’ and ‘Israel must be destroyed.’ And Westerners, more subtly, were instructed: ‘Israel is a racist oppressor state’ and ‘Israel, in this age of multi-culturalism, is an anachronism and superfluous’. Generations of Muslims and at least a generation of Westerners have been brought up on these catechisms.
Morris follows that observation with this:
The build-up to the second Holocaust (which, incidentally, in the end, will probably claim roughly the same number of lives as did the first) has seen an international community fragmented and driven by separate, selfish appetites – Russia and China obsessed with Muslim markets; France, with Arab oil – and the United States driven by the debacle in Iraq into a deep isolationism. Iran has been left free to pursue its nuclear destiny and Israel and Iran, to face off alone.
Morris’s essay is worth reading in its entirety.
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