Ben White versus Benny Morris

Read at ModernityBlog about Ben White trying to ban Israeli historian Benny Morris from Cambridge University – more at the Jewish Chronicle.

This is especially ironic as White has just shot a video for upcoming documentary With God on Our Side about how he thinks the “Israeli society” tries to stifle debate on campus whenever there are Palestinians speaking.

UPDATE: You can read about Benny Morris’ bitter political journey on The Guardian. Via the facebook group in question, Ben White himself is saying he did not want to ban Morris, merely highlight racist statements he has made against Arabs. If that were the case, then fair enough, however it does seem that the Israel Society were put under some pressure to cancel the talk. Modernity points out that both David Irving and Jean Marie Le Pen have spoken to Cambridge University students without anyone cancelling their talks.

James Mendelsohn adds:

There’s an extra irony in that White quite happily cites Benny Morris when it suits his own anti-Israel purposes. So shouldn’t White be calling for his own book to be banned on the basis that it approvingly quotes a racist writer?!?

http://blog.z-word.com/2009/07/more-white-lies-about-israeli-apartheid/

Advertisements

22 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized

22 responses to “Ben White versus Benny Morris

  1. modernityblog

    Good angle.

    I had forgotten how quickly Ben White was to censor his opponents on his blog and the various Facebook groups.

    He’s quite a hypocrite.

  2. zkharya

    Note the message of one person, that thousands of years of Jewish suffering leaves two choices: compassion or ‘Berlin walls’.

    What else does this mean but anti-Zionism or Zionism?

    I saw the White interview. I haven’t met him, as I once thought.

    Telling the Palestinian narrative is fine. But how does omitting the Zionist, Palestinian or Israeli Jewish narrative, or insisting upon its illegitimacy, accord with equity or justice?

    At least White is admitting to be a Palestinian Muslim and Christian nationalist polemicist.

  3. zkharya

    Nice to see Sizer at least pretending towards recognising The Danger of Simplistic Answers.

  4. zkharya

    Thinking about White’s assertion that the Israel or Jewish society never allowed for or included a Palestinian Muslim or Christian national narrative, I don’t think that’s true. They accepted the principle of partition and two states for two peoples long before White did. White until recently advocated one state as superior to two states, suggesting that his current acceptance of two states, not much predating the publication of his book, is really formal, and viewed as temporary.

    But, be that as it may, it seems to me that White’s rendering of Palestinian Muslim and Christian national history is intended to prove the fundamental illegitimacy of Zionism, and the Israeli, Palestinian or Jewish national movement or narrative.

  5. modernityblog

    indeed zkharya,

    White is talking tosh again, Israeli educationalists have been working on different narratives for years, not forgetting the Israelis involved in the Geneva accords, which explicitly acknowledge another narrative, etc etc

    He doesn’t know what he’s talking about.

  6. query

    When/where did white try to ban morris?

    • zkharya

      When his fellow organiser of the Facebook campaign Jamie SW expressed his regret that the Cambridge University Department of Politics and International Relations had offered Morris an alternative venue for his talk.

    • modernityblog

      more whataboutry?

      If you don’t think that was White’s aim, then what was it?

  7. James Mendelsohn

    There’s an extra irony in that White quite happily cites Benny Morris when it suits his own anti-Israel purposes. So shouldn’t White be calling for his own book to be banned on the basis that it approvingly quotes a racist writer?!?

    http://blog.z-word.com/2009/07/more-white-lies-about-israeli-apartheid/

  8. Amazing how the letter to CUSU posted on FB distorts Morris’ words. The first quote I decided to check was ostensibly pulled out of context. Morris in the Jan. 2004 Q&A interview, three years into a suicide bomb killing spree that had left hundreds dead:
    “At the moment, that society is in the state of being a serial killer. It is a very sick society. It should be treated the way we treat individuals who are serial killers.”

    What does that mean? What should we do tomorrow morning?

    “We have to try to heal the Palestinians. Maybe over the years the establishment of a Palestinian state will help in the healing process. But in the meantime, until the medicine is found, they have to be contained so that they will not succeed in murdering us.”

    To fence them in? To place them under closure?

    “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.”
    (Haaretz interview reprint found here:
    http://www.deiryassin.org/bennymorris.html

    The letter to CUSU omits the part about healing the Palestinians and establishing a Palestinian state:
    In the same interview, Morris called Palestinian society “very sick” stating that it should thus “be treated the way we treat individuals who are serial killers…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”.

  9. modernityblog

    Thanks.

    I am sure Morris’s quotes were taken out of context, knowing who’s doing it, that’s their method.

    But I should point out that the Deir Yassin site links to some antisemites/conspiracy freaks and is best avoided.

  10. P

    I think you have mis-understood the nature of the Oxford and Cambridge Unions and the other societies.

    First, none of these organisations is an official institution of the universities. The ‘Unions’ are not student unions, rather private debating societies, funded by subscription.

