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No More Tears: Benny Morris and the Road Back from Liberal Zionism

(Joel Beinin, an editor of this magazine, teaches Middle East history at Stanford University.)

Books Reviewed

Benny Morris, 1948 and After: Israel and the Palestinians (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1990, second edition, 1994).

Benny Morris, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988).

Benny Morris, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004).

Haganah militiamen expel Palestinian Arabs from Haifa, April 1948. (Agence France Presse)

On July 11, 1948, Aharon Cohen, director of the Arab Affairs Department of the socialist-Zionist Mapam party in Israel, received a carbon copy of a military intelligence report. Israel, a state less than two months old, was embroiled in a war with neighboring Arab states that would last until 1949. The document in Cohen’s hands analyzed the reasons for the flight of 240,000 Palestinian Arabs from areas which had been allocated to the Jewish state by the November 1947 UN partition plan and another 150,000 from the Jerusalem region and areas allocated to the Arab state. Cohen was upset to read the report’s conclusion that 70 percent of these Arabs had fled due to “direct, hostile Jewish operations against Arab settlements” by Zionist militias, or the “effect of our hostile operations on nearby (Arab) settlements.”[1] One month before Cohen received this report, Mapam’s political committee had issued a resolution opposing “the tendency to expel the Arabs from the Jewish state,” in response to Cohen’s warnings that such operations were taking place.

Over the course of Arab-Jewish fighting between 1947 and 1949, well over 700,000 Palestinians were made refugees, the majority of them by direct expulsion or the fear of expulsion or massacre. The largest single expulsion occurred after Israeli conquest of the towns of Lydda and Ramla in the Jerusalem-Tel Aviv corridor during July 9-18, 1948. Some 50,000 Palestinians were driven out of their homes in these towns by Israeli forces whose deputy commander was Yitzhak Rabin, prime minister of Israel from 1974-1977 and 1992-1995. Some two dozen massacres of Palestinians were perpetrated by pre-state Zionist militias and Israeli forces, the most infamous of them on April 9-10, 1948, at the village of Deir Yassin.

Yet after the war, it was Mapam’s prescription for the conduct of Israeli forces—rather than the reality of expulsion—that became official Israeli history, and eventually, came to define the Jewish Israeli collective memory of what happened in 1948. For decades, the state of Israel, and traditional Zionist historians, argued that the Palestinian Arabs fled on orders from Arab military commanders and governments intending to return behind the guns of victorious Arab armies which would “drive the Jews into the sea.” Consequently, the Zionist authorities would admit little or no responsibility for the fate of the Palestinian refugees and their descendants. This was not due to lack of adequate information. Ample evidence from Zionist sources from the period of the 1948 war and immediately afterwards indicates that members of the military and political elite, secondary leaders and intellectuals close to them knew very well what happened to the Palestinian Arabs in 1948, to say nothing of rank-and-file soldiers and kibbutz members who actually expelled Palestinians, expropriated their lands and destroyed their homes. But soon after the fighting, Zionist and Israeli state officials began to consolidate an official discourse that enabled most Israeli Jews to “forget” what they once “knew”—that during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war a large number of Palestinian Arabs were ethnically cleansed from the territories that became the state of Israel.

“Shooting and Crying”

In the late 1980s and early 1990s, a group of Israeli “new historians” began to publish findings from research in previously classified archives that reminded Israelis of what they had forgotten. The most celebrated, if not the most radical, of these “new historians” is Benny Morris. His signature work, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, 1947-1949, is arguably the single most significant revision of the previously prevailing Israeli historical consensus on the 1948 war. In addition to his influential book, Morris found and explicated the unpublished diaries of Yosef Nahmani, a leader of the Zionist institutions in the eastern Galilee, who offered a clear description of the expulsion of Arabs, the confiscation of their lands and his concerns about these issues during the 1948 war. Summarizing his analysis of Nahmani’s diaries, Morris notes that Nahmani’s regrets about the expulsions mark one of the first instances of the distinctive Israeli syndrome known as “shooting and crying.”[2]

