A Shocking Interview

The establishment-left Israeli newspaper Ha’aretz published this interview with the Israeli historian Benny Morris, who is widely known for his revisionist critiques of Zionism and Israel’s founders.

The interview is remarkable, especially the second page, where Morris discusses the nature of the conflict between Israel and the Palestinian Arabs. Morris’s profound new pessimism regarding the possibility of Israel’s reaching a peaceful accommodation is astonishing. Indeed, not only is he pessimistic, his current position sounds almost like last year’s leftist caricature of the Israeli Right’s position.

I forwarded the interview to a relative of mine who is sympathetic to the Israeli Left. She was shocked. In U.S. terms, it’s as if Anthony Lewis had come out in 1970 in favor of nuking North Vietnam.

I don’t know much about Morris, and this is pure speculation on my part, but I wonder if his new hard attitude foretells changes in the Israeli Left paralleling those that occurred in the American Left after 9/11. In our case there has been a broad split, with many serious liberals (in the current U.S. sense of the term) aligning themselves with the Bush administration on defense issues. It will be interesting to see if Morris’s apparent shift is idiosyncratic or the harbinger of a similar ideological move in the Israeli Left. My sense is that in Israel, as in the U.S., big things are happening, and that much of what’s going on is beneath the surface — or that we are too close to events to see what will be obvious to future historians.

As I wrote, remarkable.

5 thoughts on “A Shocking Interview”

  1. James Burnham said liberalism was the ideology of Western suicide. But Benny Morris is showing that when the person who wants to murder you stops existing in some distant theoretical future, you may snap out of your ideological reverie. 9/11 had the same effect here, in much milder form.

  2. North Vietnam posed no threat to the US in 1970 while the Palestinians, some of them anyway, want Israel to disappear and are up to killing Israelis whoever and wherever they are. Morris’s pessimism is well-founded.

    The change in Israel’s politics and the change in the US’s politics caused by 9/11 are in the direction of pessimism about the world, and that gives strength to Bush and Sharon, but they have no solution except more of the same. I don’t know about Israel, but I think Bush’s strength is due to the fact that the opposition seems to be in denial. All the Democrats want to do is change the subject or base their opposition on quibbles over terms like unilateralism or imminent threat.

    It is all very sad.

  3. Jim: Can’t agree about Bush. More of the same would have been more of Clinton — do nothing after repeated terrorist attack. Destroying the al Qaeda back-office in Afghanistan, pushing Pakistand and Saudi Arabia to stop supporting them. You may not agree with it, but it is not more of the same.

  4. In some important ways, it still is the same. The latest issue of Foreign Affairs has a very interesting article about Saudi Arabia that tends to show we’re still out of the loop in one of the most critical spots.

  5. It’s right that we are slow to resort to all-out war in order to defend ourselves, but it is also right that we are travelling in that direction.

Comments are closed.