    Second, there have been numerous protests against racist speakers, including David Irving. When I was at Oxford (2000-03), Irving was asked to speak at the Union, and because of student pressure (this time direct pressure, not expressions of disappointment) he was de-invited. There is a lot of internal politics in these organisations, the complexity of which you would do well to understand and portray more accurately.

  11. seismicshock

    That’s a fair point P, thank you.

  12. modernityblog

    Indeed,

    and before that Jean Marie Le Pen was invited, many Jews in Cambridge remarked how insensitive this was, yet it still went ahead.

    What there is is a certain sensitivity to some subjects, but if it offends Jews then it seems to the count very little.

    I suspect part of it is power, prejudice and intellectual apathy.

  13. P

    There are plenty of instances where if something offends Jews action has been taken. For example, Ken Livingston’s brief suspension as Mayor of London.

  14. modernityblog

    Take offense?

    Do you think it is appropriate for a public official to make comments about other people’s ethnicity?

    You will remember how Livingston fought tooth and nail on this issue?

    The worst that ever happens if Jews get offended is that a stiff letter gets written, whereas people are exceedingly careful not to offend other social or ethnic minorities, because a stiff letter is the least that would happened.

    There is little, if any consequence, for offending Jews in Britain, the same cannot be said for other social/ethnic minorities, who justifiably take exception and are vigorous in defending themselves.

    Now the British are thus careful about one instance and not terribly in the other, as a stiff letter matters little.

  15. P

    And the consequence for a historian who offends Muslims is a Facebook group being set up by a couple of pranksters. More or less equivalent of a stiff letter.

    If you’re trying to show that the offence caused to Jews (and there is a whole other debate about whether ‘offence’ is an adequate notion on which to base such a large part of public policy) is not treated as seriously as it is in relation to other ethnic / religious / cultural groups, then you will need to do more than give one or two examples. You’ll need to do it with representative data, ideally using a randomised method. And it’s worth noting that, because there are more Muslims in the UK than there are Jews, I would expect to hear of more cases where Muslims sensibilities are offended than for Jews, just because of the numbers. And that’s before you start trying to account for other variables. Given the likelihood of multicolinearity, I would suggest using an instrumental variable.

    Of course, that doesn’t change how over-blown or otherwise is each individual incident, but you can’t go making sweeping generalisations without the numbers to back them up.

  16. anon

    Ben White, having sought to ban foremost academic Israeli Jewish historian, Benny Morris, http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=281244392023 , is speaking alongside Azzam Tamimi
    giving his own version of Israeli history, A Brief History of Israel, tonight at CU ISOC:

    http://www.facebook.com/event.php?eid=310658060730&ref=mf

    Row over Cambridge University ‘hate speaker’:
    http://www.thejc.com/news/uk-news/26917/row-over-cambridge-university-hate-speaker

    I take it Ben White is more happy with Tamimi’s plan to terrorise most Israeli Jews into leaving:

    “First, there’s the demographics. The Israelis murder a father. But he has six to ten sons who replace him. Palestinians have large families, the Jews do not. And Israel is running out of Jews. They wanted to bring all the Jews of the world to Palestine. But no more Jews want to go to Palestine. Even the Russian Jews who came to Israel are still hoping to get to America. Now a large portion of Israelis have dual nationalities. Maybe a million Jews have dual Israeli-American citizenship. And a huge number of South African Jews hold two passports. They are ready to flee the Jewish state at any moment. They did not go there to live in constant conflict. For them, the Jewish state has become the most dangerous place in the world for a Jew. This will become increasingly apparent.

    Essentialising negatively Zionism and Zionists, Israel and Israeli Jews (and this is one of his milder forays):

    “is a constant reminder to the Palestinian people that the Zionist project is doomed. It’s a large—but cowardly—endeavor. The entire theft of a nation was a cowardly undertaking. What Jew can be proud of it? Already,” he adds, “we are witnessing the beginning of the end of the Zionist project.”

    http://www.washington-report.org/backissues/1298/9812023.html

    Never recognising any kind of Israel ever:

    TIM SEBASTIAN: What – sit down with Hamas and Islamic Jihad?

    DR AZZAM AL-TAMIMI: Yes, why not?

    TIM SEBASTIAN: An organisation dedicated to their extinction – the Israelis should do that?

    DR AZZAM AL-TAMIMI: They have to. They have no other option. When the British Government sat with the IRA and negotiated a peace agreement that’s the way forward.

    This slogan ‘we don’t talk to terrorists’ is nonsense. They have to. They have to talk to … and the Palestinians are not terrorists. The Palestinians are the victims and if the Israelis want the way out they have no choice but to come and sit and talk without preconditions.

    TIM SEBASTIAN: And you have no preconditions? Hamas has no preconditions? When I asked one of your spokesmen, Mahmoud al-Zahar a couple of years ago in Gaza and I asked him what it would take to stop the fighting he couldn’t give me a straight answer and in the end when I asked him a couple of times he said: I’m telling you frankly the attitude of Islam is not to accept a foreign state in this area. So he was ruling out the State of Israel in that area. You’re telling me he was wrong?