The point of departure for The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem is that, traditionally, two contending explanations sought to account for the flight of the Palestinian refugees from their homeland in 1948. The Palestinian and Arab version argued that “transfer” was always an element of Zionist thought and that the war of 1948 provided the opportunity to implement the transfer plan. Hence, the Zionists expelled the Palestinian Arabs by conscious design. In contrast, the Zionist version blamed the orders of Arab leaders. Based on his archival research, Morris contends that neither the traditional Arab nor the Zionist version can be empirically substantiated, and “that war and not design, Jewish or Arab, gave birth to the Palestinian refugee problem.”[3] This formulation presents itself as a golden mean, with all the moral and philosophical legitimacy that accrues to such a position in the Western cultural tradition. There is absolutely no epistemological warrant for the claim that “the truth” of any matter lies midway between two opposing claims. But Morris’ appeal to this apparently reasonable, if fallacious, notion has contributed to positioning The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem as the standard work on the topic in Europe and North America. His later works have solidified his reputation as the voice of reason—and, for some, an embodiment of hope for a more liberal Israel that can come to terms with its past.

Stereotypical image of Jewish construction upon "the land without a people." (Agence France Press)

This reputation was definitively shattered by Morris’s interview in the Friday supplement of Haaretz, Israel’s “intellectual” daily, a month before publication of an expanded second edition of his principal work, retitled The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited.[4] Relentlessly pursuing his empirical research, Morris documents even more Israeli massacres of Palestinians—some two dozen—than were chronicled in the original text, as well about a dozen cases of rape by Israeli soldiers. But “balance” is maintained by his discovery “that there were a series of orders issued by the Arab Higher Committee and by the Palestinian intermediate levels to remove children, women and the elderly from the villages.”[5] Nonetheless, Morris coldly concludes, “There is no justification for acts of rape. There is no justification for acts of massacre. Those are war crimes. But…I do not think that the expulsions of 1948 were war crimes. You can’t make an omelet without breaking eggs. You have to dirty your hands.” Not only does Morris refrain from morally condemning the ethnic cleansing of 1948, he explicitly endorses it because “[a] Jewish state would not have come into being without the uprooting of 700,000 Palestinians. Therefore it was necessary to uproot them. There was no choice but to expel that population.”[6]

Morris now provides a moral justification for ethnic cleansing that he did not offer before the second intifada, arguing that “[e]ven the great American democracy could not have been created without the annihilation of the Indians.” Native Americans and those with a sounder knowledge of North American history may demur. But in Israel, appeal to the authority of the US is the ultimate clincher in any argument. Yearning for the success of the American example, Morris now criticizes Israel’s first prime minister and defense minister, David Ben-Gurion, for failing to do “a complete job” because “this place would be quieter and know less suffering if the matter had been resolved once and for all. If Ben-Gurion had carried out a large expulsion and cleansed the whole country…. It may yet turn out that this was his fatal mistake.” Palestine-Israel might also be quieter today if Hitler had completed his planned genocide of world Jewry. It does not occur to Morris that there might be a parallel between these two historical counterfactuals. The first is in the realm of acceptable speculation; the second is too obviously outrageous to consider.

Morris now embraces the common American post-September 11 view of the Muslim world, arguing that, “There is a deep problem in Islam. It’s a world whose values are different. A world in which human life doesn’t have the same value as it does in the West, in which freedom, democracy, openness and creativity are alien…. Therefore, the people we are fighting have no moral inhibitions.” The Palestinians are “serial killers” and “barbarians.” What follows from Morris’ logic is that the Palestinian refugees of 1948 were simply precursors of al-Qaeda who deserved their fate. Further, “if Israel again finds itself in a situation of existential threat, as in 1948…expulsion [of Palestinian-Israelis and West Bankers and Gazans] will be justified.”

