Benny Morris dreams of a ‘less Arab’ Israel

on 105 Comments
Benny Morris
Benny Morris

Moment, a Jewish site, has a forum up on what it means to be pro-Israel today. It is remarkable for historian Benny Morris’s frank racism and political ordinations (Morris who helped to document the Nakba, then endorsed it):

But the Israel I want to see is more humane, more open, less religious and—to put it frankly—less Arab. I want less input from the ultra-Orthodox and from the Arab minorities.

Martin Peretz has a vicious comment about Jews who are critical of Israel:

I don’t want to say that there are political genes, but typologically, the Jews who are anti-Israel were also pro-Stalin and pro-Castro. I think this is actually a sickness that goes from generation to generation. There are no great left-wing causes that people can associate with anymore, but you can always go home to Mama and complain, and I think that’s what anti-Israel Jews are doing.

(Mom, I told you to stop emailing Marty Peretz!) Eric Alterman strikes me as very realistic about what is happening. I wonder when he’s going to jump ship to democracy:

under the “pro-Israel” mantle, traditional American Jewish organizations, as well as conservative Christian ones, focus exclusively on external threats and have encouraged these destructive tendencies, helping empower those who would make them permanent. And they’ve done so, necessarily, at the expense of Israel’s democracy and its standing in the world as a nation that lives according to its values. Those of us who believe in the values of the founding and necessity of the state, need to resist the urge to be yes-men and -women and face up to the bad habits created by Israel’s long-term state of emergency. These habits are now the greatest threat to Israel, greater than Hamas or Hezbollah or any other external enemy. If recent unfortunate trends continue, Israel may not have much of a democracy left to defend, nor much of connection to secular diaspora Jewry to help fight for it.

Marc Tracy of Tablet seems to include Jews on this site in his statement. He says that leftwing awareness of the issue is growing and maybe it’s ok to be anti-Israel: 

 What I’m realizing in talking with you is that to not be pro-Israel is clearly a “bad thing.” You’re not “supposed” to not be pro-Israel. It’s an insult to call someone anti-Israel. I’m uneasy about that.

Daniel Sieradski expresses fear of non-Jews. In fairness, I believe he is alarmed by the treatment of Christians in Egypt. (I understand the feeling, but Egypt is a different place and what we have now is Jewish tyranny.)

If one views Zionism as a struggle for Jewish autonomy and self-determination and wishes to keep Jews from submitting to the tyranny of a non-Jewish ethnic majority, it is absolutely imperative to achieve an amicable and just resolution to the Israeli-Palestinian and Israeli-Arab conflicts.

Cecilie Surasky of JVP takes the cake. She knows what Alterman is saying but brings a universalist message.

For diaspora Jews, being pro-Israel means holding Israel up to the same standards that we have for the democracies in which we live—especially the United States. The things we fight for as an ethnic and religious minority—freedom of religion, separation of church and state, equal treatment under the law—cannot be suspended just because we are the majority in Israel.

… Extremist settlers aren’t just attacking Palestinians, they’re attacking Israeli soldiers; and the Knesset isn’t just targeting Arab Israelis, they’re targeting Jews involved with human rights groups. And the seemingly endless expansion of settlements and occupation has all but made a two-state solution impossible. Burying our heads in the sand and pretending these things haven’t been going on for years is the worst thing we can do if we care about Israel. As minorities in the United States, we know what a healthy democracy looks like, and we’ve always been at the forefront of those battles for ourselves and others. We need to fight for the same in Israel, and that in my mind is the only way to be pro-Israel.

George Bisharat at Hastings law school has a wonderful statement. Can’t Americans help these people to imagine a different future?

I have two thoughts on the two-state solution: First, that it’s not going to happen in any way that approximates a just and stable resolution to the situation. The Palestinian state, if created, will be so shorn of substantive sovereignty that it won’t satisfy the purposes for which a state exists. Second, the two-state solution is undesirable in principle because the two populations are inextricably intermingled: 20 percent of Israel’s population is Palestinian-Arab, and there are about 600,000 Jews living in what would presumably become the Palestinian state….

What I’m advocating would take a major shift in thinking, both for Israeli Jews and Palestinian Arabs. It would require thinking deeply about what’s important: Do I need to have a flag with my own people’s symbol on it to the exclusion of others? Do I need to have laws in place that guarantee special rights for some and negate those of others?

Thanks to Joseph Dana, who tweets: “Mr. Morris should be commended for the willingness to say what is sadly on the minds of many. Honesty is in damn short supply here.”

And note that Benny Morris’s view is held by Obama’s rabbi friend Eric Yoffie, who doesn’t want “too many Arabs” in Israel.

    Leave a Reply