    DR AZZAM AL-TAMIMI: No – if we want to stop the bloodshed …

    TIM SEBASTIAN: Well you can you answer that question. No – this is important; this is an important issue here Dr al-Tamimi. What would it take to stop the fighting – the end of an Israeli State? Can Israel live side by side? Has Israel the right to exist?

    DR AZZAM AL-TAMIMI: The current violence can be stopped without having to talk about the end of Israel.

    TIM SEBASTIAN: Does Israel have the right to exist?

    DR AZZAM AL-TAMIMI: No, as far as the Palestinian is concerned …

    TIM SEBASTIAN: No?

    DR AZZAM AL-TAMIMI: No – of course not. Of course not.

    TIM SEBASTIAN: So what’s there to talk about then? Isn’t that a precondition?

    DR AZZAM AL-TAMIMI: No, no, no ..

    TIM SEBASTIAN: You said sit down with no preconditions. That’s a precondition …

    DR AZZAM AL-TAMIMI: You see, that’s blackmail. That’s blackmail.

    TIM SEBASTIAN: What’s blackmail?

    DR AZZAM AL-TAMIMI: This is what the Israelis and the American[s] are doing …

    TIM SEBASTIAN: What’s blackmail?

    DR AZZAM AL-TAMIMI: They say to us: Unless you recognise Israel’s right to be in your house on your land we will not talk to you. We say to them …

    TIM SEBASTIAN: I didn’t say that. I said ‘right to exist’:

    DR AZZAM AL-TAMIMI: Israel has no right to exist in my home, on my father’s land – has no right to exist. It may exist despite me. It may exist because it is powerful, because it is supported by the Unites States of America but I will never as a Palestinian, I will never give legitimacy to a state that is created on land robbed from my father, from my grandfather and from my mother.

    http://www.danielpipes.org/2813/interview-with-dr-azzam-al-tamimi-institute-of-islamic

    As for Morris’ ‘Muslim penetration into Europe’, Tamimi does want to Islamisize Europe, albeit peacefully, and spread the lie that ‘Zionists’ want to ‘destroy their (Muslims’) existence in Europe’, and that they with their ‘machinery’ persuaded the majority of Swiss to ban minarets. Not to mention his (racist?) generalisations about Europeans.

    When Tamimi calls Freysinger the new Hitler, and adduces Zionist collaboration with Hitler, Freysinger politely reminds him that the first Palestinian national leader (and of Tamimi’s father the resistance fighter) was Hitler’s ally in the final solution:

    http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/2297.htm

    I’d observe that, for all his calling Palestinian society ‘sick’ (and I don’t see that White does anything substantially different with regard to Zionism and Israeli Jewish society), Morris does at least accept the principle of two states, unlike Tamini:

    “Two states is the only solution with an element of justice,” Morris says. “But there are two other realistic solutions — one is that the Jews will kick out all the Arabs across the river, and the other is that the Arabs will throw the Jews into the sea. I’m not sure one of them won’t happen.”

    http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/03/10/AR2007031001496.html

    That is also assumed in the other part to the quotation used by White but conspicuously omitted:

    “True. But when one has to deal with a serial killer, it’s not so important to discover why he became a serial killer. What’s important is to imprison the murderer or to execute him.”

    Explain the image: Who is the serial killer in the analogy?

    “The barbarians who want to take our lives. The people the Palestinian society sends to carry out the terrorist attacks, and in some way the Palestinian society itself as well. At the moment, that society is in the state of being a serial killer. It is a very sick society. It should be treated the way we treat individuals who are serial killers.”

    http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=380984

    With regard to the second possibility adduced by Morris, Arabs’ driving Jews into the sea, Tamimi’s father was a fighter in the same national movement that sought the dispossession or elimination of Palestinian Jews. Just like the son does now.

    Also, as a counterpoint to Morris’ ‘the Muslims are busy killing…in this part of the world’, Tamimi’s characterising Muslims as fighting imperialism, capitalism and America. That is also a form of essentialising Muslims and Islam as jihadis and jihad against America and the capitalist West (actually, of the 11 000 000 Muslims slain since 1948, most have been killed by other Muslims –you decide which is more accurate: Morris or Tamimi).

    http://www.memritv.org/clip/en/2339.htm

  17. Anon

    There is a piece of quotation missing from “individuals who are serial killers.”

    What does that mean? What should we do tomorrow morning?

    “We have to try to heal the Palestinians. Maybe over the years the establishment of a Palestinian state will help in the healing process. But in the meantime, until the medicine is found, they have to be contained so that they will not succeed in murdering us.”

    To fence them in? To place them under closure?

    “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.”

    http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/pages/ShArt.jhtml?itemNo=380984

    • seismicshock

      I share your concern about this – if these views affect Morris’ credentials as a historian then what is White doing quoting him in his book though? Why is Morris only a historian for Ben White when it suits him?

  18. Anon

    oops,

    giving his own version of Israeli history, A Brief History of Israel, TOMORROW tonight at SOAS ISOC:

    I’ve contacted head of Israel and Jewish Studies, Colin Shindler, and Catherine Hezser.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s