Excluding Arab Testimony

The racism Morris has openly expressed during the second intifada is prefigured by his historical method, beginning with his earliest publications during the first intifada. All his work is characterized by the near total exclusion of Arab testimony. Because of the destruction of the fabric of Arab society and the flight of most of the population in 1948, few intellectuals remained who could offer a coherent counter-narrative capable of contesting the Zionist narrative. Most efforts of those Palestinians who became citizens of the Israeli state to organize independent political and cultural institutions after 1948 were repressed. Mapam did criticize, even if for the most part ineffectually, the most extreme injustices of the Zionist project. But the activities of Arab party members were typically supervised by their Jewish comrades. Only the Communist Party offered Palestinian-Israelis a relatively free framework for cultural expression and political action.[7]

The delegitimization of Palestinian-Israeli voices, most clearly expressed at the institutional level by the military government imposed on most Arab citizens from 1949 to 1966, was one of the principal tools deployed to dig a labyrinthine memory hole in which things once known were deposited and rendered unknowable for the vast majority of Israeli Jews. Morris is uninterested in excavating this hole. He never asks how and why unsupported and demonstrably false assertions could become so widely accepted among Israeli Jews, among world Jewry and by Western public opinion, although he acknowledges that this did occur. The answers to these questions might, at least in part, explain why Morris’ own work, and that of the other new historians, has had relatively little impact in transforming popular Israeli understandings of the events of 1948 and after.

A Dubious Distinction

In the narrative of Morris and the early work of the other new historians, just as in that of the old historians, Jews are the subjects of history. Arabs are objects of Jewish action. This is particularly salient in The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited. The focus on Jewish actions is partly, but not entirely, due to the availability of copious Israeli literary and archival materials and the paucity of comparable Arab sources.

The early new historians, like their predecessors, tend to emphasize what Jews thought, not what they did. For Benny Morris, the critical question is the existence of a document which would constitute a “smoking gun”—a blanket order to expel Arabs in 1948. The non-existence of such a document (or at least Morris’ inability to find it) looms far larger in his understanding of the Palestinian refugee question than the fact, which he readily acknowledges, that the great majority of the Palestinian Arabs who lived on the lands which became the state of Israel fled or were expelled due to actions of the Israeli armed forces. The preoccupation with what Jews thought or intended to do rather than the actual consequences of Jewish actions, is a continuation of the dominant idealist approach in Israeli historical writing on the history of Zionism and the Arab-Zionist conflict.[8]

Morris’ empiricist and positivist historical method excludes Palestinian Arab voices from his narratives to nearly the same extent as the old historians and the political leadership with which they were organically connected. Explaining that he was “brought up believing in the value of documents,” Morris claims to distrust oral evidence.[9] Moreover, he asserts that, “There is simply no Arab documentation of the sort historians must rely on. What exists in Arabic or translated from Arabic into Hebrew or English are some Arab political and military memoirs, newspaper clippings, chronicles and histories. Much of this material…is slight, unreliable, tendentious, imaginative and occasionally fantastical.”[10]

Despite this contempt for the existing Arabic sources, Morris’ position has a respectable professional pedigree derived from the work of Leopold von Ranke. Like many positivist historians, Morris does not consider the intellectual or political implications of his choice of historical method. Indeed, like most traditional Israeli historians he rejects the view that proper scholarly practices have political implications. Despite the sympathy it might arouse for their plight, Morris’ historical method contributes to the historical and political marginalization of the Palestinians. Moreover, his positivist and literalist approach to reading archival evidence results in a historical incoherence which renders the experiences of the Palestinians and other Arabs obscure if not incomprehensible. Responding to Nur Masalha’s critique of The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem,[11] which argues that the Zionists did carry out a planned expulsion of Palestinian Arabs in 1948, Morris characterizes the objectives of Plan D—the military strategy adopted by the Haganah militia in early March and implemented in early April 1948—as follows: “The Plan called for the securing of the future country’s border areas (to close off the expected invasion routes) and of its internal lines of communication (to guard against the threat of fifth column activity by the country’s Arab minority) while the Haganah was engaged along the borders.”[12]

Morris insists on the distinction between military and political policy, arguing that, “Plan D was not a political blueprint for the expulsion of Palestine’s Arabs: It was governed by military considerations and was geared to achieving military ends. But, given the nature of the war and the admixture of the two populations, securing the interior of the Jewish state and its borders in practice meant the depopulation and destruction of villages that hosted hostile local militia and irregular forces…. Plan D provided for the conquest and permanent occupation, or leveling, of villages and towns.”[13] Nonetheless, Morris is unequivocal about the consequences of the implementation of Plan D: “…a vital strategic change occurred in the first half of April: Clear traces of an expulsion policy on both national and local levels with respect to certain key districts and localities and a general atmosphere of transfer are detectable in statements made by Zionist officials and officers…. During April 4-9, Ben-Gurion and the [Haganah General Staff] under the impact of the dire situation of Jewish Jerusalem and the [Arab] attack on Mishmar Ha‘emek…decided, in conformity with the general guidelines of Plan D, to clear out and destroy the clusters of hostile or potentially hostile villages dominating vital axes.”[14]

