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Finkelstein on Morris, on the root cause of the conflict

Israel/PalestineUS Politics

On Russian tv the other day, debaters Benny Morris and Norman Finkelstein were asked what the root of the conflict is in Israel/Palestine, and Morris said it was Arab resistance to Zionism. "The Arabs didn’t want the Jews to be here… didn’t want to share the land with them." (As commenters have noted,) Finkelstein said that Morris was wrong, and that his own scholarship shows as much. He didn’t get a chance to go into it on air. And so:

Morris clearly misrepresented what he said in the past. Here are his words: 

"The idea of transferring the Arabs out of the Jewish State area to the Arab state area or to other Arab states was seen as the chief means of assuring the stability and ‘Jewishness’ of the proposed Jewish State" (The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, p. 25, my emphasis).

When you juxtapose this statement beside his other statements, it’s hard not to conclude from Morris’s books that the "root cause of the conflict" (the moderator’s question) was the rational fear of Palestinian Arabs that if Zionisms succeeded they would be made homeless: 

"The fear of territorial displacement and dispossession was to be the chief motor of Arab antagonism to Zionism down to 1948 (and indeed after 1967 as well)." (Righteous Victims, p. 37, my emphasis). 

"[T]ransfer was inevitable and inbuilt into Zionism—because it sought to transform a land which was ‘Arab’ into a ‘Jewish’ state and a Jewish state could not have arisen without a major displacement of Arab population; and because this aim automatically produced resistance among the Arabs which, in turn, persuaded the Yishuv’s leaders that a hostile Arab majority or large minority could not remain in place if a Jewish state was to arise or safely endure" (Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Question Revisited, p. 60, my emphasis).

Morris’s problem recalls Churchill’s. Churchill’s fellow Tory MP Eddie Winterton once said during a House of Commons debate on India that Churchill’s trouble was that he could not "shovel enough earth over his past to obliterate it from human view."

Norman Finkelstein
About Norman G. Finkelstein

Norman G. Finkelstein received his doctorate in 1988 from the Department of Politics at Princeton University. He taught political theory and the Israel-Palestine conflict for many years and currently writes and lectures. Finkelstein's books have been translated into 50 foreign editions. His latest is "Gaza: An Inquest Into Its Martyrdom" (University of California Press, January 2018).

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