By Gabriel Noah Brahm, Fathom Journal—
In this in-depth interview, Israeli historian Benny Morris speaks with Professor Gabriel Noah Brahm about his work, his critics and his regrets. He also charges Western academics with dishonesty about the Middle East, gives his prognosis for the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and outlines his view of Israel’s place in the ‘Clash of Civilisations’.
Benny Morris hasn’t changed. One of the world’s leading chroniclers of the Arab-Israeli conflict tells the truth as he sees it, based on the facts he discerns as a historian. While some have perceived a dramatic shift from the ‘old’ (more optimistic and liberal) Morris of the Oslo period to the ‘new’ (more realistic/pessimistic) Morris of today, this is something of a myth. He hasn’t changed what he says about the reality of 1948, the Palestinian refugees, or anything else. Rather, he has added, to his knowledge of the history of Israel’s rebirth as a modern nation-state, a painful analysis of more recent history. When Yasser Arafat walked away from Israeli peace offers in 2000 and 2001, a disillusioned Morris started to examine the possibility that the Palestinians weren’t serious about wanting a two-state deal. He has since come to rate more highly the importance of Islamism and jihadism as forces driving Palestinian rejectionism.
Moreover, as a firebrand who tends to ‘call a spade a spade’, he is irked by a censorious political correctness that limits what can be talked about honestly — policing thought in line with ‘Western guilt’ over colonialism. He is equally disdainful of the romantic cult of ‘the Other’ in academia that tries to assuage that guilt. He regrets not the substance of any of the things he has said, but only the ‘intemperate’ way he expressed himself on occasion. We talked about his books and his thoughts about the future of Israel and the region at his home. Read full interview…