Is the line between military policy and political policy as sharp as Morris insists? Did Ben-Gurion participate in making this decision in his capacity as the future prime minister of Israel or in his capacity as its future minister of defense? Did he make a decision in his capacity as a military leader that he could not have made in his capacity as a political leader because he feared it would arouse opposition from Mapam and international criticism of the Jewish state before it was even established? If only villages which “hosted hostile local militia and irregular forces” were to be destroyed, why did the Haganah approve the Etzel/Lehi attack on Deir Yassin—a village that had signed and observed a peace agreement with its Jewish neighbors?[15]

According to Morris’ periodization, the second and largest wave of Palestinian refugees—some 200,000-300,000—fled between April and June 1948. This flight/expulsion corresponds to the period when Plan D was implemented and can largely be explained by it. But Morris refrains from making this direct connection. Did these refugees think there was a substantial distinction between Zionist military and political policy? Is their understanding of their experience relevant to consider for the historical record?

Slightly Reliable

Some Arab voices do make their way into The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, although they are unimpressive and tend to support Zionist claims. Despite his proclaimed distrust of oral evidence Morris uses a relatively weak source—an interview with Anwar Nusseibeh in the Jerusalem Post Magazine in 1986—as evidence for his claim that fear of internecine strife similar to that which occurred during the Arab revolt of 1936-1939 caused the flight of Jerusalem’s upper and middle classes during the first wave of Palestinian flight from December 1947 to March 1948.[16] Morris also relies on fourth-hand oral evidence—an English sergeant quoting an American newsman discussing Arab fears on the day of Jaffa’s surrender to the Zionist armed forces as reported in an article by Aharon Cohen to explain that the Arabs fled Jaffa because they feared that the Jews would do to them what the Arabs would have done to the Jews had they been victorious.[17] Morris also refers to an interview with an Arab from Haifa who said that the Arabs considered themselves less civilized than the Jews in the same article by Cohen.[18] Hence, when negatively portraying Palestinians, Morris is willing to rely on Arab oral evidence.

Morris also abandoned his historiographical principles in accepting, for the first edition of The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, the oral testimony of Maj. Gen. Moshe Carmel, the commander of Operation Hiram in which Israel conquered the areas of the Galilee allotted to the Arab state during October 28-31, 1948. In an interview with Morris in 1985, Carmel claimed that he never adopted a policy of expelling Palestinians from these territories. Morris endorsed this version of the events in The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem.[19] At this juncture, Morris declined to interview his colleague, ‘Adil Manna‘, a native of Majd al-Krum, who told him after the publication of The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem that there had been a massacre and expulsion in his village and in neighboring villages during Operation Hiram.[20] When Morris was able to examine the Israel Defense Forces archive, which was not open to him when he researched the first edition of The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, he found an order from Maj. Gen. Carmel to all the division and district officers under his command to “do all you can to immediately and quickly purge the conquered territories of all hostile elements....The residents should be helped to leave the areas that have been conquered.”[21] Carmel’s forces proceeded to carry out massacres in ten villages they had occupied. To his credit, Morris corrected himself and unequivocally reported, “Carmel had not told me the truth.”[22]

“Truth, Not Justice”

The trajectory of Morris’ historical work expresses a certain radicalization in both its conclusions and their political implications that corresponded roughly to the period of the first Palestinian intifada (1987-91) and the ensuing willingness of liberal Zionists to negotiate with Palestinians, culminating in the Oslo “peace process” of 1993-2000. Thus, even though his conceptual categories do not exceed the limits of liberal Zionist discourse, they contributed to expanding the boundaries of that discourse in a favorable conjuncture when liberal, middle-class, Israeli Jews eagerly looked forward to the end of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

The conclusion of the Hebrew version of The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, which appeared in 1991, contains a harsher assessment of Israeli responsibility for the flight of the refugees than the English version of 1988. There Morris added that, in addition to Arab and Jewish fears and fighting, the refugee problem was “in part…the result of deliberate, not to say malevolent, actions of Jewish commanders and politicians; in smaller part Arab commanders and politicians were responsible for its creation through acts of commission and omission.”[23] In articles that appeared after the publication of The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem, in addition to acknowledging that Moshe Carmel lied about the expulsion policies implemented by forces under his command, Morris maintained that even if there was no national political decision to expel Palestinians in 1948, the number of regional expulsions and their extent was greater than either the first English or the Hebrew edition of the book acknowledged.[24] They are fully described in the second English edition. By 1997, Morris argued that although he still could find no document ordering a blanket expulsion of the Palestinian Arabs, the concept of transfer developed from a haphazard idea to a near Jewish consensus from 1937 to 1948. Hence, the Zionist political and military leaders “arrived at 1948 with a mindset which was open to the idea and implementation of transfer and expulsion” and that almost all of them understood “that transfer was what the Jewish state’s survival and well-being demanded.”[25]

If the interview in Haaretz marks Morris’ arrival at the center-right of the Israeli Jewish consensus, his road to that position began with an interview in the Friday supplement of the daily Yediot Aharonot in late 2001. There he eschewed evaluation and moral judgment and divorced them from the proper professional preoccupations of the historian in the strongest possible terms: “I do not look [at history] from a moral perspective. I look for truth, not justice.”[26] But the same interview is replete with moral and political judgments:

What happened in 1948 was inevitable (bilti nimna‘). If the Jews wanted to establish a state in Eretz Yisrael that would be located on an area a little larger than Tel Aviv, it was necessary to move people.... I do not see this as inadmissible (pasul) from a moral standpoint. Without a population expulsion a Jewish state would not have been established here, and I am morally in favor of the establishment of a Jewish state. Without the expulsion a state with a large Arab minority would have been established here, with a large fifth column…. I revealed to Israelis what happened in 1948, the historical facts. But the Arabs are the ones who began the fighting. They began shooting. So why should I take responsibility? The Arabs began the war, they are responsible.

Moreover, Morris explains that the Palestinian Arabs were not expelled but “were driven out,” in the passive voice. The initiative came primarily from commanders in the field (like Moshe Carmel) who understood that it is better to clear out (lefanot) the Arabs.

Once again, Morris draws a sharp line between political and military policy. How did these commanders come to this understanding? Did anyone in a position of political leadership rebuke them for their actions? Today, Morris is even less interested in these questions than he was in the 1990s. The positivist assertion that whoever began to shoot is the aggressor and bears moral responsibility for all the consequences of the war resembles the question of the existence or non-existence of a “smoking gun.” Absent such an order Morris will not conclude that there was an intention to expel Arabs even though the Zionist political and military leaders “arrived at 1948 with a mindset which was open to the idea and implementation of transfer and expulsion.”

Morris’ willingness to entertain only certain moral judgments stems from his perception that the Palestinians rejected a “generous offer” by Israel and the United States at the July 2000 Camp David summit and afterwards. He admits, “I have accumulated a lot of anger towards the Palestinians in the last two years. Because they rejected Clinton’s proposal.” Although he agrees that then Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Barak also made mistakes, Morris considers them insignificant when compared to those of Yasser Arafat. “For their [i.e., Palestinian] mistakes we pay in human lives, ours and theirs.” Israeli mistakes apparently do not cost human lives.

All Cried Out

The bottom line of Morris’ reassessment represents the Israeli national consensus: “What happened in 1948 is irreversible.”[27] That is to say, there can be no consideration of a Palestinian right to return in any form. The entire historical project of demonstrating Israel’s ethnic cleansing of the Palestinians in 1948 is emptied of its obvious current political implications and reduced to an antiquarian curiosity. For Morris and the broad center of the Israeli consensus, even if they are prepared to acknowledge that it happened, to one degree or another, it is irrelevant to the political questions that can legitimately be addressed.

Benny Morris and the liberal Zionist intelligentsia of which he is (or was) a part limited a priori the conclusions that might be drawn from the historical reassessment of 1948 and related matters. Among the new historians, only Ilan Pappé speaks openly in favor of recognizing the right of return of Palestinian refugees—the red line dividing those who adhere to the Israeli-Jewish national consensus from those who do not. Because Morris avoided the conclusions toward which his research gestured, even in his most radical phase, most Israelis enmeshed in the traditional Zionist discourse could simply ignore his work rather than engage in a serious effort to dispute its empirical evidence. Many knew very well what had happened in 1948 and were not embarrassed by it in front of Jewish audiences, although they knew it was best to be discreet in front of non-Jews. After the initial shock, only guardians of the flame of Ben-Gurion and the heritage of labor Zionism, like Shabtai Teveth and Anita Shapira, felt the necessity to dispute Morris and the “new historians.”[28] Hence the new historians have not, as Zachary Lockman predicted,[29] substantially changed the terms of political debate in Israel.

Morris once believed that the new historians might have a significant impact on Israeli political discourse. But the political and cultural orientation of the liberal Zionist intelligentsia of which he was a part in the late 1980s and 1990s was an integral part of the project of forgetting what was once known about the events of 1948. The Oslo era’s exclusion of issues that were on the Palestinian and Arab political agenda—Jerusalem and refugees—is structurally parallel to the historian’s exclusion of Arab sources of evidence. Morris’ historical approach is deeply embedded in the categories of knowledge of the Zionist project and not as incompatible with the methods of the old history as he would like us to think. Both his liberal political position until 2001 and his historical method continue the well-respected, if ineffectual, labor Zionist tradition of self-critical reassessment from within, or in the less generous colloquial Israeli terminology previously introduced, shooting and crying.

The indefatigable research of Benny Morris was crucial in recovering the voices of those Israeli Jewish participants in the expulsions of Palestinians in 1948, like Yosef Nahmani, who shot and cried. But of course, after the dispossession of the Palestinians at the hands of Zionist militias and then Israeli soldiers, there were some in the infant state of Israel who did not cry after shooting. The Israeli historian Tom Segev cites a debate in the Knesset during August 1949 in which a member of the right-wing Herut party, which was led by former Prime Minister Menachem Begin and which had emerged from the Etzel military organization he had commanded, claimed that “thanks to Deir Yassin, we won the war, sir.” When challenged by Knesset members from the dominant labor Zionist party, Mapai, he responded: “If you don’t know [about the Deir Yassin-type massacres that you yourselves performed] you can ask the minister of defense [i.e., David Ben-Gurion].”[30] Morris’s latest investigation of the expulsions, massacres and rapes committed by Israeli forces in 1948, combined with his regret that Ben-Gurion did not go far enough, indicates that he has joined the ranks of those who shed no tears.


[1] Benny Morris, 1948 and After: Israel and the Palestinians (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1994), pp. 83-102.

[2] Morris, 1948 and After, pp. 159-211. Hebrew version in Tikun ta‘ut: yehudim ve-‘aravim be-eretz yisra’el (Tel Aviv: Am Oved, 2000). The quote is from the introduction to Tikun ta‘ut, p. 17.

[3] Benny Morris, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem Revisited (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004) , p. 588.

[4] Ari Shavit, “Survival of the Fittest,” Haaretz, January 9, 2004.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] For details, see Joel Beinin, Was the Red Flag Flying There? Marxist Politics and the Arab-Israeli Conflict in Egypt and Israel, 1948-1965 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1990).

[8] Prominent examples of this idealist approach are Yosef Gorny, Zionism and the Arabs, 1882-1948: A Study of Ideology (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987) and Anita Shapira, Land and Power: The Zionist Resort to Force, 1881-1948 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1992).

[9] Benny Morris, The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem [first edition] (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988), p. 2.

[10] Morris, 1948 and After, pp. 42-43.

[11] Nur Masalha, “A Critique of Benny Morris,” Journal of Palestine Studies 21/1 (Autumn 1991).

[12] Benny Morris, “Response to Finkelstein and Masalha,” Journal of Palestine Studies 21/1 (Autumn 1991).

[13] Morris, Birth, second edition, p. 164.

[14] Ibid., p. 166.

[15] For accounts of the Deir Yassin massacre and the roles of the various Jewish parties, see Morris, Birth, second edition, pp. 236-40 and Meron Benvenisti, Sacred Landscape: The Buried History of the Holy Land Since 1948 (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2000), pp. 114-16.

[16] Morris, Birth, first edition, p. 51.

[17] Ibid., p. 288.

[18] Ibid., pp. 363-364, fn. 2.

[19] Ibid., pp. 218-219.

[20] Conversation with ‘Adil Manna‘, Jerusalem, December 31, 2002. Manna‘ published his family’s recollections of the events in “Majd al-Krum, 1948: ‘Amaliyyat tamshit ‘adiyya,” Karmil 55-56 (Spring/Summer 1998).

[21] Quoted in Morris, “Gerush mivtza‘ hiram: tikun ta‘ut” in Tikun ta‘ut, p. 143.

[22] Benny Morris, “Revisiting the Palestinian Exodus of 1948,” in Rogan and Shlaim, The War for Palestine: Rewriting the History of 1948 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2001), p. 51.

[23] Morris himself makes much of this change in his rejoinder to Norman Finkelstein and Nur Masalha, “Response to Finkelstein and Masalha,” op cit.

[24] The first two articles appear in 1948 and After. The reassessments of Operation Hiram appear in “Gerush Mivtza‘ hiram: tikun ta‘ut,” in Tikun ta‘ut and in “Revisiting the Palestinian Exodus of 1948” in Rogan and Shlaim.

[25] Morris, “Revisiting the Palestinian Exodus of 1948,” p. 48.

[26] Yediot Aharonot, November 23, 2001.

[27] Tikkun, March-April 2001.

[28] Shabtai Teveth, “The Palestinian Refugee Problem and its Origins,” Middle Eastern Studies 26/2 (April 1990) and Anita Shapira, “Politics and Collective Memory: The Debate over the ‘New Historians’ in Israel,” History and Memory 7/1 (Spring/Summer 1995).

[29] Zachary Lockman, “Original Sin,” in Zachary Lockman and Joel Beinin, eds. Intifada: The Palestinian Uprising Against Israeli Occupation (Boston: South End Press, 1989).

[30] Tom Segev, 1949: The First Israelis (New York: Free Press, 1986), p. 89.


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By Chris Toensing
Daily Star (Beirut) July 26, 2003

On a sweltering Washington sidewalk on July 17, a handful of protesters berated the stream of bespectacled wonks entering the "stink tank" known as the American Enterprise Institute (AEI) -- famous worldwide as the home of former Pentagon official Richard Perle and former House Speaker Newt Gingrich. In the air-conditioned comfort inside, the lusty strains of "Rule Britannia" welcomed a capacity crowd to AEI's version of a summertime idyll. We were assembled to hear two vaunted thinkers of the new, new world order debate the proposition that America is, and should be, an empire.
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Jordan's Troubling Detour
By Toujan Faisal and Ian Urbina
Los Angeles Times (July 6, 2003)

When Washington cites examples of the potential for reform and democracy in the Arab world, Jordan is one of the first countries mentioned. For the first time since 1997, Jordanians went to the polls last month to vote for parliament, and by most accounts the elections went smoothly. Voter turnout topped 52 percent and stability was maintained, with a clear majority of the seats going to pro-government candidates. Islamists, though they later questioned the outcome, added credibility to the process by taking part in the elections rather than boycotting them. In the end they captured only 17 out of 110 seats, far fewer than expected. Jordanian women took a step forward, with six parliamentary spots specially set aside for females.
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Occupational Hazards
By Elliott Colla
Knight Ridder/Tribune Newswire (June 20, 2003)

Reluctantly, some American officials recently began to use a new word when talking about our presence in Iraq: occupation. Even though the Bush administration worked hard to keep this word out of our national vocabulary before and during the war, it has nonetheless started to appear in press briefings and news reports.
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Anti-War Thinking: Acknowledge Despair, Highlight Progress on Moral Preemption
By Desmond Tutu and Ian Urbina
Christian Science Monitor (March 20, 2003)

It is difficult not to feel despair and powerlessness at this awful juncture. Millions in the world fought with all their hearts and minds to avoid violence in Iraq. Inevitably, when bombs fall, there is a deep and emotional void that is opened.
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Undercover Insurrecto

Dissenting murmurs from Stormin' Norman aside, retired military men and defense contractors are full-throated cheerleaders for George W. Bush's Mesopotamian adventure. Nowhere is their anticipatory glee more apparent than at the annual Wallow of the semi-secret Military Order of the Carabao -- a stag dinner and soiree where aging veterans fondly remember American "empire days" in the Philippines and sing odes of loyalty to a mythical yet strangely familiar land called Pentagonia. "Damn the insurrectos!" the Carabaos bellow, referring to the Filipinos who resisted US occupation in the early twentieth century. As Ian Urbina observes of the rambunctious revelry at the 2002 and 2003 Wallows, one might be forgiven for wondering if the Carabaos hope for an imperial renaissance replete with latter-day insurrectos.
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Confronting Iraq: Might Doesn't Make Right
By Desmond Tutu and Ian Urbina
International Herald Tribune (March 14, 2003)

People of faith belong on the side of peace. But it is more than just those of all religions who stand against an attack on Iraq. It is also those who put their trust in law. The current moment confronts the world with a terrible decision: will we stand by reason and law or act in force and aggression? There has never been a more important test of the values of average people around the globe. At stake is whether might makes right.
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A Saudi Dissident's Agenda for Democratic Reform
By Mohammed AlMohaissen
International Herald Tribune (March 13, 2003)

From Washington to the Arab summit, there has been much discussion lately of reformism in Saudi Arabia, but few have heard from grassroots voices within the pro-democracy movement itself.
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Sanctions No Longer Serve US Interests
By Ian Urbina
Los Angeles Times (January 3, 2003)

The Bush administration renewed US sanctions against Libya earlier this month. The announcement, although expected, frustrated US oil companies, which had hoped to gain access to some of the world's largest reserves of light crude oil. The rollover of sanctions comes despite the efforts of Libya's erratic leader, Col. Muammar Qaddafi, to convince Washington he is an ally in the war on terrorism, and it stands in stark contrast to recent European moves to improve relations with his regime.
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The Fight for Iran's Democratic Ideals
By Saeed Razavi-Faqih and Ian Urbina
New York Times (December 10, 2002)

Over the weekend thousands of Iranian students continued their protests to demand political reform. Their voices were raised in support of Hashem Aghajari, the college professor who has been sentenced to death for blasphemy. But the student movement is broader than dissent over one injustice.
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Ground Shifting Under Mullahs
By Ian Urbina
Los Angeles Times (December 8, 2002)

After a court in Iran sentenced dissident academic Hashem Aghajari to death for challenging clerical rule, several thousand university students took to the streets in Tehran. They protested for about two weeks before the government threatened to crack down and declare a state of emergency.
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Up in Arms
By Ian Urbina
Village Voice (November 27-December 3, 2002)

Unemployment and inflation are skyrocketing in Israel, but fear and paranoia are also soaring, and so business is booming for gun dealers and security companies. Israeli society is becoming so militarized that hosts of weddings and bar mitzvahs sometimes can't attract guests unless they reveal the number of armed guards that will be on hand and even what firm they're from.
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Broadcast Ruse
By Ian Urbina
(Village Voice, November 11-15, 2002)

"Word got around the department that I was a good Arabic translator who did a great Saddam imitation," recalls the Harvard grad student. "Eventually, someone phoned me asking if I wanted to help change the course of Iraq policy." So twice a week, for $3000 a month...
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Is the US Ready for Democracy in the Mideast?
By Ian Urbina

(Houston Chronicle November 13, 2002)

Those in favor of an Iraq invasion argue that a regime change will be the first step in bringing democracy to the Middle East. But unnoticed in all the recent national focus on Iraq, recent elections in Morocco, Bahrain, Turkey and Pakistan indicate that democracy, albeit in small increments, has already begun arriving in that region and parts of Islamic South Asia.
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Forked-Tongue Warriors
By Ian Urbina
(Village Voice, October 9-15, 2002)

Wedged between a rack of 99-cent Cheetos and a display of pork rinds stood a life-sized cardboard cutout of a buxom blond in a red miniskirt. Resting on her inner thigh was a frosty bottle of Miller Genuine Draft. "That's essentially what we do," an army major remarked, pointing to the stiletto-heeled eye-catcher. "But we don't sell beer."
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